Field Notes in Professional Services with Sona Khagram
ESCP Business School’s Executive Series ‘Field Notes‘ aims to expose students to the realities and challenges of working within a variety of marketing disciplines. Insights provided by guest speakers help to bridge students’ academic motivations towards their professional journeys in the near future. The first guest to take part was Sona Khagram, Head of Product Marketing at Deloitte.
Marketing is very important at the major consulting firms. Can you explain why?
Deloitte’s go-to market capability supports the promotion and marketing of its service offerings and products. The competition out there is real, so having a marketing capability really helps us to differentiate ourselves and demonstrate how we can help solve client challenges. Relationships play a key role in the professional services sector, and because of that face-to-face networking and events are a key channel for us to position ourselves. That’s where marketing comes in: to identify the right events, and to make sure that we’re positioning our people, experience and expertise in front of the right organisations, and demonstrating how we can help them become stronger businesses.
Please tell us about a typical day at work.
In product marketing specifically, a typical day for me would be assessing the performance of the products in my portfolio; identifying and preparing the right marketing plan for scaling up those products; and working with the product owners to assess and implement marketing activities that will help us meet our scaling-up objectives.
What do you find most challenging about working in this sector?
You never feel like you’re the smartest person in the room. Deloitte recruits smart people so you always feel stretched and challenged in your role. Employees are coached to strive for the best and deliver beyond their capabilities, and because you’re part of that culture you work with individuals who have the mindframe of wanting to achieve more. With that, you’re always encouraged to think differently, think outside the box, and push against your boundaries. Deloitte is also an organisation that never stands still – there is always something new they are focussing on to stay ahead in the market. The challenge, which is also an opportunity, is to adapt to a constantly changing sector and to leverage the changes that add value to clients.
What do you see as the future of this sector as it relates to marketing?
I think we are seeing a lot of the big firms focusing on innovation. It really is the new thing. Deloitte has only recently started expanding its expertise into the product world, so this is very new if you compare to how long Deloitte has been in the services sector. I think a lot of the consultancy and professional services firms are starting to explore this innovation angle by developing new products, working with technology providers and delivering innovative solutions to help meet client challenges. The future of the sector lies in how it innovates to deliver new solutions that can add more value to businesses.
One of the focus points of the ESCP MSc in Marketing & Creativity is to approach marketing specifically through creative methods and mind-sets. Is that something you can relate to?
In my previous role at Deloitte I was part of the marketing delivery team. I worked on delivering one of the largest events, The Shared Services Conference, a global event taking place in a different city each year and attracting over a thousand clients. I ran it effectively in Lisbon, and the following year I was part of the planning team for the conference in Vienna. This is where my creativity really flourished, as I was in charge of the event’s whole marketing input from start to end: the communications strategy, the registration process, the creation of an app, branding and visual representation of the brand at the actual event were all key responsibilities I held. This is the role that for sure allowed me to be the most creative in many different areas.