In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
As an experienced marketer in the B2B technology sector with a history in start-ups, Ali Moinuddin is well versed in product development, fast growth and building revenue pipelines. So it’s not surprising the chief marketing officer (CMO) of document collaboration vendor, Workshare, is relishing the task of positioning his company’s rapidly integrated and expanding product set to an increasing diverse customer base.
Moinuddin was appointed the CMO of Workshare last September following the company’s merger with cloud collaboration software provider, SkyDox. He was part of the management team at SkyDox that raised £20m in capital to acquire Workshare and has spent the past year assisting with the integration and communication of its combined product portfolio globally.
Moinuddin previously helped launch three start-ups in the Europe and Asian markets, helping take them either to a trade sale or listing. These included data centre operator Interxion, where he was marketing and communications director; and management applications software provider, SPL World Group, as EMEA marketing director.
“I have two real focuses as CMO of Workshare: The first is to make sure both customer groups from the two companies understand the value being delivered through the merger,” he told CMO.
“SkyDox was a cloud collaboration application, while Workshare was predominantly focused on metadata removal and securing documents. We wanted to make sure the customers understood our specialties and make it clear how we were going to evolve the business.”
The second focus is growing Workshare’s presence outside of its traditional user foothold by both utilising existing customer relationships to infiltrate more parts of their organisation, as well as targeting the wider enterprise market.
Workshare’s history is in providing secure document filesharing solutions for organisations with a high percentage of ‘knowledge workers’ producing strategic content or documentation. Its core sectors include legal and professional services, finance and accounting, healthcare, government, and the creative advertising and media space. SkyDox meanwhile, was formed in the UK three years ago to provide cloud-based collaboration tools.
The merger was prompted by the realisation that both sets of customers needed a solution that allowed their staff to access documents and files securely and remotely wherever they are, while ensuring all information complies with regulatory or governance processes and IP is protected, Moinuddin said.
At the same time, the consumerisation of IT has seen a host of online filesharing applications like Dropbox pop up, providing individuals with easy ways of shifting information around. These unsecure applications are of huge risk to organisations trying to maintain the integrity of their information.
“Not only could you be in breach of legislation around data security, but also if that individual decides to move on, they take all that data with them because the company has no right to the data itself,”Moinuddin said. “People are using unauthorised applications and leaking data and we need to stem that.
“Our customers benefit from a policy engine which can be defined by the IT or commercial organisation. They can stipulate what can and can’t be shared outside of the company itself. If people want access, it’s pushed into the Workshare cloud environment, which is also open API and secure.”
Workshare has worked quickly to integrate its product sets, and most recently announced Workshare Professional 8 offering secure file transfer, document management, protection features and additional third-party solution integration.
“Workshare and many other organisations previously had a product launch every quarter or in some cases, every year. What we do now is understand our customer requirements and try adding them into product upgrades on a much shorter delivery cycle,” Moinuddin said.
Moinuddin also flagged ongoing efforts to find other technologies that can add to the portfolio and enhance its software offering. “This could include partnership and acquisitions,” he added. “As a company, we have shown our investors that we’re able to as a management team and company assimilate that technology and launch to market in a very short period of time.”
New spin on B2B
Because Workshare’s focus is on how users exchange information, it’s important to bridge the gap between what consumers want versus what IT or the organisation needs, Moinuddin said. To do this, his marketing team has an equal split of consumer marketing experience and traditional B2B backgrounds.
“That [user focus] translates into all of our messaging, and it also translates into all the channels of communication,” Moinuddin continued. “We don’t just undertake traditional B2B sales strategy, where you attend industry events, do some PR and host customer event days; we’re spreading our wings and using B2C marketing methods.
“Social media and building that presence is one example, but we’re also making sure the language we use resonates with the end user. For large technology companies, the biggest problem they have is not selling the software, but getting users to use it. That’s largely because of the complexity of the products as well.
“Our mantra is to simplify, simplify and simplify – we want applications that are simplified so anyone can watch a two-minute tutorial and start using the application itself.”
Workshare is also spending a large proportion of its budget on generating content that is thought leadership oriented. Without the content, it would be difficult to build a relationship with potential customers, Moinuddin said.
Data analytics is another growing area of investment, and Workshare recently hired a data scientist to conduct analysis over every customer interaction.
“We have worked directly to understand the propensity to buy or what features are being most utilised in our cloud environment based on the analytics, right from the time a customer interacts with us on a website, right through to if they came to an event, to what they bought,” he explained.
“Our intention is to build a profile of our customers and then be able to successfully test scenarios or feelings we have in terms of how the customer acts and specifically what’s relevant with our applications. Investment is directly linked to the revenue we generate.”
As part of the merger process, Workshare also invested in a 24/7 customer support function consolidated that in London and supporting seven languages.
“Our strategy is to continue to identify our customer requirements and address them in a faster and more agile way than other software companies,” he said. “We are in a strong position because of our Workshare customer base of Fortune 100 companies.
“You’ll see a continued focus on collaborating and file sharing, but also us moving much deeper into other vertical segments. We’ll use our existing customer data to start referencing possibilities in those spaces.”
Moinuddin’s key CMO attributes
- First and foremost, you need the ability to lead. As a marketing function, you must set the vision and status of your organisation not just to the marketers, but to the rest of the company as well. Clearly articulate that in a simple format so everyone is on the same page - that means the receptionist and the CTO both know the vision of the company. This leadership also manifests itself in how people feel about the company internally, as well as how it’s communicated to the market.
- Be a very effective staff manager. Motivate the team, really understand people’s strengths and harness those, and provide growth opportunities for the staff while working together.
- An often overlooked aspect by marketers is the ability to look over the horizon. Not only think about how to build a pipeline to meet the quarter’s numbers, but have a three-year strategy in terms of where we are going to position the company. How is the market going to change and how is the company going to adapt to serve your customers’ future needs?