The tech guy who became a top marketer

It might surprise some, but Kenneth Lim, head of marketing, APAC at Anaplan Asia, did not hail from a marketing background. CMO Innovation spoke recently to the winner of the Golden Globe Tigers leadership award for excellent in marketing and brand leadership this year, and he shared with us about his unconventional journey to marketing success.

Specifically, Lim was actually trained in computing and software engineering, and joined the corporate world in the mid-90’s as an IT specialist in information systems processes. He attributed the initial sharpening of his marketing skills at Microsoft, where he worked as a campaign manager before being headhunted to join salesforce.com. And as they say, the rest is history.

Marketing is about being creative

One thing that struck us were the curveball ideas that Lim keeps throwing out, as well as his open-minded approach towards unconventional or non-conformist marketing strategies--as long as they work. Indeed, his opinions on topics ranging from marketing approaches and analytics were refreshing and came across as highly creative.

For example, Lim was adamant that the message should always be delivered in a concise manner--and never more than three pages at Anaplan. And when it comes to analytics, Lim suggested a multi-faceted approach towards analyzing the data as opposed to taking it at face value (You get the feel that fewer Asia Pacific firms will measure the wrong social metrics if he is around).

One area that Lim was enthusiastic to share about is the trend towards content marketing (You can read about “Why content marketing matters” here). This could consist of white papers or case studies, though he stressed the importance of pairing the content with a lead-generating approach that leverages contextual targeting.

Hearing it from him, the idea is to drive targeted content to the right parties, not blasting out an endless stream of EDMs (Electronic direct mailers) or creating collaterals that may not even be read. “When it comes to B2B, you need to be as targeted as possible,” he explained.

Lim also brought attention to the rampant data collection by some marketers, alluding to how they may simply be conducting surveys or generating reports for its own sake. On this front, Lim was openly critical of marketers who are not proactive, but instead opt to maintain the status quo by doing the same things day after day.

The importance of learning new things

There is no doubt that the role of the marketer has changed dramatically in the last five years alone, and creativity aside, it was also clear that Lim is concerned about how cultural norms in Singapore could make it hard for marketers to forge ahead. “Can we make mistakes?” he asked.

Yet there is a risk that marketers will be left behind if they do not seek to better equip themselves with new skills or new ideas on how to better market their brands. “They are holed up in their [cubicles],” he said, noting that marketers should “unplug themselves” to explore more of the world around them, and to move out of their comfort zone. “Marketers need to be smarter," he noted.

Another consideration would be marketers in developing parts of the region that may be more creative--and a cheaper hire to boot. After all, it is easy to transcend geographical boundaries when it comes to ideas, while the Internet makes it trivial for brands to work with marketers elsewhere. “One day, they will over take us,” he warned, pointing to a number of emotive videos making the rounds on social media recently.

Ask questions; throw a spin on things, suggested Lim. “Do not stop learning. The moment you stop, your career will stop too,” he said.

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