Siddharth Asokan, the CMO of Softwire, talks to The Ortus Club’s Austen Clark about combatting virtual fatigue, creating quality interaction, and building a great team dynamic as a marketing leader.
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First of all, tell us about your company. What does Softwire do?
Softwire is essentially a digital transformation consulting firm. We help our clients with new digital products and services. This involves anything from software development to digital transformation, digital strategy, and sort of an end-to-end consultancy in the digital space.
What is your role in Softwire?
As the CMO, I’d say my job is mainly focused on overall marketing strategy and execution. If i would break that down into maybe two main outcomes, the first one is really helping us elevate our brand to be known as a thought leader in the space and the market where we operate. The other one is really to help build a sustainable long-term demand generation engine by working closely with the sales team.
What are your primary marketing objectives right now?
I think a couple of things that we’re focusing on right now is figuring out the next 6 months and rolling out a couple of really key campaigns. One of our goals is really moving away from broad-based sort of campaigns to slightly more targeted sector-focused campaigns. I think also from an overall SEO and search standpoint, we have another program that we’re starting to roll off. We wanted to reduce our reliance on PPC and focus more on organic search and thought leadership.
What do you think is the most exciting marketing trend at the moment? How can marketers use it to achieve their goals?
Lots of interesting things are happening. I think one of the things that I’m really curious about is that given that physical events have sort of gone away, they’re starting to make a re-emergence again. It’ll be interesting to see how marketing teams and event organisers sort of balance that blend between physical and digital. I’ve heard of some people trying to experiment with technologies like virtual reality and AR, so I think that’s pretty exciting if you talk about events in that space.
Can you share any challenges you’ve faced in the past, or recently, when it comes to organising events?
I’ve had a fair share of challenges in the past. I mean, everything ranging from small logistical things such as the AV equipment that doesn’t work, the WiFi doesn’t work, or the food does not arrive on time- all sorts of things like that to the big ones. But the biggest challenge is last minute speaker cancellations. When someone can’t make it, then you’ve got to try and figure out a backup and work on the fly.
But right now, I think everyone moved to webinars and a lot of online events. One challenge right now is that there’s obviously a lot of fatigue in the system, so we’re trying to figure out what we can still do to attract an audience. I believe that as long as the content and the speakers are still engaging you still will be able to get people to come to your online events.
What’s a great event you attended last year? What made it different?
I’ve attended a couple of online virtual roundtable type of discussions. More than anything else, there wasn’t any fancy tech or anything. It was just the quality of the interaction and being able to exchange thoughts and have an open discussion with peers from other companies or other industries. I think it comes down to the basics really in terms of the peer group and the interaction that you have. Because when you have that, you know you’ve made a connection with someone and then you continue the conversation later on even after the event. I think those ones were really fulfilling.
Is there a secret recipe for hosting a successful event, be that in-person or online?
Panel discussions are good, but you’ve got to make sure that when you’ve got panelists there, everyone’s not just shaking their heads and agreeing with everybody else. Sure, on some points they would, but then there will always be a little bit of a friendly conflict since there will always be people with slightly opposing views. That makes for an interesting discussion from an audience standpoint because you hear both sides of the coin. Otherwise, if someone’s just sort of building up and just saying the same thing, then okay, you get the gist of it but it doesn’t make for such an engaging discussion. I think those kinds of panels are quite interesting. The ones that are not so interesting I think are, especially if it’s delivered in an online form, is when you’ve got a really long half day event and someone’s just continuously talking. It’s really hard to stare at a screen for 4 or 5 hours, so you need something to break up the monotony.
As a marketer, how are you combatting virtual fatigue?
I don’t have a perfect answer yet and we’re still in the process of trying to figure it out. But I think if you go back to the basics of content marketing, it’s best to break down the content and give people small tidbits of information that are the most important. So if you have an event and it could be broken down into a short and snappy 30 to 45-minute session, don’t make it longer than that. Try to be conscious about time, and send people recordings for retention. I think going back to the basics is still critical. Another way to combat virtual fatigue is if you’re able to get a really big name of a speaker or a crowd pool or even a topic that’s interesting. I believe people themselves will come for those events.
What’s one piece of career advice you have received that’s been particularly valuable to you as a marketing leader?
Someone said to me a few years ago that if you’re leading a team, it’s all about the people. So make sure you’ve got a great team dynamic and really take the time out to coach people. Make sure you have the right people in the right seats and in the right roles. Because if you work on your team and you have genuine interest in them as a team leader, everything else just falls into place. You don’t have to worry about the small little details. I believe that your team will take care of you if you take care of them. Even with my role here at Softwire, it’s all about figuring out the team dynamics and the team roles and making sure that the people are happy in achieving their goals.
“Make sure you have the right people in the right seats and in the right roles. Because if you work on your team and you have genuine interest in them as a team leader, everything else just falls into place. You don’t have to worry about the small little details. I believe that your team will take care of you if you take care of them.”