Episode topic: Marketing to APAC and Its Diverse Cultures
In this episode, host Shahin Hoda chats with Ray Kloss, Director of Marketing for the ANZ region at Cisco, about how diversity within the APAC region impacts marketing and what can marketers do to set themselves up for success. During this interesting conversation, Ray talks about the importance of having an “insider” from every culture to help make better marketing and hiring decisions.
He also shares some valuable advice on mentoring, having a local network and managing the APAC region, specifically India and Japan, by citing stories from his personal experience.
This episode’s guest:
Ray Kloss, Director of Brand Marketing, APJC at Cisco
Ray is a seasoned B2B marketer with over two decades of experience across all aspects of enterprise software and technology, including sales, marketing, ecosystems & channels, and delivery. He has successfully led major projects across North America, Greater China, Southeast Asia, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Ray loves to work with people from different cultures and has held multiple executive positions at global technology brands such as SAP, Hewlett Packard and IBM. He currently leads Cisco’s marketing for the ANZ region.
Connect with him on LinkedIn
Conversation segments on this episode:
- [02:43] Marketing “with cultures” and not “to cultures”
- [03:45] What makes APAC challenging from a marketing perspective?
- [04:30] Unsolicited advice lands as criticism
- [05:19] The APAC culture is family first
- [09:23] Have somebody from the culture as your buddy
- [09:53] The Marketing-aware-colleagues approach
- [10:43] Technical content can be made centrally
- [12:24] Content needs to change when it’s speaking to human emotions
- [17:40] For hiring cross-culturally, immerse into another culture and understand what top performance means
- [20:21] Cheat code for hiring - have a local buddy who understands the culture
- [20:48] Mentoring is another way to understand what good business performance looks like
- [24:23] Dealing with Japan
- [29:36] Using meetings to compare understand the culture
- [33:51] The Indian way of doing things
- [40:46] Advice to B2B Marketers - Listen!
Resources mentioned on this episode:
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Episode Full Transcript:
[00:36] Shahin Hoda Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode. I'm Shahin Hoda with xGrowth and today I'm talking to Ray Kloss, Director of Marketing for ANZ at Cisco about how should APAC marketing leaders set themselves up for success and lead an effective marketing team, considering the wide range of cultures and diversity that falls under the APAC banner. The reason I'm so excited to speak to Ray about this topic is his vast experience as a business of yours across APAC. Places like Japan, China, India, and so forth, there's a lot of countries that he's either lived in or managed as a marketing leader. On that note, let's dive in, Ray, thanks for joining us.
[01:15] Ray Kloss Ah Shahin, it's a ton of fun.
[01:17] Shahin Hoda Yeah, same over here, man. I'm really glad that you were able to make it. And look at this topic of, you know, marketing to APAC is a fascinating one for me, because I feel like if you talk to someone in the US, right? And you say, oh is um, you know, marketing or culture in Louisiana different to New York. They'll be like, oh my god, it's a world apart. It's, you know, it's completely different. You do the same thing with someone in Europe, and you say, you know, market into the French market versus the German market, there'll be like, you know, it's absolutely different, it's a different story. But really, I feel like, in APAC, that spectrum widens so much. I mean, the culture between India, you have India that falls under that banner, you have Australia that falls in that banner, you have Japan that falls under that banner, and the diversity there is a lot greater than a lot of these other regions. Do you think there is merit to that, you think that argument there's truth to that?
[02:27] Ray Kloss Well, Shahin. There's one thing I'm going to start with and this might sound like semantics, I would so love this to almost be an underlying theme of our conversation. You said you opened marketing to APAC? And I love that you said that. Because that's how everybody thinks about it. How about we start focusing on marketing with APAC countries? And you'll see as we get into it, cause I know you're gonna ask me lots of fun questions about how and because I really want to get to some things that people can have better usable in their life.
[02:55] Ray Kloss This is about marketing with cultures, not to cultures. And we're critical to your real question., right? Which is how different is it? For me, it's radical. You know, it's like, you mentioned that I've lived in Tokyo, I lived in Nanjing outside of Shanghai, I've lived in outside of Mumbai in India. Yet, there's no comparison, right? Between and I grew up in the States, right? So I grew up in America, and I know the differences culturally between the states and even between the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico. In APGC or APAC as you say, oh my god, it's a radical difference in how people approach but every culture has got that difference. And there are some really cool ways of looking at those differences that help kind of crack the code on how to work with people. So I'm excited to get into it.
[03:41] Shahin Hoda Let's do it. Let's do it. The first question that I want to ask you is what do you think makes APAC such a challenging place for marketers?
[03:48] Ray Kloss There's a model that I love when we look across culture. And here's a fun little thing. Like, I'll ask all the people listening right now. Just take a moment kind of sit quietly, close your eyes and go, wow, when was the last time somebody told me to do something? When was the last time somebody told me to do something? And how did that feel? Now I don't know about you, the thing that pops into my mind is usually not a great feeling of being told to do something. And here's one of the things is just reflect on your own life. When somebody from a different culture tells you what to do, how do you feel? And that's when you haven't asked for advice.
[04:26] Ray Kloss So I love this expression. Shahin, there's an old expression that unsolicited advice lands like criticism, unsolicited advice. So that's where hey Shahin, let me give you a point of view and something you just said and you didn't even ask for my opinion. It's like you feel criticised right? And so now reflect on Western's cultures willingness to tell each other what to do. So how often do you see Western culture is telling the world what needs to happen?
[04:53] Shahin Hoda All the time?
[04:54] Ray Kloss How often do you see that in an Asia-Pacific culture? Do you see India telling the world what Do you see Japan telling the world what to do in the end and oh my god, right like don't even put Japan and India in the same sentence? They're so culturally diverse. But one of the things that you'll find is there's a very deep, respectful culture in APGC, in APAC, which is actually often family first, it's internal first. So if you look at like, you look at the traditions of Buddhism, you look at the traditions and Shinto, you look at Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, you know, you look at the inherent Eastern culture and even the way it's written and double-byte character set, it's a completely different approach to interhuman relationships that we have in the West.
[05:40] Ray Kloss You know, in the West, we love listening to speakers who tell us what to do. Like, we have this podcast right now, where I'm telling people about what to do, right? That's such a Western thing. And how does that land? So imagine, even us in the West, we're not really thrilled about people giving us unsolicited advice. And then wade into this incredibly rich, diverse culture, which in many ways was around before ours, and start telling them what to do. How's that gonna go, right? So it is a real factor.
[06:09] Shahin Hoda I mean, we were talking about the difference, right? So, and that's, I think it's a great segue in terms of talking about what are some of the mistakes that you see marketers make in this region. And I'm guessing we're gonna start talking about telling people what to do. But I'd love to unpack that a little bit more. Tell a little bit about some of the mistakes you've seen, being in this region for such a long time. What are some of the mistakes you've seen marketers make when they're operating across APAC or APG?
[06:43] Ray Kloss Oh, I love it Shahin. I remember once quite well into my career, I walked into this one with my mouth open. I had one of my leaders say, hey, Ray, you've got two ears and one mouth. When are you going to take the hint?
[06:53] Shahin Hoda Oh damn.
[06:54] Ray Kloss Like Dang. Oh, dang, right? That was hard. But it was right between the eyes. And it was perfect. And that's a big part of it. So for me, like I'm obsessed, my feeling and marketing is one of the most important things we do is we analyse, analyse, analyse. We look at where our consumers, and consumers, B2B consumers, B2C consumers, that people are going to consume our content, we analyze where, where our audiences are at for preference, and then we're working out what to do to help shift that preference. And the first thing I'd say is that is a listening function, right?
[07:26] Ray Kloss So whether you're listening on social, you're listening through the data, you're listening through how people interact with your campaigns, there's this incredible over-rotation, I feel need this need to over-rotate and listen uniquely, to the different countries. But here's it, this would be like if that to me, there's like a cheat code for doing this. Oh my god, have somebody in every culture that you're marketing in who's in that culture who is your buddy, and you ask them this fundamental question, which is, what do you need? What do you feel this country needs? From our brand to grow our preference? Start there. Every time. I still, you know, still with Cisco, right now, I've got responsibility for our brand across all of APGC.
[08:09] Ray Kloss When I get onto a call with my colleagues in India, my colleagues in Japan or Korea, my opening question is always What are you trying to do? What do you need? Like how can we best bring in all the best the Cisco has to shift the preference in that market? And that's, that's the pivot. And so you know, the thing that I feel people really, God bless us, we get enthusiastic, right, we get really excited about something, we think we've got the greatest campaign ever, and we're really excited to roll that campaign all across the whole world.
[08:38] Ray Kloss And it's amazing to me how sometimes those campaigns can actually alienate a different culture, right? If you have a culture that's different enough, from the culture where that campaign was built, you can actually potentially be an alienating culture. Like every touchpoint Shahin, we either raise our brand preference, or we love our brand preference, there's no neutrality. I'm going to give you airtime I'm on a roll.
[08:59] Shahin Hoda No, I love it. And we love cheat sheets, by the way here. Bring on the cheat sheets, man. That's what we're all about. No, I'm kidding. But
[09:09] Ray Kloss Well, no, no, no, no, I hear you. So I'd like to hear something because I can feel your listeners, right. You'll have as a listener sit there going, are you kidding me? Like I'm one person. You know, we got a small emerging third to tier three IT company. I can't afford to have somebody in Thailand. I can't afford to have somebody in Vietnam. I can't afford to have somebody in the Philippines. Yeah, but you got somebody there. You've either got a distributor who's selling. You've- You've got people on the ground who are trying to achieve a business result like we always should be.
[09:39] Ray Kloss I know that we're always marketing in a place where we have catchers to help drive that preference through. So there's always somebody to talk to. And that for me is, I suppose my cheat code is I always build that network of what I would call marketing aware colleagues. This works in tiny tier threes as well. You know, I've, in other brands that I've worked in my past I was working with the distributor in Indonesia or I'd be working with a partner in Thailand because we didn't have sufficient critical mass in those countries to have our own.
[10:09] Shahin Hoda Okay, so I get the idea that you have to have like an insider, to give you that, that feedback or for them to actually create it. But do you think also, it's possible to create something in HQ? And then use the use is not the right word, but really communicate with the other individual in terms of getting feedback? Or do you think it needs to be created ground-up from a regional location?
[10:37] Ray Kloss Shahin, I think there's, I want to break that down a little bit. So here's the first thing. If you're selling a technology, which is fundamentally the same in the country, it's going to be deployed, oh, my god, you can make a lot of central content. And let me give you my point, like one of my favourite examples, right? So I'll move it away from I'll move into a brand I've never worked for. I think most of us would know what an MRI machine is, or an X-ray machine, but MRI, you know, it's the big doughnut that people go through like thomp thomp thomp, right? It's going to be the same MRI machine if I sell it in Johannesburg, if I sell it in Mumbai, if I sell it in Shanghai, if I sell it in London, if I sell it in Boise, Idaho, right?
[11:11] Ray Kloss It's the same freaking big doughnut that's gonna go thomp thomp thomp. And the big issue I'm going to have is things like power, right? All of that technical content, everything that relates to why that MRI machine instead of the other people's MRI machine, all that content should be made centrally, profitably. Like this is the thing that drives me nuts, as you'll see people going, oh, we need to localise our technical content. My god, why?
[11:35] Ray Kloss Are you actually going to use a hub or router or a server, technically differently in Thailand than you're going to use it in Germany? No. So on your technical content, and the thing that I find is there's, this is what your you know, our audience will figure out if your audience's cross-culture, are in community together, here's what that looks like. You know, in some instance, at Cisco, and Cisco, we have our certified Cisco engineers or our CCIEs. It doesn't matter what country you're from.
[12:04] Ray Kloss You've done all the same training and you talk the same language, right? And yes, you might be a CCIE, who's Indonesian as your first language. Or you might, Bahasa rather, or you might be a CCIE, that your first language is German, that technical content, it's all common language, right?
[12:19] Shahin Hoda Okay.
[12:20] Ray Kloss Here's where it changes Shahin, is when you're going for emotions. So if you're current, and remember, for me Actually, sorry, as a marketer, how we make people feel is way more valuable. Maya Angelou has a quote, people will always remember how you made them feel, they might not remember what you did. And a huge part of the marketing is actually how we feel, you know, in best practice, or 60%, brand development, 40% demand gen. So 60%, brand 40% demand.
[12:48] Ray Kloss And in that brand, it's about emotion. Now, emotional content, if there's a core to human intrinsic motivation, and core to intrinsic human motivation is we love freedom. We love joy. And we love the growth of those three. And that's cross-cultural. So if your content is about freedom, and joy, and growth, you're starting to be in the right place, but you've got to be careful because some things that represent freedom in the West can actually be illegal in countries in AGC. Watch that alienation, right? But as soon as you start moving into what other people think, getting ahead, what performance looks like, what good looks like in that emotional setting.
[13:33] Ray Kloss Now you're into these major cultural differences. So I would say essentially, oh, my god, technical content, knock yourself out. When you start moving into the emotional content, that's where it's really important to be listening. And like, for instance, our global brand team within Cisco. They work with us all the time. You know, they show us early runs, they go, how's this gonna land? How do you feel? They make sure they're inclusive around all cultures in creating that content, but they still create a global but they're listening when they create it.
[14:01] Shahin Hoda Got it? Got it? What about
[14:03] Ray Kloss Does that help?
[14:04] Shahin Hoda That there definitely does help where, you know, you centralise technical, and then you decentralise anything that has to do with emotion?
[14:13] Ray Kloss Well, you don't- you don't have to decentralise what you're doing with emotion. But with the technical content, like, let's be frank if we're building technical content, how are security products work? I don't need to check with the people in other cultures, if that core technical contents, okay, I can just build it and send it, right? When we move into more of the brand style content and even case studies like this is one of the ones that you know, local case studies really matter, right?
[14:42] Ray Kloss It's the only time that the global case studies work really well as if you're at the top end of big industry, because clearly a telco in Malaysia is going to operate similar to a telco in Hungary, and they'll listen to each other because they're giant companies. But as soon as you start getting down to smaller companies, case studies are actually starting to head into that emotional thing. Right? So why do we do a case study, to build confidence, to show what's easy, to inspire people, those are emotions. So case studies, you know, it's often international case studies that can land on deaf ears in local geography. Does that help? It kind of break down.
[15:20] Shahin Hoda It does. It does help, it does help. Let's talk about if a marketer, you know, let's say I want a marketer. And I'm thinking that one of my locations is, let's say, Indonesia. And I have to get into the banking sector in Indonesia. And maybe I'll have some resources to hire as part of the marketing team in Indonesia. What would be you know, maybe I can hire two or three people there surely to help me out for it's a big market, an important market for us? How should I go about it? Who should I hire? What would be your advice there, right?
[16:00] Ray Kloss Well, there's a fun thing. Whenever you look, cross-culturally, the starting point, Shahin has to be, who am I? What's my culture? And what is the gulf between my culture in this culture and these factors? How willing am I to tell other people what to do and change? We all know ourselves, right? So we know if we're the person who does all the talking in the meetings and was telling everybody what to do. So then literally, like, I did some beautiful work with an agency that works with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, where they work with people as they're headed overseas.
[16:32] Ray Kloss So they help Australian bureaucrats when they're becoming, you know, whatever, lead counsel in China or whatever. And they always say the starting point, whether we're hiring, whatever we're doing is, this is a great thing, we always think we're the neutral one, we always think we're fun. We mostly think people like us, and we mostly think kind of pretty kind of like us. Reality check, they're not, right? And in a funny way, there are some cultures that are way more predisposed towards being overt, didactic, willing to tell people what to do.
[17:04] Ray Kloss And so the tricky one of the big things for hiring across culturally is, if you haven't done a lot of hiring, if you're early in your career, one of the biggest risks is you will hire, you will, we tend to at the beginning of our career to hire people like ourselves because they feel comfortable. And so there's a big challenge, where I'm going. No, actually what I need to do is I need to hire a top-performing person in this culture. So a starting point would be if you if to answer your specific case study, one of the most powerful things would be to get immersed into an Indonesian team that's already on the ground, which maybe is the non-marketers and start understanding what high-performance looks like.
[17:40] Ray Kloss And we will I mean, Shahin, you know, you've been around, I've been around people, who interview well in the West are sometimes the big talkers, and maybe there's a lot of research now that shows that sometimes people who don't interview well are actually going to be best in the role. And you're going to run into that same channel like hiring, oh, my god, hiring people in your own culture, good luck, right? That's an advanced, but really fun experience. Truthfully, like, I love it. But then hiring into another culture, what does success look like? And people will like somebody who might be absolutely a rock star for the role might feel nothing like what you used to meet in performance.
[18:17] Ray Kloss So to me when you're going into Indonesia, because and to me, there's some really great training available even externally, none of you has to work for Cisco to get trained on this, but oh, my god, do some training around recruitment. And the big thing is focusing on the performance in the role and the person's proven ability to perform in the role in the culture. And you've really got to drop all those emotional cues that can sometimes excite us when we're interviewing within our own culture. I don't know if I've been specific enough on that. But
[18:46] Shahin Hoda Interesting,
[18:46] Ray Kloss Like when we're, if I'm interviewing somebody in Australia, there's all of this kind of unspoken, community connection that happens in the interview that you go, oh, yeah, this person is going to rock right.
[18:57] Ray Kloss Because there, whatever, you got to get rid of all of that, when you're interviewing cross-culture, because you're not from Indonesia. And you and unless you've lived, I'm not like, here's my one comment I'll say on this podcast. I have a minor in Japanese studies, actually North Asian studies from university, I did Japanese martial arts at a tea ceremony, I had a wonderful partner for a while from Japan, I lived in Japan. And after all of that I worked out, I'm never going to get the culture. Like the more, I spent time trying to the culture, and I'm never going to get the culture because I'm just not born here.
[19:30] Ray Kloss And one of the greatest gifts of my life was I had a wonderful woman that I worked with, who literally spent half of her life growing up in Japan, and then moved to the US for the second half of life. And then she went back to Japan. And she and I got to work together. So she absolutely could translate right between the two. And she just showed me the incredible gulf of my understanding. And it was humbling and freeing to go, wow, I really want to listen here. So you know, if I'm hiring three people in Indonesia, the first thing I'm working on as soon as my Hiring buddy, who's in Indonesia, who's going to help me with the performance in the local culture to make sure I don't get the cues wrong? Because my unconscious bias is going to work against me.
[20:13] Shahin Hoda I love that. That's a hiring buddy, solid approach, but
[20:18] Ray Kloss The cheat code that the cheat code has the local hiring buddy.
[20:23] Shahin Hoda Got it? Got it? That's
[20:25] Ray Kloss Sorry, I cut you off.
[20:27] Shahin Hoda That's gonna go on the show notes for sure. But no, it's yeah, like when we're talking about it. It's like, yeah, it makes sense. But I would imagine, it would be hard to make this to roll this out actually, right, to immerse yourself in a culture.
[20:44] Ray Kloss It's really hard. Here's something that's really powerful, right? If you want to learn a culture, if you want to learn what business performance looks like, I'm a huge fan of mentoring. Because mentoring is 50/50. Like when I mentor people, like why don't you give back when you mentor? Are you kidding me? I get so much back moment by moment in the mentoring. I'm like, don't do anything for the future. It's like, oh my god, you're doing it for now. So here's a radical thing, if you've got an APEC role, I would challenge you to have somebody you're mentoring, who's a top performer in each of the major cultures that you're covering. So you know, if you've got Japan, in your remit, who are you mentoring from Japan.
[21:19] Ray Kloss And then the secret is to make sure it's somebody who's a top performer, and start getting to know what a top performer in Japan feels like. And they don't need to work for your brand, either. You know, like, oh, my god, everybody in every country, there's an amazing young talent who would kill to mentor with you. And you, I mean, everybody listening to this podcast, if you want to get another cheat code on ramping yourself up on a culture, mentor talent in that nature. And they will reverse mentor you. I will tell you every mentoring I've had, every mentor engagement I've had, whether I'm being mentored or I'm the mentor, it's always a reverse mentoring for both. So that's really good for me, that's one of the most powerful ways to learn what performance feels like in another culture.
[22:04] Shahin Hoda Interesting. So being a mentor, or a mentee is another cheat code. Okay, got it. Okay.
[22:13] Ray Kloss The reason for that is, it's so easy to miss this when you're mentoring somebody. It's so cultural, you know, so if I'm mentoring somebody in Australia, it's like, we're proposing, laughing, and we're talking straight into the problem. If I'm mentoring somebody, in another culture, I'm going to experience all of the gulfs between us in our communication styles. And it's like, Ah, that's why that happens when I'm trying to get stuff done at work,
[22:40] Shahin Hoda Because they're gonna come to you with all their problems, right?
[22:43] Ray Kloss Yeah. But not as readily not as even that so Shahin. That's like a Western point of view. You know, so boom, I love it. You right now are giving that example. What I'm mentoring, one of the big things when I'm mentoring people from what I would call the APAC region, they don't come to you with their problems, because that's not part of their, you know, that might be they don't come as readily.
[23:02] Ray Kloss Maybe not everybody, everybody's different, right. But that's the kind of stuff you've started experiencing. It's like even what they want to do in a mentorship. Like, if I'll be mentoring, I'm actually mentoring somebody right now, again from India. And what she's she's one of our top performers, and how she approaches that mentor relationship is totally different from what our top performer from Australia will approach. Totally different things. Yeah. And so that's where you suddenly go, wow, I need to have this calibration, what I'm trying to work this country or campaigns.
[23:32] Shahin Hoda Very interesting. Got it.
[23:33] Ray Kloss So it's a great cheat code. It's a great cheat code.
[23:36] Shahin Hoda Okay. All right. Next question that I want to ask you. Ray. We kind of touched on it. And we talked about how some cultures might be very open to give advice and criticise, and some wouldn't. And I want to get a little bit more specific and talk about specific geographical locations and how would approach one's marketers to approach to change, other than the elements that we talked about? Or what should a marketer keep in mind when they're going for some of these markets, right? Other than the fact that they need to have somebody local, who understands the culture and give them advice.
[24:12] Shahin Hoda You know that let's assume that as a given, right? What are some of the other things that someone might need to take into consideration? For example, when they're looking at Japan? I think Japan is an interesting one. I've spoken to a lot of marketers here in Australia who might have a or actually even in Singapore, who have a response, Japan falls under their umbrella snd they're like, you know what, I'm not sure what to do with Japan. How do I, well, I don't even know where to start. What is your advice to someone who's looking at Japan as a market to and Japan falls under their umbrella.
[24:53] Ray Kloss Oh my god, there's something that I've said, is I've said of every country that I've lived in, worked in, the one I personally feel the most alien in where I've been I'm the alien is actually Japan. And the reason for that is my experience, like my experience with Korea, my experience with China, my experience with India, you know, going through about my personal experience with Southeast Asian countries, it's hard to put a finger on it. But I've said that Japan is the one that it's like, my intuition is the worst. And what I mean by that is like, you know, like my intuition, my, you know, what's our intuition based upon this?
[25:31] Ray Kloss Yes, it is based upon feeling, but it's also based on bias, unconscious bias. It's based on experience, it's all this, like, there's all of this stuff that goes into what we think is our intuition. And then there's actually real intuition. And in Japan, that culture is so incredibly different from if you're coming from a Western background, right. And there's, there's an extra piece, I would add, those countries, and particularly for me, it's China, Korea and Japan, those countries in APAC that use double bite as their core character sets, if you have to almost kind of try and fail to learn Mandarin. And that I did. I tried and failed like I did learn some Mandarin. Well, a lot of effort.
[26:10] Ray Kloss But the big thing of learning is going, Oh my god, the way the language builds up, is alien to my brain. Like when we, when you and I are talking in English. And even when you speak with languages that are originated around Arabia, in the Middle East, so you've got Greek, you've got Arab, you've got an even that spreads in towards parts of India and the Indian culture. There's this way and need in which we use language. And in double bite, it's so different, like very real, like a tiny little case study. You know, we were, I've launched a number of brands in China and Japan. And you know, how those expressions like Nike, "Just Do It".
[26:47] Shahin Hoda Yeah,
[26:48] Ray Kloss One global brand, I won't go into the specifics of the global brand. But once the global brand that I worked with had a phrase like that, and there was literally no translatable concept in Japan of that concept. So we're simply there going, how would you translate this into Japanese? You can't, because we don't care. It's like, not something, we because, you know, what do we do with our brand statements, our brand statements are things we strive towards, right? So with Cisco, we're the bridge to possible. And we strive to that we want to show people that you have a possible. Our technology and our capabilities are bridged to what you want to make happen. So it's inspirational when it's motivational.
[27:26] Ray Kloss So there's the thing about when people say, like, I have kind of think, come on, guys, come on people, Japan is the number three economy in the world. If you're opening up in Japan, you're planning on doing a big number. If you get Japan right, you probably have an impact on your share price, for x sake, to say something stronger, hire some Japanese people, like that's your starting point. If you have Japan in your room, hire some people on the ground, because you just have to. It's like, you know that if you're going to Mars, you're taking oxygen with you, right? You know that if you're going diving, you're taking a scuba set, one set with you. If you could go into Japan, you need to take Japanese people along to you.
[28:04] Ray Kloss And so for instance, within- perfection is probably not the right way to put it, but they have a focus on excellence in Japan, which is unparalleled. And sometimes even our technical content, if our technical content as a hint of kind of optimism, it can be a problem in Japan. So Japan is like this wickedly pragmatic content for B2B marketing, right? They really just want to know, how does it work? Like, this is the land that tells me how this works. And I will decide if I want to use it. And then more importantly, if it doesn't work, what are you willing to do for me? To make me whole, right? Like, you know, we could do an hour on my experiences in Japan alone.
[28:50] Ray Kloss So my short advice to be if you've got if you have Japan in your remit? Honestly don't think about it like, I've got Korea and China and Philippines and I've got Japan. You've got Japan, like Japan. You've got Japan. What a gift. Like what an amazing gift that you have this culture because it is I love the culture up there. The people are amazing. But you have just gone to the Marianas Trench, which if you don't people don't know what that's the deepest part of the ocean. What I mean is, you've gone someplace that is so different from where you've grown up, and the rewards are immense. But there is like I mentioned how I did some, we did some work, consulting work with that agency that worked with the fact. One of the metrics that they use for culture is what is the culture looking for in a meeting, right?
[29:36] Ray Kloss What's the culture looking for in a meeting. For instance, being cheeky and is dangerous because now we're sweeping generalisations over cultures and that's not cool. But statistically, there's a thing that oftentimes what you're looking for in America is you might be looking for agreement. Agreement on the path forward. Being really cheeky, remember, this is an Australian agency, so the Australian agency said of Australians, Australians love in a meeting is tied back to the best time meeting for an Australian is you get it done faster than the meeting, right? So if it's a half-hour meeting and you get everything done in five minutes like, Man, that was a great meeting.
[30:06] Ray Kloss So yeah, I think Japan, what people are looking for in the meeting, you know, brace yourself for this. For people looking for the meeting is, who are you? What are your values? And will you listen to me? Are you here to actually listen to what I need, right? And so think about how we trundle in as a Western, from Western culture. We're like, hey, we got this really important meeting, we've got this big campaign, we need to get it going. And I want to hear what you people need. Because I really want to get this campaign going, can we get a consensus and fast is good? And you know, it's like, you've just I don't know, it's like, you've just run through meditation, yoga retreat, symbols attached to your knees and to bow. You're out of place.
[30:46] Shahin Hoda That's fascinating. That I've also remembered, Yeah, it does. It does. I mean, it's a really interesting concept comparing meetings. I remember I lived in Dubai for a while. And in Dubai, when you have a meeting, especially with you know, locals, you would have an hour-long meeting. And then for 55 minutes of that you're talking about family and how the family is and you know, what are you doing? What's your background? Tell me a little bit about you. And, and it's the last five minutes that everything gets done. And they're like, so what do you want? Yep, done, no problem. And that's it. It's very different, very different. I love that comparison across the cultures.
[31:30] Ray Kloss Let me give you a very real experience. So I used to do a martial art called kendo. In kendo, some of you might see it, it's the traditional martial art of the samurai. And you see people, they wear this blue outfit, and they have kind of a mask on and they have bamboo, shinai or bamboo props. Basically, a bamboo sword that's called a shinai. And your sensei, your teacher, your master, what they say is they say, when you sit across from your opponent, you know, what their ability is based on how they dressed, and how they respect themselves. And there's this really long silence. And in some cases, our sensei would choose to not, so we can a part of, literally get paid. And I was doing this in the States, right?
[32:16] Ray Kloss So kind of your classic, you know, like you do a yoga class, you pay and you go when there's time. And so the sensei would sit across from a student and he would look at the student and go, no, not today. We're not doing it today. The reason I'm speaking today's because you haven't put your key on properly, you're not to it, you know, you just not a good place. So go stand, go, you know, go over there and work on your state, and work on that. And that's why for instance, people thought the reason people bow to each other is they're honouring each other for showing up with the best that they are, at that moment in time to practice kendo. That's the culture, right?
[32:50] Ray Kloss I can't tell you how many Japanese executives I've met who have kendo backgrounds or something similar or they do tea ceremony in. And you know, we see these things, and I was gonna say the real trick with Westerners, I always call it the kind of National Geographic moment is we think we know culture because we watch National Geographic. It was like I can watch the blue planet until I'm blue in the face, I still don't know how to dive with a great white shark, right? So there's this thing about in the Japanese culture that what they're looking for, from you in the interaction is really different than what maybe you're used to in your own culture. And for me, personally, just my own personal experience, I found that more different for me than any other country on any other culture on the planet.
[33:35] Shahin Hoda Love it. Alright, I know we are running a little bit. We're not running overtime. But we're close. We're close. So I want to
[33:42] Ray Kloss Got the power of the edit.
[33:45] Shahin Hoda Now, I'm not going to edit any of this out. This is good stuff. I want to also ask you about India, I think that will be the last less geographic location. So what are your thoughts? What will be your advice for India? For the first one, it falls under an umbrella?
[34:03] Ray Kloss Shahin, we cannot have this conversation on the 30th of April and let's say oh my god, what's going on with the pan? So it's just like,
[34:08] Shahin Hoda That's true, very true.
[34:10] Ray Kloss Oh, my god, right? I love that. I can't tell you like, countless experiences of joy, travelling in India, and working in India, like, the warmth, and the hospitality from strangers is on another level. A very real example, my pregnant partner and I were travelling on an overnight train between two cities, which even the Indian people told us we were crazy. And in the middle of the night that's happening, oh, this was a long time ago. This was in the 90s. And this used to happen, like a whole group of the army had to get on the train.
[34:45] Ray Kloss They didn't have seats and they moved people right. And this wonderful family saw me and my six-month pregnant partner and they're like, come and join us in their like first-class cabin thing and they had all this food that they brought from home and they fed us and I'm sure she was comfortable. And I could tell you hours of stories of that incredible comfort. When it comes to marketing. There's a fascinating quality of India, which is, this was my own personal experience. When I, you can literally do this, you go onto the street, and you'd ask somebody directions, say hey, I don't know how to get to whatever, you know, the, I don't know how to get to the Taj Mahal. You can see it but and what they will do is they will give you directions even if they don't know how to get there.
[35:27] Ray Kloss There's this thing that I just don't, I've laughed, I've got so many beautiful friends of Indian ethnicity, I'll say what is with that? Like, I don't know. We just have this thing, right? We just want to please people. So they'll give you the directions. So for me working in India is and how it's kind of I don't know, I kind of joke with this is when you find people speak your language quite fluently. The trick is, you could miss the cultural difference, and I'll bring it home, right, I was an American and moved to Australia, 200-year-old American colony, I'm sorry a 200-year old English colony. I moved to another 200-year old English colony, the forks on the left, the spoons on the right, everybody speaks English.
[36:00] Ray Kloss Heck, it ought to be pretty similar. It's like oh my god, it's radically different between being an American being in Australia. And an Indian makes it even further. So again, I to everybody listening on the podcast, if you don't have a personal experience of India, it's really easy to miss it. Because they're so warm and accommodating that it's really easy to miss that you think you've got an agreement, you think you're on the same page, you think you have consensus, they get off the call, and they go, I have no idea what that person was talking about. But hey, it's okay because they're down in Sydney, you're there wherever, let's just keep going with what we need to do to be successful.
[36:35] Ray Kloss Kind of being cheeky, I can, we're generalising. But to me, India, again, is another one of those cultures that it's really easy to miss out radically different. And I think one of the biggest challenges will be if you've grown up in Western culture. So you've grown up in Australia, you've grown up in, in the US or you've grown up in a very modern developed country like Singapore, it's really quite you've never been to India, it's quite something to just get off the plane in India and see what advertising looks like in India, right? And anybody who's been to India, probably smile, you know what I mean? You get in your taxi, and you drive from the Mumbai airport, all the way down to the viaduct area. It's like an hour-long drive.
[37:15] Ray Kloss And it is a cultural experience of going wow, you know, the concept of marketing is cut through Shahin, like, how do I cut through? It's like, my god, there's so much content and noise in India, how do I ever get my brand known? Shahin as a B2B marketer in India, if you've never been on the ground there, it's really hard to comprehend the incredible amount of messaging in India, like there's so much noise, there are so many channels. And so one of the things that I'm always focused on with my Indian colleagues is almost thinking about India as an account-based marketing market. It kind of like, bear with me for a second for the analogy, what I mean by that was with ABM, you clearly get very, very targeted for doing ABM in Australia.
[38:00] Ray Kloss For the Australian Defence Force. It's that targeted, right? We're using digital media, we're using cookies, we're using, you know, in-office placement and elevators down to that level. In India, you can spend a fortune and disappear, like just disappear into the noise and never be seen. So it's a really different market for being super specific in the brief. Of what is it that you're actually trying to achieve? You know, so if somebody comes to you and says, hey, I want to raise our brand preference in India, you're like, well, have you gotten millions?
[38:32] Ray Kloss You know, I always say, where, who do you want to change the brand preference with which types of roles in which organisations. Like India is a place where you want to be sitting there going? Who are my 300 companies? Where are my 3000 companies that I'm targeting, and being really, being really targeted on that like shifting brand momentum in India, you've really got to be targeted to do it because you can so easily be dispersed across just the massive volume of noise messaging and people that are there?
[39:05] Shahin Hoda Interesting. So be a laser focus on the accounts that you're going after and don't send the rolls? Yeah, got it. Got it. Okay. That's really good advice. That's great.
[39:18] Ray Kloss That country probably almost more than any, almost more than any because of the immense amount of traffic going up on
[39:24] Shahin Hoda Love it. Okay. That is, that is some solid advice. Now, before we wrap up, Ray.
[39:30] Ray Kloss Sure.
[39:31] Shahin Hoda I mean, what we talked about, this is amazing. I feel like there is just so much, so many golden nuggets in this conversation, and so much for a lot of APAC leaders and APJ leaders to take away but I have a few rapid questions I want to ask you before we wrap up. Alright, good to go. So the first thing I want to ask you is what is one resource, it could be a book, it could be a blog, a podcast, talk, whatever it is, that fundamentally change the way you work or live.
[39:59] Ray Kloss Good to Great by Jim Collins. So I'm not a business book reader. I'm not a business book reader out cards on the table, right? Like I have to find all these other ways to get content into my brain cuz I don't like reading lots of business books. But Good to Great. I love that premise of get all the best people on the team and then go like a freaking hedgehog, right? I found that that simple clarity of bringing on board really passionate people that their passion aligns to what I'm trying to do, then kind of get the heck out of their way. And then just go like a banshee. On that focus thing. I can tell you that in my career that has worked every single time.
[40:39] Shahin Hoda Love it. Love it is a great book and now love it. Alright, So question number two. If you could only give one advice to B2B marketers, what would it be?
[40:50] Ray Kloss Listen, listen, in all way, shape, and form. Listen to your stakeholders. And you don't have to do what they say like one of the things I always say is I'm always really interested in listening to my sales colleagues and listening to what they want and listen to what they need. That doesn't mean I'm going to do it. And what I often do is I always go, Hey, I don't, I did do sales, I did some pretty high-end sales. In my background, I say, hey, I never asked to look at your closed plans for your deals. So why are you asking to go deep on my marketing tactics?
[41:17] Ray Kloss And I'm cheeky with that like I have, I love my sales stakeholders. But listen, listen, listen, listen. And then I always sleep on it, always, at least sleep on it before I make a call. And what I'm always trying to find is what's the best, our role as a B2B marketer. I always say this is remembered, your CFO could have put the money towards product development, they could have hired another salesperson. They could have given it back to shareholders as profit, whether in private or publicly held that they gave us that money.
[41:48] Ray Kloss And they gave us that money so that we create a preference for our brand. So what I always am looking at as a B2B marketer, I listened to every, listen to all my stakeholders. And then how do I best spend that dollar to get the biggest preference impact in the targeted direction I'm looking for. So now like, I don't need to, I don't need to move all over Australia on Cisco. But I know of, I know who the most important people are to shift and I want to make sure that's where I'm spending our efforts. So listen, and then focus.
[42:21] Shahin Hoda Got it. Question number three, what are the influences that you follow in the marketplace, sorry, in the marketing space?
[42:28] Ray Kloss Yeah, I'm cheeky. I follow my mentees, and I mean this sincerely. I am fascinated by the freshness that comes with new people and just sits with us for one second, right? For generations, we've known that singing is a great thing. So keep singing, right? We know dancing is a great thing, keep dancing. There are other things that are probably similar to singing and dancing, keep doing those. But what you watch with every generation is they're more free. Every generation is more free than the previous one. More free to have different marriages, more free to have different relationships more free to not have to drink tea with their pinky out more for whatever he wants he all the stuff that restricts us, that fades with each generation.
[43:16] Ray Kloss So for me what I do, I very actively ensure that I have a significant number of mentees every year and I refresh it every year. So I work with people for a year. I wouldn't say I work, it's probably more we play together, like in a mentorship relationship. And those people coming in, they're so passionate and like everybody on the call, hey, if you're at that end, you know how passionate you are. It's just the air you breathe. And hey, everybody at my end of life, remember how passionate you were? Like, oh my god, right? That passion is real. Usually, as we get older, what's happened is we've socialised that out of ourselves.
[43:52] Ray Kloss With all those historic restrictions. And the kids, the young people come in through, they are a whole new level of freedom. And that, to me, is what I'm watching and marketing. Because we all want freedom even if we are older. Let's joke about it right? You can joke about all the young people who got onto Facebook and then all the oldies got on that all the young people left and went to the new more fun free thing. Being cheeky, by just being cheeky. But so don't matter what age you are, you won't, we want that freedom. So I do find that some of the best marketing ideas are actually coming through in the freshest minds.
[44:27] Shahin Hoda Love it right. There's a very different answer to a lot of our guests. And I absolutely.
[44:32] Ray Kloss I challenged on that. I challenge you on that where you go, wow, I would see I would rather, I would rather learn something new that's never been done before. Then here what worked five years ago because frankly, we all know this. What worked five years ago doesn't work today. We've just gone through the single biggest impact on our race on this planet in 100 years, and we're still in it.
[44:56] Shahin Hoda We're still in it.
[44:58] Ray Kloss What worked three years doesn't work now, I guarantee like, it doesn't work. So the fresh minds are where the fresh ideas are. The new that's what you're looking for right new inspiration, not repeat of it.
[45:14] Shahin Hoda Last question, I got Ray, what's something that excites you about B2B today?
[45:19] Ray Kloss Look at me passionately, particularly in technology, I have a view that I see that the world's getting better every day. The world is getting better every day. And sometimes you got to take a long look at that like it, meaning you got to pull really high back. But you know, I remember I remember my dad coming home from a democratic convention that was fighting for civil rights, and they all got beat up by the police in Chicago, right? That was 1968. That happened in my lifetime, right? And, we have an approach to diversity and inclusiveness that we could only dream about in 1968 as an example. Okay, so for me, the world's getting better.
[45:54] Ray Kloss And there's so much research that says, oh, my god, when you educate people, oh my god, when you get to educate people, when you educate people, you get chills right on what's possible. And technology enables us to educate let's look at even what happened with this pandemic, we just busted loose on distance learning. How powerful to have distance learning. Now I got no joke. I'm a big meditator, and I love my yoga, I love my meditation, it's big for me. I can listen to podcasts now, while I'm sitting on my sofa, that when I was born, I was gonna have to get on a plane and fly to freaking Tibet to hear. And I would. I had to have, that's the only way what's gonna happen is I was going to get on a plane.
[46:02] Ray Kloss And as a kid growing up in my, my beginnings in Chicago, that wasn't gonna happen. And now children all over the world can hear all this content, which is going to inspire them, enlighten them and take the world forward. So for me, as a B2B marketer, I absolutely see I can make it really, really, really specific. This is not a plug for Cisco, this is how my brain works. Cisco on Earth Day donated 100 million US dollars, 100 million US dollars, to sustainability efforts to help remove a lot of the stuff that's on our planet right now that could make our world a better place if we got rid of it. Okay. 100 million dollars. Do you know what?
[47:05] Shahin Hoda Wow.
[47:06] Ray Kloss When we do a great job in B2B marketing, and we increase preference for the cool stuff that Cisco does, that helps companies operate better, we create profit that allows Cisco to take a leadership position, not cleaning up the planet. Business is healthy. Businesses can often do positive things in our communities that our governments can't get to. Because of the challenges of how governments are built. That's not a negative on governments. Governments are built a certain way. They've got to do consensus, they've got to do all this stuff that they do, which is a good thing because then you don't have weird shit. As businesses, when we're vibrant, and we're successful, our products make the world better. And our profits can be directed to making the world better. And that ignites me as a B2B marketer.
[47:48] Shahin Hoda I love that Ray. That is, this was a great conversation, Ray. I, as I said before, I think the audience is going to take a lot out of it. And you just topped it with the rapid questions as well. So look, thank you so much again for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate it. And great chatting with you.
[48:08] Ray Kloss Oh, Shahin, it was a ton of fun. So the appreciation is right back at you. This was 50/50 for me, I had fun. Final offer, I'm on LinkedIn. Anybody's got some funky questions in there going, what the heck, you know, send me a question.
[48:20] Shahin Hoda What's your LinkedIn handle? What's that Ray Kloss?
[48:24] Ray Kloss Ray Kloss. If you search Ray Kloss, Cisco, you'll find it.
[48:28] Shahin Hoda You won't miss it. Okay. All right. Well, thanks again. Ray.
[48:31] Ray Kloss Thanks, Shahin. Have a great one.