Stacy Seah, APAC CMO Lead of Microsoft, talks to The Ortus Club’s Ciara Manalansan about the critical role of data in digital marketing efforts and the importance of bridging brand and performance marketing to reach wider audiences.
To watch Stacy’s interview, you can subscribe to our CMO Chats interview series on YouTube. You can also listen to the interview on Spotify, or pour yourself a cup of coffee and read the full interview below.
What does your company do?
Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. Our mission is to enable every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve that.
What words best describe the role of a CMO? Why?
The CMO is an agent of change in your organisation. We are at the heart of driving growth in the business. Marketing is about building relationships with customers over a long duration and orchestrating a balance between brand and performance marketing. Doing so enables businesses to achieve exponential marketing for both customer acquisition and retention, as well as delivering all that on the back of shared business outcomes.
What challenges are CMOs currently facing? What solutions can you identify?
Brands are growing, innovating, and pushing the boundaries of creativity today and all through the pandemic and now, into a period of economic uncertainty. The tension between brand and performance or demand marketing can feel like a fierce divide, at times, over which approach drives stronger and more measurable results or ROI, especially in times when operating expenses become a challenge.
I believe that brand marketing efforts, to drive awareness, and build equity are needed for long-term effectiveness. Brand marketing needs to be an evergreen priority despite the temptation to prioritise short-term results. Branding’s role is to generate a memory, and it can influence buyers who are out to market at any time. Thus, the ability to sustain customer engagement at all stages of their buying cycle is important, whether they’re in-market or out-of-market.
“Brand marketing needs to be an evergreen priority despite the temptation to prioritise short-term results.”
How do you explain the professional success you’ve had so far?
I would say that the success in my professional career is about empowering every person and team I work with to achieve more. That is what sparks joy in me. People make the company. And often failure is not because of the individual. But the lack of configuration, know how a team of subject-matter experts are organized to work together as a team connected on the common purpose. I am grateful to have met great mentors who helped shape my development journey, and to have had the opportunity to build and work with high-performing teams throughout the course of my career.
Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?
A few years ago, I made a career change to a sales role and became the general manager of a web hosting company. Despite having no prior experience, I was grateful for the opportunity given to me by my Group CEO and for the guidance provided by my CFO over several weeks. This was my first time managing a team of 20 employees in sales, customer service, digital marketing, and support engineering. Although board meetings could be stressful, it was a valuable learning experience. In the end, I returned to my first love of marketing, but the experience gave me a better understanding of the sales team and their concerns, which has improved collaboration between sales and marketing.
How can you see your role evolving in the near future?
It’s about creating business value through digital means. Digital marketing has been a prevalent concept in the B2B world for over a decade. Today, digital sales leverages insights from marketing signals to determine which customers are in-market, what they care about, and when to engage with them. The focus in the coming years will be on delivering tangible results at scale and developing the talent necessary to support this transformation.
What trends are you taking advantage of right now?
Many businesses have evolved into digital businesses, with data being at the center of their operations. As a strong advocate of using data and marketing to gain insights and make informed decisions, I believe in leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to surface insights that drive marketing strategies and, more importantly, deliver predictable and consistent revenue outcomes for the business.
What career advice would you share with fellow marketing leaders?
Opportunities present themselves throughout our careers. The lesson I learned is the importance of having the courage to take chances. In today’s rapidly changing and uncertain world, it can be challenging to maintain composure. However, having the mindset that you will succeed, rather than the belief that you will fail, can make all the difference. It’s possible to prepare for the future without knowing exactly what it holds. All that’s required is the courage to try.