Sonny Waheed, Head of Marketing Communictions at Tellabs, proves why he’s got an edge on other marketers in the sector.

About Tellabs

Tellabs’ innovations enable the mobile Internet and help our customers succeed. That’s why 43 of the top 50 global communications service providers choose our mobile, optical, business and services solutions. We help them get ahead by adding revenue, reducing expenses and optimizing networks.

About Sonny

Sonny has worked for a range of dynamic and fast changing organisation and is now Head of Marketing Communications for EMEA and AP at Tellabs where he specialises in integrated marketing communications. He has worked throughout Europe, the Americas and the Far East mainly in the B-2-B space, but he has significant consumer experience including the delivery of the UK’s largest Wi-Fi usage campaign and programmes in conjunction with Universal Pictures, London Fashion Week, Lastminute.com, the BBC and Microsoft.

Sandra Malone, Director of Marketing for Marketingmoves, interviewed Sonny:

SM: Hi Sonny, thanks for agreeing to speak to us.  Tell us a bit about yourself.

SW: Hi Sandy. Well, I absolutely love the creative arts, but have no talent in that area! I have a passion for travel and I’ve been lucky to be able to combine that with my career. I suppose it’s fair to say that I’m outgoing and fairly easily pleased. A great meal and an outstanding bottle of wine can make me very happy.

SM: What’s your view on marketing budgets these days? We are finding that our clients expect the marketing staff to have a real grasp of the financials, along with their key marketing skills.

SW: Budgets are the bain of my life! It’s important to control and allocate the budget; keeping in mind the budget can manipulate the drivers for growth. Marketers are generally creative thinkers and see things in words and images, so as a ‘group’, we can’t be expected to be accountants. Marketing people should acknowledge their limitations and focus on their strengths, but of course, they should be numerate literate. It’s folly to expect a marketer to perform the duties of an accountant. I’m lucky because I work with a great finance team here at Tellabs.

SM: Can you see some new trends occurring with marketing in the sector?

SW: An absolute, rather than a trend, is the expectation that the right metrics have to be in place to measure the value of your spend. Times are tough and most of the industry has to fight to get investment for marketing. We can spend a great deal of time justifying the marketing budget and convincing internal colleagues of the value of the marketing spend. It’s interesting that every business book out there says that it’s more important than ever to get your message out when times are tough, yet the marketing budget is usually the first thing to get cut when the financials are looking less than rosy.

SM: Sonny, how do you make the most of the marketing spend you do have?

SW: Focus is key; addressing the areas where marketing will really help deliver revenue this year and build profitable revenue opportunities in future years. We operate in over 100 countries, but I don’t have the resources to undertake a marketing campaign in each of those territories. So I look at the markets where my team’s activity will really make a difference and focus there.

We review a range of elements, such as our company’s objectives, our market presence, overall business opportunities, customer awareness, current relationships etc. and decide where our support will deliver the best results. This way we ensure we’re aligned with business and corporate objectives and minimise activity that doesn’t support bottom line growth.

SM: Can you tell me what makes a great marketer?

SW: I think I look at what ‘great’ is differently than most other Marketing Director’s. If I’m recruiting, I look for people who are ‘better’ than I am and who are able to work outside their core competencies. I look for people with real team spirit, drive, ambition and ability to interact and engage with people. Their CV is almost irrelevant, believe it or not. In fact, and unlike many people in my position, I actively try and hire people outside of the industry as this brings a new perspective and energy to the team.

SM: Okay, great! Final question: What can you see in your 2012 Crystal Ball?

SW: Caution! There is more evidence of uncertainty in the economy than there is of certainty. Our target audience is deeply affected by what’s happening with the Euro and the Tiger economies. I certainly see more consolidation with vendors (our competition) too.

 From a marketing perspective, the need to build lasting and engaging relationships with customers will see a stronger innovation in social media usage and a greater use of education as a marketing tool.

My tip for 2012 is for marketers to look outside their home base and sector and to be more flexible and open-minded. Do things differently with your budget and develop a set of new marketing tools to carry you through this year. In a time when most people are being cautious, it’s very easy to create valuable differentiation by doing things slightly differently.

SM: Sonny, many thanks for your time.

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