Lisa Rees, Director of Marketing Communications at Avnet Silica, joins Mike for the latest episode of our leading B2B marketing professionals series. Lisa discusses the importance of understanding the customer journey, why having a non-technical background can be an advantage, and emphasises the value of measuring success based on metrics such as the customer lifecycle rather than just lead generation.

About Avnet Silica

Avnet Silica, a division of Avnet, is a European semiconductor distributor and specialist that supports projects from idea to concept to production. Avnet Silica acts as the connection between customers and suppliers, providing creative solutions, technology and logistics support.

About Lisa Rees

Lisa Rees is the Director of Marketing Communications at Avnet Silica and is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications, including supplier marketing, digital strategy, media, content and events. She joined Avnet Silica after ten years as Director of Marketing Communications at Avnet Abacus.

 Time Stamps

[00:49.2] – Lisa discusses her career from the French chamber of commerce to Avnet Silica.

[02:52.8] – Lisa explains what Avnet Silica is and what they do.

[04:16.3] – Lisa shares why having a non-technical background can be a benefit in marketing.

[07:49.3] – What marketing activities make the biggest impact at Avent Silica?

[13:48.2] – Lisa discusses how to measure the impact of marketing.

[24:51.9] – How is Avnet Silica incorporating AI into its marketing activities?

[21:10.6] – Lisa shares the best piece of marketing advice she’s ever been given.

[22:58.7] – Lisa’s contact details

Quotes

“Hang out with your customers… get to know your customers inside out. Every opportunity you can take to understand your customer is going to give you everything you need to be a good marketer.” Lisa Rees, Director of Communications at Avnet Silica.

“If you’re just measured by leads, you’re probably not generating the right outcomes… the biggest return for the business tends to be in a small number of very high-quality leads.” Mike Maynard, Managing Director at Napier.

 Follow Lisa:

Lisa Rees on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisa-rees-9548484a/

Avent Silica website: https://my.avnet.com/silica/

Avnet Silica on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/silica-an-avnet-company/

Follow Mike:

Mike Maynard on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikemaynard/

Napier website: https://www.napierb2b.com/

Napier LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/napier-partnership-limited/

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe to our podcast for more discussions about the latest in Marketing B2B Tech and connect with us on social media to stay updated on upcoming episodes. We’d also appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favourite podcast platform.

Want more? Check out Napier’s other podcast – The Marketing Automation Moment: https://podcasts.apple.com/ua/podcast/the-marketing-automation-moment-podcast/id1659211547

Transcript: Interview with Lisa Rees – Avnet Silica

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Lisa Rees

Mike: Welcome to Marketing B2B Technology, the podcast from Napier. I’m Mike Maynard, and today I’m joined by Lisa Rees. Lisa is the Director of Marketing Communications in EMEA for Avnet Silica. Welcome to the podcast. Lisa.

Lisa: Thank you, Mike. Thank you for having me.

Mike: Great to have you on. I’m really excited because I think you’re the first marketing leader we’ve had from our channel company, on the podcast. So I think we’re going to talk a lot about you know, how things work in a B2B channel. But before we do that, can you just give us a bit of background tell us about your career? And why you chose to join Avnet?

Lisa: Absolutely, yes. So a little bit of background, my career, I think, I’ve always worked on my life, or very early on, I’ve always had a strong work ethic. I originally started my career in France, I studied French and economics at university. And I ended up working for the Chamber of Commerce in France, because I wanted to kind of mix the two, the two elements of my studies together. And then I kind of had a weaving path, I worked in a PR company, I worked in an insurance company. But ultimately, I was trying to get to Tech, I did a little bit of a business development at the start of my career. And I was also trying to get to marketing. So eventually, I made it into tech marketing. And that’s how I ended up at Avnet. Silica. So a winding career, but I got to where I wanted to get to in the end. And why did I join AF net? I’ve met silico it’s, for me, it’s a, it’s a really exciting place to be. It’s, you’re looking at the future developing all the time. That’s what’s interesting for me, and it’s fast moving, you know, I love to know, kind of almost feel like I’m telling stories for the future. It’s a little bit like we’re in science fiction, maybe. But I think it’s about the exciting developments for the future.

Mike: And so, is that really, you know, why you wanted to get into tech is it’s all about the excitement, the speed of movement, rather than, you know, without wishing to be disparaging about some of your previous companies know, some of your industries you’ve worked in, have been notoriously conservative when it comes to marketing.

Lisa: They have and that’s what I definitely wanted to get away from without any disrespect. But yes, ultimately, I wanted to work for a forward moving company. I was also interested in where that tech can take you from, from a society perspective. You know, I think I want it to feel like I was adding some value to the world. So I think from a tech perspective, there are advancements in terms of sustainability and was interesting for me.

Mike: That’s great. I mean, it’s a really positive view of tech. Before we go any further, I think we ought to really just clarify what Avnet does that mean, some of the people listening might not be familiar with the company. I’m sure a lot of people are because they’re from the tech sector. But can you just give us a little bit of background about who you are, what you do and where your position is in the industry?

Lisa: Absolutely. So I’ve Avnet silica, well, I haven’t actually chorus part of ASP NET. So a bigger corporation that said, global, my role is within Avnet, silica, and Avnet. Silica is a distributor of hardware components. Traditionally, that’s where we sit in the middle of the technology design chain, I would say the technology and supply chain. So kind of like with the vantage point on what’s what’s happening, we work very closely with many manufacturers to distribute their hardware products. But I think things have evolved as well over the last few years in terms of we’re no longer just looking at delivering the parts, we’re actually looking at offering a whole kind of value added service, we’re working with customers, right from the start from the ground up, I would say, because now we’re implementing IoT, and AI and security and, and looking at different ways to bring value to those customers that maybe they never had before from one partner. So it’s also about helping them innovate faster, helping them get to market faster. And I think that evolution for me is really exciting. It’s kind of like from something that was traditional to something that is way more kind of holistic, I would say in terms of of planning and working with customers.

Mike: But I guess I mean, there’s a lot of technical services you’re providing, and you’re not technical by background, as you said, and in fact that that’s not unusual. I mean, I meet a lot of people in this sector that are not technical. But I mean, what challenges does that present you when you’re working in a sector that is so driven by engineers?

Lisa: I mean, for me, I see it as an opportunity. I’m first and foremost, I’m a content marketer, I’d say that’s where my passion lies. So I just want to sit and hang out with the engineers, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I think it’s this kind of ideal blend, really, of finding a subject matter experts that understands what our ideal customer base is looking for what they need to know. And then it’s pulling that information. And then I’d bring my value as a marketer in terms of kind of how you position it, how you pitch it, how you get that content to the right people in the right places at the right time. So I’m always trying to find out what’s the value prop behind what we’re trying to say. And I think because I’m not an engineer, I can ask what other people might say, are really silly questions. And I can always start my sentence with, Hey, I’m not technical. Can we just go into that a little bit more. And for me, I think that brings a value that maybe I wouldn’t have if I were a technical marketer.

Mike: I love that. I think you know, the way you see yourself working with the technical specialists and bringing that market expertise, I think is it is a way that a lot of great marketers in the sector operate. So that’s really positive to see that you’re almost using this non technical background. And I know you do understand quite a bit of the technology now. But using it as a bit of an advantage.

Lisa: Absolutely. I always say, I know a little about a lot of things. That can be a dangerous thing sometimes. But I think as long as you making those subject matter experts, your friends, and they very much are, you know, the people that I go to that I listened to, that I spend so much of my time talking to, and where my passion is to be honest, that I think it does work.

Mike: So moving on a bit more to your role and what you do. I’m always intrigued when people have rows, like, you know, director of marketing, communications and cover the whole of emir, and are in a company with a very broad range of products. I mean, how do you prioritise and start building a plan when there’s so much to cover?

Lisa: It’s tough, it is tough. If I’m honest, I’d say there’s two, there’s almost two prongs. Ultimately, you have to remember what we’re here for, it’s very easy to get bogged down, I would say in all the things that everybody would like to throw at you. Because when you’re marketing, you’re kind of like the frontline for anything that anybody needs. But for me, what’s the main thing you want to do is you want to drive some pipeline, and you want to drive the revenue, and you want to disrupt you want people to know you and know who you are. So it’s that, you know, is that focused on top of the funnel? And then getting to the bottom of the funnel? And how can I really work with those people. So I think you just have to keep sight of what’s important, and what’s going to make a difference to you. And I’m always looking to, to stand out to be different, not for different sake, but because I’m not trying to catch other people at their own game, I think that you can’t do that. So it’s like, I’m always the that mindset, if that if everybody’s eggs, you’ve got this egg, you know, it’s like, that’s the way you stand out a little bit. So I’m trying to find a way to, I think you can disrupt a lot of the time with a tone of voice, even, I’m a very personal oriented person. And I think sometimes it’s amazing what a tone of voice can do for your brand. You can be approachable, or friendly or knowledgeable or expert lead, or you know, all of those things. And you can change that just by the tone of voice that everybody uses within the business when you go to market. So I try to focus on, on the things that are going to move the needle, if I’m honest.

Mike: So that’s interesting, I love you know, that focus on the detail as well as that very broad portfolio of tasks. But when you say, move the needle, I mean, can you unpack that? You know, do you have particular things you’re trying to achieve in the marketing? Is it you know, all about lead generation? Is it about branding? Is it about positioning and perception? What do you think are your priorities?

Lisa: It’s really interesting, because that priorities change, of course, over time, and I told you at the start of the chat that we’re having about, however, that silica has moved from, I’d say a traditional supplier of hardware components into more of a kind of a consultant solution kind of approach. And I think getting that message out to the market takes a lot more time than you realise, you know, it’s kind of constantly reinforcing it, constantly talking about it, constantly making sure that the white people are hearing it. So I think a lot of the focus for me is on that awareness. But ultimately, you’ve got to drive this balance, tread this tightrope between driving leads and driving demand generation, I was as I would call it, and building an audience takes time and patience. And I think focusing on leads can be sometimes a short term activity. And I think it’s focusing on building the right kind of leads, and you have to do the demand generation and build that audience and put the real effort into kind of getting that content out there to drive the right kind of leads, I would say, and for me, that’s the best the perfect balance.

Mike: I love that. And I think in B2B, some marketers are a bit guilty of thinking of demand generation as handing over a spreadsheet of leads, but you’ve made a real distinction between driving demand and generating leads. I mean, do you just wonder, maybe unpack some of the things you do that generate demand that maybe don’t necessarily directly generate leads? I’m really interested in, you know, are you not dating everything to you know, every time someone downloads something, you generate a lead, presumably, you’re taking a slightly different approach.

Lisa: I am taking a different approach for me, you know, kind of gating a white paper is, is a bit old school. And I like to make sure that I’m, you know, work, working with the way that people like to work. And I think so much is available now to our customers at their fingertips is that if I make the customers jump through hoops to get the stuff that they need, it kind of like creates this barrier. And also, I don’t want 1000s of leads. It’s not about volume for me. I think if you if you’re measured on leads, you’re driving the wrong outcomes. So I think you know, of course, I want those good leads, I want those sales qualified leads. But I think that I get those by giving away some of my best stuff free you know, if people read really cool stuff that’s answering that their problems or their pain points are addressing the challenges that they have building that trust with you and you’re building the authority and I think then people are more likely to come to you so I am focused on that inbound, then you have to make it really easy for people Pull to contact you, how do they get to you? How do you how do you create an urgency in the form that they fill in, over and above a normal query from somebody that maybe is not so valuable as it leads. So there is always that kind of like making sure that if you do focus on demand generation and inbound, that you know how to deal with it quickly and effectively, and straightaway, put it to the right person so that if you’ve got a really high value, potential customer coming to you, you hit them hard straightaway with what they need. See what I mean. So I think there’s there’s a lot of balancing going on. But ultimately, I’m focusing on educating to build that authority that said that the right people engage with us.

Mike: I love that. And I mean, I think that might be a little controversial for some people. But But I think you’re absolutely right, when you said, you know, if you’re just measured by leads, you’re probably not generating the right outcomes. I’ve seen that where there’s been an over focus on lead generation. And quite clearly, the more leads you generate, the lower the quality is where actually the biggest return for the business tends to be in a small number of very high quality leads.

Lisa: Exactly. And I say also, the more you create a disconnect with sales, you know, I want to work with sales. I also think about this attribution model where people go, Oh, marketing, at the first touch your marketing had the last touch, or, you know, it’s a marketing source lead, ultimately, I’m lucky that I’m in a business that doesn’t measure me like that. But the business focuses on alignment. So as a business, we’re bringing together all the different facets of the organisation that can work together to drive the right outcomes and drive the right leads. And I think I’m very lucky to be in that environment that understands that it’s a collaborative approach to lead generation rather than each individual feeling the pressure to kind of go, Hey, I’ve done a great job, look at all these leads up bought in. And actually, that’s not helping sales at all, you’ve got to have this disconnect, where sales go, I can trust you, I trust that your what you’re bringing to me as a marketer is going to be the stuff that’s valuable for me to spend my time on, that is so important, I think, within the business, so that we don’t have silos.

Mike: I love that. And I think quite often, you know, marketing’s doing their job, when the role of being a salesperson becomes easier. And it’s not necessarily throwing them a million, you know, contacts, they have to phone up who are actually probably not interested. It’s about making the customer have this positive perception that when the salesperson, you know, talks to them, the customer immediately wants to work with avidex, silica, or whoever it is, rather than, you know, asking, well, who are you? And why should I work with you? And, you know, that should be the marketing job?

Lisa: Absolutely. And, you know, top of the funnel, absolutely, you know, we want to tell people our story, we want people to come in, and we want them to believe in us. But ultimately, where I need to spend a lot more effort, and a lot of more of my time is towards the bottom of the funnel. And don’t get me wrong, I do gate stuff, I do wait, you know, you have to sign in to come to a webinar where you’ve got an expert talking for 45 minutes, we only need to sign in once and then you can access everything. So we still make it easy. But then working with those customers who are at that stage who are maybe working with reference design, or you know, they’re looking at samples or I know they’re actively involved in in kind of putting a design together, it’s well how can we help those customers? How can we be of value to them? And I think getting that piece right, is where to put a lot of your effort as well.

Mike: So it was interesting. I mean, you seem to be saying, you still gate but it’s right at the bottom of the funnel rather than, you know, higher up. I mean, that must be a much better user experience for prospects you’re engaging. But how do you approach measurement? How do you measure how well you’re doing? If you’re not generating those leads?

Lisa: It’s a really good question. Right? If the age old question for a marketer, you know, how do you know that all of your effort is giving you all of your results, and the course is a challenge, I’ve always stuck to the idea that if you try to measure too many things, too precisely, you can drive those wrong outcomes, you know, clearly lead numbers is is an easy metric to measure. It doesn’t mean it’s the right metrics to measure. It doesn’t mean I’m doing a great job as a marketer. So I think you can look at sales qualified leads back to my point is like, what leads or sales going great job, that’s exactly who I want to talk to. This is the kind of lead I’m looking for. So for me, that’s probably a good measure. You can go further. I mean, we have a long lifecycle from design to actually, volume production could take, what 18 months, two years, but if you can get an idea of the lifetime value of those customers. That’s an interesting metric. But again, because I’m not focused just on marketing, attribution, I’m focused on collaborative attribution. Again, you know, it’s hard to say I did this, I got that bit, right. And it’s not actually what I’m trying to do are ultimately focused on pipeline and revenue. And I think, therefore, those sales qualified needs for me so it’s kind of like the bit that makes the difference.

Mike: I think you’ve put out beautifully and that’s a really great approach. I think a lot of people could, you know, learn from so thank you for that. I’d like to change tack a bit and find out about you in terms of managing a marketing team. I mean, you’re in silica which is A big company. And that’s part of F net, which actually is a gigantic global company. How do you get a marketing team across, you know, different sub brands inside such a big company actually driving in the same direction?

Lisa: It’s a really good question. I think driving in the same direction, it’s all about a vision. I think if you’ve got a vision, and people understand how they’re contributing to that vision, that strategy for success, that strategy for growth, everyone has an idea about where they go. In fact, I would say that’s how the whole of silica is one, you know, we have a president that brings a very clear vision, and every single person in the business knows what they’re doing to contribute to that vision and that strategy for growth. So it’s a culture within the company, I think, which is really successful, and really works. And I think the same goes for, for me and my marketing team, you know, we know what we want to do we know our tone of voice, we know what our message is, we know how we want to feel like an open company that’s very focused on people. It’s focused on expertise, it’s focused on knowledge, collaboration, proactiveness, all of those things, you know, we as a team live and breathe that. And I think that’s my job is to spread that message and make sure that everybody feels a part of it. And I do it with a big tonne of energy, that’s the only way I can describe it is, you know, I sell it as a concept maybe, and we feel together, we’re succeeding. And for me, that’s, that’s what works. I’m also very collaborative with my colleagues in other speedboat companies with global marketing teams with the corporate marketing teams, I’m very much as I’d say, a team player, I enjoy collaborating with people across the whole business and where they can bring me value and I can bring them value, and we can not reinvent the wheel. That’s the way to go for me. So I’m very open, I would say in my approach to working with the people.

Mike: I love that I mean, that there’s definitely a theme of collaboration coming through this interview, which I think is great. I’m intrigued to know, I mean, you’ve got a marketing team, what’s your management style? How do you go about, you know, motivating and developing the team,

Lisa: I am very focused on individual growth and individual development, you know, I want to hire people better than me. I don’t feel threatened by having amazing people in my team. In fact, I feel completely kind of calm, the fact that I think, okay, now I got all these experts. And to be honest, we are a very close knit team. So everyone has their area where they do Excel, where they focus with what they’re good at. But each of us at any point will step into each other’s shoes in a way that’s very kind of fluid, and very easy to do. So I think it’s the fact that there is this commitment to grow. And I try to not be the first port of call for the business, you know, that I think that’s how it possibly was in the past. And now I’m thinking, don’t come to me, we’ve got a brilliant webinar expert, we’ve got an amazing events person over here, we’ve got a social media expert, you know, go to those people directly. They know what their vision is, they know what their strategy is, they know when to say no, they know when to say sure I can support you with this, you know, what do you need. So I think it’s about giving them the opportunity to be visible to grow to develop, and I’m very committed to that. It’s important to me.

Mike: That’s fantastic. And I think it’s always a sign of a good manager when they start talking about how good their team is. So I’m sure you’re too polite to actually say anything, but I’ll absolutely say that. I’d like to move on. I mean, unfortunately, Malin, I feel we always have to, you know, visit AI. Lots of people have very different views on AI. I’m interested, how are you currently using AI within your marketing team and for your marketing activities?

Lisa: We obviously, it’s a really good question. Because it’s a new ik we’ve only probably been using it for what a year and a half. We started using it a little bit to maybe write some strap lines to write some copy for webinars. But very quickly, it became very samey, and I got very frustrated with it very quickly. So that’s out. You can’t replace individuality, creativity, understanding the value of the problem. I don’t honestly believe for the moment that AI can do that. So I can see straightaway when when the headlines been written by AI, and I can see whether it’s been someone in my team or someone in the competitors team. I’m like, Oh, if we see unleash again, I’m gonna literally go. So I think where AI will take us is, it will be like this sort of hyper personalised marketing, it’s going to be much more efficient. I can say, tell me the competitive landscape for this kind of technology. And it will tell me in a flash, tell me where who’s got the competitive advantage, you know, who’s bringing out something new, I mean, to go and search for all that information and put together exactly what you’re looking for, I think is super efficient. It’s super personalised, it means that we can be much more focused on what we do the customers, I think we go faster. But for me, I’m not scared of AI. I think you go with AI and you develop with AI, you’ll be fine. But I think there’s always going to be that role for creativity. I mean, AI can’t develop something, as far as I know, that’s not been created already. Right? You’re looking at a pot of stuff that’s out there. If you want to disrupt you got to keep ahead of the curve. And I think, for me, I embrace it.

Mike: That sounds really positive, you know, both in terms of the benefits of AI I know also in terms of the fact that you still see this very important, crucial role for people within a marketing team. Yeah,

Lisa: I really do. I think that creativity will always be important. I have seen people’s roles kind of feel a little bit eroded though, for example, mostly with around if you look at SEO and Google, I mean, how much do people search on Google anymore? Do they just ask that DPT instead? So I understand that there are threats as well, it’s not all rosy. But I think it’s just about learning to quickly adapt and find new output for that creativity and make sure that you know, you’re, as I say, working with it, rather than against it or feeling too threatened by it.

Mike: No, thank you. That’s a brilliant piece of advice. I’m really worth your time. And I know you’re really busy. And you’ve been very generous to spend time on the podcast, there’s a couple of questions we’d like to finish off with. And the first one is also about advice. So I’m interested to know what’s the best piece of marketing advice you’ve ever been given?

Lisa: Oh, hang out with the customers without a doubt, just get to know your customers inside out. Every opportunity you can take to understand your customer is going to give you everything you need to be a good marketer, I think it’s that insight that you can’t replace, don’t think you know them, go and actually learn about them. That’s always been my best piece of advice.

Mike: I love it, that’s quite a popular piece of marketing. Last time we tried to meet up was at a trade show and you’re super busy, clearly, you know, actually taking your advice and talking to customers. So So that’s brilliant. The other thing, you know, I’m interested in is what about someone starting their career in marketing? What advice would you give them?

Lisa: I mean, you know, marketing is always changing, you know, so I think be adaptable, be flexible. But also, it’s never too early to start implementing to start only your go to market strategy to start showing your, your abilities. You know, I don’t think you have to stay in a box. But always listen, always listen, start by understanding the customer journey. And I think as long as you go back to my, you know, my last point, as long as you understand that the customer, you can start to really kind of build your influence, build your trust and do it as early as possible in your career. You know, you don’t have to have years of experience to make a difference in blockchain. That’s what I would say.

Mike: That’s amazing. I think that that’s, you know, again, it’s really positive advice. I love it. As I say, I appreciate your time. Is there anything you feel we could have covered that perhaps I’ve missed during this interview?

Lisa: I mean, now, I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you, Mike, I think we’ve covered all of the important points for me as a marketer. So I think we’re good.

Mike: That’s brilliant. If people have questions for you, Lisa. Or, you know, maybe they’re looking for a place to work where they can grow and develop and get responsibility. What’s the best way for them to contact you?

Lisa: I definitely say on LinkedIn, it’s where everything happens these days. Anyway, find me on LinkedIn, Lisa Rees for Avnet Silica and connect with me drop me a line more than happy to chat.

Mike: Lisa has been fascinating. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. Thank you very much for being a guest.

Lisa: And thank you so much for having me, Mike. It’s been a pleasure.