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The New Digital Marketing Transformation: Insights From a Global Marketing Leader

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Digital transformation is both inevitable and necessary in order to keep up with the speed at which businesses need to operate today. Using digital technology to create new — or improve existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences helps to ensure agility and enables brands to keep up with changing market requirements. But introducing new technology and changing the way people work is no easy feat. We sat down with Sandvik’s VP of Marketing, Sakina Najmi, who’s responsible for their digital transformation, to gain insight into how she approaches driving change, what success looks like, and tips on how to get there.
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Sakina Najmi is an award-winning marketing leader with more than 15 years of experience in delivering business growth across a range of industry sectors. As VP of Marketing at global engineering giant, Sandvik, Sakina is responsible for digital transformation and driving change. Prior to Sandvik, she spent five years at a tech start-up, Criteo, where she built its marketing function from the ground up, and led the company’s digital transformation strategy.

What’s the “ideal state” for implementing new technology?

It’s incredibly helpful to have a marketing-led organization (meaning large marketing budget, strong people, and a supportive sales team). Ideally, if marketing is able to turbocharge their efforts with technology, it will streamline the process of connecting with consumers so sales won’t have to pick up the phone for outreach — which is inefficient and time-intensive.
As far as an ideal process, the emphasis is on automation and demand generation. After testing new technology and proving the business case for the marketing organization, I’ll pull in the demand gen team to automate efforts using the technology. For example, you can streamline the customer onboarding process to be a series of automated marketing campaigns, which will be much more efficient than manual programs.

What kind of processes do you have in place to ensure the adoption of technology across your marketing org?

I don’t have one particular process because it varies depending on what technology is needed. To minimize resistance, you have to determine the need for the technology and align the team with the benefits — teaching them how it’s going to help them to be more productive and efficient. Leveraging and building relationships with legacy people is also a helpful tool. More often than not, these are the people who will be most resistant to change, so if you can get them on your side early on, it can really help with adoption.
Once you start to implement new technology, it’s all about the analytics. You need to have visibility into who’s using it and how, and if people aren’t using it, find out why. Some strategies that I’ve used for increasing adoption include creating healthy competition (e.g. power-users, rewards as incentives, fan clubs), and holding people accountable. I like to say, ‘If it’s not in the [technology], then it didn’t happen.’

How do you evaluate a tech stack, choose new technology, and get executive buy-in?

This is a tough one, but just like everything else, I always align the use-case of technology with business priorities. If there’s a business need that our current tech stack does not fulfill, I’ll assign my marketing ops team to do their research and find solution(s) that will fill the gap. They’ll research and find the tools, then create a shortlist and analysis of the business impact (cost, risk, ROI, etc). Once we’re convinced that we need the tool, if I have it in my plan and budget is approved, we go ahead and get it. If we need to secure budget, then we have to present the business case to executives. 99% of the time we’ll get approval if we’ve done our homework right. The most important thing is to align with business needs and talk about how it will impact the bottom line.

How do you showcase success internally?

Showing success is an important part of the digital transformation process. My advice is to measure everything (how many people are using it, how they’re using it, how it has impacted the bottom line, etc). Once you’ve gathered this data, present it to management and your marketing team. This will help you prove the impact of time and budget investments you’ve made and can help boost your team’s adoption of the technology once they see positive results.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for CMOs when it comes to implementing digital transformation in the organization?

Having done this in two organizations now, I would say getting the right tech is the easy part. It’s the people you need to work with to ensure you’re taking them along the journey with you that can make it difficult. Communicating your strategy and planning aggressively with all levels is a must. Be patient, be resilient…it’s the toughest thing I’ve done as a marketer.
Ali Hart is NewsCred’s Content Marketing Manager.

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