Interview with Stephen Yeo, Marketing Director UK & Ireland at SAS

August 8, 2020

Paul Gould , Group Manager at Carter Murray recently had the chance to speak with Stephen Yeo, Marketing Director UK & Ireland at SAS.  Stephen Yeo has more than 30 years experience in B2B technology marketing. His experience includes European Marketing Director of Panasonic B2B, UK Marketing Director at Dell Corporation and International Marketing Director at Wyse Technology, the world leader in thin clients. He is currently Marketing Director for SAS UK & Ireland.

He is a global thought leader in the field of applying new technology to Marketing to deliver better business results, a transformed customer experience and improved business efficiency. Stephen has won multiple awards including Marketo’s 2017 Global Marketing Executive of the Year Award, and the 2004 CRM Business Leader of the Year Award. He is a Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Stephen has a Master of Business Administration and Master of Business Informatics from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands where he graduated Cum Laude. He attended university at the UK’s University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, achieving a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Engineering in Engineering Manufacture and Management.

Originally born in Wales, Stephen has lived in 5 countries and met his wife Lilian in Holland. They have 2 sons studying medicine and finishing A levels with a plan to study accounting. He speaks Dutch and, when he has time, enjoys playing the drums.

With over 30 years’ experience in marketing, Stephen has built a wealth of knowledge and experience. In this interview, I asked Stephen his thoughts on the most exciting marketing trends he’s currently seeing, how marketing develops during a crisis and his experience of onboarding remotely.

What do you think is the most exciting marketing trend at the moment?

Marketing carries the keys to many of the solutions required by organisations to survive and prosper in the current environment. Most markets have not gone away, they just have to be reached and serviced differently.

Successful companies will require their Marketing departments to develop a complete “digital wrapper” around the organisation so customers can be acquired, serviced and retained remotely. This will involve developing a high quality, completely digital customer journey linked to all the necessary front-line staff and backend systems.

For most companies, a lot of their revenue will come from their installed base. Maintaining the loyalty of existing customers and partners will be also be top priority and Marketing will be called on to support them with high quality digital channels.

Finally, because customers are engaging remotely, trust in your brand is extremely important. Companies who maintain high quality brands with high visibility will reap the benefits now and in the future.

As a senior marketing leader being onboarded remotely into a new role, what were the challenges and the positives?

Engaging my stakeholders and leading a team of 25, all of whom I have never met face-to-face, was quite a daunting prospect at the start. But I have found the last 3.5 months actually very good and attribute this to 3 things:

This last point has really helped me since I have some basic “navigation charts” in my head and don’t have to learn every little detail (which is hard in a virtual world). I feel 95% as integrated and knowledgeable today as I would have been if I had been in the office.

We are experiencing a global crisis in COVID-19, how far do you think marketing has come since the global financial crisis of 2008?

There have been huge developments since 2008 in Marketing, most of which are linked to technological change. Marketing automation, revenue attribution, web, digital advertising, content automation, personalisation. The list is long and the impacts profound. In addition, legal compliance has become very important. GDPR and respect of personal data is central to Marketing today. All of these advancements mean that Marketing now can contribute more than 50% of all sales pipeline and revenue in most companies (hardware, software and/or services). But the technology, know-how and compliance management required of modern Marketers means you cannot leave it to those who are not qualified either by experience or formal qualifications.

What key learns did you / C-Suite take from the last crisis experience with regards to marketing and were you better prepared?

The financial crisis of 2008 had a drastic negative impact on Marketing budgets. But I have found frugality drives innovation and success. It sorts the wheat from the chaff. The skill of real Marketing leaders is to maximise ROI through innovation, strategy and tactics…. And not necessarily following buzz words and hype. One thing I have seen in my 30 years in Marketing is that 5% of tactics become redundant every year. To succeed, you must allocate about 10% of your budget to experimentation. If 50%+ of your experiments work, you will stay ahead of the pack.

Which marketing campaign / initiative / project that you have worked on are you most proud of, and why?

At Panasonic B2B we started in Europe in 2009 with no real websites, CRM, Marketing automation or unified Marketing team. With a very small budget we built state-of-the-art websites, CRM, Marketing automation, content automation, product database and call centre. We put the Marketing team in one unified reporting structure and, in 2015, the annual staff survey found that they had one of the highest satisfaction score in the company. The team generated €1.15B of sales pipeline over 5 years and Panasonic B2B Europe became very successful in that period.

What are biggest skill gaps/shortages within your marketing team for both your short and long term plans?

I am very lucky at SAS to have inherited a wonderful Marketing team with great skills and ability. But we cannot rest on our laurels. Everyone in the team already gives 101%. With budgets tight, the only way we can increase output is to use data to identify what we can improve, what we can drop and what new things we need to start. We need to become more digital and use technology to automate and optimise. And we need to do this in a holistic fashion, so that the output of the team is more than the sum of its members.

To develop my successors, I want to grow people that are confident but humble, knowledgeable but curious. They will need a deep understanding of marketing communications, product marketing and marketing technology. They will be empowered to bring great positive change to organisations and their customers.

Is there anything else that you are seeing within marketing / the market / the role of marketing in the future, that you would like to add?

With the right support and culture, companies can now enjoy more than 50% of their revenue triggered from Marketing activities. And this can be achieved with hardware, software or services in a direct or indirect sales environment.

In my experience, the ability of Marketing to deliver this is directly linked to the culture of the organisation and the attitude of its leaders towards the function. I would suggest that a few hours time investment with professional Marketers to learn what they do is a very good investment for any business leader.​

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