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Katy Sweetman

Q&A with Bob Pinchin on the launch of the Tech Marketers Group mentoring programme

As the NZ Tech Marketers Group launches its mentoring programme – for tech marketers, by tech marketers – we grabbed 10 minutes with Bob Pinchin, NZ Tech Marketers Group Exec Council Co-Chair, to ask him more about the new mentoring initiative and a little bit about why the ever-expanding Tech Marketers Group came about in the first place…

So, Bob… Tell us about the TMG mentoring programme. Who’s it for and how does it work?

If I step back to why we first created the Tech Marketers Group, tech marketers in New Zealand are often lone wolves in their organisations. They are often the only marketer, competing against companies overseas who have got big marketing departments, years of experience and deeper pockets.

And often people walk into a tech marketing role without any experience of what it’s like not only to market tech but also to market against the big ugly gorillas overseas.

So, the idea of the mentoring programme, really, in the first instance, is to help those new people into marketing in the tech space, specifically.

Maybe you’ve come from a general B2B background, are a marketing graduate or have come from a FMCG background. The mentoring programme – as well as Tech Marketers as a group more broadly – exists to help people to understand the nuances of marketing tech as opposed to marketing other things.

Things like… What does a tech marketer’s role entail? Who’s involved in the buying process? What’s the buyer journey? Who are the decision makers?

And the great thing about it is you get to learn from people who’ve been there and done it, or are in it.

The other important aspect of the programme, and the group itself, is the opportunity it provides to taking learnings from people on the bad and the good, equally, in terms of what they’ve tried, what’s gone wrong and what they would have done differently. What good suppliers they’d use, what tactics they could use, and so on.

A lot of marketing groups and professional development have a real B2C bent. That’s why we set up Tech Marketers Group – because we felt that the nuances of marketing B2B, and marketing tech in particular, is completely different.

Those other marketing groups and development opportunities are fantastic, but what the Tech Marketers Group exec council can give tech marketers specifically are those war stories, battle scars, the real-world tech sector experience and peer-to-peer discussions that maybe they can’t get elsewhere.

That’s the logic behind it.

What’s the greatest value the mentoring programme will offer to tech marketers who take part?

The best thing is that it’s real. We can all sit there and read textbooks and watch tutorials. And the world is full of people who’ve got great advice in their own minds. But often they haven’t actually been there and done it. I think, irrespective of what walk of life you’re from, one of the best ways of learning is to actually learn hands-on from people who’ve got the experience.

And this is especially true for tech marketers, or marketers in general, in the B2B space. Because you’re often a lone wolf, a lot of people around you in the organisation can be full of great advice without realising the constraints that you’re working within, whether it be from a resource point of view or from a financial point of view. Marketers are always getting it in the neck from above for spending too much money and getting it in the neck from sales people who say they’re not delivering enough leads, and from other people in the organisation who don’t know what the hell they do other than make things look good!

Tell us about the mentors involved in the programme.

The Tech Marketers Group exec council is made up of people who have got a wealth of experience right across the whole marketing and communications discipline. People often think marketing is quite a narrow thing, but it really involves a lot of different things. And there are a lot of skillsets that fall under the marketing remit. These could include PR and comms, they could include events, and so on. So there are a lot of skills to learn.

In this day and age, everyone’s preoccupied with the idea of marketing automation and inbound marketing, but really that’s only a small part of the equation. The exec council members have got a wealth of experience across all the various areas.

People might want some generalist coaching which could be tied into one of our other guiding pillars, which is to help sell the value of marketing up the food chain. And the people on the exec council have all been there. We’ve all had to fight to justify the existence of marketing!

It could be that somebody wants some specific help around promoting an event, or it could be marketing automation or PR.

So again, not only have we got generalist experience across the team on the exec council, but then there’s obviously also some very deep knowledge in some of those specific areas within the marketing disciplines as well that people can tap into.

And it could be that someone wants to tap into more than one person for more than one thing. And that’s the great thing. We’ve designed the programme so that people can look at the skillsets that the exec council have got and choose who they think might be the best mentor based on their knowledge, experience, the kind of companies they’ve worked for, where they are placed geographically, or whatever their criteria may be.

Why do you enjoy being a mentor?

I’ve been in the tech industry for 25 years and I’ve been in the place that a lot of tech marketers have been. I’m also fortunate in the sense that my original background was in sales, so I get the relationship between sales and marketing.

Also, back when I had a real job, I was a CEO as well. So when I employed marketers I also sat there staring at spreadsheets, looking at how I could cut expenses, which would include the variable line called Marketing as I saw it in those days.

I’ve been involved in various facets of the whole business cycle, too, and I want to give back and help people by sharing this experience.

And that’s also true of everyone else on the exec council. When the NZ Tech Marketers Group first came together and the exec council formed, it was a bunch of like-minded people who wanted to contribute and give back – people who fundamentally believe that marketing is a key skillset and attribute for our tech companies in order for us to be able sell more product, solutions and services, or whatever it might be.

New Zealand is great at coming up with great ideas in the tech space, but isn’t necessarily always great at the hard bit of marketing and sales.

You’ve talked a little bit about the collective experience of the TMG exec council. As someone with 25 years in the tech industry, tell us more about where you’ve been and what you’ve seen in that time.

I first got involved in the tech sector back in the late 80s in the UK. My first introduction involved the launch of a tech publication that was targeting computer contractors.

I went from there to doing a stint as an IT recruitment consultant. Then moved to New Zealand where my first role was as recruitment sales manager at Computerworld. Spent a lot of time selling advertising to recruiters. Went from there to selling display advertising in Computerworld. And then launched CIO magazine, Reseller News, and Unlimited magazine as well as working across the other IDG brands.

And through that journey, I ended up as the CEO of IDG Communications. That was around the time of the Dotcom boom and bust. It was very early into the concept of this new thing called the internet, which we all thought we were going to make a lot of money out of 20 years ago as publishers. But it never happened…

And then over a period of the following seven or eight years, resizing IDG from 115 people down to about 60 people, and starting to see the major change that was happening in the tech publishing space, I decided that it was time to change.

I was sitting there as a CEO being sold to by tech companies. I was sitting there as a publisher, with PR companies approaching me offering a whole lot of pretty average PR, comms and marketing services. And I thought, well, you know what, maybe I can do something about this…

So I quit working for IDG, took a bit of time out, got involved in the Hi-Tech Awards and then started Swaytech with a view to helping New Zealand tech companies realise their full potential, through marketing and communications. And I’ve been doing that now for the last 10 years.

How would someone go about approaching getting a mentor through this programme?

Take advantage of this opportunity to learn from those who have worked their way through the adventure of marketing in the tech sector. Visit the Mentorship page on the Tech Marketers website and complete the form including your preferences. From here, a member of the Tech Marketers Exec Council will do their best to match you with a suitable mentor. If we don’t have someone available immediately, we’ll keep your details on file until we are able to pair you with someone who has the skills and experience you’re looking for.

We are also looking for new mentors. If you have experience in helping tech companies thrive through effective marketing, or if you’ve learnt from mishaps and challenges during your career in the tech industry, we’d love to hear from you. Please fill in the “Become a TMG Mentor” form on the Mentorship page.

Katy Sweetman