CATA’s new marketing VP steps up advocacy activity

From Bell to CITO, Joanne Stanley brings 27 years of marketing experience to the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance in her new role as the organization’s vice-president of marketing.

The move was a natural evolution, she

says, after working for a provincial organization. Most recently, she served as vice-president of marketing and communications for Communications and Information Technology Ontario (CITO) to foster public/private partnerships in ICT. Prior to that, she spent a large part of her career with Bell Canada, heading marketing efforts for its digital new media, broadband and Internet services.

Pipeline talked to Stanley about how she will bring her experience in building partnerships and developing brand strategies to CATA.

Pipeline: What is your role as vice-president of marketing at CATA?

Stanley: It encompasses membership recruitment, but also working with members and potential members in terms of connecting them and helping them create partnerships and be competitive. We’ve got a significant membership across the country, so a large part of my job is linking our members up so they can help each other. It is also to develop programs of value and content for members. We do advocacy work and that’s a significant part of CATA, but we also provide services and programs to help our members grow and be more competitive.

Specifically I am developing a small business program for SMEs (which will be launched this month) and that will include discount business services such as legal, accounting and marketing that many tech SMEs can’t have in-house. I’m launching in the new year a series of SME education seminars, the first one being on intellectual asset management (and there will also) be one on marketing and branding for tech companies.

I’m developing an advancing women in technology program — this is an interesting one because through my career I never really found a national organization that helped me as a woman in the technology business. We held a Springboard Workshop (in the fall) and it was hugely successful and 100 women came. There was an overwhelming response to the notion (that) we should be doing more of this, we should be helping each other. So I have a working group with Pricewaterhouse, Royal Bank, and we’re looking at rolling out a national progra. It’s going to be a combination of mentoring, training and education, so that’s another aspect of what I’m doing.

And the other (aspect) is I’m personally leading a vendor advocacy campaign. As the government goes through procurement reform, we are advocating and representing our members’ views, many of whom are small companies, many of whom will be affected quite dramatically by a change in procurement policy, so we are representing them with the government and taking their positions forward.

Pipeline: What are the challenges to marketing an organization as opposed to a company?

Stanley: I don’t think it’s much different because in a company you’re positioning and branding your company and promoting your products. In an organization, comparably, we need to position and brand CATA, which we’ve done under the umbrella of advancing the business of technology, and promoting our programs. Our customers are our members and we can win them or lose them just as quickly as you can win or lose the sale. So having done both now, I don’t see any difference from a marketing function — probably the difference would be that marketing an organization, such as an association, is to actually develop value-added programs.

Pipeline: Is Canada’s tech sector marketing itself well overall?

Stanley: We are still not seeing the kind of marketing effort that tech companies used to do — they’re probably only spending 20 to 25 per cent of what they were before the dip. There is a shift away from corporate branding — the marketing dollars and marketing function is being used primarily to support products and service selling, where marketing used to have a corporate positioning role. That corporate positioning has become product positioning and corporate is mixed with that. There’s no question that tactics such as trade shows, advertising, those budgets have all been slashed, so that’s the difference in technology marketing – the focus is on supporting sales and leveraging the product to tell the corporate story. I think we’re starting to see more hiring of vice-presidents of marketing — particularly the larger companies are realizing they need to bring back their marketing strategists — but the marketing budgets are still quite limited. There are some positive signals that we’re on the upswing but we’re still not out of the woods.

Pipeline: With so much consolidation and partnering in the tech industry, what makes an effective marketing strategy for a company?

Stanley: Certainly in an organization, strategic alliances and partnerships are critical to moving forward and broadening your reach and creating greater awareness. What I think is important from a marketing perspective is that you retain your brand equity and brand dominance — that’s in conflict where the effort is primarily on product marketing as opposed to corporate marketing. I think that probably you’re going to have to find a mix. One of the things CATA is doing in terms of moving forward from a business and marketing perspective is we are creating an umbrella organization for cluster and niche technology groups, so where technology had initially focused on just ICT, technology is much more pervasive now — it’s aerospace, it’s health and medical, ISPs and finance and legal. So CATA is becoming a more global association for the technology sector and is encompassing a number of these smaller associations — we are broadening our reach and our vision into the technology community.

Comment: pipeline@itbusiness.ca

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