Did you know that the majority of the digital marketing experts we have featured in this Series came into their careers by accident rather than by design? In fact, most of them tell the story that they were in a different line of work and were either nudged by others or made their own choices to enter a digital marketing role.

Not so with today’s interviewee! 

Mark Ong is the Corporate Marketing Director for Phoenix Contact, and he got there by studying Marketing Communications at school. 

From there, Mark has built himself a strong, successful career in the digital marketing sector, working with companies like Honeywell. 

Join us then, for exciting insights into Mark’s career and achievements in this issue of the Marketing Expert Series!

Hi, Mark! Welcome! Thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with some background, please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get to where you are now? 

Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here. I think I am very fortunate because I am working in an area which I studied in school (Marketing Communications). I have been in marketing for more than 17 years and serving in a leadership position for 9 of these years.

I am currently the Corporate Marketing Director for Phoenix Contact and part of the management team. Prior to Phoenix Contact, I was working as the APAC MARCOM Leader for Honeywell, which is a Fortune 100 US Conglomerate.

You’re the Corporate Marketing Director (SEA) of Phoenix Contact. Can you tell us about Phoenix Contact and the solutions the company offers? 

Phoenix Contact is a German company, founded in 1923. This year marks our 100th years anniversary, which is a tremendous milestone for any company to achieve. We manufacture electrical components and connectors for a wide array of industries such as Oil & Gas, Telecommunications, Water & Waste Water, Machine Building, Infrastructure as well as E-Mobility. 

The world has changed in the last few years, with the Pandemic and the shift in the economy, how has Phoenix Contact been impacted by these changes?

Thanks to the wide breadth of products and solutions that we carry (we offer > 100,000 products) for various industries, we were thankfully not heavily impacted by the pandemic. This is because when 1 industry is down, another industry will inevitably pick up. For instance, during the Energy crisis a few years ago (which is one of our main industries), Machine Building picked up and we enjoyed tremendous growth from it. 

How did the developments over the last few years affect your strategies as  Phoenix Contact’s Corporate Marketing Director for Southeast Asia? 

We built up our marketing and technology stack and implemented tools to aid in our digital transformation, making us more agile and harnessing the power of automation to increase the productivity and efficiency of our team. For instance, during the initial stages of COVID when there were no physical events, we switched really quickly to webinars and live streaming.

I also realized that because of the pandemic, the majority of people will be working from home and thus consumption of content will have to change. Therefore, I invested in building up our very own media centre here in Singapore (about 1,500 sqft) where we can produce and edit local content for SEA. 

Tell us about some of the most effective digital strategies that you’ve implemented in recent years. Is there a strategy or campaign you’re most proud of?

We have done many great campaigns over the years, but the one that I am most proud of is our social media strategy shift. Being a B2B company, we used to post photos of our products on social media together with the USP of the product.

However, 2 years ago, I implemented a strategy shift whereby the theme and focus of our social media posts are socially relatable. In other words, we moved away from posting product photos as the highlight, but rather utilize visuals and texts that would easily be understood at a glance even by a non-engineer. 

I subscribe to the belief that even though we are a B2B company, ultimately the people using our products and solutions are humans, so essentially we are marketing as a B2C. 

This paradigm shift in strategy helped us to more than 3X our engagement rate with our customers and increase our followers on social media by more than 20%.

How do you stay up to date with the latest digital marketing technologies and tools?

By being on the ground and keeping yourself updated on the latest news. For instance, I read daily technology websites such as Ars Technica, Fast Company, The Verge etc. and attend marketing events (as either a speaker or as a participant).

This helps me to build up my understanding of the ever-evolving digital landscape. 

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges facing marketers and digital experts in your industry today?

We work with a tremendous amount of big data, but I feel that many marketers are not harnessing this data effectively to drive business decisions. For instance, many marketers would have KPIs such as open rate, CTR, impressions etc. These in my opinion are great to have, but how does it truly advance the business? Therefore, the KPIs that I set for my team are more marketing revenue driven – for instance, the number of MQLs, the value of opportunities generated from these MQLs, the conversion rates etc.

If you think about it, oftentimes, when there is a retrenchment exercise, marketing is often one of the first to go. Why is it? This is because many people view marketing as a cost centre and not a profit centre. 

And in other to be a profit centre, we need to start by adjusting our mindset to be more revenue and results focused. 

Where do you see Industry 4.0 heading in the next five to ten years? Will we get to a point where we’re living in a fully automated and ‘smart’ world?

We already are seeing the effects of Industry 4.0 – whether is it marketing automation, robotization, big data analysis, AI or Machine learning. 

However, right now what is really changing the marketing landscape is AI-driven tools like ChatGPT, which has really radicalized the way we work. In the past, we used to spend hours crafting social media posts but right now, with ChatGPT, a social media post can be crafted automatically in just seconds.

The big question many people ask is, will this make my job redundant? I empathically say no to that, because while ChatGPT can help you to craft your messages, there still needs to have a human element involved to read through and edit and “humanize” the message.

To me, this automated and smart world is not an ‘if’ but is already here. As marketers, we need to evolve and adapt to it. 

Any advice you’d give to aspiring marketers especially those interested in helping advance Industry 4.0? 

I think that the biggest advice I can give to aspiring marketers is to read voraciously, keep an open mind and embrace technology instead of shunning it. 

What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto/saying or something else that drives you forward?

My team is the one that motivates me. I believe in servant leadership and a company is nothing without its employees. Therefore team spirit and strength are crucial. 

With that being said, I firmly believe that a team is like a sports team. We are here to win medals, but not everyone will stay here forever. People come and go, and that is normal. What is important is the time spent together winning. 

Thank you for sharing your experience and insights with us, Mark, it’s been a real pleasure. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or Phoenix Contact?

Please connect with me on LinkedIn! 

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