Maryann Menendez, Global Director of SME Marketing at SAP, discusses digital marketing trends and opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses during and after COVID-19.
Avenue Code: Tell us about your personal career path. What inspired you to pursue marketing within the tech industry, and how did you get to where you are today?
Maryann Menendez: I started university as an accounting major, but since it didn’t hold my interest, I made the move into another area and graduated with a BA in Business, double major in Marketing and International Business. After working in sales, I joined PC Magazine Latin America. Since then my roles have been in an array of marketing-related capacities in the tech industry: PR, advertising, channel marketing, field marketing, etc. I’ve always loved technological innovation and interacting with people in different cultures and countries, so I worked for Latin America operations when living in Miami and San Diego. I’ve held a global role since joining SAP almost 10 years ago.
AC: On a personal level, tell us why being a STEM4Girls Advocate is important to you. What do companies gain when they have women in tech leadership roles, and how can they promote and support women in these roles?
MM: I’m a STEM4Girls advocate because I was great at math but was counseled toward a wrong career path in high school. Instead of being encouraged to become an engineer, I was told I would make a great accountant, which wasn’t the right fit for me. I made it back into a STEM environment, but I realize that other girls interested in science and math might be unaware of the right opportunities for them.
Companies with women in tech leadership roles have the advantage of a more well-represented team in terms of IQ and emotional intelligence. A good way to encourage women to pursue these leadership roles is what we’ve done for men for ages: find someone with potential and talent, mentor them, and provide them with opportunities for growth, innovation, and leadership. Most importantly, women need internal advocates who know how to position their strengths within the company for new and more challenging leadership opportunities.
AC: With the advent of COVID-19, what are the biggest opportunities and trends we’ll see in the tech sector?
MM: We’ve been talking about the importance of digital transformation for years. This is a great opportunity for tech companies to show businesses of all sizes how tech can help them move forward. As for trends, the tech sector itself has been moving every in-person experience (event, training, meeting, etc.) online.
AC: How can companies use technology to position themselves for success after COVID-19? Do you foresee business operations “returning to normal,” or will there be a “new normal”?
MM: Given the uncertainty about when businesses will reopen 100%, companies need to use technology to position themselves for success today, ASAP, and not wait for “after COVID-19.” This means they need to consider how they can change in-person touchpoints to a different experience while still providing their value-add services/products.
Retailers have adapted by delivering via retail-by-mail and retail-to-go, and restaurants have moved to pick-up and delivery. Entrepreneurs and small businesses in different sectors can adapt too. A music teacher, for example, can teach students virtually using a desktop communication platform or phone apps. Businesses must have continuity plans in order to find a path forward. Whether because of a pandemic, natural disaster, or one of many other scenarios, companies need to have a Plan B when business operations cannot continue as normal.
AC: How should COVID-19 change the way we market?
MM: While nothing can replace a face-to-face conversation, meeting, etc., we will see more online calls, events, meetings, and trainings. During the last few months, companies have realized there are a lot of operations that can be carried on remotely. The same is true for marketing: we need to think about changing the experience to one that suits the needs of our prospects and customers in today’s reality. This applies to every cycle of the buyer’s journey.
Maryann Menendez speaking at SAP headquarters in Germany. Image courtesy of Maryann Menendez.
AC: As the Global Director of SME Marketing, has COVID-19 forced you to tailor marketing strategies more specifically to the needs of each geography, or has it united your efforts and strategies?
MM: Our overall strategy and goals are united, but the way that strategy is implemented can vary from region to region depending on the needs of our customers and prospects. It has, however, united our global team and all the different regions in sharing ideas and best practices with cross-functional team on thinking digital experience or digital first.
AC: What trends will we see in the next five years for digital marketing?
MM: Artificial intelligence, remote work, and augmented reality. Whether it be chatbots on a website or information gathering, the use of AI will be accelerated. A rise in working from home is something we’ve seen already. Augmented reality will help marketers create a better customer experience.
AC: You’ve spoken about how necessary interdepartmental cohesion is for enterprise organizations. How can marketing creatively support other key areas like business development?
MM: Marketing and business development, aka sales, need to work together harmoniously. Business development teams understand which solutions, products, or services provide the most value to a target market/industry/demographic. It’s up to marketing to know which digital channels and tactics are best for reaching those target markets. If there's a new solution/product/service, marketing should do A/B testing to help business development meet their goals.
AC: What do you do to keep up with innovations in best marketing practices?
MM: I read, search online, subscribe to several online marketing publications, participate in industry events, and keep up with various social groups online. I also read blogs by entrepreneurs and business leaders who have experienced successes and failures so that I can learn how they have converted challenges into opportunities. There’s more than one way to look at things. It helps when we are open to new approaches.
AC: Was there a defining moment for you personally that made you into the industry leader you are today?
MM: There have been several. First, I was asked by the owners of a small business to represent them in conversations with business lawyers about opening an office in a foreign country. My bosses picked me because I knew the language and culture of that country, and most of all because they trusted me and my knowledge of their business model. Second, I was personally commended as a model for regional marketers by both the President/CEO and CMO of another company. Finally, I have been asked numerous times to present in front of business partners and colleagues around the world. When you are asked to share your insights, expertise, and opinions, that’s a sign!
AC: Thanks for speaking with us today, Maryann! It’s been great to hear your perspective on pursuing digital transformation for marketing initiatives during COVID-19 and beyond.
Manoela Vieira is the new Marketing Director at Avenue Code. With more than 10 years of experience at Dell, Sonicwall, Kemp Technologies and more, she is excited to share her creativity and expertise in lead generation and brand awareness to help Avenue Code conquer new markets and continue the path to success!