ABEJA, Inc. Kyoko Nagafuchi
Bigbeat LIVE Speaker Interview #6
ABEJA, Inc. Kyoko Nagafuchi.
There are many marketers in Japan who didn’t start off as marketers in their first job. But they somehow found their way into the marketing department and challenged themselves to learn about the world of marketing. Kyoko Nagafuchi is one of those people.
Know by her nickname, ‘Gyori’ now does the job of marketing, but her first job was in the sales department of an IT company. What process did Nagafuchi (Gyori) go through to become a marketer? What accomplishments has she made? What does she view as the important values for marketers? Our marketing director Muzuki Nogita was able to ask her these things during his interview with her.
From ‘Sales and Marketing’ to ‘Marketing’
Nogita (N): Gyori, could you tell me what things you have focused on in your past and are focusing on now?
Gyori (G): My previous company was Serverworks Co., Ltd. I worked in sales there for 5 years and then moved to the marketing department where I exclusively worked in marketing. After that I change jobs and entered ABEJA.
N: At first you didn’t want to be in marketing, but sales right?
G: That’s right. If we start from the beginning, I studied an information related major, and I even studied programming. But at the same time, to be a successful engineer, from when you wake up, you must study and write code all day long. And if you don’t have an overwhelming amount of skill you can’t be a good engineer. I thought I would never have that ability and that I could never be an engineer.
But I really enjoyed talking to people and I wanted to expand my personal network. So, decided that I wanted to be in sales.
N: Did you decide that you for sure wanted work in the IT world when you starting job hunting?
G: Yes. But I was a bad student and I didn’t take job hunting very seriously. I googled ‘new graduate recruitment, under 50 employees, late mornings, IT new graduate sales’ and Serverworks was the top result. (Laughs)
N: Really?! It was SEO job hunting. (Laughs). Alright so from there why did you go from sales to marketing?
G: I worked in sales for 5 years. But during that time, we didn’t have anyone in charge of marketing. But we had to have someone who would oversee events, our website, promotional activities, and any other thing that would be considered marketing. But we needed someone to oversee those activities, so I became the person to do this. Serverworks used to be a system integration company, but a few years right before I entered into the company, they started developing a cloud base system that was centered around AWS (Amazon Web Services). We sponsored a lot of AWS related events as a ‘cloud integrator.’
During that time the company grew and was more than twice the size it was when I originally entered. Things became incredibly busy. At first when it was sales and just a little marketing, I was able to do the job. But when the marketing work started to pick up and I had to do both, it became difficult. And I hated doing incomplete jobs. I went to the CEO and told him ‘Either hire someone to work in marketing so I can focus on sales or put me in a marketing only position.’ He said, ‘then you are in marketing’ and I said, ‘Ok.’
N: A very speedy transition.
In order to succeed, I relied on the other departments.
N: When your work exclusively became marketing, did it change?
G: I think there were a lot of fun parts and a lot more ‘momentum.’ At that time, I only reported to the executives and I was the marketing department. So, I had to push out ideas at a fast pace and act on them by myself.
But I have always gotten bored very easily, and even if it was a method that was succeeding, I would get bored of doing it. If something was succeeding, I would go to the other divisions and say, ‘this is already working, do want to take over?’ And I would pass along the successful methods to the other departments for them to continue it. There are parts of marketing that require mid to long term planning, so it’s not a story I am very proud of. (Laughs)
N: What were the successful methods?
G: At that time Serverworks had a lot of users but we didn’t have a regular and systematic support organization for them. We also only participated in AWS events and didn’t have our own events or seminars. So, I started planning regular seminars that were limited to existing users where we would give them updates on the products and company. They got a lot of praise. The other departments also helped with these. They are continuing with these now.
N: You were able to cooperate with the sales department and proceed things forward.
G: Yes, I was. While a standalone marketing department was established, I was still very close to those in the sales department. They probably thought of me as someone who just does whatever they want. (Laughs).
I did a lot of things this way. Because It was a was an easy way to produce results that showed success, it was also easy for the sales department to understand. Of course, plans that take a long time to produce results are important, but anytime I involved the sales department, it was easier to get them to go along with me if the results were quick.
I am currently challenging myself at ABEJA with product marketing.
N: Could you tell us why you decided to enter into ABEJA?
G: When I interviewed at Serverworks I declared that I would ‘quit after 3 years.’ But the work and company were too fun so I couldn’t bring myself to quit. But as the company grew it started to become like the old stock companies and I started think ‘oh no’ Whenever I went to consult someone they would say ‘if that’s what you think will work, then you should do it.’ Everyone started to agree with my every decision.
Nobody doubted me or tried to slow me down. I think it’s because I have a strong personality, so people were afraid to say anything. (Laughs). But I felt like that was a good situation for both me and the company.
N: So, you then got a job at ABEJA. What did you search on the internet to get there?
G: I had gained a lot of experience in the cloud industry. So, I wanted to try working at a company that focuses on a different technology. So, I searched ‘AI, Blockchain, VR, Mid-level recruitment.’ (Laughs). In those fields however, AI has the most applications and people are not entirely sure what it will develop into. That really interests me. So, I narrowed on AI when I was looking for my job. I chose ABEJA.
N: What made you chose them?
G: At that same time, ABEJA Platform was released and I was asked ‘let’s do this together.’ It wasn’t marketing the business or a service, it was product marketing. I didn’t have any experience in that area, and I wanted to take on the challenge.
But I had actually received an offer from a large company at the same time and I struggled with the decision. I consulted the CEO of Serverworks, Mr. Ooishi. I asked him, ‘which company do this is better?’
G: If I think about it now, it was bold of me. But I had become very close with Mr. Ooishi. He told me ‘Big companies are going to keep increasingly their number of female employees and there will always be work there. You may have a family in the future and the benefits are good for that. But you will always be able to find job at one. But you should take the challenge while you are still able to. You can’t know how it will turn out, but you should enter the company that now is the only chance to enter. That is definitely the more interesting and fulfilling choice.’
I decided on ABEJA and I understand what Mr. Ooishi had told me. I started at ABEJA in September of 2017. It has only barely been a year a half, but there have already been so many changes. I really appreciate what Mr. Ooishi did for me.
N: Take the challenge while you can. I really like that. What kind of work are you doing at ABEJA?
G: To be honest, there are is a lot of event related work. I realized I never had substantial experience in product marketing. We are talking about forming partnerships and the website for ABEJA Platform. But the real work is from here on out.
Let’s see… I look at channels now and I also research the marketplace. I also go and talk with customers after they implement our product to get their feedback.
We are also thinking about starting to do customer success marketing. If you breakdown ABEJA, along with ABEJA Platform we also have solutions made for retailers, but the target is completely different. The story is also complete different. We are sharing things that are generally successful and we are working on creating the stand-alone story for ABEJA Platform. I hope you are excitedly waiting. (Laughs).
It is important to ‘put yourself in the shoes of the user’ and to ‘kill two birds with one stone’
N: What are you talented at in your job as a marketer? And what things do find important?
G: That’s a difficult question. Well I think one thing I’m good at is when we have to think of our next action, I am good at thinking of plans that kill two birds with one stone. I probably just want to avoid the trouble of doing two things, but I don’t want to do one thing to respond to just one thing. I think of plans that can be used for multiple things. I seek out things that will kill two birds with one stone. Unfortunately, I am not good at conveying that to people in a logical way. (Laughs). That’s the challenge.
In response to your second question, there are a lot of important things in marketing. Like how you interact with the customer. The answer to this is you must use the product yourself.
Even if you do marketing or customer success, if you don’t understand the thing your company is selling, then you can only give an incomplete explanation. So, you have to talk with the engineers and use the product yourself. This makes it easier to talk to the engineers and it gives you the ability to convey to your sales team the good points of the product. I also give proposals on what they should do, but sometimes they respond with, ‘well that’s your opinion I guess’ and it ends there. (Laughs)
N: Put yourself in the shoes of the user. Could you tell us you next challenge and give a message to those who will attend Bigbeat LIVE?
G: The next challenge for me to improve my explanation skills and create reproducibility in my results. (Laughs). Another challenge is to support those who are trying to expand our business by continuing to research the marketplace, produce leads, and continue doing all the behind the scenes work. ABEJA is less of a unique company and more of a chaotic one. There are many employees who think of unexpected ideas and then follow through with them.
For my message, I want more marketers to go outside. For example, in your daily life you will meet people who say, ‘I’m an engineer.’ But you don’t often meet marketers by chance in your daily life. I think marketers are not always visible and I’m not going to the places I can meet them.
When I had suddenly been put in charge of marketing, I went and consulted with outside marketers and they taught me so much. I am truly grateful to them. There was a surprising amount of troubles that we had in common. And it’s fun and useful to go out. I hope I can meet you all at Bigbeat LIVE!
N: Thank you for today! There are a lot of things that we could continue to talk about but can’t make it into the article. You will need to wait for Gyori’s presentation at Bigbeat LIVE.