Destination, Switzerland: Evgeniya Zhilchenko of Brandfinity

Welcome to our new blog series, Marketing Without Borders. Twice per month, we invite a leader from our global network of partners to share their experiences with their unique perspectives on marketing, technology, and business. The questions are ours, but the answers are theirs – every word, shared without edit, from their fingers to your eyes.

Today, we welcome Evgeniya Zhilchenko. Evgeniya is the Co-founder of Brandfinity, a digital marketing agency based in Switzerland focused on small and medium-sized businesses. In addition to offering consulting services and digital marketing workshops, Brandfinity helps brands build and integrate automation services and create exceptional customer experiences. Along with founding the agency, Evgeniya also helped launch the e-commerce shop Beammehome. She developed the strategy, created and tested product prototypes, worked on branding, advertising and business development. Prior to starting Brandfinity and Beammehome, Evgeniya worked in operations and administration roles at Singapore Airlines. She has a degree from Moscow Business Academy, and has also earned certifications in entrepreneurship (Wharton School, Pennsylvania) and SEO (UC Davis, California).

Tell us about Brandfinity, about the companies you work with, and the role marketing plays at those companies.

Brandfinity is a boutique digital marketing agency in Switzerland that works with small and medium sized companies. Having very deep digital marketing experience (about 17 years) in different industries like luxury, watches, airlines, education and others, Brandfinity decided to “open their doors” and support Swiss companies in their digital marketing transformation. With the change in consumer behaviours and expectations, digital marketing proficiency is paramount to the success of every company. But not every company can pay a lot of attention to digital marketing. It results in low or average performance and puts them under pressure from competition. That is where Brandfinity comes in – we help our clients create exceptional digital customer journeys. Brandfinity will help understand the gaps a company has to fill and establish the right digital marketing strategy, tools and processes.

What are the big marketing trends you are seeing currently? And do you see those trends changing in the next 3 years? How so?

Yes, it is digitalization, automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics. But everyone doesn’t share the same understanding of each of these. Right now there is a lot of buzz and words floating around like the “cream floating on the top of the milk.” In general, not a lot of companies / people know how to “cook these creams,” – how to differentiate the noise from the important elements, and even more, how to make these ideas really work. It is important to know what is standing behind automation, digitalization and machine learning. In the next 3 years we see further growth in the complexity and numbers of channels to reach customers. And because of the ever growing volume of information being consumed every day, we see a lower attention span of the audiences on content and advertising. The expectation of the consumers towards the brands will require companies to provide the right content, on the right platform in the right context on one side, but also add value to the customers and be relevant / personalized on the other side. The same is true on the customer acquisition phase, as well as in the retention phase throughout the customer lifecycle. Therefore, proficiency in the way the digital customer journey is built, mass customization through automation, and machine learning will be the daily bread of every successful business. Who is starting to grow “seeds” and do tests in this area already now? They will be the winners of the future. As we are in a very fast-developing world and machines learn very fast, we all need to move quickly as well.

What are the biggest marketing challenge your clients are facing today? What’s keeping them up at night? And what kind of advice do you find yourself frequently offering to your clients?

I think today the biggest challenge for our clients is to be present on all the channels where the clients are, as well as on all devices. What keeps them up at night is that they need to adapt to a nonlinear customer journey, with so many variations which makes it complicated to address as a marketer. What we often do today is start the interactions with our clients by using a design thinking approach, where we collaborate on customer journey mappings and persona definitions before we create the plans and implement the solutions.

What mistakes or incorrect assumptions are companies making today with regard to their marketing strategy?

A lot of companies still rely on their year long habits and tactics, losing the customer focus, and not adapting to the new behaviours. Some companies think that simply buying the right “tech stack” will save them. The problem is that before implementing a tech stack, you need to map your customer journeys, understand it, highlight the pain points – who is your audience and where can you find them? – before you think of the solution you need to address these needs. In summary, you need to create a strategy based on realtime insights, put the right team together, move fast, be ready to make errors to learn and constantly be improving your strategy.

Can you share an example of a marketing success story you experienced recently – whether at Brandfinity or with one of your clients?

We can share a lot of success stories. But to be short, we will highlight one. We started our work with one client by sitting with the executive management team for a day in a workshop. We had prepared a thorough and deep analysis of the “as is” status, it opened the eyes and gave lots of ideas to the participants: where they are, where their competitors are, where they could be, what steps are currently mastered and how many other steps need to be worked on. We created a customer journey mapping together, to show the logic of possible automation processes. Out of that we built a visual customer journey flow, and the client was able to see how everything connected: the CRM, automated emails, communication tracking, campaigns being triggered – they could see the progression of the leads through their funnel. Companies like this who we accompany in their digitalization process understand better how and where to start their transformation. They confirm that automation processes save them time, improve their customer experience, and the most important thing, deliver better ROI.

What is one of your other favorite MarTech tools?

Brandfinity likes to use different marketing tools from our digital “treasure box” for customers. As we are working hard on creating exceptional, personalized digital customer journeys, we thoroughly choose the tools for every client. One of the many reasons we love Mautic is that we can integrate it with different CRM solutions amd third party applications to connect things like event and appointment bookings, for example. We like google data studio for reporting, and SEMrush for SEO. For us it’s important to understand customer needs and adapt the solution to their needs and also to their budget – this is what makes us successful.

What unique marketing challenges exist in your market/your clients’ markets that might surprise readers from other parts of the world?

I think in general, marketing challenges are relatively the same everywhere. In the Swiss market, the challenge is the market itself. First of all, it is a small country with a population of 8.5 million. Secondly, the country is divided with three different language regions, German, French, and Italian. So you need to find your niche, or go global, as the market is very limited in size for one single language.

The concept of Open Marketing is very important to Mautic. We believe there are very real advantages to an open approach in marketing solutions/platforms, as well as to business and operating philosophy in general. What does open mean to you in terms of marketing, business, and technology?

To me, open for marketing means being open to new ideas, open to test and learn, open to questioning and challenging strategies and tactics all the time. For business, I would say it is the same as marketing. For technology, it is clearly essential to use platforms which are “open.” As we move today in a very agile way, technology needs to enable marketing tactics and strategies, that means that you need to be able to plug and unplug solutions to one another, add further technologies to a stack, while keeping an eye on data, consistency and enabling a fully integrated client view.

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