Yaffa Cohen-Ifrah was kind enough to talk to us from Holon, Israel, location of Sapiens International Corporation headquarters.
Yaffa Cohen-Ifrah speaks with a great deal of excitement and I can hear her smile as she talks about marketing. She has a background as a financial analyst and head of investor relations. Yaffa has been growing Sapiens and the marketing team for the past four years.
In our interview she talks about her approach to marketing planning and navigating complex global marketing campaigns. The following is Yaffa Cohen-Ifrah in her own words.
What does planning mean to you in the context of marketing?
I have five important principles while planning. Our plans must be:
- Clear: Plans should be easy to understand and should detail the exact tasks to be performed.
- Quantifiable: Performance must be monitored and tracked via marketing automation, analytics, and etc.
- Focused and Realistic: Plans must be achievable.
- Detailed: We outline exactly which programs and activities will carry over year-to-year.
- Adjustable: Sapiens is servicing a dynamic marketplace that is heavily regulated. We must be able to adjust quickly, when necessary.
I start planning periods by closely considering our company’s overall strategy and goals, then I craft a marketing plan that will support reaching those goals and then execute on the strategy. Sapiens is an established company that is looking to continue its growth, so Marketing is looking to increase lead generation and the strength of our brand.
Our dynamic plans guide the campaigns occurring throughout the year for all our product lines and territories. An important part of my responsibility is monitoring the execution of our plans.
How did you learn or develop your planning skills?
I started my career in financial planning and control. I’ve worked at various companies, for example, as a senior financial analyst for Victoria’s Secret, then as Investment Relations Officer in global Israeli companies, and Head of Investor Relations at Partner Communications before becoming global CMO for Sapiens, where I’ve been for four years.
Finance is an industry that attracts personalities who enjoy thinking ahead. Planning was a key success factor from the earliest stages of my career and I was surrounded by people who were good at it and appreciated its tremendous value for organizations.
Typically, I have a few key strategies that I live my day-to-day life by:
- Target Dates: I plan my time and tasks, and set “target dates.” I don’t like the term “deadline,” it seems to increase the pressure on everyone.
- To-do Lists: I meticulously update my to-do lists by maintaining a daily list and weekly lists, as well.
- Prioritization: I carefully set priorities and make sure that I am spending my time on the most value-rich tasks.
Is it difficult being a global company that markets localized solutions?
The main challenge at Sapiens is that we are a global company offering solutions and services to different verticals within the insurance space (life insurance, property and casualty, financial and compliance, etc.). So the challenges that I need to look at revolve around having different products and different territories, and how to market products in a way that is region-specific and compelling.
So when preparing marketing material, we need to create specific content for different territories. And we need to pay close attention to details. The same type of insurance has different terminology depending on where you are, for example, it’s called “property and casualty” in the U.S., “general insurance” in the UK, “non-life” in Europe and “short-term insurance” in South Africa.
Certain campaigns will work well for us in some territories, but perform poorly in others. A good understanding of the territory makes a big difference. One of our strengths at Sapiens is having local sales, business development and account management teams that deeply understand the markets. When we create campaigns, we work very closely with the local teams.
The matrix is quite complex because marketing has to possess an overall view of territories, products and corporate goals. This is always my starting point and then I start breaking it down into core components: demand generation, sales enablement and customer engagement.
And then my team and I answer, “How do we do this for each territory and product?”
It is necessary to consider many metrics. For example, I have a digital specialist who is responsible for all online activity worldwide. Sapiens also possesses a strategic marketing team that helps develop content for all territories.
None of the territories were large enough to justify a local marketing team. For example, when we recruited someone who specializes in Marketo marketing automation and he’s running campaigns, it doesn’t matter where he is located, because he is servicing at a global level.
When I joined Sapiens there were two people in the Marketing department and we now have eight members, so the marketing function is also growing. It’s an evolutionary process. In the past, we were primarily focusing on trade shows. Now, it’s much more.
We do see challenges in content development because of territorial differences, but for functions like social media, you don’t need a localized person. It now makes sense to have a local team in the US. We recently acquired an American company called StoneRiver and we now possess a US-based marketing team.
Tell me your approach to planning, and how you connect planning to corporate goals?
Typically it is top-down. First I understand the company goals. And I build a plan that will support those goals. I look at the foundation for the next year. You have four building blocks when putting together a marketing plan: brand awareness, lead generation, customer engagement, and sales enablement.
Then I need to figure out the plan for each territory. For example, Sapiens made a decision to focus on North America. We had to invest in brand awareness because our name was not as well-known in North America as it is in other territories (such as the UK). And we had to invest in lead generation to build a strong pipeline for the sales team.
Brand awareness was one of our goals in 2016, which translated into trade shows, media relations, working with industry analysts and hosted events.
So for planning, I put together the foundation to improve promotion and awareness. The lead generation and customer engagement at this stage is high priority, because you are penetrating a new market. Sales enablement is also a critical piece, because a critical task for marketing is positioning the Sales teams to succeed as much as possible.
There are campaigns that are across the board. For example, if we launch a new version of our product, we plan dedicated campaigns for each territory until it becomes global.
Likewise, thought-leadership campaigns are comprised of activities that span across geographies and products reaching a global level.
How do you translate revenue goals into lead generation goals by product and geographies?
My marketing management team has goals that can be measured. I believe in measuring everything, since I came from finance. We can measure leads and analyze what happened to each lead we generated with our marketing activities.
We do monthly reporting analyzing leads generated from each campaign and set goals for growing leads by a certain percent.
Marketing has measurement challenges. For example, one campaign can generate 100 leads, but those leads interact with other channels. There’s always discussion between sales and marketing, or the telemarketing team, around who was responsible for the lead generation.
But if the marketing team understands they are being measured on a consistent basis, they will be motivated to succeed. I am fortunate to have an excellent marketing team that exceeds my expectations in terms of their innovation and professionalism.