Marketing has many different facets, and it takes time and experience to fully understand it. Different experiences will provide different perspectives and learning opportunities, all of which help grow a marketer into a veteran. The global pandemic has had a big how we tackle digital marketing, and it will have a lasting effect on the way we approach marketing strategy.
Speaking to us for this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, is a man with plenty of experience and perspective on how that experience can help develop strong, sustainable, and ethical marketing strategies. Chuin Ming Lee is currently Head of Marketing for Unit4, and with more than 20 years of experience in the marketing field, it’s easy to imagine the insight and expertise he can bring to the table. Join us for this issue of the Series, as Ming takes us through the journey that brought him to where he is today.
Welcome to the Marketing Expert Series, Ming! Thank you for joining us! Let’s start with the basics, tell us a bit about yourself! How did you get to where you are now?
Thank you for inviting me to this interview series. My career in marketing started more than 20 years ago as a product manager for Thomson Reuters serving both the news media and financial markets. My role grew and evolved over the years with the company before I moved to other wonderful organisations including HP, RS Components, Getty Images, Autodesk and now Unit4. I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to work in a variety of different industries with different business models and customer demands, and that has afforded me great learning experiences throughout my career journey.
What was it that drew you to this line of work? Is there a singular or series of experiences that attracted you to it?
The biggest attraction for me is that marketing is a central business function in any organisation. As a marketer, I always feel that I’m in the thick of the action. As a result, I can make direct, meaningful contributions to how an organisation performs. Also, the marketing role usually involves working with stakeholders across the board, from senior executives to sales teams and customer support to product developers and programmers in the back office. I really enjoy working with this diverse group of people where I get to also learn about their work and business priorities. Furthermore, I am also lucky in that I have always held regional roles at global companies, where I can interact and work with people from across the world. I find it truly eye-opening to experience different cultures through my professional career.
Looking at your career, we encounter an impressive list of roles throughout the APAC region. How has this shaped your professional and personal life?
I grew up in a small city, where most of the people I knew are very much like me. Looking back, my general outlook on life used to be very provincial. Through exposure to diverse corporate settings and international colleagues, I find that I have developed a much broader perspective on life in general. I have grown to value and appreciate the fact that there’s always more than one way to skin a cat. Exposure to a diversity of ideas, values and practices has been invaluable in making me a more well-rounded and effective marketer. I have leveraged my broad-based knowledge and experience to see things from different perspectives and bring fresh eyes to problem-solving, for example.
Are there specific roles or experiences in your career that you value above others?
The best experience in my career has been one where I was not only able to contribute to the company but to society. I cannot see myself working for a tobacco company, for example, knowing that their products have an impact on people’s health. However, when I was working for Thomson Reuters, I always felt that I was part of a larger mission. We were not just delivering value to shareholders, but we brought important and impartial news to the world. Our journalists were risking life and limb in war zones and other dangerous environments so that the rest of us know what’s going on. I was part of the team that delivers this information and having that sense of mission was a huge personal motivation to go to work every day.
Currently, you are the Head of Marketing for APAC at Unit4. Can you tell us about Unit4 and the work that the company does?
Unit4 is a global company with a 40-year history in Europe, but unfortunately, it’s still largely unknown in APAC. We provide the latest technology in Enterprise Resource Planning solutions, serving customers mostly in professional services, public sector, nonprofit, and education. We help mid-tier, people-centric organisations to transform the way they work, by providing a better People Experience to their employees, and in turn to their customers as well. Our integrated system helps organisations to manage HR, Finance, Procurement and Project Management functional processes on a modern cloud-based platform, which is easy to use and fully customisable to unique business requirements.
COVID-19 – the topic on everyone’s mind, and it will certainly leave a mark on many industries. How has it affected Unit4’s business? Has there been a change in demand for enterprise software?
The COVID 19 pandemic has made many companies aware of the limitations of on-premises systems. When countries imposed lockdown restrictions, and companies realised that their people are not allowed or were not able to access their physical offices, they suddenly felt a greater sense of urgency for the move to a cloud-based solution. Our Unit4 solution is based on Microsoft Azure, and having that internationally recognised and secure cloud platform has helped us to differentiate our solutions in the market.
I understand that you joined Unit4 in the middle of the pandemic, how has this impacted the way you approach your marketing tactics for Unit4?
Like many other marketers, we have lost the ability to host physical events due to government restrictions in various countries. This means that there’s now a lot more emphasis on digital activities and virtual events. That in itself is not necessarily bad, as we often get higher ROI from such activities. However, our sales teams have lost the ability to interact and meet with prospective customers face-to-face. Also, everyone is focusing on digital campaigns and activities, and the present challenge is for us to figure out how to stand out from the digital noise. This is not an easy task for a little-known brand like Unit4.
Where do you see the region as a whole going due to the impact of COVID-19, any lasting B2B trends you think the industry will show as a result of the pandemic?
The impact of COVID-19 will not go away anytime soon. Many companies have reduced their physical office space, and invested in work-from-home systems and implemented remote-working policies. People will likely continue to work from home at least part of the time even when the pandemic is over. There will be a greater need for companies to better manage their remote workforce and ensure their people remain motivated and closely engaged in the business. There’s also a greater sense of urgency for companies for the digital transformation of their business. We’re already seeing organisations starting to invest in digital operation platforms and move to the cloud, just to remain competitive. Those that don’t embark on this journey risk being left behind.
What about for you when this pandemic is over, what’s next for you?
Personally, I can’t wait to travel for leisure again! Singapore is a very tiny place and it’s beginning to feel like an island prison; as a joke, I’m starting to call this country “Singa-traz!” It would be nice to have a change of scenery after being stuck here for almost 2 years! And I’m not very particular either on where to visit, even a short trip to neighbouring countries would be nice. I just hope all countries can roll out their vaccination programmes smoothly and get the pandemic under control soon.
Any advice you’d give to young and aspiring marketers specialists?
When I first started out in my career, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. It’s only by trying out different roles that I finally found something that interests and excites me. Therefore, I would encourage young, aspiring marketers to be courageous and try out new roles for themselves if they are as uncertain in their chosen career as I was. Even within marketing, there are different areas of specialization, and if you don’t like one, you can always try some others that interest you. Also, marketing is not an exact science, and it often takes a lot of trial and error before you come up with a campaign that works. Again, my advice is to always keep an open mind and be willing to try new ideas and new campaigns. That’s the only way to improve and reach new heights!
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Ming! How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more?
People are welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn.