Jennifer Anaya has a pretty big job. As Ingram Micro’s vice president marketing, North America, her responsibilities include leadership of the U.S. and Export marketing organization and management of branding, corporate communications and marketing for the region. In addition to these and other duties, she also leads and manages the daily operations of Agency Ingram Micro, an $80 million marketing services and events agency.
Last month, CMR was fortunate enough to spend some time with Anaya to talk with her about a few of the major challenges and opportunities she strives to address.
CMR – You write on LinkedIn that you want to change the dialogue about marketing and its role with technology companies with sales channels. What are the changes you would like to see?
Jennifer Anaya — When I came back to Ingram Micro in 2012, I saw an opportunity to look at marketing in a different way — how distributors can play a role and what our partners needed to know about marketing.
What we did is pivot our whole team to be an agency. Agency Ingram Micro was born to get our team thinking we’re a service provider inside of this company to help our partners be more strategic about marketing and put more discipline into putting marketing plans together.
That really mapped to the business objectives that we were jointly going after when it comes to the vendors that we’re serving.
CMR – Among the changes that resulted from adopting the agency model, improving measurement appears to have ranked high.
Jennifer Anaya — There’s constant demand across the channel on the ROI of marketing. But if you don’t know what you’re measuring, then how do you really know that you have ROI? You need to put measures in place and you need to get focused on what it is you’re trying to accomplish with the marketing activities that you’re putting into place.
It exploded the model because typically distribution marketing was about programs and multi-vendor go-to-market motions that may or may not have fit with where the vendors needed to head to grow their business.
We didn’t completely do away with programs. What we did was start to focus of the business objective, build a plan, name some strategies around that, and then figure out programs, which activities are really going to help us drive those strategies to hit those objectives.
I would tell you fast forward, six years now, we have a great stride going in terms of how we engage with our vendor partners and we are able to really communicate an ROI on the investment they’re making.
CMR – Did the transition to an agency model change the kind of support your partners requested?
Jennifer Anaya — Back when MSPs were starting to really come up, they realized, “Hey, we need a brand. People are buying our service and we are marketing and branding ourselves as the vendors that we represent and they don’t really know why they need us.”
So we started then to help them define who they were and tell their story in a better way. In the last, oh probably year and a half, we’ve helped about 50 companies rebrand themselves and really tell their story in a much more compelling way about why (their customers) need them and what they can do for those customers that they’re serving.
A lot of times in our industry we focus on the “what” because technology has always been that shiny object and the thing that has that cool factor to it. We aren’t really necessarily talking about why. Now that we’re selling into a line-of-business leaders and non-technology people, they don’t necessarily understand the cool factor or the acronyms or all the workings behind the technology.
What they need to understand is why they need that solution and how it’s going to help them achieve what they’re trying to do. That’s been a big turn that many of our partners have taken over the last several years and they’re investing their own time and money in that.
That’s not something where we’re getting MDF funds for them to do that. In most cases it’s the partner that is really wanting to invest in their own brand and their own strategies.
CMR — Is that happening at broad spectrum of partners? Are even the smaller niche partners recognizing the need to build their own brands?
Jennifer Anaya — Absolutely. They need to (build their brands) just as much if not even more because they are in a niche. Now if you look at how technology is being developed and then taken to market, and then integrated in some type of system, these niche players are very much part of a bigger ecosystem. They need to connect with a lot of different people and companies within that ecosystem who need to understand who they are and what they can bring to the table with regard to that particular solution.
With IOT, for example, there are a lot of different players helping a solution really come together and work well. Today, because it’s so new, all those players don’t necessarily know each other. If you’re one of those players — if you’re an ISV in the middle of that vertical solution or even if you’re a device maker — you’ve got to be able to tell the story around how you fit into the bigger solution and what benefit you’re going to offer to make that solution either function better or operate better for the company that’s buying it.
CMR — One of your goals is to inspire new and unconventional ways for Ingram Micro and your business partners to go to market. How successful have you been to get your team to think outside of the box?
Jennifer Anaya — I would tell you that we’ve allowed a lot trial and error and the learning to happen. What we’ve been able to do inside our team is say, “You know, let’s try something. Let’s pilot it.” We’re really good at trying something new, learn from that, make some changes then we’ll throw it back out there. There have been some giant failures and there have also been some amazing results that have happened.
Everybody is encouraged to throw ideas out there and try something new. We often have teams going across our account team, somebody in creative, somebody on our digital team – all working together. That, I think, is really important.
You have to allow for the ideas to flow and you have to allow them to be tested. But there’s still always a lot of fear. People don’t like to fail. We’ve actually celebrated failure. We’ve helped people up and said, “This was awesome.” It might not have produced the result that they wanted but that was okay. They had the courage to go and try and do that. I think that’s important as well and I still feel we needed more of that.
CMR — Is innovation in marketing technology encouraging more people to think outside of the box?
Jennifer Anaya — I think it is and it isn’t. I would tell you I am probably most excited about how artificial intelligence and potentially machine learning is going to help completely change the way that marketers are able to get information about and connect with those people whom we’re trying to market to and where.
With AI, we’re going to be able to truly understand at a much more granular level, the “who.” Who are we marketing to and what they really care about. The machine learning is going to help us to be smarter about how we’re doing it and hopefully also be more efficient.
The “not” part of my statement is that I think there was a big craze over the last five years of marketing automation tools. As technologist in our industry, technologist love technology tools, right? But they don’t necessarily know how to use them and I would tell you there isn’t really anything automated about automated marketing. It’s complex. It takes a lot of people to make those tools really work well and to continue to have them be relevant to what it is that you’re trying to do from a marketing standpoint.
CMR – All in all, having a strong message — a good story — remains key.
Jennifer Anaya — Yes. A story — a really good story — is still important. I spoke last year to a group of college kids who were all interested in wanting to know more about marketing and they came from all different disciplines in what they were studying.
Yes, I told them they have to be really interested in data because more and more data is being used to understand what we’re doing well in marketing and how to be more effective. And yes, you do need to understand the disciplines of marketing, the basic four Ps that everybody learns in your marketing MBA class.
But telling a story will always, always be relevant because we’re people and we’re human beings and we connect with stories. So those of you who can really understand how to tell a great story, you’ll always going to have a job in marketing or communication at some level.