Hello, I'm Kerry Guard and welcome to Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.
Welcome back to season nine. I hope you've enjoyed my conversation with Joshua Kanter, Tracy Hansen and Delitha Morrow Coles. As a reminder, we drop our full season of episodes Netflix style, so you can binge or jump around, either way, no need to wait week after week. Enjoy listening your way. If you haven't caught those episodes, be sure to go check them out. They're amazing, amazing conversations with amazing people.
In this episode, I chat with Diana Morante, a marketing director at Ricoh where she works in the education department helping schools get the necessary STEAM equipment to keep students on the cutting edge. I loved this conversation because I got to nerd out super hard on STEAM and education, which I'm super passionate about. And so is Diana, so the two of us just dig deep into what this means for the future of our next generation and how it's going to impact our kids and what she's doing that's going to make a direct impact on that especially in Latin America and what she's doing. It was such an honor to have Diana and I can't wait to share this conversation with you. So let's get going. Take a listen.
Kerry Guard: Hello, Diana, thank you for joining me on Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.
Diana Morante: Hello, Kerry, thanks for the invitation.
Kerry Guard: I'm so excited to have you Diana. Before we jump in, why don't you tell our listeners what you do and how you got there?
Diana Morante: Oh, okay, well, I'm responsible for Ricoh's marketing, communications, corporate marketing strategy and digital efforts for Ricoh, Latin America. In my role as Head of Marketing, I drive company messaging, positioning and brand strategy marketing campaigns, and sales and set incentive programs. And before that, I was hired in Puerto Rico, where previously I worked for other high tech companies in digital product marketing management roles at HP, lmplayer.com, Nortel and set group.
Kerry Guard: Quite the resume you have over there, Diana. How cool that not only do you work for these tech companies, but that you're able to do it from all over the world. So cool.
Diana Morante: Thank you, Kerry. I love technology. So from the beginning, when I started working in Puerto Rico, as a marketing assistant at HP, it was very interesting and a great experience. So I move forward and decide to continue developing my career in high tech.
Kerry Guard: That's so great. Before we get into the heart of our conversation, which lends itself to technology and innovation, I do want to know, because I feel like marketing is such a huge world now. And I feel like we all have our own thing that we love about it that gets us up in the morning. What's yours? What's the thing about marketing that makes you feel so inspired to keep going and to get up and to feel inspired every day?
Diana Morante: I think you'll see marketing as a tool to collaborate with great teams across different areas, human resources, IT, customer service, in order to provide customer engagement and provide solutions to solve social problems or improve the quality of life of people. I think this is a great motivation to continue working in marketing.
Kerry Guard: People, yes, I totally feel that too. I think just the collaboration piece of marketing and being able to partner with so many different pieces within a marketing organization, and it's just, yes, people, so great. In terms of, one of the things you mentioned in both your story, and your love for marketing, you talk a lot about innovation. And that is so inspiring for you. And considering the tech companies you worked for that makes a ton of sense. But can you, in your own words, because I feel like we all have sort of our own nuance of what these things mean, not just in the world, and by definition, but what they mean to us. And so, can you just describe what innovation means to you?
Diana Morante: It's a great question, Kerry. We are turning to innovation and a focus on customer experience to cope with the challenge of adapting to new audiences. Spending more time online. At Ricoh, we have developed a program called a CX program or customer experience. We know that the customer experience is everything so we focus on our customers and inspire them while supporting their productivity. And we are committed to continuously improve their experience. And for us, it's all about discovering which channels work best for different end stages of the customer journey, such as websites, influencers, and social play leading roles. Customer communities are more prized for customer retention and advocacy. And keeping up with the Bharati and finding cooperation between channels is key to evolve our marketing and innovation.
Kerry Guard: Oh my gosh, that has so many components to it. I'd love to break that down if that's okay with you, Diana, and just dig into some of those moments.
Diana Morante: Sure.
Kerry Guard: Yeah. Okay, so let's start with the first part. Can you repeat just the first thing in terms of what innovation means to you?
Diana Morante: Okay, innovation for me. First, is focusing on customer experience, to call the current challenges of adapting marketing to these new realities.
Kerry Guard: New reality, tell me more about what you mean by new reality.
Diana Morante: Right now, after COVID, as you know, the company's across the war in Latin America. Of course, with this change, we can provide, in our case, more solutions to improve the digital transformation and improve the customer experience.
Kerry Guard: So what happened in terms of COVID in Latin America? Is technology now booming, and everybody needs it? Or is it hard to get a hold of? What sort of been your experience in terms of what's happening with trying to get your messaging out to the people not in America for Ricoh?
Diana Morante: It’s a great question, Kerry. We accelerate at least five years. So in education, we have hospitals, we have a lot of challenges in terms of technology, to support, for example, the students at home in a classroom. So we accelerated for five years, and previously to COVID, our situation was in a preliminary stage of digital transformation. So the majority of companies use technology, just for basics, for example just hardware and software, but for other things like a 3D printer or artificial intelligence. So right now, the companies are requesting services. And of course, in our company, our goal also in the market is to provide an accelerated help to accelerate these digital transformations to our customers and with different solutions, as I mentioned before across industries, especially to solve social issues. And, for example, education, as I mentioned before, needs a lot of help and support with these new technologies.
Kerry Guard: Oh, my gosh. Five years, that’s crazy. Is that, in terms of the acceleration, is that the tech, is that the consumers or the companies in Latin America catching up to the technology? Or is that the acceleration of Ricoh accelerating their technology to catch up to Latin America and their needs?
Diana Morante: We are in the process of catching up. And so at this moment, I can say when we need to do it, we have a lot of work in terms of these market needs. But we are in the first stage, as I mentioned before, oh, we have a lot of work.
Kerry Guard: That's not a bad, not a bad problem to have for sure. It's the marketing dream, too much work.
Diana Morante: Yes.
Kerry Guard: Okay, all right, let's go back to your answer on innovation. So in terms of what it means to you, the first part was very much the acceleration and the new reality, what's the second part that of what innovation means to you.
Diana Morante: The second part is more related to a rule for some marketers, and especially in my role, marketing communication, the challenge now is to drive more digital campaigns, more efforts, very connected with channels, as I mentioned, a web shot, social media, etc. We are driving efforts to connect everything to provide a better customer experience. For example, we are working closely with our IT leaders in Ricoh, to collaborate with different technologies, identify different technologies as our CRM, analysts, and other market technologies to connect the information from the customer, and in order to have a 360 view of these customer behaviors and needs.
Kerry Guard: It’s a web isn't it? Trying to set up all this tech to really be able to speak to your customers across so many different channels. It's just, it feels to me just like this endless web of connectivity.
Diana Morante: Right.
Kerry Guard: It's definitely a challenge for sure that I know you're not the only one facing when we're trying to figure out how to talk to not only new prospects, but to your point existing customers and continuing to support them that way. I think it's becoming so important to actually have so many conversations to share around. How do you talk to your existing customers? And how do you keep them engaged? Because before it felt like we were all after, like new prospects, new prospects, new prospects were like, wait a second, we have existing clients who need more from us, and how do we support them? So I'm definitely feeling the shift in the universe towards that direction. And this balance between new prospects and existing for sure.
Diana Morante: Right, I agree with you.
Kerry Guard: Alright, let's talk. There was a third component, I believe, to what innovation means to you.
Diana Morante: Well, the third component is more related to our corporate mission. For example, everything related to the SDGs, supporting SDGs in diversity and inclusion, and innovation are sub parts of technology to support all our customers and also working with other departments to collaborate for example, a human resources to collaborate with initiatives inside the organization. Because we are always in marketing, talking about innovation and about helping customers, but it is also very important to connect with employees. So a base in looking into the mission of the company is very important. So the idea is also for us in marketing, is not just to connect with the external customer, but the internal customer to communicate our vision, our value proposition, and also support the Sustainable Development Goals. Another key principle that are the basics of our foundation, for our purpose.
Kerry Guard: Oh, my gosh, I heard so many key elements in there that I think are so key to what's happening right now, especially in the way that we have to innovate. So let's talk about the HR piece. And the diversity and inclusion piece, which is definitely incredibly important, should be, in my opinion, very important to all companies, especially right now. In terms of innovation and what Ricoh is doing, how would you say you've innovated from a marketing standpoint? How have you innovated in terms of connecting with HR? And moving that needle forward around diversity and inclusion?
Diana Morante: Great question. Let me think about it. I think that it is very important to be open to collaborate first. And to have these face to face conversation about the pain points that the company, company have with internal employees, etc, Diversity and Inclusion, challenges and statistics. So I think this is the first step to be open, to listen to the HR needs. And second, at least we are collaborating with human resources to develop customer interviews, internal and external surveys, to identify challenges, perceptions, opinions, and then to move forward with plans or campaigns to support these goals.
Kerry Guard: Oh my gosh, it's amazing how, I love how you think about innovation. ‘Cuz really, I'm starting to see a theme here. And really, what I'm hearing, what it sounds like, is that innovation to you is change. Like, it's amazing that you're thinking of innovation as of the moment in time where we have to stop and actually listen to one another and hear what's happening outside of our cultural differences to then be able to come together and move forward. And to put the word innovation on something that isn't new. Listening and communication isn't new, but the way we have to go about it is and I just so appreciate how you're thinking about this and how your company is going about it, especially with client interviews and internal interviews to hear how people are doing and how they're affected. In terms of what you've learned from that and the interviews that you have had, are there any key highlights that you felt like okay, based on the information we have, we can change this thing to go do better?
Diana Morante: Okay, internally, yes. Internally, I consider it continuous. Continuously working with all departments to communicate, over communicate with campaigns, with email marketing, with live events. So after we define something to communicate, we continuously develop communication initiatives to support that. Externally, it is the same. Basically, externally, we also support sales teams based on business plans and customer needs. But listening to the market, listening to the sales teams, is key to supporting the customer, supporting the customer needs. So, not sure if I responded to your question correctly.
Kerry Guard: Yeah, it’s the idea that we need to over communicate now, like, it's just very true, I find that we're doing that with our company, I find that our, we're doing that with our clients, just the nurses need to especially being remote and what you call our new reality after COVID? Like there just is this need to very much over communicate in a very virtual world now. Even when you don't have the answer, just let people know you don't have the answer. And you're working on it when they can expect it. Things as simple as that is such a change from what we've been taught for so long. I love that. In terms of all this change in innovation, and what's happening right now and what it means to you, how does technology play a role? I mean, we mentioned channels, you mentioned CRM and some connectivity there. Is that really what it is in terms of getting the right systems in place to make sure that all of that over communication is seamless? And fluid?
Diana Morante: Yes, I guess at this moment, technology's key. And also it is key to have a connection with people because I know some companies have great technologies, but the people don't use them. So it's very important to be aligned with leaders, with senior management, in order to use this technology better. And externally, for example, at Ricoh, we provide solutions to be utilized and to improve the employee experience. So we identify challenges in key segments, for example, I love to work in education, K 12, with kids. So when I first launched a product I call, STEAM. It was amazing to work for a company that helped to accelerate the use of technologies, emerging technologies with kids in American countries like Peru or Colombia or Brazil. So it's amazing to support people with technology.
Kerry Guard: And kids. So cool.
Diana Morante: Kids, yeah.
Kerry Guard: That's so cool. And so what, in terms of technology they're using, is it just making sure they have the internet that's working properly? And computers and software, like, what key technology are you providing to the students?
Diana Morante: Technology related to science, and technology is STEAM. And technologies that usually these kids don't have access to and provide skills for the future, you know, for 65% of roles and professions will not exist, right now, don’t exist. So these technologies use prototyping, 3D printing, and coding, as we already launched a solution called STEAM Laugh, which is an end to end solution for the school to help teachers to develop these skills in a student. An intelligent classroom that provides interactivity to the students connected to the laptop, to the interactive whiteboard, to the 3D printer. So as students have started developing these, those skills from the beginning from five years old, and it's a progressive skill that they finalize in K 12. With advanced skills in 3D print, for example.
Kerry Guard: Oh, that's so cool. I could nerd out on this all day, my mom said, my mom's a teacher. And now really, yeah, and now she works for Apple, where she goes into helping teachers figure out how to bring technologies every day. I love what she's doing. And it sounds like you're doing some, you know, from a marketing standpoint, you're doing something very similar and bringing this kind of technology to students. And I think it's so important. And I'm actually a little jealous, my kids are five, and they have, like, no wonder why they love going to school. She had this technology, I would have liked to go to school too.
Diana Morante: Oh, really? Great. Because there is a gap in digital adoption in some groups of professors and teachers. Also, you see a gap between the digital and the professor, the teacher. So we teachers, experts in STEAM, provide education to other teachers and teach how to use these technologies.
Kerry Guard: That's so important because as much as you can give the technology to people all day long, if they don't know how to use it to your point, you know, then they're not -
Diana Morante: Right, right.
Kerry Guard: Because we're both so ingrained in all of the education so much, for our listeners, can you just give us a quick lesson on what STEAM is as it relates to education and technology?
Diana Morante: What does STEAM mean?
Kerry Guard: Yeah, STEAM is an acronym, isn't it? For science?
Diana Morante: Yes. Yeah. Yes. And it means Science, Technology, and Engineering, then you have the A is Arts and Math. So when we combine those elements between one class, you can develop different skills, for example, creativity, communication, collaboration, teamwork. Those are skills not just for learning but skill for the future of the students.
Kerry Guard: Yeah, it actually used to be called STEM. They didn't have the “A” in there and I'm so thankful that they're bringing the “A” in because the arts do matter and technology plays such an important key in that, so yeah, yes. Music and gaming and dance and theater all of this has a technology aspect or is technology, so yes.
Diana Morante: That’s correct. Also Design for an architect and for engineers.
Kerry Guard: I went to school for photography, that's art. It’s STEAM everybody, not STEM, it is STEAM. That's amazing. So in terms of, one thing you mentioned was partnering with the sales team to support and make all this happen. What is your relationship with the sales team in, you know, marketing and sales and bringing this kind of tech to educators and hospitals and so on and so forth?
Diana Morante: Yeah, in B2B, which is software business, mainly, we collaborate from the beginning. For example, when we start developing the value proposition of a STEAM, we list down the pain points that a sales team suggests, and also we create messaging aligned to the stakeholders. In our case, for example, we work with IT directors, in education, academic directors, finance, etc. So we collaborate with our senior management and sales, the experts, for example, in a location to develop the value proposition. And in our case, right now, after COVID, we accelerate everything. So, for example, we have meetings with the Sales Vice President, sales director, in order to define the key goals that we have as a business, and then move forward with digital campaigns to support those business goals, basically.
Kerry Guard: Again, it comes back to that communication and over communicating and the fact that you're doing that so effectively internally, with all the departments within your organization and bringing marketing, you know, making marketing a key pillar within what everyone is doing. And helping them connect all that communication, I think, is just, it is innovation. And it's glorious. And I'm so thankful to have had you today and reminding us about what we do as marketers, we communicate, and we come up with innovations to help us do that.
Diana Morante: Yeah, to capture the key elements. Great. So yes, it's very important, data is very important. Because right now, I think, as you mentioned before, is the best moment to work in marketing because we have artificial intelligence, other technologies that can provide more information, to create great things and to be creative with marketing.
Kerry Guard: Okay, my last question, I promise. Well, maybe I don't promise because you make me have so many questions. Okay, in terms of AI, and I know this probably could allow us to go on for 15 minutes which I don't want to do, but I do want to, you know, I don't hear a lot of marketers talk about how they're using AI and it feels like it's very important to what you all are doing so how are you using Artificial Intelligence in your marketing efforts?
Diana Morante: Okay. We are at the beginning of conversations with IT leaders inside the organization to connect our CRM platform with artificial intelligence features. Right now we don't use it as part of the marketing initiatives, but it's in the future plans to connect artificial intelligence as part of the journey, the customer journey, analysis and view. Right now for example, we were talking with IT leader in Latin America to a connect a Microsoft, artificial intelligence to our Dynamics, Microsoft Dynamics and connect with other features, for example, to see, to have customer view, or information about a customer that is using our web based social media, always shot, etc. So the idea or the future plan is to connect these artificial intelligent features to our CRM and marketing activity.
Externally, we already develop solutions and digital solutions, for example, to hospitals, with Watson, to provide analysis and support the hospital with solutions to better respond to the patient experience. But that is a solution marketing approach. Basically, we are working on that right now.
Kerry Guard: That's so cool. We had somebody on our podcast earlier this year, last year. Oh my gosh, the years are running together for me. Christopher Penn works on AI. He has an amazing podcast called Marketing Over Coffee. So if you want to check that out as you guys continue to figure out how okay AI looks like for you, you know, cuz he hooks everything up to Microsoft Dynamics as well. And so he's just got a ton of information. He's got a great newsletter that I subscribe to. He's awesome. So definitely -
Diana Morante: That's great. Thank you for the tip.
Kerry Guard: Yes, yes. And happy to make an introduction as you wire all of this.
Diana Morante: Oh, that's great. Thank you so much.
Kerry Guard: Thanks, Diana, this was so great. Thank you so much for joining me. Before we close, I do have my people-first questions. We talk so much about the importance of people and human connection. I mean, that is what this whole conversation has been about. And so what better way to pull back the curtain and remind people that you are also human and a person and more than a marketer. So are you ready for my questions?
Diana Morante: Yes.
Kerry Guard: First question is, have you picked up any new hobbies this year?
Diana Morante: A new hobby, yes.
Kerry Guard: What was it?
Diana Morante: Running.
Kerry Guard: Running?
Kerry Guard: That's awesome. I'm not a runner. But I so appreciate those who are and who have picked it up given the pandemic and figured ride.
Diana Morante: It was great to see the trees, the people. So it was great during the pandemic, for me it was good to have a different hobby because it was difficult here in Florida. That situation is similar to other countries, and not expensive.
Kerry Guard: I love it. I love it. Alright, the second question for you is if you already are back at the office with your team, or maybe you work remotely and that's fine. But imagine if you were in person with your team, walking the floor, going desk to desk seeing your people? What song would you want playing overhead to set the vibe?
Diana Morante: What song? Maybe, I'm not sure. Maybe something related to teamwork. We Are The Champions, for example.
Kerry Guard: I love it. You can't go wrong with Queen. You just can't. You can't. We could just create a whole Queen playlist and have that blasted.
Diana Morante: Yes, yes. Totally agree. Absolutely.
Kerry Guard: All right. Last question for you, Diana. When the world opens up, and we're allowed to leave the United States and travel to anywhere in the world, where would you want to go and why?
Diana Morante: This is a great question. I love Madrid. Seeing the food, people is great. I say Madrid is a good city or country to go, Europe.
Kerry Guard: Europe. Yes. Right. I haven't been to Madrid. But I have been to Barcelona.
Diana Morante: So that's great.
Kerry Guard: So gorgeous. Especially the beaches and you know, get to the coast. Right outside of Barcelona was beautiful, just beautiful.
Diana Morante: Which is wonderful.
Kerry Guard: Diana, thank you. Yes, thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your story. And I just really loved having you.
Diana Morante: Thank you, Kerry. I appreciate the invitation and I enjoy the conversation. You are a great host.
Kerry Guard: Thank you. Thank you very much.
That was my conversation with Diana, thinking about my own children's education that they get to have with all this amazing technology makes me so excited for them. So thank you, Diana, for all you do and getting the right tech into the right hands of all of these children. Just amazing, amazing work.
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of season nine of Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders. In the final episode of season nine, I talk to the energetic, brilliant Genefa Murphy. We switch spots in the world. She's on the West Coast of the United States and I'm closer to the UK so don't get our accents confused. Jennifer and her lovely British accent and I dig into her fire framework. Want to know what that means? While you're going to need to keep on listening.
Thank you again for listening to the Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders, the podcast that helps brands get found via transparent, measurable digital marketing. I'm your host, Kerry Guard, and until next time.
This episode is brought to you by MKG Marketing the digital marketing agency that helps complex tech companies like cybersecurity, grow their businesses and fuel their mission through SEO, digital ads, and analytics.
If you'd like to be a guest please visit mkgmarketinginc.com to apply.
Diana Morante, is the Marketing Director at Richo, where she works in the education department helping schools get the necessary STEAM equipment to keep their students on the cutting edge.