Women In Marketing Interview | Phumza Dyani from Broadband Infraco
Having cemented herself in a male-dominated industry, Phumza is a force to be reckoned with. A believer in the marriage between marketing and sales, she shares her story with us in this segment of Women In Marketing
“Feminism is about all genders having equal rights and opportunities. It’s about respecting women’s experiences, identities, knowledge and contribution.”
THE JOURNEY TAKEN
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career in marketing? How’d you end up at Broadband Infraco?
My career has over the years mainly been in Sales, I love selling. As a salesperson, I have worked closely with marketers in the development of marketing strategies, value propositions as well as sales collateral for the respective businesses. Truth be told, as a Salesperson, I always felt there was a disconnect between how Sales communicates its requirements as well as how Marketers interpret and deliver on supporting Sales.
At times, one felt that Marketers were not addressing the customer requirements accordingly and for me, it felt like routine Events and presence but not necessarily making an Impact.
So, when I was headhunted for the sales & marketing role by Broadband Infraco, I took the role as an opportunity to also drive alignment between the sales and marketing functions in order to leverage what could truly be achieved from synchronisation of the functions.
What I love is that Modern marketing creates a synergistic relationship between these functions as it is about customer experience being at every touchpoint, building relationships with customers and adapting continuously. Modern marketing is personal and uses real-time data to make or alter strategies. We no longer have to wait in order to know the success and impact of Marketing initiatives and it is fully valued in the insights that can be leveraged.
Fast forward to today, I can safely say things have worked out very well, but one must confess that it was not that easy in the beginning due to the functions having worked independently in the past. At first, the team did not see the connection and this did not make sense to them. However, that perspective has since changed and currently, there is a greater understanding and much more visible achievements we can count in terms of how the two functions have synergistically collaborated and as a result led to value being derived.
It was a significant honour for me to represent a brand that is socially relevant. A brand that cares and has a truly significant purpose. Marketing our offering and what we stand for has been one fulfilling journey for me. It is authentic and we don’t have to work hard to prove it. We live it every day.
You have accumulated an envious amount of experience working for top-tier companies such as Santam, MTN as well as Vodacom. What did you learn from these roles and how do you apply experiences in your current role at Broadband Infraco?
I have acquired a great wealth of experience that I have applied in other work environments. The experience gained over the years working in various roles has enabled me to be more pragmatic in how I approach matters as well as being relevant to various perspectives. I have worked in financial, audit and business roles which have been very helpful in enabling one to see the business from its entirety and to understand the key levers that are instrumental in achieving business objectives. I am eternally grateful for this.
The Sales and Marketing space has been a great enhancement to the overall experience as it presented me with exposure to the external side of thinking and working with the most dynamic world of customers. Having worked for great brands like Absa, MTN, Vodacom has contributed greatly to my experience in as far as how these companies have been ahead in their respective trajectories on Brand and Marketing. I have applied these quite extensively in my role and they have indeed yielded great rewards.
Several studies reveal that women account for the majority of purchase decisions including traditional male products such as automobiles, consumer electronics as well as home improvement products. Despite this, surveys show that advertisers still do not understand women. Why do you think this is the case and what should change?
The female segment of the market is an under-developed opportunity due to how the segment does not go to the level of gender possibly the number one opportunity. In the past, we have classified according to a number of things but very rarely on gender.
Additionally, Advertisers and approvers of campaigns sitting around the Exco tables are still male. There may be the development of creative content that is inclusive, but it is perhaps toned down to suit the likes of the customer who is oftentimes a male decision-maker. We need an even greater representation of women at the Exco level that are able to contribute as part of the relevant decision-making process. What is being aired is representative of the comfort of the decision-makers with what resonates with them.
The refinement of Artificial intelligence as part of the Marketing process will help in bridging these gaps by providing us with data that will help us to be more precise in our approach. Digital Marketing offers us an opportunity for real-time feedback and in-depth insights on the preferences of all our customers.
What does the word feminist mean to you?
Feminism is about all genders having equal rights and opportunities. It’s about respecting women’s experiences, identities, knowledge and contribution. I feel strongly about gender parity and am quite pro equal pay as well as equal access to leadership opportunities.
Who are some of your female heroes?
Michelle Obama’s predisposition appeals to me as a woman that represents a gentle and yet assertive leadership approach. She projects confidence in who she is and displaces the notion of masculine projection by females in order to feel like they are powerful. She is powerful in who she is and quite effective at that. She commands respect without demanding it.
In the South African context, there are many. Leaders like Nolitha Fakude, who are excelling in their spheres of influence but are taking time to share the wisdom and pass on the baton to the next generation with truthfulness and authenticity.
The most amazing is that when we grew up, there were not many role models. These days we are spoiled for choice and they are availing themselves to support the younger women’s progress.
What steps can companies take to make their businesses more equal in terms of pay and employees with regards to gender?
The will of the Leadership is critical to driving this. If the CEOs, who are predominantly male, advocate for this and put up measures for ensuring that it is unreservedly implemented, then it will happen. There also needs to be a recognition that the value of both male and female are displayed differently. So, when placing on equal footing, in interviews with a male against a female, there needs to be a conscious understanding of how the two display strengths and weaknesses differently.
What have you learned at Broadband Infraco that you had not learned at previous companies?
What I mean by resourcefulness is that the private sector tends to buy into the importance of Marketing and branding and exhibit this through understanding the resources that need to be pulled into gaining success in these areas. Where resources are limited, marketing and branding almost always take last priority but there is still an expectation of what Marketing and Brand should deliver.
In this role, I have really learned to trade off personal time and availability in order to receive opportunities for Brand visibility as well as relevance. This has paid off massively and created a multiplier in how the brand is perceived and is seen as integral in really strategic platforms which we have leveraged greatly.
As a woman in the marketing and communications environment, what challenges do you face within and outside the organisation? What message do you have for other female professionals in the fraternity?
Fighting for resources to execute on the plans. The main challenge is that Marketing is perceived as an expense and something that is especially a nuisance when times are tough.
The message I would share with females is to develop a passion for your craft and amass power not only internal to the organisation but by also being relevant external to your organisation. Spend time developing tools for demonstrating the value you bring, show the Return on the Investment of any marketing activity you do. Develop a very close relationship with your customers as well as peers in the industry for always being abreast of developments.
What made you fall in love with the world of marketing? What particular moment in time pushed you to pursue this as a career? After all, we all wanted to be Doctor’s growing up, right?
The love for Marketing came later in life and had I realised how I would be passionate about it, I would have opted for it first. It came after being exposed to Sales, where I realised that great Marketing makes the function of Sales easier. It is an art of value proposition articulation, the strength of the brand as well as the enabling collateral that gets the customer interested before even Sales can engage the customer. The understanding of the psyche of the customer as well as building relationships with them makes the Marketing role even that much more impactful.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
COVID-19 has been a disruption to several organisations. So much that several businesses, small and big alike either having to cut down on staff or being forced to close down. On the same token, however, several organisations have used this time to regroup and use this as an opportunity for change in structure and processes. How has your organisation and specifically, your department, countered against the impact brought by the pandemic?
Broadband Infraco is classified as an essential service organisation and working continued albeit, remotely for most members of staff. We were fortunate in that we were prepared for remote working. The refinements that were required were not that substantial and it made the transition quite easy. We prepared the people, updating them each time there was a change to Regulations. The communication channels were kept open and all the preparations per Regulations took place to create a safe working environment.
From the Departmental perspective:
We kept the communication with our customers as we prepared for additional capacity requirements at the back of increased online activity. We were open to listen when our customers were experiencing challenges and to offer support where possible; We created thought leadership content around this time and expressed how connectivity is instrumental to the country’s economic performance as well as better delivery of services.
We participated in many Forums that were finding solutions to the challenges of the country, mainly ICT driven Forums.
We also responded to business needs and carried on with work remotely.
Remote work and video conferencing have become proverbial overnight celebrities. Some say that it has been long overdue whilst others are struggling to adjust this new normal. What is your take on this and how have you structured your work accordingly?
It has been long overdue. It is productive and takes away the issues we have with traffic and meetings are much more focused and to the point. It does come with its challenges but these are not insurmountable. I found it to be a really meaningful time to apply oneself without the disturbances of the walk-ins from the office. People are much calmer and they approach challenges differently.
It has its challenges, especially for the family, because we have intruded into their safe space and tend to carry the energy of work right into our living rooms.
What are the most unique challenges you face in your industry and at the workplace? How do you tackle these?
Our industry is fast-paced and highly competitive. It is also a very significant industry in transforming our country and that could help in bridging the gap to meeting the SDGs (Social Development Goals).
This makes our role transcend beyond the organisational walls to getting involved in issues of national importance. This is fulfilling as one gets to participate in how the country can use ICT to move forward.
The industry, by nature, moves at a rapid rate and it is constantly evolving. I thrive in the Industry because I am stimulated by dynamism and solving problems. I love to constantly learn and it drives me to always be on top of my game.
Storytelling seems to be the next rising buzzword. What’s the Broadband Infraco story? How are you telling it in an interesting way?
Broadband Infraco has an amazing and impactful story which is unique to all Providers in the Industry. Our core existence is to bridge the digital divide between the rich and the poor. It speaks to the Sustainable Development Goals and is a catalyst for achieving them.
We need connectivity to provide access to information and opportunities for our people. We need it to provide quality education as well as enabling access to the best health services. What Broadband Infraco seeks to achieve is equal access for all citizens of South Africa.
We tell this story every day, in our narrative through our reporting, through our social platforms as well as how we narrate it on media publications.
As a mother, how has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the way you work? Furthermore, should organisations be cognisant of mothers? Is enough being done to cater to new parents, specifically mothers?
As a mother, we have been placed at the centre of teaching our children.
It is a bit of a challenge when you have to be on a teleconference and also attend to someone asking questions and seeking guidance from you. As a female voice, I cautioned the Exco to be aware of these challenges and to be more conscious around longer than needed meetings.
As a leader, I have had to play a fair balance of understanding that it is not business as usual. It has also been more important to call just to check in on people and how they are coping at this time. When there are challenges, the team has had to rally together and support each other.
What have been some of Broadband Infraco biggest successes in marketing over the past 12 to 18 months?
For Broadband Infraco, it has been the visibility of the Brand in various Forums. The changes of perception in the media, from a perception of an ailing entity with financial problems to one that is putting its mark and growing its reach in SADC as well as in-service offerings.
Broadband Infraco is seen as core to the connectivity of the country and is central to addressing access to communication services for eLearning and eHealth.
The growth in affinity as a socially responsible brand that aims to transform the lives of the marginalised through technology.
What makes something innovative? How do you define innovation at Broadband Infraco?
When something introduces a new way of doing things or of solving a problem to existing ones, I call it innovative. We define innovation as relating to how we do things, it is the DNA of our culture and entrenched in our service offerings.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I love Canva, for creating what used to be difficult to do in an instant. I can create Promotions, marketing collateral or brilliant Presentation Templates in an instant.
How is Broadband Infraco changing the approach to marketing, growing brand affinity, user adoption, and engaging consumers living a digital lifestyle?
In the past year, we have focused on a strategy of growing our followership by:
Informing customers about our offerings
Our developments and things that we get involved in
Our people and culture
How do you leverage data to inform your decision-making?
We leverage data to inform where to invest further for building capacity for our customers to maximise returns. We develop new offerings based on data from customers.
What do you see as some of the major trends in digital in the next 12 to 18 months?
Without a doubt, AI
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
My productivity hack is ‘Eat that frog first’ strategy, which is doing the most important jobs firstly, secondly, the jobs that give me the greatest leverage. I will focus on the most important jobs but that also helps to address multiple other jobs while doing it.
What are your thoughts on Marketing and Sales alignment? How do you align your Marketing and Sales team at Broadband Infraco?
The two are like a hand and glove and cannot be relevant without each other. In my team, they work hand in hand and have to be in tune with what the strategies of each seek to deliver. Marketing is part of the Sales function and understands what needs to be driven as well as come up with plans for supporting Sales in meeting the objectives as well as targets
2020 AND BEYOND
What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information? Physical book vs eReader?)
I am currently reading ‘The PR Revolution’ by Maxim Behar. I am consuming it via Kindle.
A unique message for all young professionals in the marketing industry
Marketing is the lifeline of any organisation. If customers do not know what they are buying (value proposition) and who they are buying from (the brand), there is no business there.
What haven’t you solved? What challenge is on your plate?
Activating and amassing resources to make a significant contribution to alleviating poverty. In my role, it is rolling out connectivity at scale and seeing the impact of it in changed lives of South Africans.
Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read
Any bucket list items (professional as well as personal)?
To make my contribution through research work in the form of a PhD
What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?
Artificial Intelligence. It is pervasive and will be key for driving the competitiveness of industries and countries.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Spending time doing more thinking about matters. We are a society that is so driven by doing and we sometimes don’t afford ourselves the time to just sit and think matters through.
Something you do better than others — the secret of your success?
Grasping concepts and executing on them. You can drag me into any context and I will be able to pick up the message as well as connect the dots fast.
Which superhero/heroine or literature icon exemplifies your personality at work and home?