The View from the Top: Women are among the best marketers

This is a transcription of a conversation that took place between William Arruda (MarketingProfs Senior Contributor) and Patricia Hume (Global Vice-President of Small and Medium Business Solutions, SMBS), a leading provider of business communication software, systems, and services. Hume is in charge of all marketing, sales, and service for Avaya’s small and mid-sized business segments.

Hume served as the Senior Vice President of Channel Sales and General Manager of the Asia-Pacific Market for Critical Path Inc. Prior to joining Avaya, he was the developer of messaging systems for the telecommunications sector. Hume also served as president and CEO at VerticalNet Inc. A provider of electronic marketplaces for vertical industries within the small and medium businesses market. She spent the first 20 years of her career at IBM, where she held a variety of management and senior leadership positions.

The transcript has been edited to improve readability and clarity. Our Annual Premium members can also listen to the interview. Click here to listen to the podcast (click and select open). You can also save it to your MP3 player by clicking and choosing Save.

William Arruda, You have held many senior marketing positions. Which one was your favorite and why?

Patricia Hume: My current job is my favorite. Avaya is unique in the sense that we are small businesses within a large company. As a small business unit within Avaya, we run the SMBS Division, which I lead. This is a great opportunity for us to be more market-focused and customer-focused. We can go out there and really understand what they are.

To be successful in the market, we need to be responsible for R&D, product management, marketing, sales, and operations…so that we can control our success. This is exciting in and of itself since how well you can execute your plan and market strategy will determine whether or not you’re successful. The team has done a fantastic job so far.

William Arruda – What is your secret to success as a senior marketer?

Patricia Hume: A couple of things. Any good marketer must first be focused on their market. It may seem obvious, but we often forget that to serve your customers well, you need to know them. We are a customer-focused company, and that is one of the key things.

What is going on in the market is more than just what the customer is willing to pay or what the competition is doing. The customer’s approach to purchasing is also important. Does the customer use a budget, or do they buy according to their share of the wallet? Does he want to be sold, or does he purchase his technology? Many questions need to be addressed.

Skilled people also understand the art of advertising. Marketing is both a science and an art.

One area is brand (your expertise): the ability to create, to be unique, to be captivating, to be catchy, and to be aware, if you work in global marketing, of the subtleties of each country.

William Arruda, What do you think is the most significant impact of technology on how marketers work today?

Patricia Hume Access to data is key. I like the fact that we can now capture so much data in relation to Web and direct marketing campaigns. Internet power has been a huge asset to marketing organizations. The first thing you need is data to understand your customers.

As an example, we had thousands of downloads of our latest software from the Web. What are their characteristics? Are they end users, partners, potentials, or prospects? Let’s capture them if they aren’t existing customers. Access to information is both a push and a pull. The technology has enabled us to reach many more people at a much lower cost than ever before.

Emails on laptops or personal handheld devices are more likely to be opened by people than envelopes on their desks. It’s a much simpler task for humans to read an email title, skim it, and decide if it is relevant rather than throw junk mail in the trash. Reach, touch, and responsiveness [of the technology] have helped us immensely.

The Web is a phenomenal tool for product management, analysis of competitors, and information access. Surfing the Web and looking at competitors’ Web sites or reading articles about them …. can help us find out what they are up to. I have 27 years of experience, but we didn’t have it 27 years ago.

William Arruda Another change is the increase in the number of women working in marketing. Why do you believe that?

Patricia Hume, I’ve said that marketing is both an art and a science. Marketing is a creative art with a lot of emotion. Women are more likely to be emotional. This innovative, dynamic flair is crucial to marketing success.

Second, marketing is a very important part of any business and affects many different areas. To be a good marketer, you need to juggle a lot at once. Statistics prove that women are better at multitasking than men. Statistics say that, whether it’s true.

William Arruda: Do you have any advice for women who aspire to become the vice president of marketing or chief marketing officer one day?

Patricia Hume: First, you must understand the business. I strongly recommend that women learn more than marketing to become more effective. Marketing can make or ruin a business. It’s what makes a company great.

I don’t believe a leader in marketing can be effective if they have only ever worked in marketing. It is important to learn how to do selling. Understanding product management and marketing is a key step to a successful career. CMOs manage large budgets, so they must understand the financial side of business. They also need to know the financial side of budgeting, cost control, and expense tracking.

It would be best if you had these disciplines to be successful. My advice is to cross-train and learn as much as you can.

William Arruda, I once saw you at IBM in a meeting where you are a conservative company. You came in and hugged everyone in the room, including senior people. How did you gain the confidence to be your true self within a large ecosystem of a business?

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