CMO profile: How this marketer is forging a new path for B2B

Dealing with both uncertainty and the rapid pace of change, marketing leaders face several challenges and opportunities in steering their brands

Excelling at marketing demands a highly commercial and client-oriented approach, grounded in strong focus on the outcomes, according to Link Group CMO, Wendy Mak.

Mak knows first-hand the value in being able to truly understand what it's like to be in the frontline facing up to the client and translating those learnings into very effective marketing campaigns and messaging.  

“Just prior to becoming CMO, I was chief product officer for digital products for a few years in the technology and innovation team and I had to dive in and learn everything digital, and pretty quickly. There was all this tech lingo and acronyms, but I was also running a P&L and I was client-facing, so it meant I became a really commercial and client focused and I'm really grateful for all of that learning,” Mak tells CMO.  

In a career that includes roles in digital and data, head of marketing and business development, Mak was recently announced as a marketing finalist in the 2022 WeQual awards, recognising her leadership and business contribution. The award is dedicated to diversity and inclusion, and Mak nominated several things organisations need to embrace to improve gender parity.  

“The most obvious is having a commitment from the top,” she says. Another is linking diversity and gender parity metrics to performance and even remuneration outcomes at an executive level.  

Wendy MakCredit: Link Group
Wendy Mak

Transparency is also important. "I don't think you can make progress in this area without making your organisation's data and the current benchmarks available to everybody, at any level, internally and externally,” Mak continues. “By sharing this data, you’re allowing everyone at every level to have informed, active dialogue about what can be done better, or what should be done differently.”  

The other key element is flexibility. “It should be shaped for anyone, of any age, irrespective of gender. I think it's something that organisations should be really looking at because we’re living in a very different universe now post-pandemic,” Mak says. “Flexibility is now key for organisations in terms of attraction and lowering attrition rates.”  

Challenges and opportunities for marketing leaders

For marketing leaders, Mak sees two central challenges in play at the moment: Adaptability and ambiguity.  

“Anyone in leadership, not just marketing, needs to be able to see the world is continuing to innovate and develop at pace. That's not going to slow down, and it's becoming less tangible – these innovations are increasingly intangible ideas, concepts and things that sit in the machine,” Mak says.  

“We've also had so much progress in automation and AI [artificial intelligence], taking giant leaps and pushing us all into the unknown. There’s a need to adapt your strategies, your team and the campaigns to meet all of this head-on. But the pace of change is huge. As marketing leaders, we need to be adaptable and deal with all of the ambiguity that lies ahead,” she adds.  

For B2B in particular, Mak cites opportunities marketing leaders can seize and even borrow from the playbook of their B2C marketing colleagues. The first is how to make ethical and inclusive marketing relevant in a B2B services space.  

“In the same way that sustainable ethical practices have really overtaken the retail industry and given birth to beautiful home grown niche brands for instance, I would love to see the conversation in the B2B space shift to how we make that sustainable practice and ethical practices be the real reason why a client chooses to work with you. That’s instead of just being a supporting statement in your marketing or your sales pitch because your company has a net zero commitment or a sustainability agenda. I'd love to see that shift, and to see how we actually translate that into B2B,” she says.  

The second opportunity is seeing B2B businesses truly crack the community mindset and social marketing.  

“The world continues to globalise, we're all becoming one big community, increasingly more homogenous, and social media continues to prevail in terms of influence. But I don't think a lot of B2B brands have really broken through in this space in the same way our B2C counterparts have,” Mak says.  

B2B marketers, according to Mak, could also gain valuable insights and leverage by working with peers in internal and employee branding.  

“While we don't always collaborate very closely with our colleagues, it's important because it's often your own people who are the initial springboard and the public advocate for so many of the B2B brands,” she says.    

Mak has seen firsthand the value of workplace support, whether it’s through formal mentoring programs or more informal sponsors or role models to help shape leaders. Her advice to others looking for internal support is to seek out a sponsor or a mentor, even if it's an informal one.  

“When I look back on my career, I've learned most of my leadership policies from two senior leaders I worked with in one of my first jobs,” she says. “Just by allowing me to observe how they were working, and by talking to them, I learned things like work ethic, how to do things like manage difficult personalities, how to think rationally, how to be a caring leader and how to listen to different points of view. These are all things that have remained with me to this day.”  

And Mak’s advice to women, especially in relation to limiting beliefs or the dreaded imposter syndrome, is equally clear.    

“It's critical not to let this be your own self-fulfilling stigma because, while there's no doubt that gender inequality is real and exists, we need to remove our own self-doubt and limiting language from our self-talk. Having a sponsor or mentor can really help us do that,” she says.  

“They push us out of our comfort zone and out of our boundaries and reinforces us to think differently.”

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