5 Minutes with… Azadeh Williams
When Azadeh Williams founded and set up global PR, content and marketing firm AZK in 2017 she came into the industry with plenty of experience. She was previously a lawyer and after becoming a global business, technology and marketing journalist, Azadeh realised her future was in B2B enterprise marketing.
Since then she has lectured in media law, published plenty of news and hopes that her previous experience has given her the ability to act like a ‘trusted partner’ to clients.
With the level of uncertainty in the world at its peak, Azadeh explains to LBB’s Natasha Patel what she’s been advising clients during this time and how a fortuitous moment in a lone boardroom led her to where she is right now.
LBB> You’ve got so many academic qualifications! Is studying something that interested you from a young age?
Azadeh> I grew up in Sydney, Australia. My parents were very strict on my focus on academia so I spent the majority of my childhood in a room studying to stay top of the class. As a highly creative person, I grew quickly bored of studying all the time so to let off creative steam, used to create custom stories, books and illustrations for friends, teachers and family.
LBB> You’re career path has been pretty unusual, but was the marketing and media world something you were always interested in?
Azadeh> I remember when I was a junior law clerk waiting for a client at a very prestigious commercial firm in Sydney. I was waiting in a boardroom alone, and decided to sit at the head of the table, imagining I was the managing partner/CEO of a large commercial business. The thought thrilled, inspired and scared me all at once. What you wish for, eventually, you become.
LBB> You were originally a lawyer and then moved into journalism. How did this come about?
Azadeh> While practicing banking and finance law, I was editing a number of legal journals and working actively as the media representative for the NSW Womens Lawyers Association. So when Thomson Reuters needed a legal and business editor for their new online news wire, making the leap to take the opportunity was a natural step.
LBB> From there what inspired you to start AZK?
Azadeh> Having worked as a leading business, marketing and technology journalist (Reuters, Times UK, CMO Mag, CIO Mag etc), as well as working across various PR, content marketing and media agencies, I started to see a number of serious business challenges.
So I wanted to start a B2B marketing and media agency where we operate more like a trusted ‘partner’ or ‘outsourced CMO’ to our clients - and work like a natural extension to their team. We deep dive and understand their needs at a deeper level, and articulate their complex, often highly technical messages clearly and with impact to customers and to the press.
LBB> Is diversity in the workforce in terms of gender important to you?
Azadeh> Gender, race and age diversity is extremely important. The more diverse your team, the richer the perspectives you can give to solve any problem.
LBB> What does your day-to-day involve?
Azadeh> My day is extremely varied and dynamic. A mix of client meetings, managing deliverables from our team, liaising with business influencers, advisors and the media, developing strategy decks and identifying new business opportunities.
My husband is also my business partner so we collaborate to find ways to refine and streamline our service offerings for existing clients, while identifying new ways to scale and grow sustainably.
It’s extremely collaborative, both internally with our talented team and externally, with clients, media and industry influencers.
LBB> What do you look for when hiring new team members?
Azadeh> A genuine passion for B2B marketing, a creative spirit and a natural flair for collaboration.
LBB> The world is going through so many changes right now. What have you been advising clients over this time of uncertainty?
Azadeh> Don’t cut marketing budget in a downturn. The fact is, cutting all marketing spend will kill your business, either now, or six months from now, when you want to ramp activity back up, only to find it will take another six months to get momentum happening again.
So while the knee jerk reaction in a recession may be to cut B2B marketing spend, this is a massive mistake. For many reasons.
When the economy does ramp up again, businesses who cut marketing will have to start marketing from scratch (even to the point of having to hire new staff) so will be months behind the competition.
There’s the critical need to stay in operation by servicing existing and gaining new customers. The ever-hungry 'marketing funnel' still needs to be fed, awareness still has to be raised, the journey from leads to conversions still needs to happen.
Marketing is essential to retain existing customers! If marketing is cut, there's a chance you're jeopardising your existing customers from enjoying their customer journey with you. By pulling the plug on marketing, you drain the information train to your existing customers and they'll notice all the newsletters, product updates, videos, webinars or content they had once enjoyed are now suddenly gone.
Now that's a huge turn off to customers - and no business can afford this.
Invest in a marketing partner. If you need your marketing function to survive during the recession, and have a leaner budget to work with, consider outsourcing some or all of your marketing efforts to a trusted marketing partner who can tailor a smart, holistic strategy to make your budget work smarter and help you reap more effective results.
LBB> With that in mind, what changes in marketing have you seen recently that have been interesting to witness?
Azadeh> With the plethora of martech tools now available, there’s an obsession with analysing metrics and pushing for fast results. This short termism can often stifle creativity and longer-term marketing efforts that need time to build and grow.
CMOs are now more accountable to generating revenue than ever before. Marketers who over spend and under deliver see their necks quickly on the chopping block, so there’s more pressure than ever to make budgets work smarter. Marketers and sales need to work closer together than ever. They need to work like a rugby team - marketing needs to throw sales great leads, who can then run with it to the finish line. If marketers keep sending sales weak leads, they’ll keep dropping the ball.
LBB> What do you think is next for the Australian marketing industry?
Azadeh> Australian B2B businesses need to wake up to the fact they are now operating in a global, digital marketplace and need to give their customers premium, exceptional experiences that go beyond simply the product.
Those who invest in innovative marketing strategies will future-proof their brand equity, and continue to gain the competitive edge over those who are stuck in 'small town' mentality.
LBB> Outside from work, how do you like to pass your time?
Azadeh> I love to spend quality time with my wonderful husband and delightful daughter, who both never cease to amaze and inspire me.