Cindy Bodenstein Wakerman Women In Marketing
Women In Marketing

Women In Marketing Interview | Cindy Bodenstein Wakerman from ContinuitySA

“Technology forms part of our day to day lives both in a personal capacity as well as in the workplace. ContinuitySA is in the industry of business continuity and business resilience”

Cindy Bodenstein Wakerman

Cindy is ContinuitySA’s Marketing Manager. A seasoned marketer, she is able to appreciate technological advancements that assist her with tracking and measuring marketing ROI. With a wealth of knowledge and the eagerness to expand her learnings, allow us to welcome Cindy in this segment of Women In Marketing

THE JOURNEY TAKEN 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career in marketing? How’d you end up at ContinuitySA?

I am an active designated Chartered Marketer of South Africa (CMSA) and a member of the Marketing Institute of South Africa (MASA). I have been in marketing for just over 20 years and am very passionate about brand management all the way through to client experience management. I live by the motto to love what you do, do what you love.

I started working for ContinuitySA just over 9 years ago. Here I head up the marketing portfolio and play a vital role both from a strategic and operational point of view. I work closely with the various departments and regional offices across Africa where I develop and implement go-to-market strategies to tie back to the overall strategy for the business. 

You have accumulated an envious amount of experience having worked for top-tier companies such as Prestige, Broll Property Group as well as Jawitz Properties. What did you learn from these roles and how do you apply experiences in your current role at ContinuitySA?

I learnt several things on my journey with these organisations. The most important one I’ve carried over and still practice in my day to day marketing is ensuring that I put my company brand before my overall business strategy and then develop my strategy from there. Early in my career, I learnt to prove that marketing as a discipline can be tracked and measured (years ago we did not have the digital tracking means like we have today) so that when discussing a profit and loss review I could show where our money was spent and how this was a return on investment for the organisation.

Another key element as a marketer that I try to ensure is understanding the requirements of the client and being able to present ideas and concepts based on the client experience.  I think being proactive and trying to anticipate client needs is very valuable. Being able to stay organised and work in a fast-paced agile manner is also an essential skill I picked up along the way. Over the years I have yet to find a discipline that allows me to channel my energy, passion, and enthusiasm the way marketing has. 

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?

Working in predominantly male-driven industries for most of my career, some of the biggest challenges I faced were the ‘boys’ clubs’ within these organisations as well as the ‘sales first’ mindset where organisation boards wouldn’t consider marketing as an active and strategic member around the boardroom table. 

Not just for female professionals but all marketing professionals alike, I would recommend that you never give up on your aspirations to position marketing around the boardroom table (if not there yet). Show that marketing is a discipline that no organisation can do without and that it is indeed measurable, quantified and qualified in its every right, that it goes hand-in-hand with every facet of the organization and that it should be embedded in the overall business strategy. 

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?

Oddly, enough I entered the workforce wanting to deal directly with customers, to understand their needs and be part of physically delivering on that need. However, I quickly realised that my strengths lied in strategic thinking and aligning teams with client needs to solve complex problems. The understanding of the client journey drove me head-on into public relations and marketing. With a small realignment of my skills, I’ve never looked back.   

ENTERING THE WORKPLACE

What does your typical day of work look like? How does your calendar look and are you a coffee or tea kind of person?

I am an early bird and my typical day at work starts anytime from 06:30 am (yes this includes working remotely), where I start by working through my emails and prioritizing my day around what activities need to be accomplished. I update a Kanban (to-do, doing, done) schedule every day and work off my time management plan to ensure my deliverables are met over the days, weeks, and months to come.

But as we all know, marketing works on a different set of deadlines and principles and the day can easily be turned upside down should something fall out of scope and we have to start juggling and rearranging priorities accordingly. Time management and agility are definitely the first set of keys to a successful business day. I still believe behind any successful marketer is a copious amount of coffee.  

Forbes has an annual ‘The World’s Most Influential CMOs’ report. For the year 2019, one of the key highlights from the report was that 31 of the 50 CMOs were women whilst there were 19 men. In your opinion, is this a positive representation of gender equality?

For me, this is a great representation of the female gender within a CMO role according to the Forbes annual report and shows a year on year that women are leading the roles in the marketing discipline. I look forward to seeing Forbes’s 2020 report and comparing it with 2019. But the question now is – this is one report amongst many and another to ask is are marketing leaders as a whole at the helm of the boardroom table in practice or just belief? 

Women In Marketing Interview | Cindy Bodenstein Wakerman from ContinuitySA 1
Women In Marketing Interview | Cindy Bodenstein Wakerman from ContinuitySA 2

Closely linked to the previous question, 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 further show that advertisers still do not understand women. Why do you think this is the case and what should change if research says that 50 of the most influential CMOs are in fact, women?

I can truly believe that advertisers (companies) are not understanding their customers. Recent findings from the NTT 2020 Global customer experience benchmarking report shows that only about 14.4% of companies say customer experience (CX) forms a crucial part of an organizational strategy. Therefore, I feel advertisers (companies) who don’t put a client/customer-first attitude in place and don’t actively measure the Voice of the Customer will truly not understand the customer market, segment and audience they are talking to.

Once advertisers get these measurements and analytics tools in place they will start to truly understand client/customer needs, expectations and aversions. For me, companies who put CX first will become the market differentiators. 

Systems around remote work and video conferencing are increasingly becoming a staple to most organisations. To illustrate this, according to the infographic created by Visual Capitalist, Zoom is now worth more than the 7 biggest airlines in the world at a whopping market capitalization of just over $40bn. Working from home/remote working is an aspect of modern-day work that has been long overdue. Why do you think most organisations who are seemingly able to convert to this way of work have struggled to convert? Furthermore, how have you and your organisation structured your work since the COVID-19 pandemic? Any key lessons?

I believe a lot of companies transitioned to work remotely because they have either a great grasp on the technology platforms out there and understand as well as have the tools in place for the security and risks associated with it. If they struggled to convert its because they did not have the tools, plans, skills and methodologies in place to do so. 

Visual Capitalist Graph, Women In Marketing
Image source: Visual Capitalist
Data source: Barchart

Technology forms part of our day to day lives both in a personal capacity as well as in the workplace. ContinuitySA is in the industry of business continuity and business resilience. Our slogan is ‘Our business is keeping you in business’. So coming from an ICT background, for us and our clients it was easier to transition to work remotely, especially from a technology point of view. 

I also believe that companies that were considered essential services, many of whom are our clients, have more mature plans and processes in place and thus found migrating to a stay-at-home strategy far easier to implement/action. As for me personally, lessons I learnt from this, was to revisit my work, life balance and to ensure I put my health and mental health as a priority. 

What are the most unique challenges you face in your industry and at the workplace? How do you tackle these? What steps can companies take to make their businesses more equal in terms of pay and employees with regards to gender?

I am a strong advocate for diversity in the workplace. Today we have plenty of academic and business literary works on the benefits of teams of diverse gender and race. I personally had to discover this for myself in the past and can honestly say that ideas coming from diverse teams almost always outshine the rest in their creativity and boldness.

This is a challenge as you don’t always have the freedom to build such teams and need to bring in other creative approaches to help ‘break the mould’. I’ve been blessed with reporting managers that have given me to room to experiment and challenge norms.   

When it comes to the pay of marketers, I do believe that the value we bring to the organization as marketers should be fairly compensated no matter your gender or race. But I may be a little biased in that regard. 

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

What have been some of Continuity SA biggest successes in marketing over the past 12 to 18 months?

We have had some great successes over the past 12 to 18 months but one that is fresh in mind is the most recent online digital event and campaign done with one of our partners in the heart of Covid-19, remote access and work from home – a first of its kind for both organisations generated an outstanding brand and thought leadership awareness for ContinuitySA and has set the benchmark for other companies who partner with this company too.

Sometimes taking a chance on something new especially via digital strides amidst these uncertain times can be a huge success and I am delighted it has set a standard. I am over the moon that I was a part of this event and its online, digital success. 

BCG published its innovation report for 2019 and at the core of its selection criteria are companies that have successfully married Artificial Intelligence in their products and services. According to you, what makes something innovative? How do you define innovation at ContinuitySA?

In my opinion, innovation can be defined as something that will make a client’s life easier. ContinuitySA innovation is coupled with the partnerships they have in place to ensure we bring the latest innovation to the client. In addition, we are part of the Dimension Data group – which adds to our innovative offering from a group and global point of view.

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At the time of publishing, an article from The Digital Marketing Institute estimated that the influencer marketing industry will hit the $10bn mark by 2020. Whether it is B2B or B2C, it is evident that brands and organisations have had their own success with this model of marketing. How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect this industry going forward and do you believe there is still a place for influencer marketing?

I do believe that since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, influencer marketing has taken some scrutiny, but overall if an influencer looked at changing their communication strategy to include Covid-19 and remained authentic and showed compassion and included affinity marketing and planned a content strategy this would make for some good synergy and influencer marketing. 

What apps/software/tools cannot you live without?

My top office apps have to be Microsoft teams, Skype, Google Analytics, Mailchimp, PowToon and Survey Monkey as well as Webinar Jam which form part of my overall workday. At home and when I have a moment to spare are most definitely LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Audible, Pinterest, Fitbit and yes Netflix.

I love to binge a couple of episodes of whatever I am watching especially after a long week. 

What do you see as some of the major trends in digital in the next 12 to 18 months?

I see digital transformation as a vital role more now than ever and see this growing over this period. Analytics will be the competitive advantage for business as well as change and incorporate key drivers like user and customer experience into the digital strategy.

As digital transformation success is intimately tied to user and customer experience(UX/CX), that emphasis will continue to drive business investments in digital transformation.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

My Kanban system. Writing down what I need to do and sticking to it is the key to my daily objectives being met. 

This highlights all my high priority activities taking the passage of time into consideration. i.e. an activity may seem unimportant now but has a dependency on something really important down the road. A simple to-do list just doesn’t have that kind of detail. 

What are your thoughts on Marketing and Sales alignment? How do you align your Marketing and Sales team at ContinuitySA?

For me, if marketing and sales teams are aligned and work together it can be largely successful and this means both teams work towards a single revenue cycle, it will dramatically improve marketing return on investment (ROI), sales productivity, and, most importantly, top-line growth.

At ContinuitySA over the years the Marketing and Sales teams have come closer together and the improvements show in the results of our client experience campaigns. 

2020 AND BEYOND

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information? Physical book vs eReader?)

Although I still love paperback and the smell of books, my go-to for business books is Audible, which I pretty much listen to daily during my gym sessions on my home elliptical. I am currently reading ‘Permission to Screw Up’ by Kristen Hadeed, a forward by Simon Sinek and lined up after that is ‘Good Strategy Bad Strategy’ by Richard Rumelt.

But learning should not end with a good book, as many of these authors take to podcasts and vlogs, each jam-packed with updated information and reflections on their individual subject matter.

What is on your Netflix watchlist/How do you relax?

Currently, on my Netflix watchlist, I am re-watching ‘The Big Bang Theory’, watching ‘SnowPiercer’ and ‘Space Force’. If I really want to relax I put on a Pixar or Disney movie, kick off my shoes and just breathe. 

A unique message for all young professionals in the marketing industry

Stay relevant in the discipline and make sure you keep up to date with all the latest trends both in the marketing discipline as well as the industries that you work in. Foster a continuous learning approach to life.

The world is spiralling faster and faster with all that information seemingly at our fingertips. The danger is this may all seem overwhelming at first. So I’ll sprinkle a healthy dose of prioritization and speak to people about what they believe is relevant to keep you sane.       

What haven’t you solved? What challenge is on your plate?

Apart from solving the challenge of parenthood, I often find myself balancing my passion and my emotional intelligence. 

My love for my work often exhumes emotion and passion. This can be extremely helpful in influencing people that are resisting my initiatives but can also be detrimental when coupled with more negative emotions. This is where a good level of emotional intelligence steps in to help ensure you gauge your audience, don’t take things personally and respond in a way that does not smother who you are engaging with. 

It’s a tough balance, one that I like to think I manage well but will take a lifetime to master. 

Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read

Nasha Naidoo Brand Manager from McDonalds. 

Any bucket list items (professional as well as personal)?

From a professional point – I want to work towards my Masters and on a personal note start with a family. From a fun point of view, I am finally putting some time aside to take that Hot Air Balloon ride that’s been sitting on top of the ‘to-do bucket list’ on my wall. 

Who are some of your female heroes?

Some of my female superheroes are, Wangari Maathai (Green Activist), Gloria Steinman (Journalist & Political Activist), Mother Theresa (Humanitarian), Helen Keller (Writer & Human Rights Campaigner) and closer to home Miriam Makeba for her role as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t take everything so seriously (I continue to battle with this daily because of my perfectionist-like tendencies) and don’t make your life all about work. Make sure you find work, life balance. This advice came from my late dad, but I only learnt this lesson way after his passing.

Which superhero/heroine or literature icon exemplifies your personality at work and at home?

My husband says I am Buffy the Vampire slayer; upbeat, stubborn, and a natural-born leader, with a core strength that enables me to withstand the trials of life. He says I have a strong moral compass and value honesty and determination.

I, on the other hand, see myself more as Wonder Woman, compassionate, caring, tenacious, opinionated, highly competitive, outgoing and when the time calls for it, a warrior. 

I suppose both heroines have similar characteristics just viewed differently. 

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Head of Relationship Management at naughtybanana. I am a father to an awesome boy who thinks highly of me; perhaps I'm doing something right after all. When I'm not establishing new business relationships, you might catch me reading a book or of course, being an awesome dad.