10 marketing lessons from a CMO trailblazer

Deepali Naair is the chief marketing officer for IBM India and South Asia. Naair shared her thoughts about the future of marketing and leadership skills and traits that are most important in the Next Normal.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer

Deepali Naair is the chief marketing officer for IBM India and South Asia. Naair was awarded the 2020 CMO of the Year award by
The Economic Times
and recognized as one of the most promising tech marketers. Naair was also named the 50 most influential Indian women, IMPACT 2018-2020, and Top 30 CMOs in India by IAMAI. Naair teaches business school and mentors women-led startups and accelerators and serves on several boards. Naair is a digital marketing pioneer and an advocate of purposeful marketing. 


Deepali Naair is the chief marketing officer for IBM India and South Asia.

To help us better understand the convergence of business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) marketing, Ray Wang, CEO and founder of a Silicon Valley-based advisory firm Constellation Research, and I invited a chief marketing officer trailblazer Deepali Naair to join our weekly show DisrupTV. Here are my 10 big takeaways from our conversation with Deepali Naair.

  1. There is a convergence of B2B and B2C marketing skillset and capabilities. Naair spoke to us about the precision marketing methods of personalized marketing by studying consumer cohorts, developing consumer insights, communication, and packaging specific to consumer needs. B2B marketers are adopting digital technologies like e-commerce, more adoption of data-driven, and performance marketing. B2B marketers are also analyzing smaller segments and developing more personalized and programmatic marketing campaigns. 
  2. Strong marketing leaders are strong storytellers and givers. Naair is a social CMO and engaged and accessible to her network across multiple digital channels. Strong CMOs are finding ways to humanize their companies by building relationships with their stakeholders and expanding their digital footprints. 
  3. You have to be an infinite and agile learner. You have to believe that your job will be obsolete in three years. Naair identified three must-have skills and capabilities. You have to constantly learn. You also need to have learning agility. You have to learn quickly and adopt frameworks. You also need to have a client-centric mindset to guide your value system. You have to be human - interested, present, humble, and willing to add value to others. 
  4. People want to be led and be given goals to achieve. People also want to be appreciated. Naair shared stories about her past career lessons on how to develop a healthy company culture. Nair believes that to build a healthy culture, you must include all the lines-of-business and approach the transformation as a team. 
  5. Your employees are also your customers. Everyone wants to be appreciated. Naair said that we all need to be appreciated and celebrated as people who matter. Naair developed personalized programs to celebrate employees. IBM has a culture of celebrating its employees and their unique value to the organization. 
  6. Positive gossip is one way to build a culture of gratitude. Naair talked about sharing positive stories about people when they are not around. Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room. Bolstering our employee's brand by sharing positive gossip about them is a wonderful way to cultivate a culture of appreciation. 
  7. Stay teachable and make sure your actions speak louder than your words. Naair talked about the importance of stay engaged with our teams. Naair also talked about showing vulnerability and flexibility to earn trust. We are all struggling in the pandemic, some more than others. We are all impacted by the pandemic but none of us are experiencing the pandemic in the same way. Leaders must show empathy and the willingness to support their teams by staying engaged and helpful. 
  8. Culture cannot be built overnight. Naair talked about appreciating risk-taking, anticipating failures, and planning for the future. IBM was ready to transition to remote work based on their infrastructure and set of tools available to their employees. Naair reminded us that people are not afraid of failure, they are afraid of blame. The best teacher is your last mistake. Naair also talked about jugaad innovation and how constraints can breathe creativity into reinvention and the art of the possible. 
  9. We are all learning how to best engage with our customers. Naair talked to us about staying engaged with stakeholders on digital channels. Be accessible. Share your ideas. Adopt a beginner's mindset: Curious, hungry, and willing to change their mind when faced with data and information that contradicts their beliefs and understanding. 
  10. Marketers must enhance their technical skills and capabilities. Naair believes that it is important for marketers to partner with IT and the CIO/CTO. But what is even more important according to Naair is for marketers to boost their technical competencies and also leverage the business ecosystem to develop their digital marketing transformation roadmap and investment thesis. 

I highly encourage you to watch our interview with Deepali Naair. Naair is a marketing and business trailblazer with a passion to help others achieve their goals and mission. 

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