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Ashley Gilgrist

Tech Marketers Mentor Q&A: Penny Kibblewhite

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The NZ Tech Marketers mentoring programme has been developed for tech marketers, by tech marketers – it enables us to learn from each other.

We catch-up with Penny Kibblewhite, TMG mentor and market extraordinaire. With 15 years’ experience in customer engagement, marketing and communications within tech, Penny reflects on her journey, lessons learnt, future plans, and the importance of adaptability in a fast-moving industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience as a tech marketer.

I have 15 years’ customer engagement, marketing and communications experience within New Zealand and Australia. I’m a multi-faceted B2B and B2C marketer with experience across a range of industries including information technology, software development, energy and utilities, professional services, manufacturing, agri-business, retail and automotive.

It’s interesting to see how a marketing and customer focus seeps into all sorts of roles. Looking back, I realise it has been an integral part of every role I’ve had. After working in marketing and events for a number of years, my first introduction to the world of tech was in 2011 when I secured a role looking after marketing and communications within New Zealand for Fujitsu (the IT services provider… not the heat pump company!) and have remained involved in the industry in one way or another ever since.

Tech marketing has always held a special place for me – it can be a real challenge, as the majority of tech companies have very little resource to dedicate to marketing. This means testing the limits of what’s possible while producing results using little to no budget. Whether it be through mentoring those in the tech sector or providing advice to tech start-ups, I will always have a passion for learning and sharing knowledge within the tech marketing realm. 

What attracted you to becoming a TMG mentor?

Mentoring offers a fantastic opportunity to not only share knowledge, but to challenge ourselves to learn more and appreciate the challenges of others. Mentoring in this space not only covers marketing but often delves into other business areas, such as understanding unique team dynamics. Seeing teams and businesses take risks, try new things and succeed is so rewarding and I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of this.

The TMG mentoring programme is wonderful as it offers the full spectrum of options for mentees; from being able to ask a specific question online and have an experienced senior marketer provide tailored advice in return, to being able to forge an enduring mentoring relationship.

What are you looking forward to as a TMG mentor?

Getting to know individuals and their unique strengths and values allows for the opportunity to craft feedback and ideas tailored to their situation, as well as encouraging them to think about opportunities that may not have been apparent initially.

I enjoy supporting people through trying new things and measuring the results to help them deliver successful campaigns and prove the value of marketing to their wider organisation – which can be a challenge in itself!

As a tech marketer, what does the year ahead hold in store for you and your team? Where will you be focusing your efforts?

Enhancing our digital platforms is a key focus over the next three years. We are on a journey to reinforce that the customer is at the core of our business and we need to shape our infrastructure around their needs while providing for our business requirements.

We have more opportunity than ever before to leverage automation and integrate systems to provide a better experience for our customers.

We engage with our customers regularly and seek both qualitative and quantitative feedback to be able to reinforce and validate themes and results, so we can better understand our customers – we now actively use this information to inform our strategic business decisions.

We’re all in industries that are going to look a lot different due to the influence of technology; it’s about figuring how to best adopt and embrace new technologies without getting overwhelmed by the pace of change and taking the time to find the options that will provide the most value to your customers and business.

Any key lessons learned or observations over the years that you can impart, from a tech marketing perspective?

Embrace technology.
Rapidly advancing technology can be daunting – it scares me how much more there is out there that I’m yet to learn or understand; however, adopting a mindset of exploration can lead to positive results.

I first delved into marketing automation in the agri-tech industry a few years ago and my team was able to experience first-hand the value marketing automation can have for a global business.

Manufacturing massive pieces of machinery worth hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, with 97% of all sales being to offshore customers, meant the lead conversion time could be years and it was influenced by a vast array of factors. As a result, lead generation, nurturing, tracking and conversion was challenging to manage.

Being able to set up automation and a CRM that worked for customers around the globe makes life easier for sales teams, and handing them hot leads in their own territory can give marketing a few runs on the board. The challenge is to ensure the novelty of a new technology or platform doesn’t wear off and that someone is accountable for consistently maintaining, tracking and reporting results to the wider business.

Marketing enables sales – and technology, if set up well, is making it easier to prioritise your customers’ needs in a more genuine way. Long gone are the days of bombarding your entire database with irrelevant content that will diminish their respect for the company, well-timed (often real-time) customised approaches are far more effective.

Learn as much as you can from the leaders you admire.
I have been fortunate to work with awe-inspiring leaders – observe them and try to understand the rationale behind their behaviour and choices rather than take them at face value. Gaining perspective is a huge advantage!

I’ll never forget a leader I had who was able to lead fiercely and conjure a culture of passion and dedication within the organisation. She was calm by nature and retained her composure under pressure and very rarely raised her voice. She was respected, not because she instilled fear in people, but because she retained her integrity and had high expectations of herself and the wider team, but also understood there were valuable opportunities to learn through failure. She nurtured her young family and still found the time to guide me in my career. She was the one next to us in the office until midnight when RFPs fell due and still made it to her children’s sports days. Pretty darn incredible.

Balance is vital, especially in the fast-paced world of tech.
I often refer to Annabel Crabb’s quote, “The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job”.

This can equally apply to fathers or people who have strong passions outside of work. Although I am a mother who finds my balance and fulfilment in having a career while also raising a young family, I understand how it feels to be pulled in multiple directions with the pressures of society for you to excel in all areas of life.

I absolutely support putting energy into career development. It is important to remember that what makes a great team member and leader is actually someone who is well rounded and has both a passion and commitment for their work as well as passions in other areas of their life. Be sure to prioritise what you love. Although a perfect balance is near impossible, whether it be family, hobbies, sports or a social life, more balance will make you far more effective in your professional life.

AQ: The Adaptability Quotient
We all know how vital empathy and emotional intelligence is; however I believe AQ is just as important, and complements EQ well.

Although AQ can relate to both businesses and individuals, on an individual level, AQ measures an individual’s ability to adjust to change in real time.

Some of my most valuable team members have demonstrated their ability to keep an open mind so they can adopt new ways of doing things and embrace the inevitable change that occurs in today’s professional environments. Try to maintain an open mind and be enthusiastic about exploring ideas, this will help you convey positivity when faced with change and respond more favourably to challenges.

Ashley Gilgrist Ashley is a product marketer and content contributor for the Tech Marketers Group. Outside of work, you'll often find her testing out new recipes or hiking the pointy peaks of New Zealand.