Mahrra's human-led marketing

Former CAE Technology Services Head of Marketing Louise Mahrra joined Logicalis as UK&I Marketing Director in January with a mission to create a positive and lasting impact across the business.

Here, she articulates the challenges and opportunities facing marketing leaders today, sheds light on the transformative factors that are reshaping marketing and emphasises why a revival of pre-digital human interaction will be key to success. She also provides a strategic masterclass for all channel marketing chiefs to consider.

Why did you take this leadership role?
Logicalis has already made great strides in the transition from its roots as a pure play networking and IT firm into a trusted digital transformation partner. To build on this and grow the business further is a great opportunity. Where CEO Bob Bailkoski wants to take the firm over the next few years is also important. He’s clear that the mission is much bigger than selling businesses new technology, rather helping them to harness the potential of digital transformation and grow in a way that benefits people and the wider environment. Sustainability really matters here. It’s also an opportunity for me to make an impact. While I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in my career so far, I’m ambitious and feel I have a lot more to give.

Could you share insights into your approach?
I’ve always tried to draw inspiration from other business leaders, and Stephen Covey was one who left a huge impact on me. His book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is rightly held up as a business staple and I try to live by those habits every day. One ‘behaviour’ he cites is ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’ – a good mantra for anyone in their first 90 days in a new leadership role. So my first priority is to fully immerse myself in the company’s ethos, feel the culture, absorb its values and understand its objectives. Building strong relationships with key stakeholders and my own team members will be a major part of that, encouraging collaboration, creativity and productivity around a shared sense of purpose. This way I can be confident our marketing strategies align with our overarching business goals.

What are your immediate priorities and action points?
Right now I’m conducting a thorough audit of existing marketing initiatives to see if we have any obvious quick areas for improvement and innovation. Data sits at the heart of this, so I plan to create data driven insights and carry out customer and market research to develop a strategic marketing plan with clear KPIs. My focus is also on getting to know our customers and understanding their challenges. Without that, I can’t properly anticipate how best to harness technology for their growth. More broadly, I want to look at the company’s narrative and the degree to which our vision translates into compelling stories that resonate. Longer-term, we want to solidify our position as the ‘Architects of Change’, as in, the first potential partner a customer will think about when considering how to redesign their business to win in the digital-first world.

More generally, what are today’s marketing and CX priorities?
Part of the challenge is recognising that marketing, brand and CX are not separate things. Rather, CX should be the living manifestation of any brand, and marketing is about raising awareness of the brand to those who are yet to experience it. At best, marketing efforts are wasted when they are telling a different story to the lived experience, and at worst it’s a reputational disaster waiting to happen. You have to walk the talk. As such, our marketing and CX priorities revolve around internal alignment, customer mapping and earning the right to become our customers’ trusted advisor.

What does this strategy look like in practice?
In a landscape defined by rapid digital transformation, success hinges on our ability to intimately understand our customers’ needs, pain points and aspirations. Internal alignment ensures every department is synchronised towards the singular goal of delivering exceptional customer experiences. Meticulously mapping the customer journey makes sure this happens, and in turn allows us to anticipate the customers’ needs and provide timely, relevant solutions.

Becoming a trusted advisor goes beyond selling them the right products or services, it involves establishing relationships built on trust, reliability and expertise. Customer-led businesses need to know their customers inside out, and be available when they need you. This level of responsiveness and insightfulness not only fosters loyalty, but I’d argue is essential if you want to drive sustainable growth in an ever-evolving market. It’s about being people-centric.

To what extent do marketers need to get under the buyer’s skin?
B2B buyers conduct around 90 per cent of their own research online and through peer networks, so understanding the challenge faced by buying centres is crucial. As Gartner puts it, ‘The hardest part about B2B solutions isn’t selling but buying them’. Marketers need to empathise with the complex environment B2B buyers operate in and provide information and tools that aim to reduce purchase friction. When overwhelmed by complexity and choice the human brain shortcuts to things it knows, as in, brands we recognise and trust, and people we admire, trust and respect. That’s why building authentic and trusted relationships with your target audience by showing understanding, empathy and providing valuable resources to navigate the intricate buying journey effectively is so important.

What other drivers are impacting channel marketing?
The big marketing changes in the IT channel stem from a rapidly evolving digital landscape, shifting customer expectations and the emergence of innovative technologies. As customers increasingly expect personalised experiences and seamless interactions, channel marketers need to adapt. This starts with a deeper understanding of customer behaviours, preferences and pain points. In other words, better data. Then the ability to leverage those data driven insights to deliver targeted, relevant messaging. The proliferation of cloud computing, AI and other disruptive technologies requires marketing leaders in the channel to stay agile and innovative. We must embrace emerging trends, alternative approaches such as account-based marketing and predictive analytics, to effectively engage customers and drive business growth. However, I don’t see this as a task for any solitary leader. Marketing leaders know the importance of having the right team around them.

What are the biggest ICT channel marketing challenges?
Perhaps the temptation to be everything to everyone. There’s a certain logic in appealing to as many people as possible, alienating no-one to maximse the addressable market. But with that comes major marketing challenges when the market is full of multiple brands that all look and sound the same. A light bulb can illuminate a large room, but using the same energy, a laser can burn a hole. So it’s about focus. Being all things to all persons can often result in diluted messaging and minimal achievements. Focusing on a clear identity and specialisation is pivotal.

This clear focus ensures coherent messaging yes, but it’s about the product too, and facilitating a customer-led approach to the development and delivery of solutions that will resonate deeply with customers. This requires a concerted effort to focus, resist the urge to cater to every demand and prioritise areas where the company can truly excel, fostering differentiation and sustainable growth in a competitive landscape.

What is the biggest marketing opportunity?
Opportunity lies in humanising how we approach marketing within the channel. Instead of focusing solely on technical specifications there’s immense potential in crafting emotive storytelling that resonates on a deeper level with customers. By flipping the narrative to emphasise useful, relevant and inspiring experiences over mere ‘speeds and feeds’, marketers can create memorable moments that tap into customers’ rational, societal and emotional triggers.

This approach allows for the creation of connections that go beyond transactions, fostering loyalty and advocacy. It’s about painting a vivid picture of how products and services positively impact customers’ lives, addressing their needs in a way that is not only functional but also deeply meaningful. By embracing the opportunity to infuse emotion and humanisation, and real world experiences into marketing efforts, channel marketers can forge stronger bonds with their audience and differentiate themselves.

How will AI impact channel marketing?
Make no mistake, this is the cusp of the fifth industrial revolution. But I believe we are just starting to scratch the surface with generative AI and most enterprises are only just starting to learn how we can apply it to our lives and jobs as a productivity tool. As marketing automation and behavioural analytics transformed shopping experiences, generative AI will revolutionise channel marketing by enhancing personalisation, creating efficiencies and improving predictive capabilities. Through advanced AI-powered analytics we can analyse vast amounts of data, better segment audiences and predict behaviours, so channel marketers can better tailor strategies and messages, maximising relevance and engagement.

Generative AI-powered tools also automate routine tasks, freeing time for strategic initiatives. Real-time insights allow agile adaptation to changing market dynamics. We’re witnessing this impact in the evolving makeup of marketing teams, transitioning from creative to scientific roles under the office of the CMO. And as generative AI presents an opportunity for marketers to elevate their efforts in a competitive landscape, human touchpoints become even more valuable.

How can marketing leaders best demonstrate strategic value?
According to McKinsey, The CMO’s rapport with the C-suite is crucial in establishing marketing’s role as a growth driver. Eighty three per cent of global CEOs consider marketing as a clear driver of growth. Great. But more worryingly, almost one in five CEOs don’t see how marketing drives growth – so there is work to be done. Demonstrating ROI through metrics like customer acquisition and retention solidifies marketing’s strategic importance, but we also need to keep track of the softer side of marketing, brand loyalty, share of voice as well as share of wallet and brand penetration. Most CEOs know that if you give marketing a seat at the table and make it accountable for delivering measurable growth, that’s more likely to happen. Without a seat at the top table, marketing risks becoming window dressing – tactical and directionless.

How are ESG priorities playing out in the marketing sphere?
Whether ESG or sustainability outcomes genuinely sit at the core of the brand’s stated purpose or not, all businesses should be mindful of their external impact which means integrating ESG principles into their brand messaging and communications to address the concerns and ideals of any socially conscious consumer. That doesn’t mean greenwashing for the sake of it. The primary role of a marketing leader is to align strategies with broader business objectives, ensuring meaningful contribution to the organisation’s mission and values.

That may mean a nuanced approach balancing short-term goals with long-term sustainability and ethical considerations. Embracing purpose driven marketing and aligning with ESG principles can be done in a way that enables businesses to meet consumer expectations while also driving positive social impact and delivering commercial success. But it has to be authentic. Marketers must demonstrate genuine intent. Just putting words on a page for box ticking transparency risks alienating people. Authentic efforts backed by tangible deliverables are essential to making a meaningful impact.

When did your marketing career begin and what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt?
I started out doing PR in 1998 when hi tech meant pagers and Telex machines. We had to rely on direct human interactions and relationships. Today, having access to information through Google rather than waiting for tomorrow’s papers or next week’s trade press, and being one click away from any prospect on LinkedIn, does represent huge progress and has transformed how comms and marketing works, but I think we’ve lost something. Technology has democratised channel marketing, but it’s by humanising B2B marketing, emphasising connections through stories, emotion and personalising experiences that we leave a lasting impact.

Having worked across a number of sectors – global systems integration, manufacturing, health and fitness – I took a job in a small ICT firm and it struck me how soulless, old fashioned and mechanical most companies seemed to be in their approach to marketing and comms. I decided to take a different, more human approach and never looked back.


Share this story