SpeakEasy: Marketing in the Virtual Age — Q&A With Kay Fernandez, Konica Minolta

Konica Minolta consistently comes up in our annual dealer survey as the OEM with the best marketing support, so I immediately knew who was going to be our feature interview for our first issue of the year focusing on sales and marketing. Kay Fernandez is Konica Minolta’s innovative, progressive head of marketing and she gave me a great inside look into how this award winning team is navigating the complexities of the past year and its plans for the year ahead. Join me in the SpeakEasy!

What is your current state of mind?

I am really optimistic. While marketing has always played a significant role in the organization, I feel that because everything is currently so transformative our role has become exponentially more important. Digital data, contact lists, remote sales and marketing are all top of mind and a huge priority for us and for many organizations.

How is your marketing department handling the forced transition to virtual platforms that we all find ourselves dealing with? 

I have to say the marketing team has been unbelievable these past eight or nine months and didn’t miss a beat. We were able to collaborate and schedule structured meetings that in part replaced the spontaneous meetings we would have in the office. Those focused meetings enabled us to align everything so much better because marketing these days is all about having a consistent message through many different channels. That approach is allowing us to do account-based marketing, email campaigns, PR events and the rest in a very consistent way, really amplifying the message.

The other piece that was really important for us to get right was the sales enablement part, continuing to think about ways to connect with our internal and dealer sales teams and support them because they can’t sell face to face right now. We wanted to be the engine that helped drive some of that sales activity. It became a top priority. Each month we focus on a different key topic like IT services, remote work, cloud-based unified communications or IT security. These are the critical topics customers are asking about, so we’ve created entire programs for them. We package up sample emails for sales to send to their customers, scripts for when they are on the phone promoting a new product and then professional support material they can send as a follow up to the conversation. And then when the customer goes to our website, the information will be there as well, reinforcing the message with additional content, thought leadership and white papers.

Our marketing house was already in order, but now we also have sales plugged in and connected to that and are helping them drive some of the activity. This was very important for us and I feel like we’ve done a really good job.

How do you think the independent dealers and their sales teams are doing in handling this virtual environment? Where do you feel they are and what do you think they might need a little bit more of?

Some dealers have access to more marketing resources than others, and I think those are the dealers that don’t need our help as much. We’ve taken our “prospecting day” model that we use for our branches and we’ve started it for our dealers every month. The first one was held in December and focused on security. January was focused on healthcare, for more of a vertical marketing approach. We put all the marketing assets together, articulate the positioning and the talk track, identify the products that fit, provide sample emails to send to their prospects and create professional support materials and brochures for their follow up. Hundreds of dealers are attending these prospecting webinar sessions – they’ve been very successful!

 What other unique marketing techniques are you deploying in this virtual environment?

Well, we made a huge investment in a new Customer Engagement Center (CEC) at our U.S. headquarters in Ramsey, NJ. The CEC is meant to showcase things like our “big iron” in industrial and production print and our technologies of the future. Then COVID hit and we had to take a look at how we could utilize it somehow in a virtual environment in order to really leverage this beautiful new facility.

We have built out a production print virtual event strategy for our branches and dealers and we put on a different event every month. We are getting over 500 dealers, salespeople and even customers at these events. The product marketing teams are doing live demos, and samples are shipped out in advance so customers can have them in their hands and they can feel the power of that product while they’re watching it being produced virtually. It’s been really successful for us. We are not seeing the Zoom fatigue everyone is talking about. I feel like everyone’s really engaged. 

What do you feel is your greatest challenge right now?

Well our greatest challenge now is what it has always been: all the different areas of the business that compete and tug at us for marketing help. We just don’t have enough people to do everything, so we do have to be a little strategic and carefully pick and choose how we approach a certain segment of the market. We’re trying to look at different strategies. We’re taking a focused, targeted, account-based marketing approach – basically taking a list of maybe 200 top prospects and we’re investing our marketing dollars into developing good touch points for them rather than mass blasting out branding and awareness. We’re taking different approaches for different segments of the market.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity right now?

There’s huge opportunity with digital – we are continuing to refine our marketing technology stack and getting out there and looking at new technology that can drive engagement. Everything is about personalization right now. Being able to deliver that content when someone lands on your website, knowing they’ve been there before and what areas of the website they’ve been on in the past – that’s the gold. Perhaps you know that they’re interested in education, then being able to serve up that content right at the point of entry and keep them engaged and captivated is everything.

I love our industry because I feel like there are so many startups out there – there are so many technology providers to work with. I get solicited like crazy and I love it because it forces you to look for new things, new ways to engage with people and to market and utilize tools to get and keep people interested in Konica Minolta.

We’re focusing a lot right now on determining how we redesign our website. We’re looking at a 360 assessment tool that can help a company identify where they are on their digital transformation path related to areas of interest, like customer care or workflow automation.

We’re trying out different platforms that can look at all of the data that’s being tracked and captured. How do we bring that back into the organization and reuse that for business intelligence? We’re looking at solutions that are able to aggregate data from CRMs, from your ERP, from your website and bring it all together into one single view of the customer. This is not only useful to allow good insight for the sales rep when they eventually connect with the customer, but then taking all that data in aggregate and looking at it from a business intelligence perspective. Perhaps we can show where we’re weak in a specific area, or that there’s a gap here, and how do we fix that? We’re not there yet, but that’s the vision. There’s huge opportunity right now. I love the digital piece of my job!

Like the best marketers, you sound like an early adopter when it comes to technology.

My whole mindset is “let’s try it.” If it doesn’t work, we can fail and fail quickly, but we have to try it out and take that risk – otherwise you never learn.

Where are you investing the most within your departments this year?

We’re focusing on much more aggressive SEO and PPC types of digital marketing strategy. We are retargeting and working with online communities, especially in the tech space, to do some advertising to get our name out there to attract more net new logos. For a long time, we’ve been marketing to our current customer base and concentrating on cross-selling products to that base. That market is now pretty saturated, so it’s time to work on expanding our client base.

Is this new effort All Covered focused?

Yes, and especially now because of the work from home and flexible work momentum. Everyone is focused on cloud services and security.

Wasn’t All Covered already marketing to these groups?

It’s interesting because the majority of the All Covered business is in the SMB market, which aligns really nicely with the MFP. What we’ve found, though, is that the people who are buying MFPs are oftentimes not the same people buying things like cloud services and network security. So even if our sales folks are proposing a bundle and we are creating promos every quarter to bundle in, say, a Google Chromebook with an MFP and cloud services, it actually holds up the MFP sale in some instances. So we’ve had to un-bundle the items and offer vouchers for some pieces to use later, which defeats the purpose.

Focusing more attention and marketing resources to pure IT services sales will allow us to get net new growth in this area of the business that is really booming right now and also potentially bigger deals than simple bundling programs allow for.

What is your greatest concern for the industry right now?

I am worried about the dealers and how they will be able to sustain their momentum. How will they adjust to the new market conditions? There are dealers that are relying a lot on that output and service revenue and we’ve seen a dramatic drop in that in our direct base alone. It’s starting to come back up as businesses are reopening, but I do worry. Konica Minolta is lucky because we’ve diversified – we have an entire portfolio of non-hardware products and services we are selling, but if hardware is your bread and butter, I don’t know how you’ll survive.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I’m really proud of our Step Forward program. I think it’s been a very good way for us to reach our employees. Konica Minolta has just hired a diversity and inclusion director. There’s going to be a lot more focus on this going forward. Previously we didn’t really have a good venue for talking about career-related items.

The program during COVID has been much more about health and wellness and being mindful, teaching ways to take care of yourself and how to deal with stress. We were able to use the platform to reach many more employees than we would have been able to otherwise. I’m hoping it was helpful for everyone, and I am proud of how it has evolved.

We will get back to focusing on women, however, because that still is a huge need out there. I recently read a McKinsey report showing how many women have left the workforce during COVID. Then came the report that 100% of the jobs lost in the month of December were women!

California and NASDAQ both have laws now that require women to sit on public boards, so now all of the NASDAQ companies are going to be required to have diversity in gender, race and/or sexual orientation on their boards. I think that’s amazing because it gives women and minorities more opportunity to get on those boards, have exposure and have their voices heard.

You’ve been an excellent interview – now for some fun stuff: If your team members were to describe you in three words or phrases, what do you think they would say?

Fearless, focused, and serious. I hope they also think I am fun and inspirational. [Interviewer’s note: Absolutely!]

Last question – who is your go-to music choice?

I love Taylor Swift. But I have started listening to Bruno Mars again.

I’m voting Bruno Mars and leaving us all with some inspiration – who doesn’t need a little Uptown Funk right now? Make it loud! 

Patricia Ames is president and senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 15 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.