Interview with Usma Mohamed, Head of Global Marketing at International Baccalaureate (IB)
Usma Mohamed brings 19+ years of marketing experience in both commercial and not-for-profit organizations, where she has led significant marketing, media, branding, communications efforts on a global basis. Her career started with the global security company, Symantec Corporation, Usma was the Online Global Marketing Manager responsible for directing and executing all online marketing strategies on an international scale. In 2007, Usma moved to GuideStar USA, a non-profit organization that specializes in providing background information and reporting tools on U.S. non-profit companies. At GuideStar, Usma served as the Senior Marketing Director overseeing the organizations marketing activities and marketing strategic alignment. Currently, she serves as the Head of Global Marketing at the International Baccalaureate (IB), an international education nonprofit responsible for delivery of education programs to over 5000 schools around the world. In her role, she is responsible for developing global marketing strategies that reach or surpass ambitious growth projections. Within just a few months of joining the IB in 2014, she streamlined and re-organized the marketing department, implemented marketing tools and systems, along with staff training to ensure accurate and effective use. Since then the marketing department delivers integrated multi-channel marketing campaigns that hit their targets, expand brand awareness and stimulate growth and retention, as well as provide affinity engagement in international education. These methods of operation have contributed to a 39% growth rate in the uptake of IB programs and an increase of earned media by 400% globally from 2014–19.
Her academic credentials include a degree in Marketing Management and an advanced degree (MS) in Nonprofit and Association Management. She is also a member of the American Marketing Association. She has also spoken at the National Press Club, in Washington DC and various global events.
Usma is based in the Washington DC metro area, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.
Your Journey as a Marketing Professional.
My marketing journey started about 19 years ago. I started as a Marketing Assistant for a computer federal reseller company. During the early years in my career, I was presented with opportunities to work with some amazing professionals who helped me understand the influencer marketing can have on new and existing customers. A few years later, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work for Symantec Corporation (a security company) as their Marketing Coordinator. I worked my way up to become their Online Marketing Manager. It was with Symantec where I fell in love with marketing and realized that the marketing skillset acquired is agile and flexible enough to apply to any organization in any sector. A good marketer can market any product for any organization. I can honestly say I have done all things marketing from, writing copy/messaging, content management, email marketing, setting up social media channels, planning, strategy and so on. I went on to obtain my BS in Marketing Management and then went on to complete my MS in Management Studies with an emphasis in Nonprofit and Association Management.
I am currently the Head of Global Marketing at the International Baccalaureate (IB). At the IB I am responsible for planning and delivering global multi-channel marketing strategies to increase brand awareness, growth of programs and services, retention and affinity engagement. I have cultivated valuable strategic partnerships in national and international markets that have increased brand recognition of the IB and advanced the mission globally. Prior to joining the IB, I was the Senior Marketing Director at GuideStar, the world’s largest source of nonprofit information. At GuideStar, I managed all marketing, lead generation and acquisition, donor relations, product launches, and retention strategies.
What are the primary marketing channels you have worked on? What will be your advice to young marketers on each of these channels?
I have experience working on all marketing channels as part of an integrated marketing approach working for a global organization. I am familiar with marketing channels, both digital and traditional. The two channels I have used the most are email and social media.
Email marketing is a more direct approach, speaking to a specific audience with a specific message and call to action. It is important to think about the expectations of the person who is receiving the message or email. The email should provide them with the information they need to quickly determine if they would like to “learn more”. It is a good idea to have a landing page or a call to action associated with email campaigns. Another tip I would offer is to make sure you are not emailing your audience too much. Email fatigue can annoy the person receiving the emails and will lead to high unsubscribe rates.
Social Media is now a fabric of modern society and therefore it should be embraced. The tip I would provide is, understanding the different social channels that exist: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on. and then understanding what channels work best for your audience. Marketers need to be satisfied not using all channels but using the channels that provide your organization with favorable social media engagement levels. Reviewing the data on the backend of your social media platforms will provide the data needed to determine what channels work best.
There are various exciting marketing channels out there, and new ones are emerging all the time. The new ones are more interactive and engaging, such as podcasts and live streaming channels. It is best to consider a multi-channel marketing approach to promoting the organization and its products and services.
What are some of the important marketing software that you have used and found to be really useful for your company?
I would like to recommend two marketing software tools that have been useful in my career. The first is Pardot, a marketing automation software. This software like many others can help an organization nurture a new prospect and keep an existing customer satisfied by delivering relevant and contextual content automatically to the customer. The software delivers data on the backend to really help organizations understand where their customers are coming from and what content customers find compelling. This data is very helpful to any marketer to make decisions on enhancing or adapting marketing campaigns and initiatives. The second tool I think is important is Avochato software. This software provides a messaging communication platform for customer service, marketing, and sales teams. Their software enables organizations to communicate with staff, prospects and existing customers easily using their easy to use text messaging software.
Which companies, according to you, are your competitors. How do you differentiate against these?
I think companies who are considered competitors are any organizations that have products and services that provide other alternatives or substitutes to what your organization offers. For example, Pepsi and Coca Cola. The way companies can differentiate from their competitors is through their unique value proposition and unique brand commitment to the customer. The questions I ask that can help with product differentiation are: how does your brand make your customers feel? How can an organization ensure they fulfill their brand promise? and finally, what does your product or company offer that other competitors in your space do not? Having a consistent message and position that reflects these questions will help differentiate a company and its products and services from others in the market.
Your 2 line advice to people entering in the marketing domain.
Marketing is all about relationships and making connections with your existing and potential customers. My advice would be to have the processes and plans to include your existing and potential customers to help shape your organizations future and maintain a competitive advantage.