HelloMasters Podcast Episode 014 – Mark Appel – Global Marketing Director at Exact

Mark Appel – Global Marketing Director at Exact – about digital transformation, company culture and Max Verstappen

“If you still have to explain the importance of digital marketing to your boss, you’ve already lost.”

HelloMasters

Our guest on our 14th HelloMasters episode can rightfully be called a Dutch marketing veteran. Mark Appel, Global Marketing Director at Exact, joined us in the VondelCS studio in Amsterdam to talk about digital transformation, important skill sets, the right company culture and Max Verstappen.

Apple

Mark started his career as Account Executive at Apple. Without a finished degree, a role in sales gave him the freedom to tailor the job to his own wishes and beliefs. “I do not have such a theoretical background, which means I am a pragmatic guy. I start doing things, roll up my sleeves.” Even though Apple provided plenty of existing sales decks, Mark put those all aside and created his own. The start of his own marketing, as he explains: “I always try to create my own story.”

Digital Marketing and Transformation

With over 15 years of experience, Mark can rightfully be called a seasoned marketer. He has been working at Exact for the past 8 years. We asked him about the rise of digital marketing and digital transformation and his experience: “Eight years ago I started that digital transformation. But I just didn’t call it that way.” Within Exact, he states:  “Without a plan up front regarding digital transformation, we just started. We adopted the possibilities of technology at that moment.”

Tip for CEOs

Mark believes that CEOs can play a pivotal role within digital transformation, but it requires a certain mind set: “CEO’s tend to see marketing as a cost center, but it really is a growth engine.”  However, unfortunately, not every leader is fully up to par when it comes to this: “If you still have to explain the importance of digital marketing to your boss, you’ve already lost.” He explains that at Exact there are rarely discussions when it comes to the importance of marketing: “If we want to grow, then we also need to grow our marketing budgets. That’s a given fact.” We understand that.

Max Verstappen

Exact has been the sponsor of Dutch Formula 1 favorite Max Verstappen. A very fun, but also informative partnership, as Mark states. In the beginning, they wanted to push Max as person and brand everywhere, but the data told differently. “We are using Max especially in the upper funnel area and then also mainly in events.” Getting Max onboard also had a noticeable impact internally: “Everyone was really proud to have Max within the team. Also with employee branding it helped a lot. We were able to attract people we couldn’t reach before.”

Company culture

Parallel to introducing new technologies and digital transformation is experimentation. Asking Mark how he tries to stimulate within Exact, he answers: “I really believe that things start at the top. Looking at the teams that I’m responsible for, I need to create an environment where they feel – let’s say –  encouraged to fail.” According to him, this mindset is essential in creating the right company culture: “Even if you see that things are going wrong, let it happen. That’s how you learn.”

Topics & timestamps

[00:00:00]    Intro HelloMasters

[00:01:05]    Intro Mark Appel

[00:01:15]    Intro HelloMaaS

[00:02:00]    Mark and the start of his career at Apple

[00:03:28]    CX = BB x DG

Customer Experience is the combination of Brand Building and Demand Generation. – Mark

[00:04:15]    Mark about the Ironman Triathlon

I’m always looking for the max. Out of myself, out of my teams. – Mark

[00:06:00]    Bio hacking

I do not have such a theoretical background, which means I am a pragmatic guy. I start doing things, roll up my sleeves. – Mark

I believe in organic growth, I believe in serendipity. That’s how I live and how I act. – Mark

[00:07:00]    Mark’s career between Apple and Exact

I didn’t have a study, so I started in sales. – Mark

[00:08:22]    Marketing leads

I think about ten years ago, technological developments within marketing were accelerating. I like technology, I like to adopt it, which brought me to Exact. – Mark

[00:09:45]    The importance of product within a team

I strongly believe that product and marketing will integrate with each other. – Mark

[00:11:25]    Digital transformation within Exact

Eight years ago I started that digital transformation. But I didn’t call it that way. It was maybe more digital marketing. – Mark

Without a plan up front regarding digital transformation, we just started. [..] Right now we’re in the middle of it. It was not a pre-defined plan, rather just adopting the possibilities of technology. – Mark

[00:13:15]    Tips for CEOs

I hear that people still need to explain to their marketing manager, director, or even CMO, that digital is becoming an important part in the marketing arena. If you still have to explain this, you lost a battle and are way off. – Mark

CEO’s tend to see marketing as a cost centre, but it really is a growth engine. – Mark

If we want to grow, then we also need to grow our marketing budgets. That’s a given fact. – Mark

[00:16:15]    Team Exact and skill sets

I want to build up knowledge and skill sets within the company. I want to be less dependent on external companies or agencies. – Mark

Marketing is about building reach and trying to recognize behavior. – Mark

We can never outsource our problem. – Mark

I always encourage the team to broaden their scope. Ten years ago it was good to focus on just creative, but today you need to broaden your scope as a sound and solid marketeer. – Mark

We’ve adopted scrum within the marketing team. It’s about being sure that you can do each other’s work and fill in the gaps. – Mark

[00:19:10]    Scrum methodology

The scrum master is the owner of the process and the people manager. – Mark

Each team is end-to-end responsible for their efforts. – Mark

Scrum is about self-steering teams, which means responsibility. You need to be even more involved. – Mark

[00:21:25]    Marketing Mix and Max Verstappen

We were able to see where Max works within the marketing mix, and where he doesn’t. It didn’t work as well in the bottom or the middle of the funnel as it did in the upper funnel. – Mark

It was difficult to make Max Verstappen relevant for the business that we are in. – Mark

Everyone was really proud to have Max within the team. Also with the employee branding it helped a lot. – Mark

Max really helped with us getting the right people in. We were struggling with that before. – Mark

[00:24:20]    Diversity

Diversity is something we pay a lot of attention to.

[00:25:05]    Learning moments of Mark

We really try to get traction internationally and we learned that every country has its own story.

[00:27:45]    Creating the right company culture

I really believe that things start at the top. Looking at the teams that I’m responsible for, I need to create an environment where they feel – let’s say –  encouraged to fail. – Mark

I always create room for people to experiment and fail, because that is the only way to learn. Even if you see that things are going wrong, let it happen. That’s to learn. – Mark

[00:30:00]    Importance of freelancers

We have freelancers in our company, but for very specific areas. But I first want ourselves to have an understanding of our problem and how to solve it. – Mark

[00:32:00]    Advice for 21-year old Mark

Be patient and believe in yourself. Do the things that you believe should be done. – Mark

I see myself in the youngsters in our company. We see and recognize their talent, so be confident that you will be able to leverage that talent. And we will give you that opportunity. – Mark

[00:33:40]    New way of managing

I give them a lot of freedom, but also a lot of responsibility. And I really try to make them understand what responsibility is about. – Mark

[00:34:50]    Keeping up your knowledge

[00:36:00]    Use of social media

The good thing about social is, if you don’t want to follow me, you unfollow me. – Mark

[00:37:08]    Outro

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