INTERVIEW ONE

MIRJANA PROKIC, CMO – FARÉCLA

 
Mirjana Prokic CMO Farecla photography by Serif Creative

In Southern California to attend the CMO Club Summit, Mirjana met us outside of the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey

to answer our questions about industrial marketing.

 

Curious to know, can you give us the quick origin story of how you got into marketing?

Yes, of course. I was at university, in Belgrade, where I’m coming from originally, and I was at a Psychology in Education course. There was a need for a presidential students’ union to be formed, and a few people said, “Why don’t you do it? Because you’re just right,” and I thought, “ok, so let’s try.” And my dean supported that fully, and Belgrade University as well. So I got elected, and then that’s where the journey started.

The whole experience of  branding your university, and putting it out there in front of others, and connecting with the international lookalike university, was just an amazing thing to do.

Was there a desire at a young age, at all?

A desire was always there for storytelling. And again, because I did psychology, not with the intention to work in that field ever, but just to understand how people think… because I love people, first of all. That's something I carry with me, and I enjoy different personalities, I enjoy different characters, I enjoy a different way of thinking, I enjoy all differences that are out there. Because that's what makes things interesting. And to understand all of this, I wanted to obviously go into psychology, which has opened the door quite widely for marketing- and sales as well, because my role was always connected to both, marketing and sales, and I don't see any difference between the two nowadays. 

Everything is storytelling. Since the day we were born, we were telling stories to our mothers, we were trying to sell things to our parents, you know, and everything is in there, in our lives from the beginning. It’s just the new way of how people are marketing all of this, nowadays. So yeah, we like to play with something that already exists, and is there, but just name it differently depending on the times. I like that evolution of things, but storytelling is always there.

How do you think marketing has changed over the last 5 years?

Oh, massively, I mean… I have been in the chemical industry for the last 12 years, nearly, and before that, I was in fast-moving consumer goods, and industrial goods, and heavy vehicles. And also marketing agencies. So chemical industries, where I am now, is so outdated in terms of marketing initiatives. And it’s so behind everything that’s going on. Very old-fashioned mentality.

There is always something new that will improve your work and how you interact with clients and customers.

And it takes time to change mentality. Obviously the need is there, because consumers moved on, but the industry still stayed more or less the same… on the same level, the same way. So what I’m trying to do is really send that message to, and show all of this to, my board, to you know, leaders in my company as well as in others, that it’s time for the industry also to catch up with new trends and what happened in the last 5 years. And it’s still changing, and so rapidly changing, that it’s hard to stay always on top of everything, because marketing platforms, channels and tools are coming up on a daily basis, almost. And there is always something new that will improve your work and how you interact with clients and customers. So, of course, it’s massive.

What do you think the biggest difference is between b-to-b marketing and b-to-c?

It depends really on what industry you’re in. If, for example, you are, as a supplier, selling products or services to other businesses for their own use, those businesses are your end‑users/consumers. So the way you market your product should be obviously tweaked to a persona whom you’re selling to. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a business, or if it’s a… how do we call it, end‑user/consumer.

For b‑to‑b, your end‑user is another business, so it’s also some kind of a persona. So, the way how you present your product, you have to hit on that persona.  It’s a consumer, like, end‑user like ourselves, or it is a business: because, again, at the end of the day, in that business there is a persona who will decide what’s good for their business, what product is going to fit their needs.

In terms of b‑to‑c, again, same thing: so you just work in a slightly different way, and your marketing content and sales pitch is going to be tailored to your target group. It’s all about who you’re targeting and what approach you’re going to take. Again, it all goes down to more or less same thing; it’s just a different way of pitching.

What are some of the biggest problems you face day-to-day? 

Ok, well let’s go one step back: there is an obvious need in our industry to do things differently, and change how everything works. Transformation of the business is the key, and we are pioneering that, and are going to make some changes there in terms of interaction with our end‑users. And we are already doing it. So ‑ digital. The word “digital” is very popular nowadays, as we know, because everything is around that. And again, in an industry that is very traditional, it is very hard to explain‑what “digital” really means: to the board, to people within the business, other departments, not marketing, obviously‑ but even sales, sometimes.

Because the majority of people think that digital is, you know: Facebook, and Instagram, and YouTube, and that’s it. And maybe a little bit of website, and that’s it. So for me and my team, to really send that message across‑ what really “digital” means and is – it’s the toughest thing to do.

Finally, I’m very pleased to say, we’ve got everyone on board, and we finally managed to explain and demonstrate what exactly “digital” means. And why it’s important that everyone is engaged, why it’s important that we all see things in the way that they should be seen, and not to avoid them. So we’ve managed to really get everyone in the same circle, and cycle, I would say, in terms of getting a support on this throughout the company‑ and also outside of the company.

What are some of your big marketing initiatives this year? 

The biggest marketing initiative right now is to work with influencers, but the organic ones. And really have more personalized approach, and get an organic recognition of the products and quality that we produce. To demonstrate quality/performance difference that we offer. So it is a big, big focus on influencers, who are in our case, small but very influential businesses in the industry.

We also have products for retail now. And to support that range, we are continuously building a library of “how‑to” videos and other marketing collateral to support and educate end‑user, and show why we are ground-breaking technology, and different than competitors. We are a leader in the industry in terms of new technologies, and always one-step ahead of others.

We are very niche. We are creating a really big difference between our product and everyone else’s, bringing new technologies in - so by the time our competition, you know, catches up with us, we are already working on and delivering the next big thing, next generation product. So that’s what we want to explain to our end‑users, and that’s what we want to demonstrate, and give them access to, so that’s why, “how‑to” is very, very important, hence YouTube, Instagram, etc.

The beauty of digital is that we have so many not expensive platforms available out there, which can help us to achieve what we need.

Another thing: you know, everyone is trying to cut budgets and save money wherever possible nowadays, so the beauty of digital is that we have so many not expensive platforms available out there, which can help us to achieve what we need. And that’s one thing.

But again, what else we do: we get all our distributors involved, as well as end‑users, to be part of this move, to share their stories with us, to be active on the field and you know, whatever they share, we recognize that to our social media, and website, and everywhere else. We have a community of our distributors through WhatsApp groups as well, which is more internal thing, and a sharing platform for everything: what’s going on in Argentina, or in Mexico, or in China or, I don’t know… Japan, or the U.K., or Spain, or Italy… so we have them all in one place, and there is a transparency between them.

Being a global brand, I think that’s the key, and that’s so important, because everyone gets that encouragement, and says, “hey, look what these guys do in,” I don’t know, “Tajikistan,” and, you know, “look these guys in America.” There are obviously differences in terms of economies, as well as behaviours, different habits, but again, they’re all using the same product. And sharing those experiences… is the key. And that’s how you actually create a strong community and also save on budget.

How do you work with freelancers and agency partners? 

We try to have our internal team complete as much as possible. Because, again, we like to keep all skills in‑house and have them available whenever we need, and that really works well.

Because all these guys and girls know exactly what the focus is. When you work with freelancers, they may have 10 different projects at the same time, which could be related to all different industries, so… maybe I’m wrong, but there could be‑ a lack of that, “woomph”, you know, and that “yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about” moment. Because they’re not, all day long, in our company facing the challenges, interacting with other departments ‑ and, you know, missing that personality that understands our brand and our company truly and in depth, may not be the right thing.

In contrary, in‑house, definitely, yes‑ almost always works brilliantly well. The biggest challenge there is finding the right profile/personality for the job. It takes time, and to get the right person, you know, sometimes I go through the interviewing process even for 6 months and in the end I decide not to go for anyone as there was no one right for the job. And start the process again. It happens.

Mirjana Prokic CMO Farecla photography by Serif Creative

It is so important who you hire, because that could reflect on you as well. You know, if you hire someone, and then 3 months later you say, “oh Jesus, what mistake have I made,” obviously it could reflect on you as a leader, and how you choose your team. So I really take my time to find the right person. Now, agencies… we work with agencies to help us localize our digital presence in specific markets; because, again, we can’t hire hundred plus different members of staff to cover different languages in different countries, as we sell in 120 countries worldwide, so we have to rely on an external party as well.

We worked with some agencies very successfully and with some, not so great. Again, it’s a hit‑and‑miss, but choosing the right one it takes time. We now have, all external work which is related to digital, with one agency, but they had to prove themselves through several projects and that trust, dedication, commitment, right skills, people and above all, an amazing work, has won and finally we said, “yeah, they are definitely the right people”.  Also it is much easier to manage.

We'll let you get back to hanging out here in the sun... But last question: What is one of your favorite reads (blog or book?)

The Happiness Trap”- Russ Harris - which is absolutely amazing. It’s not one of those, books that tells you, “and this is what I did and helped me out so much and now I feel great and everyone should feel great.” It’s so individual, and it’s so different.

But this book really teaches you and helps you: how to go through down moments. If it’s a bad day, so what, ok? Accept it, and you know, do something, and start observing rather than thinking too much. It’s all about what’s around you, and what you can change now.