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Interview with the Alumio Head of Marketing, Koen de Vrij

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Carla Hetherington
Publicerad den
November 23, 2023

What was your first job?

My first job was as a delivery boy. I started my mornings bright and early by delivering roughly 150 newspapers every day before school. A few years later, I began working at a bike shop, first as a mechanic and then as a salesperson. I was 22 and fresh from university when I got my first career-oriented job. This time, it was as a marketing manager for an agency in Amsterdam.

What sparked your interest in the field of marketing?

Back then, marketing was utterly different from now, mainly because of the lack of social media. In those days, marketing was all about communicating with the end-user. The psychology behind it, specifically the data-driven behavioral part of marketing, has always intrigued me. There wasn’t any technology that could provide us with substantial or precise data that could predict customer trends, desires, and behaviors, so developing personalized marketing strategies to target the end-user was significantly more complex than it is nowadays. Still, attempting to understand customers from a psychological standpoint and being able to encapsulate these findings into data was, and remains, a fascinating process for me.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is witnessing people from my team develop and flourish both personally and professionally. I feel fulfilled when I see my team think outside the box and come up with refreshing ideas as they become confident in their roles and challenge the status quo. To achieve this, I always make it a point to create an environment where we can share ideas openly, and everyone can be their best creative self. Additionally, from a numbers perspective, being able to quantify our marketing efforts and seeing that we are making an impact and contributing to the overall success of our company is, of course, extremely rewarding.

What is the most important thing to consider when creating an effective marketing plan?

The critical aspect behind building an optimal marketing plan is to find that sweet spot between creativity and numbers in which the perfect marketing symmetry lies. After all, it’s all about balance. Leading a team of creative people is exciting but doesn’t come without challenges. Creativity, when used professionally, must be sharpened and narrowed down to suit a specific purpose and reach certain targets. For this reason, creativity needs to be encouraged but also managed and measured. At the end of the day, we are evaluated on the results we deliver as a team, so we must always keep that in mind. It’s a numbers game, whether we like it or not.

What do you think is the crucial aspect to bear in mind when putting together a successful marketing team?

I prioritize cultural diversity and open-mindedness. Our team has grown significantly in the past few months, with several new additions joining us. However, it’s vital to keep in mind those team members who are already there since you don’t want to create an imbalance in an otherwise perfectly functional team. As such, I always try to find assertive, creative individuals who will, hopefully, fit in with the rest of the team. Above all, this person needs to be open-minded, and it’s always nice to try and bring different backgrounds together to form a unified yet diverse and rich team.

What gets you out of bed every morning and drives you to succeed?

Our daily 8:45 meetings! Jokes aside, my driving force is the people I work with. My team inspires me to be the best version of myself each day. The days I go to the office are my favorite, even if it means waking up at the crack of dawn; collaborating face-to-face with my team makes it all worth it.

What are your thoughts on a remote or hybrid working model?

We will always need human contact or at least I always will. With that being said, working from home has advantages and can increase productivity since there are fewer distractions than at the office. To add to this, I am lucky enough to have a team of reliable people who don’t need micromanaging and can work independently. I know I can trust them to perform to the best of their abilities, even when we’re apart, and that makes all the difference. However, as a “people person,” I thrive on face-to-face communication. My ideal scenario would be to work closely with my team as much as possible, especially if we collaborate on tasks or brainstorm. I don’t think the ideas flow at the same rate through a screen as they do when we all get in a room together. When my team brainstorms, you can feel the creative energy floating around the room, it’s almost palpable, and it’s something you cannot perceive online, not for now, at least. For this reason, working face-to-face is and will most likely continue to be my preference, but maybe I’m just old school!

Marketing has often been branded as the unappreciated department in companies. Do you agree with this statement?

One hundred percent. I have worked in marketing for 23 years, and this stigma is still very much present. I believe marketing is always seen as a department that costs money and doesn’t deliver direct results like, say, the sales department. This is because it’s often hard to provide specific metrics and measurements of the financial impact of our different marketing activities and campaigns. However, with the developments in data, we can now measure and report on our performance more accurately, set defined KPIs, reach our targets, and prove why we are worth it. In a short period of time, we have accomplished great things as a team, and the other departments have never failed to show their appreciation and support.

As a Head of Marketing, what are your thoughts on implementing AI in Marketing?

It’s a development we can’t stop. However, if we’re talking about ChatGPT, arguably the most popular AI tool currently, is the quality up to par with content produced by experienced copywriters? Not yet, perhaps. But will this change over time? Sure it will. Sooner rather than later, the quality of AI-generated content will increase, and this, combined with the speed of production, will continue to be a game changer. We will fall behind if a company uses AI tools to produce a hundred articles a month and our content writers can only write ten in the same time period. As such, we must embrace this future which is already a normalized reality for younger generations. There’s no point in resisting it, but instead, we should focus our efforts on embracing it and benefitting from it as much as possible to try and optimize our content and resources.

What do you think the future looks like for Alumio? Where do you see Alumio in the next five years?

If we keep growing at the rate we have been growing, there is every indication that we will become a renowned integration platform on a global scale. Our team will keep expanding, and so will our customer base. Our product keeps improving each day as we strive to expand the limitations of what our solution can do, and our commitment to quality will lead to us becoming key players in the business. The demand for integration platforms like ours will only increase with time as more and more applications are developed, and we are ready for when that time comes.

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