In this interview, Gabriel Wong talks about his own entrepreneurial journey, how he sees the martech landscape change in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and what impact iOS 14 would have on the marketing efforts of SMEs.

“CMOs need to be privy to trends such as adopting the mental health narrative, adapting messages to fit the home working trend, keeping abreast of the future of e-commerce and the shifts on that front, understanding the green economy and how to fit that into branding, leveraging a strong brand purpose to shape narratives, and of course, understanding the importance of data privacy to consumers,” says Gabriel Wong, CMO at LeapVista, in this exclusive interview with MartechAsia.

LeapVista is an edutech firm that provides digital marketing curriculum, one-on-one mentorship, and networking opportunities. To date, the company has empowered over 5,700 learners with skills in dropshipping, Amazon selling, digital marketing, and virtual sales and achieved 12 times increase in revenue growth from 2019 to 2020.

In this interview, Wong talks about his own entrepreneurial journey, how he was inspired by Robert Kiyosaki’s ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ when he was 16, how he sees the martech landscape change in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and what impact iOS 14 would have on the marketing efforts of SMEs.

Gabriel Wong, CMO, LeapVista

Tell us about yourself. What is your current role and what is a typical day like for you?

As Chief Marketing Officer of LeapVista, I oversee the company’s overall marketing function which includes communications, digital marketing strategy and shaping LeapVista’s brand vision.

Outside of LeapVista, I run my own digital marketing agency, Ascend Marketing, and also run my own YouTube Channel, where I create new videos weekly to share insights on digital marketing strategies as well as interview experts. During these discussions, I hold in-depth conversations with entrepreneurs and fellow industry experts as they share their insights on digital marketing, and how businesses can build their brand online.

A typical day for me starts by waking up between 5 to 6am daily to do my morning workout. I tend to practice fasting and will skip breakfast as it helps me stay productive in the morning. After my workout, I will sometimes meditate before doing some reading.

I enjoy reading all things related to personal development, marketing and investing. I’m currently reading “The Awakened Family: A Revolution in Parenting” by Shefali Tsabary because I recently became a father, and I’m also reading “The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies” by Chet Holmes as well. In the past, I’ve enjoyed reading books such as “Extreme Ownership” and “Discipline Equals Freedom” by Jocko Willink, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss, and “Profit First Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine” by Mike Michalowicz.

After my morning routine, I will be at my desk by 7 or 8am to prepare for the day ahead – clearing out tasks that are important, but not urgent for the day. Between 10am and 6pm, I am full steam ahead and my daily work routine includes attending meetings, setting the direction for the marketing team to follow, reviewing data and numbers as well as optimising the marketing side of business.

Personally, I try my best to stop working by 6pm, so that I can spend time with my family until 10pm, which is when I head to sleep. In this new normal of work-from-home arrangements, it is important to set boundaries to avoid fatigue and strike a balance between family and work.

Before becoming a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Marketing educator, you started your journey of entrepreneurship at 16. How did this journey start?

Although I have found success in the education industry now, ironically, I wasn’t academically strong as a young student. However, I always knew from a very young age that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and run my own business.

The catalyst for this was reading Robert Kiyosaki’s ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ when I was 16, which was so inspirational that I attended a workshop conducted by the man himself – which was the final push I needed to make my entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

I decided to start by tapping on a hobby I had at that time – magic, and turning my passion into a profession. I set up a blog shop selling magic tricks and items, and I leveraged my ability to perform magic to sell that as a service at events.

This was where I started learning how to market my products and services online. The business did well, but I wanted to move on to bigger things. Because my life had been transformed by alternate education, I eventually decided to make a mark in this industry by starting my own digital marketing agency and joining LeapVista.

How do you see the pandemic impacting the ecosystem of marketing and sales in Southeast Asia?

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of eCommerce as lockdown measures have brought about a shift in consumer behaviour as convenience and technology have relegated the traditional experiences to the sidelines. New realities have created unprecedented transformative forces in business and commerce, and consumers are no longer dependent on in-store retail services. Hence, brands need to develop a robust omnichannel strategy to attract consumers.

This has resulted in a massive opportunity for marketers to push out ads on social media, such as Facebook Ads and YouTube ads, as they are way more affordable compared to traditional advertising. Now is also a good time to build your social media brand, leveraging tools like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok to connect with your customers at large.

Many of the changes brought about by COVID-19 will endure beyond the pandemic– online e-commerce and social media platforms will only continue to grow. The time is now for marketers, business development teams, entrepreneurs and freelancers to act. If they embrace digital marketing now, they would be able to close revenue gaps brought about by decreased offline purchases.

Here at LeapVista, we help our clients pivot accordingly in the post-pandemic environment, with our variety of digital marketing, virtual sales and eCommerce programmes. We remain committed to offering universal access to business education so that everyone has access to lifelong learning opportunities, and are able to upskill themselves and transform their lives.

What are the top trends in MarTech/Digital Marketing that you would like to highlight?

As mentioned earlier, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new normal where working from home arrangements have become the default. As such, a significant percentage of the population globally have been restricted to the confines of their own homes. This has caused a surge in traffic on online activities across all social media platforms.

Despite that, the pandemic has driven down social media advertising rates and has led to a decline in engagements with campaigns as many companies and enterprises have cut their marketing and advertising budgets due to uncertainties in the market. As a result, there are now lower costs involved for social media advertising inventory due to a decrease in demand.            

However, this also means that the opportunity is ripe for companies to capitalise on this, and learn how to conduct social media advertising due to lower barriers of entry and have the potential to emerge as a new market leader in their respective industries. For example, Shopee launched a series of advertising campaigns during the pandemic which has allowed them to leapfrog other competitors to become a market leader in its own right.

What impact iOS 14 is having on SMEs, and how SMEs can pivot and stay ahead in the face of drastic changes to the world of digital marketing brought about by iOS 14?

Digital marketing – part of which includes mobile advertising, is essential for the survival and growth of SMEs in the economy today, with an ever-increasing amount of people making their purchases or conducting activities online.

Mobile advertising currently relies on the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to track users across apps and services to tie ad impressions to installs and revenue. In iOS14, IDFA will become opt-out by default. Apps will need to gain explicit consent from users to allow them to be tracked and attributed and this would mean that social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and other websites on the Google Display Network would not have access to as much data as they used to. Essentially, what the new update means for businesses are reduced sales. Facebook estimates that the average small business advertiser stands to lose more than 60% of their sales for every dollar spent on advertising.

However, this is not the end of the world. Ad tracking only became possible in the last decade, and businesses have survived and thrived without it. It is important to focus on timeless marketing principles such as creating good content and entertaining marketing campaigns that get people talking. In fact, new ad tracking softwares are also being created to help overcome this iOS14 challenge.

How can SMEs align their digital marketing tactics in line with new patterns of consumer behaviour in the face of recent lockdown measures?

SMEs need to be customer-centric in their approach to digital marketing. They need to care for their customers, not adopt a short-term approach to sales, and create content that adds value to their users during this period.

For example, if you run a fitness centre or a gym, and your customers are frustrated that gyms or fitness centres are closed, it is a good opportunity to create content centred around home-based fitness. The more you care about your customers and address their pain-points, the more they will buy from you when things go back to normal. 

These principles apply to every type of business.

Any advice to CMOs: Top factors they should keep in mind as they plan for the rest of the year?

It is paramount that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) keep their ears to the ground. Always having a clear understanding of consumer behaviours in 2021 will allow marketing tactics to be shaped in a timely, effective and accurate manner. CMOs need to be privy to trends such as adopting the mental health narrative, adapting messages to fit the home working trend, keeping abreast of the future of e-commerce and the shifts on that front, understanding the green economy and how to fit that into branding, leveraging a strong brand purpose to shape narratives, and of course, understanding the importance of data privacy to consumers.