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Vin Lapsley: Welcome to The Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you’re going to put in your ear. I’m Vin, the producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market and we’ll have a little fun along the way. In today’s episode, Roopa Maniktala, the marketing program director at IBM talks about how allowing employees to feel included and involved in the business allows for access to building new skills that grow the brand. Give it a listen.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista’s The Marketing Stir. I am your host Vincent Pietrafesa, the vice president of B2B products and partnerships here at Stirista. Yes, that is still my title. After all these episodes, I still am the interim general manager here at Stirista. That hasn’t changed. But what has changed is you, the listeners, we’re getting more of you. Thank you. This is great. You’re coming up to me at conferences and telling us how much you love the podcast. Thank you for that. We really do appreciate it. Let’s talk about The Marketing Stir, who it’s presented by. Stirista. That’s the company I work for. Let’s talk about them for just a few seconds. That’s all. That’s the only thing we talk about. We don’t take advertising in this podcast. We are a marketing technology company. We own our own business to business data, business to consumer data. We help companies access that data to help them get new customers. We can help with email, display, connected TV. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. A lot of you are using it. Also getting a lot of PR agencies are reaching out to us. That’s fine too, to get their people on our podcast. That’s fine. You want to come on our podcast, let us know. The other thing, ladies and gentlemen, I’m very happy about. I feel like it’s been forever. He’s too busy. That’s because we’re doing some exciting and amazing things here at Stirista maybe he’ll tell you about, but he’s been very busy now. I feel like I have not talked to him in the longest time. My co- host, Mr. Ajay Gupta. What’s going on, Ajay?
Ajay Gupta: Hey, Vincent. Inaudible I apologize for missing the last few episodes here, but as you saw, we have… Well, we’ve announced one of the acquisitions already, customer portfolios, and the other one we have not announced yet. Two acquisitions in the span of the last 30 days is quite a bit.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That’s it. You’re growing. We’re growing, the company. This is amazing. Yeah, great company out of the Boston area there. I’m right in New York. Maybe we’ll see Ajay back up here on the East Coast. We need you here. I always tell people you’re an east coaster. You went to college up here, so it’s about time we bring you back. Did I hear a potential summer of Gupta coming up here for one of the months living in New York, or coming to visit me at least?
Ajay Gupta: I think that will be a… Yeah, that’ll be hard to pull off, but I do think we are putting together an event in New York City to invite all of our customer portfolio clients and Stirista clients all to a kind of an in- person summit. So that should happen. And I should be in New York, I don’t know, about a month, but at least a seven to 14- day trip.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, I’ll take it. I’ll take seven to 14 hours when Ajay comes into town, especially in the summer. We have a lot of good fun here in New York City. The acquisitions have been going great, but also great new people and partners and I’m anxious to meet all of them. It’s not a New York City party unless I’m there, marketing stir. You know that. So, I’ll be there. Should be a great time. But it’s been fun. We’re glad to have you back. The listeners are glad to have you back. They were probably just getting tired of me alone. I sure was. I don’t like hearing myself talk all the time. I’m kidding. I do. But let’s get onto it, Ajay. We have an amazing guest today. Amazing guest. I’m so happy that she’s with us. We’ve been talking to her for a while. We’ve made the schedules work. I’m excited. She is a Northeasterner, like me. She’s in Jersey, but she works right here in New York. My new friend, ladies and gentlemen, the marketing program director at IBM, Roopa Maniktala. What’s going on, Roopa?
Roopa Maniktala: Hello. I’m doing well. Thank you for inviting me.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Of course. We’re happy to have you on the podcast, to get your take on a lot of the great things that you’re doing there, and I can’t wait to meet in person. I’m a little mad at New Jersey right now because by the time this podcast comes out, I hope the Devils are not beating the New York Rangers. I hope the New York Rangers have overcome the game that they’re behind and win. But we’ll see. We’ll see.
Roopa Maniktala: Yeah. This puts a smile to my face because I feel like I am neutral in the Battle of the Hudson.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. And that’s a good thing. It’s like my son who’s six, he was like, ” We don’t like New Jersey, do we, dad?” I’m like, ” No, we love New Jersey. New Jersey’s fine. We’re in New York.” I said, ” It’s Philadelphia we are not a big fan of as Giants fans.” So, he was happy about that. Roopa let’s get right into it because you and I met a while back and we’re so happy to have you here. So, your position within IBM, talk to us about marketing program director, some of your day- to- day, what you do. We’d love to learn more.
Roopa Maniktala: Absolutely. So just to give you all a background, IBM’s been around for 112 years, and we’ve tried for that long because at its core, IBM is helping companies transform their business processes and operations using technology. Today, IBM is a hybrid cloud and AI company. And in this era of hybrid cloud and AI, we are helping companies use these core technologies to digitally transform every aspect of their business. It truly is a very exciting and challenging time to be in this space. And about my role, a little bit about my background, which is in the tech B2B space at a global enterprise level, and I’ve worked deeper in markets across Asia Pacific, Europe and North America in the areas of software and consulting marketing. My role today is in the field marketing discipline. Simply put, it is a practice of building a trusted relationship with our clients. Vincent and Ajay, our clients today want to be inspired with a bold future through groundbreaking technology and meaningful collaboration. Gone are the days when you put forward a solution and someone’s going to accept it. And that is how I get to play a very meaningful role. A key focus of my area is to lead strategic account- based marketing for premier clients and it’s in the field marketing space. It involves working across our entire portfolio to build integrated marketing approaches that support our clients’ journey from intent to advocacy. So, I would say that collaboration and co- creation are at the core of the work I’m doing. I get to be engaged in all aspects of marketing in my role, from strategy to brand and thought leadership, digital content, working across the ecosystem, demand generation. So, it’s a lot of fun
Vincent Pietrafesa: And it sounds like a lot of fun, especially since I’m in the B2B space here in the industry and Stirista, so all that’s music to my ears. Love hearing that. Roopa, tell us how you got into the market. How’d you get started in marketing?
Roopa Maniktala: Yeah, this is a fun question and I’m a regular listener of your podcast, so I kind of know how others have been inaudible. Very fascinating to learn about everyone’s journey. I personally have been always very fascinated by the promise of the brand and sort of the emotional connection that’s created by advertising and marketing directly with the consumer of the brand. So that was always taking me in the direction of marketing, even before I knew. But I was a math major in college. And then during my MBA, I loved the idea of bringing creativity, analytics and behavioral sciences together. It felt like I would enjoy something like that for a long time at work. So, I started off my career in product marketing and then moved off from marketing doing more of ecosystem business development, launching global programs in emerging markets. And then, in recent years it’s been very deeply integrated marketing in the B2B tech space. So definitely been a long-time marketer and I like to say I’m an ambassador of the power of the profession.
Ajay Gupta: Roopa, I also have a mixture background in creativity and economics/ math, so definitely can relate to that. Tell us a little bit about what are some of the channels that work for you that you think, or strategies, marketing strategies that work best in your opinion.
Roopa Maniktala: Sure. In my opinion, it is really important to build a marketing strategy that is embedded in clarity on what B2B solution you’re trying to solve. And then, my philosophy is that accordingly you can identify the right channels and that can be a very iterative process. I’m a huge fan of the agile approach of working, but then there are some things that come to the top of my mind and I would say, for me, in B2B I notice a lot that part leadership and creating memories and experience is an important part, and equally important is being authentic and showcasing the people behind it. I feel like a lot of times people forget to show the people behind it and that’s what adds a lot of credibility, research, studies, blogs. Content discipline plays a major role out here. And the next one, which is so important to all of you, and we all love it, is digital, SEO optimization. Just being able to get all of your paid initiatives out there, optimize that is really important to have a good strong inbound strategy. I’m also a fan of email marketing for consistency. Again, in B2B, I feel like hybrid events are huge. They’ll always play a really key role. And I also think engaging on LinkedIn in many ways, whether it is the tone of the brand, the paid opportunities, even employee activation, and especially in the field space and when you are working very closely with your entire sales force, it’s an opportunity to be connected day to day with your clients and your prospects, and it just is a great way to stay engaged and immersed in what’s happening around in the work world.
Ajay Gupta: Roopa, is there a particular campaign or favorite campaign that you’ve worked on that you would like to share?
Roopa Maniktala: Yes. I would want to say that it’s… The first part that I want to call out is the transformation of my team. The last few years has been a reinvention of the way we work and live, and I feel like the way we’ve started using data and taken that to a point where first we got into more of a digital first place during the pandemic and then into a hybrid sort of demand generation, which I was involved in, I felt like we’ve been able to reimagine the partnership of marketing with the rest of the business. That’s been very interesting. But in terms of campaigns, I want to specifically call out one of my favorites and very recent times is that we launched IBM again and reintroduced it to the world last year. You all might have seen it. It’s about let’s create. It’s an invitation for our clients and businesses to co- create with IBM using hybrid cloud and AI technology and our consulting expertise. It’s about inviting our clients and IBM has to work together to create a better world. And what this really is all about let’s create something that changes everything, and it continues to resonate with our clients, specifically when we do strategic top account marketing. And when we looked at overall our account based marketing strategy, we have been able to use this campaign in a way that it is personalized for each account, for personas, and just making it count for each person, each organization and making it special for them what it means to be collaborating together and jointly doing collaboration and co- creation. But that is the part that I would call is my big favorite right now. And we just launched our new round of campaign work, which, if you all haven’t seen you should check out, it’s called the What If Campaign, which is a very lighthearted and fun way of showing our customers and our prospects what you can do when you work and imagine the art of the possible of the partnership. For example, what if buildings could tell you how to become more efficient, or what if you could make analyzing a big bank’s data no big deal? So, it’s really good and you get to personalize it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That is pretty cool. I am familiar with that campaign. So, Roopa, that’s a campaign that you’re proud of. What about the last few years? I know the last few years for a lot of people, companies haven’t been so great, but what has been a highlight or some shining moments for you in the last few years?
Roopa Maniktala: Yeah, I think I want to come back to data has changed the way C- Suite interacts with marketing. So, the shining moment really has been how do you reimagine the partnership of marketing with the rest of the business, how do you work with sales and customer success and everyone together and embrace all of your partners, work with everyone end-to-end and do a lot of joint activity? Personally, for my team, I think it’s been just how we keep iterating and learning how to collaborate in real time, make changes, adjust and keep moving forward. That definitely to me feels like it was, it’s been the shining moment and it doesn’t get old.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love hearing that. That is a shining moment. It definitely is. So, Roopa, this is a question from… What we do is before some of the guests come on, we pose it internally, ” Hey, this is our guest. Any questions?” So, this is a question that has come up and I personally would love to know it as well. But as a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career? Have you been confronted with gender related roadblocks?
Roopa Maniktala: Yeah, this is an important question and I think the answer is yes. I’ve faced difficult situations and I’ve had roadblocks and, in particular, I do feel like when you’re raising young children, people sometimes have an implicit bias and they think, ” Hey, this person may not be as interested or this person may not be interested in a high profile job or won’t have the time,” and that can create a lot of obstacles in the future. So, I always like to be an advocate and help people understand that let’s remove this roadblock. In particular, I can’t call out other roadblocks that I may have faced, but I do face them. And I think the important part is the way I like to approach it is to always make an effort to find ways to address the roadblock and find the motion of addressing a roadblock more important than the actual roadblock. I feel like it lets you take a bigger… step back and get the bigger picture. I have to say I make an effort to seek role models, advisors and mentors who can help me navigate through barriers and difficult situations.
Ajay Gupta: Roopa, following up on that question, what advice would you give women and other younger people who are considering a similar career path to you as they’re advancing into leadership roles?
Roopa Maniktala: Yeah, I think the first thing being try different roles, different settings. And then most important, learn to be vocal and share your ideas openly. What’s the harm? You might not get it right but then you can always change it, you’ll get feedback. So, what I’m saying is learn to advocate for yourself early in your career. Join communities back again, as I mentioned, to support yourself and to give back. There’s a lot you can learn there. And then find your mentors, advisors and maintain relationships. A lot of people tend to have a very short- term approach, like you meet someone or you’re working with them and then they leave, or they move on to something different. So, keep in touch with the people whom you like. And I always tell people, ” Make note of some of your big moments. You’re going to forget it after a few years, so just keep your diary and make sure you learn from your experiences and from others experiences.”
Ajay Gupta: And then, what are some of the strategies that employers can use to make employees feel more included in the workplace?
Roopa Maniktala: Thank you for asking this question. First of all, I’m very passionate about this subject. I do feel that businesses need to be committed to inclusion, and this is related to the topic we are discussing, and it impacts marketers that businesses need to see the purpose of why they need to support diversity and inclusion and that’s how things get better. It’s not just important to make a statement that our business or our firm is a safe place for everyone. What it actually means is being able to demonstrate how people can express their own free ideas. And a place that is free of bias and conflict, people feel more empowered. I do feel like people are getting older and data shows that especially Gen Z, they want to be involved in purpose. So, when there is purpose involved, employees feel far more included when they understand that their business is doing something that resonates with them and giving back to the community. While outcomes are extremely important, just how we work together, access to building new skills is really important for inclusion because we hear it every day. Jobs are being transformed, jobs are going away, new jobs are being created. So, it’s really good to have an opportunity to be able to learn things that will help you in the long term. I also see so many of our clients and even at IBM we do an amazing job of multiple diversity and inclusion communities, employee resource groups. You don’t have to be a large, large setup to do something like that. Even one or two people can get together and find areas of interest that their organization encourages them to be and invite others to learn and participate and feel included. There’s definitely business case for inclusion. So much of data that shows that organizations perform much inaudible when there is inclusion considered and thoughtful integration of inclusion.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I could not agree more on that. Excellent thoughts there. Roopa, let’s talk about, we’re going to start getting into more the personal side here, career rise also. But you’ve been at IBM 20 plus years. That has got a lot to say about how great of an employee you are, how great of a company it is. But you don’t really see that nowadays, a lot of that, which is… I love seeing. But talk to me about one of the most valuable things you’ve learned thus far in your career.
Roopa Maniktala: It’s so interesting that you tell me that I’ve had a long career. I sometimes feel like I’m still new. I’ve had more of a global career and also you don’t really begin your career thinking you’re going to be here for a long time and it just happens. I would say some of the biggest lessons that I have learned in my career and engaging with so many of our partners and clients and just the overall opportunities that I’ve had is the fact that inaudible works when you have a people first approach. You’re probably seeing that team come through in my discussion. And at the second big learning that I have and I like to apply even in my personal life is this whole approach of being very nimble and having a learning mindset, for example, an agile methodology to doing work. I don’t think anyone is doing anything wrong. You should constantly keep testing, getting feedback, changing things. So, there’s a lot of excitement. And also, you don’t just take a lot of time and go on the wrong path. You have to adjust and keep coming back to where it belongs. So, I feel like these two are my really big inaudible life lessons.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I like that. And to that, have you… Yes, you’re still going strong, and I love that you’re saying, ” I feel like I’m new.” That’s so great to hear. It’s refreshing to hear. So, have you had your, ” I’ve made it,” moment yet?
Roopa Maniktala: I like to say I have not had my made moment and it’s coming soon. Definitely want to be optimistic about it. But I’ve had some really proud moments. And I think building high performance teams that rock and are fully aligned to delivering results and whether it’s software as a service or inaudible technologies and consulting, which is in our business, and that language may seem very alien to others, but just creating great teams that are fully aligned with and you get to where you need it to always feels like an I’ve made it moment.
Ajay Gupta: Roopa, this is one of our staple questions and I’m sure since we have heard the podcast before, you’ll know what it is.
Roopa Maniktala: Yes.
Ajay Gupta: But this is a question we ask all our guests. So, I’m sure you get a lot of LinkedIn messages based on your title and where you work. So, we’d love to know what’s a message that gets your attention and what’s one that really annoys you?
Roopa Maniktala: We’ll address get’s attention first. It has to be really thoughtful where people take some interest, they share a common piece of interest. Interestingly, someone who I didn’t know reached out to me and they shared a custom video for me, which was very much related to some of the work I do, and they somehow integrated my profile into it. So that caught my attention. And the ones that I don’t like is continuous follow- up, which feels like a cadence, where people are asking for time to pitch for their business and that’s something probably you hear a lot. So that’s human psychology, you tend to ignore it.
Ajay Gupta: And then, this one I have to ask because Vincent is not much of a book reader. So, what are some of your favorite books, or which one are you reading right now?
Roopa Maniktala: Ajay, I’m a major book reader, so I have to answer that question. Trying to do a couple of books together. So, I right now have on my desk Everybody Writes, the new 2023 edition from Ann Handley. That’s one of the books that I’m reading. I’m also in the middle of this book called Good Power by Ginni Rometty, which is very interesting. And my friend Valerie Nifora just released her new book, Unleash The Power of You, which I’ve sort of… It’s already in my hands, I’m going to get through it. So, I like to read a few books at the same time.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That’s amazing. A lot of our listeners, they love… I’m glad we asked that question because a lot of listeners love our book suggestions. Not from me. I ran out early on in the podcast. I think I was at six. I read. It is an Inside joke, Roopa, but people don’t think I… Well, Ajay doesn’t think I read. I read every once in a while.
Ajay Gupta: Oh, Entertainment Weekly, I don’t know if that counts, Vincent.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Well, that’s reading, right? Yeah, they took away the print form. Shame on them. Now I have to go online and read it. That was my only literature that I was reading. But Roopa, just a few more for fun. Besides reading and hanging out in New Jersey and New York City, what are some of your hobbies, what do you enjoy doing for fun on the weekends? Talk to us.
Roopa Maniktala: We love to travel as a family. Love to read, already mentioned it. Go for long walks. Swimming. We love to swim as a family and I like to get as much of a… It’s hard when you live in the Northeast, but when the time is right, I love to do it. I am a huge fan of digital fitness, so Lululemon Studio, Peloton, they’re my favorites. I enjoy them. Also, I’m a collector of all kinds of junk jewelry, whenever I get a chance, I can’t stop.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it. So, talk to me about that, jewelry, what kind-
Roopa Maniktala: It’s all kinds of junk jewelry, like handcrafted. It’s not the value, but it’s just if it’s something funky and fun, I’ll go for it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, so you’re the ones who buy at the little flea markets. Yeah.
Roopa Maniktala: Exactly. You wonder who picks inaudible-
Vincent Pietrafesa: Those little vendors, I’m like, ” Who buys this random jewelry?”
Roopa Maniktala: I’m not sure if I use them, but I like to have lots of them at home.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That’s funny. That’s funny. Roopa, the final question. We love to ask this of our guests. Leave us with a closing thought. Anything you want to talk about, leave our listeners with.
Roopa Maniktala: Marketers are at the forefront of innovation using technology today. The opportunities are limitless, friends. While the age of modern AI is here, we have to have a digital first mindset, but always lead with a human first approach to build and grow your brand. That’s what I personally believe in and that’s what helps us create differentiation as a marketer.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it. I love it. Words of wisdom. Roopa, this has been so much fun. Thank you for joining us on The Marketing Stir. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s Roopa Maniktala-
Roopa Maniktala: Thank you.
Vincent Pietrafesa: …marketing program director at IBM. You’ve heard of IBM. I’m Vincent Pietrafesa. That’s the newly returned Ajay Gupta. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll talk soon.
Vin Lapsley: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate, and subscribe. If you’re interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at email@example.com. And thanks for listening.