“Having confidence in your abilities and emotional intelligence to ask questions is an invaluable skill. My advice to young women is to read, read and read some more”Tracey Walker
TymeBank is the new kid on the South African banking block which recently celebrated their milestone of 2 million customers. Yaaaas! Tracy is the bank’s Social & Community Manager and talks about her journey on 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 TymeBank?
I was retrenched from a job in sales, thank goodness! In my spare time, I had started writing a blog about the trials and hilarity of solo-parenting my two sons, and at around the time of my retrenchment my blog fell into the hands of someone who owned a content marketing business and she asked me to write a few blog posts for some of her clients.
I loved it and subsequently did a short online course on Digital Marketing which resulted in 6 years as a freelance content writer with a few big-name brands on my client list. Out of the blue one day I was asked to set up the social community element for TymeBank. It was supposed to just be for 6 months. but 2 years later I’m fully immersed in the marketing team full time, managing all aspects of the social media space.
You have accumulated an envious amount of experience having worked for top-tier companies such as Design Indaba, King James Digital as well as The Design Company. What did you learn from these roles and how do you apply experiences in your current role at TymeBank?
There was so much to learn from every experience. Each role was so vastly different that I honestly felt like an intern at the start of each one. With no formal training, it was important for me to slam the door on my imposter syndrome and to tell myself that I only needed what I already knew to do the job successfully. I knew that the rest would come if I paid close enough attention and was open to filling the gaps in my knowledge by being willing to consciously and continuously learn.
I closely watched different leadership styles and paid attention to what is important for smart decision making. I learned that constructive criticism is never personal, and that feedback was critical to growth. By the time the opportunity at TymeBank presented itself, I knew the work would be challenging but I was ready for it. There is always something new to learn, understand and implement if I’m open to it.
You have a Digital Marketing Certificate from UCT GetSmarter (girl you fancy!). In an article written by Glassdoor, it has become seemingly easier to apply for work at companies such as Google, Apple and Starbucks as they do not require applicants to have a degree. How can young women utilise the internet to upskill themselves particularly if they cannot afford to obtain a formal education?
The challenge of not having a formal education and being self-taught is knowing what you need to learn to do a job well. Being book smart can only take you so far.
Having confidence in your abilities and emotional intelligence to ask questions is an invaluable skill. My advice to young women is to read, read and read some more. There are so many articles, blogs, and whitepapers that lead you down the path of knowledge, and when you stumble on something you don’t understand, then research it until you do.
Join Facebook discussion groups in your interest area and don’t be shy to ask questions. People are generally very helpful and willing to share their knowledge. Not once in the past decade has someone refused to support, or teach me a new skill when I’ve asked, even when I’ve felt that I should’ve already known it. Sign up for webinars and free or low-cost courses on sites like Google Digital Garage, Udemy, Coursera.
Slowly, you will find you are drawn to an area of interest and then you can deep-dive even further. But never stop reading and asking questions. Knowledge is power and comes from so many sources, not just a university. Without a degree, finding a great job in marketing is challenging, but not impossible.
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?
I’ve always had a love of writing – and while I never wanted to be a doctor – I always had romantic notions that I would be a world-famous novelist!
That hasn’t happened yet, so, when I was given the opportunity to write for a living I realised the power of words didn’t just lie in great works of fiction, but could also be found in the language and tone of a small business. It was exciting to create brand personas using this, and seeing customers respond positively was really fulfilling.
From there I learnt how each online channel had its own linguistic resonance with a particular audience demographic and could create meaningful brand conversations online, that significantly affected positive sentiment and public perception of trust. Those communication insights will never stop fascinating me.
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?
No two days are ever the same.
As much as I prepare for the following day, I’ve found things to be too unpredictable. My day usually starts with a meeting, followed by check-in with my community management team of rockstars. From there I dive headfirst into emails, writing direct marketing copy, approving social posts and schedules, monitoring customer engagement, brand sentiment and campaigns, putting reports together and helping my team find answers to customer queries.
And that’s just the first couple of hours. And, I’m unashamedly a lover of instant coffee. A caffeine pariah in most circles. Jacobs is my daily comfort.
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?
I wouldn’t say yet that it’s a positive representation of where gender equality is headed. The scales have been tipped in men’s favour for so long that a rise in recognition of women is, with any luck, a sign that the future will be the balance of genders women have been working so hard for.
The fact that women outweighed men just once and only last year, means that we have finally been included in the conversation in a meaningful way. However, I certainly don’t think a single publication is a measure of whether we have reached the point where we can say gender equality has finally been achieved. It’s a start, though.
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?
Nothing changes overnight and just because women are speaking up in areas previously considered masculine such as car buying and DIY, doesn’t mean we’re yet at the point where our voices are loud enough to be considered influential in the way a brand speaks to a perceived male-dominated audience. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s probably going to take another 20 years of women being recognised as significantly persuasive before we will be considered the right audience in these spaces.
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 think flexibility around remote work has been something South Africa was slow to catch on to. It quite literally took a pandemic to force a lot of business owners and managers to see the merits for both the business, from a cost perspective, and employees to avoid needless commutes and improve work/life balance.
It’s been interesting how many people I have spoken to about how vehemently against working from home their bosses were and waited until the last minute before allowing it in March, that are now happy for their employees to do so for as long as they’d like to.
TymeBank has offices globally, so for us to move into a fully remote organisation felt relatively seamless, from a work perspective. That doesn’t mean the transition wasn’t tough for some. As managers and leaders, I think you have a duty to ensure that your team stay connected and that you’re not sweating the small stuff. Measuring output has now replaced ‘time spent in the office’ as a measure of productivity, which is exactly how it should be.
Storytelling seems to be the next rising buzzword. What’s the TymeBank story? How are you telling it in an interesting way?
From the very beginning, TymeBank set out to change the way we approach banking. Traditional banking has always been tightly wrapped in paperwork and red tape making it inaccessible to an astonishing percentage of South Africans who earn less than the required amount to even keep an account open.
A vast number of South Africans don’t have electricity and therefore can’t produce something as simple as a rates bill as proof of address which is usually required to open an account, forcing people to keep cash on them. Our story is based on the premise that owning a bank account and having access to an interest-bearing account shouldn’t be exclusive to people earning above a certain threshold.
Financial stress is such a common story and invariably most people you speak to will say that there is too much month at the end of their money. We’ve been able to successfully create a TymeBank community using relatable content around these difficulties and how we’re collectively making it through the month.
Soon after the bank launched, we ran our hugely successful BrokeBy campaign based on research that described on which day of the month South Africans were most likely to run out of money (around the 12th). Our story is one that almost everyone can relate to, told in a transparent, conversational way.
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?
I’m lucky to be the mother of two sons, one who finished school a few years ago and another in matric. While matric is challenging, and being a matric pupil in the midst of a global pandemic even more so, by the time you’re 18 you’re old enough to understand your responsibilities regarding your schoolwork, so I wasn’t required to find ways to teach times tables or ‘trappe van vergelyking’ in-between Zoom meetings.
Even before the pandemic TymeBank have been incredibly understanding of how fine that balance is between work and parenting and how important it is to be present as a parent, which, as a single mother, I am incredibly grateful for. That said, I have spent plenty of anguished hours desperately trying to juggle school commitments with work and failing both due to past work environments that saw motherhood as a hindrance to productivity.
I have even had permission to attend a year-end prize-giving refusal on the grounds that they’re “unnecessary”. It’s an absolute no-brainer that organisations need to be cognisant of mothers – especially new mothers. It’s arrogant to assume that life outside of work doesn’t or shouldn’t exist, and sadly, based on the experience of my friends who are working mothers, this thinking is still prevalent enough to make women feel like failures in both areas.
Instead, working women should be empowered with support to show how mothers are practically built to be strong and equally successful in both, as proven by numerous examples of mothers ruling the world (looking at you Jacinda Ardern!).
What have been some of TymeBank biggest successes in marketing over the past 12 to 18 months?
We only launched 18 months ago and 9 months later celebrated signing on our millionth customer. 9 months after that we are well on our way to 2 million, so our marketing must be hitting the right notes with our audience! It’s been an incredibly exciting journey with undoubtedly more ups than downs for us.
We’ve been really lucky to have worked closely with an amazingly talented crew at King James Group who have managed to scoop some coveted local and international advertising awards for our launch and BrokeBy campaigns, as well as for our social communities, which we are all incredibly proud of.
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 TymeBank?
Innovation by its definition is introducing a new product or idea and this is exactly what we’ve done as a brand in the FinTech space in South Africa. We are the first South African bank to be awarded a full banking licence in over 20 years and are the first digital bank to offer technology that allows customers to open an account online with no paperwork required. We’ve shattered the concept that banking is expensive and complicated. If TymeBank doesn’t define what revolutionary is, then not much does.
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 firmly believe there is a place for influencer marketing if it’s as carefully and strategically managed like every other campaign a brand puts its money behind.
I think there is a misconception that if you find a couple of celebrities with a strong following and get them to endorse your product, it’s the low hanging fruit of conversion. But oftentimes you’re better off using an influencer with a 100-strong following that falls directly into your target audience than using a “spray and pray” approach to 1m followers.
The pandemic hasn’t changed this. I agree that real influencers, those with actual influence are rare and that those with little understanding of marketing and a slew of fake followers are a dime a dozen.
But social media is such a powerful marketing tool that I don’t see influencers who are using it effectively finding themselves out of work anytime soon, especially those who during the pandemic have found ways to cleverly pivot and engage their audiences during the lockdown. If brands are smart about how they use influencers, it still has the potential to yield great results.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I’m fascinated by the power of building successful social communities and the power of those communities in making or breaking a brand online, so I would be lost without listening tools like Crimson Hexagon which has recently been bought by Brandwatch. It’s an incredibly impressive tool that can tell me exactly what people are saying and how they feel about us.
If we launch a new product or announce any changes to existing ones, I can immediately monitor how the message has landed and affected our brand sentiment. This determines future communications and helps manage any reputational risks.
A large part of our social strategy is to start real conversations around money and finances with our social following and monitoring these really helps not only guide future conversations but also plays a vital role in our business strategy. This is strongly based on listening to our customers and giving them what they ask for.
I lead a phenomenal team of three Community Managers who are online ninjas and respond to upwards of 15000 queries a month from our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels. This would be utterly chaotic to manage if not for Khoros Care which helps tag, sort, and filter and generally just creates a sense of order. Both tools are vital for accurate, detailed reporting and I absolutely could not do my job effectively without them.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Trust your team and communicate openly. I can’t think of anything more unnecessarily time-consuming than micro-managing people.
What are your thoughts on Marketing and Sales alignment? How do you align your Marketing and Sales team at TymeBank?
Our marketing and sales team work extremely closely. The misaligned messaging and general miscommunication that would happen if we were to work in silos would be disastrous.
We have daily meetings, both teams involve the other in relevant discussions and consultations and we’re constantly sharing feedback and ideas based on sales and marketing results from separate research or campaigns. If we want our customers to hear and trust us, our messaging has to be the same whether it comes from our in-store ambassadors, our call centre agents, an SMS or a social media post.
2020 AND BEYOND
What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information? Physical book vs eReader?)
I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child and when I was given a Kindle as a gift I thought I would struggle without the feel and smell of a book. But having a whole library in one small electronic device that I can take anywhere with me, far outweighs the downside of reading a traditional book.
Having said that, the lockdown has had a strange effect on my ability to concentrate on reading and I’ve been devouring podcasts. A favourite for inspiration on community building is Community Signal hosted by a veteran in the industry, Patrick O’Keefe.
What is on your Netflix watchlist/How do you relax?
I can get completely engrossed in a good crime story and have lost entire weekends to the likes of Broadchurch, Killing Eve, Black Mirror and Ozark.
A unique message for all young professionals in the marketing industry
Recognise your strengths and spend time learning about what’s happening outside of your own world. Whether it’s new tech, a pandemic, or a global movement, things can change from one minute to the next and you must be ready for it.
What haven’t you solved? What challenge is on your plate?
Work-wise, I’m faced with the challenge of trying to figure out if our customers don’t like researching information or if the information is just not as accessible as we think it is. Personally, I’ve always faced the challenge of being an introvert in an extrovert’s world.
Any bucket list items (professional as well as personal)?
A marketing bucket-list would be to one day have TymeBank surpass Nandos in social community love!
I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights.
Who are some of your female heroes?
How much space do I have? Just three off the top of my head –
Alexandra Orcasio-Cortez for being vocal and strong in her convictions in the face of immense gender bias in her profession. The author Zadie Smith for her incredible way with words. Single mothers. Every one of them.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
When it comes to our online community I’m good at being able to read the online ‘room’ and remain level-headed in the face of what may seem like an impending crisis. With social media being so volatile and the public being able to ruin a brand’s reputation overnight, it helps to stay calm and react effectively. Then, at least to a degree, I can anticipate the trajectory of a negative spike in engagement, if there is one.