In this edition of EdTech Mentor we get a window into the life and career of Ana María Beleño, a proud Bogotan with extensive experience selling technology products. Ana María reveals her secrets for success in audience segmentation, strategic alignment between marketing and sales, and innovative tactics for global marketing. With acuity and wisdom, she immerses us in her professional path, offering a unique and valuable vision for how to tackle the challenges of an EdTech environment that is in a state of constant evolution.
Pearls of Wisdom
Driving creativity in B2B is my permanent challenge.
If I could talk to a 20-year-old me, I would encourage myself to keep going and explore a new professional direction without fear. It’s a cliché, but I can tell you that in the end everything works out for the best!
These are the three keys to EdTech marketing: audience segmentation, understanding the needs, and developing marketing strategies with ROI.
It is essential to act without fear of making mistakes; to play trial and error. For me, it is important that people are proactive, take initiative and inspire the teams they work with.
Technology and B2B companies tend to be afraid to try different things. It would do us good to challenge ourselves more as an industry and use more digital strategies.
What allows me to maintain a solid relationship with the sales team is understanding their challenges and not doing campaigns just for the sake of doing campaigns. If it's just three campaigns, it's three, but they're well done.
We start with a well-organized strategy, with clear objectives. This motivates our sales team. It’s also important to build confidence and to show that we aren’t just trying random things, but rather that we know that what we are implementing will work.
My recommendation is to develop marketing strategies directed at deans, directors, as well as managers and department heads. Focus on who has decision-making power regarding tools.
What brought you to marketing?
I have about 14 years’ experience in marketing and communications. I studied International Relations and specialized in Marketing. I started working in PR and advertising agencies managing accounts in different industries such as pharmaceutical, technology, consumer goods and automotive for about 7 years before moving into the B2B industry. I started at Bizagi, where I spent 3 years, and then entered the BPO world at Teleperformance, always with roles focused on regional marketing. I've been at Anthology for a year now, after working at the advertising agency Sancho.
What brought you to EdTEch? What caught your attention and drew you to this industry?
I’ve always worked with technology, in both the B2B and B2C realms. I’ve always been interested in the technology field. Although I’d never worked in the education sector previously, what caught my attention was the way technology solutions are implemented in this area. I had already applied technology in various B2B areas, but I was intrigued to discover the opportunities to apply it in the educational environment as well.
I remember last year I participated in a global educational event in Medellín where I had the opportunity to moderate a panel on public-private collaboration in education. The panel included NGOs, foundations, and the directors of Pies Descalzos and USAID. As I was moderating, I began to understand a lot of things and I came to a major conclusion: through education, we are creating new citizens. We are molding a more empathetic society that is more conscious of our current challenges. I felt that being a part of this industry means I can contribute to this purpose of creating new citizens and transforming societies. At that moment, everything made sense and I realized that this has a much more profound impact than I initially thought. I’m completely impressed and aligned with that vision.
What achievements are you most proud of?
I think that my greatest achievement is who I have become today as a professional. My road was not that clear at the beginning given that I majored in something completely unrelated to Marketing and ended up going in a different direction. Then look at where I am today, leading the marketing and communications for what is considered the leading EdTech business at a global level. That is my biggest achievement. Also, I have the support of my regional team, who are the ones who make each campaign we dream up a reality. My biggest accomplishment is having taken every step on the road without skipping a single one and being here as the Regional Marketing Director for LATAM at Anthology.
What are your biggest challenges?
I’ve shared this story with you before, but accepting this role represented a challenge for me. After having worked at different agencies and multinationals, living on both the agency and client side, my goal from the beginning was to figure out how to promote creativity in B2B, which tends to be very traditional. Webinars, email campaigns, events, and sponsorships are common practice and considered the standard. Sometimes account-based marketing is also used (ABM). So how can we bring creativity to all this? How can we tell stories about education, which can sometimes seem like somewhat flat content? How can we make it attractive? But, of course, it’s not just about being creative and having great ideas, but about getting commercial results for the region. This is my biggest challenge: to come up with creative campaigns that respond to the objectives we define for the region.
What would you say to 20-year-old Ana María?
I’d tell her, “Keep going and don’t be afraid.” When I graduated with a degree in international relations, I was focused on having a diplomatic career. I did an internship in the Ministry of Foreign Relations, working with chancellor Fernando Araujo, who had limited experience with the latest technology because he had been kidnapped for several years. I was his right hand, explaining the basics of the internet to him. During that time, I was also in charge of bilateral reports and press releases for the Ministry. I realized that communications were something I was interested in. I was scared at the beginning, because I had dreamed of a diplomatic career, but I realized that there were aspects of the profession that weren’t that exciting. So I was motivated to keep going without being afraid and explore this new professional direction. It’s a cliché, but I can tell you that in the end everything works out for the best.
What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing EdTechs when it comes to selling or marketing their products?
In terms of marketing, I think you can sum up the challenges in three key points. First, audience segmentation is key to deeply understanding the needs and concerns of the institutions and decision-makers. Second, it is essential to understand the needs of the end user, both in the development of the product and in marketing strategies. We must focus on solving their problems. Finally, we can’t lose sight of return on investment (ROI) when launching campaigns and marketing strategies. Putting out content without getting results isn’t effective. So to sum up, those are the three key points: audience segmentation, understanding the need, and marketing strategies with ROI.
What are the most important elements when it comes to marketing in Latin America?
Regarding marketing strategies for Latin America, it is important to take into account that each country has its own customs and behaviors, despite being in the same region. As is the case of Brazil, which has even more particularities than the rest of Latin American countries. We always try to make umbrella campaigns for the region that cover all of Latin America, but it is always important to make more segmented campaigns. For this I divide the region into sub-regions such as Brazil, Southern Cone, Andean, Mexico and Caribbean. For example, we currently have a large Branded Content campaign called Antología that covers all of Latam and we complement it with more specific campaigns focused on the sub-regions.
What do you look for when you choose talent for your team?
I look for people who are hands-on, who are ready to roll up their sleeves and work together. Reflecting on my experiences with different bosses, I was able to conclude what kind of manager I want to be and what kind I definitely don't want to be. I believe it is essential to act without fear of making mistakes, to play trial and error. For me, what is important is that people are proactive, proactive and that they are able to inspire the teams they work with.
What skills should someone have to work in EdTech marketing?
I am very insistent with audience segmentation and this applies not only to someone working in EdTech but in any industry. Not enough importance is given to this, which should be one of the main starting points for a marketing campaign strategy. Not all campaigns work for everyone. Understanding our audiences is key. We must also be brave and creative. Technology and B2B companies tend to be afraid to try different things. It would do us good to challenge ourselves more as an industry and use more digital strategies. There are a lot of new digital tools that we should implement and explore opportunities for B2B marketing.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
I’m having a wonderful time, honestly, and I'm enjoying it to the fullest because everything has been experimentation, with responsibility but experimentation at the end of the day. I have a manager who trusts my professional criteria, a sales team that is totally involved in my ideas and those of my team, and you 27zero who have been my extended Marketing team to execute every campaign we dreamed of. I never imagined that I would find someone like you guys, who have been my key to driving creativity. Currently, LAC has managed to be a reference internally within Anthology for all the marketing strategies that are being implemented, in addition to the joint work with the sales team. So much so, that ideas that were born in this team are being replicated.
What events are most important in the region for establishing a sponsorship or for getting to know the industry?
We are organizing our own events with relevant content and valuable information, avoiding putting on events that are purely sales-focused, but rather focusing on contributing to the industry alongside various partners. We also find it important to sponsor industry events; to mention just a few, we are currently participating in events held by our partner Microsoft, we also participate in Virtual Educa and EDUTIC events that have the type of audience we are looking for as a company.
You report to global marketing, but you also must report many things to sales. How do you manage that sales-marketing tension and what are the keys that can lead to a healthy relationship between the two?
It's a challenge because global marketing often has its own requirements, and the goals vary from region to region. What I have learned in my various roles is that the priority must be to align with the sales team. We start by setting business goals and having a clear understanding of the challenges in order to develop strategies and build effective campaigns that will enable us to achieve our goals. Once we are aligned with the regional sales team, everything runs in parallel. Global marketing has its approach, and we evaluate what we can adapt and apply locally. The first step when we receive a global campaign to determine if it will be implemented in the region is to analyze its adaptability, from language localization to execution and the results we can achieve. For me, that's what allows me to maintain a strong relationship with the sales team: understanding their challenges and not running campaigns for the sake of running campaigns. If it's three campaigns, do three, but do them well.
What do you think is the key to starting to do things that are riskier and more creative?
The formula we’re following right now is clear and strategic. We’re focused on our conversion funnel and on how to respond to each stage. We’re also making sure to address the principal pain point for the sales team, which is selling. We start with a well-organized strategy, with clear objectives. This motivates our sales team. It’s also important to build confidence and show that we aren’t just trying things at random, but rather that we know that what we are implementing will work.
How do you organize your planning over the short, medium, and long term?
I am not organizing anything long-term at the moment. We live in a time of constant change, so it is necessary to have a short and medium term organization. We like to plan, but we also have the flexibility to be a team ready to solve any situation. We are in a moment of many improvements in each of our solutions, that is why I mentioned flexibility and not being "married" to long-term plans.
What recommendations would you give for making good product content for EdTech?
I think it’s important to put yourself in the place of our potential clients to really understand their needs. Personally, I insist on this point and I consider it to be one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from working in technology and other industries. It is fundamental to understand how we can offer solutions and explore different ways of presenting the content. Whether that’s videos, podcasts, or other formats, you must look beyond the typical long, tedious PDF. Our objective must be to provide the information quickly and clearly so that users can evaluate whether the solution is a good fit, and if they want more details they can investigate further.
Do you think it’s better for EdTech to make a sale from the dean to the functional areas, or vice versa?
It depends on the solution, given that the dean will have a complete vision of the needs of the institution. However, by addressing more mid-level people, not necessarily at the final stage of the process, we can understand specifically what they need. So, my recommendation is to develop marketing strategies directed at both audiences. For Anthology, we must communicate both with the C-level and the mid-level people such as directors, managers, and department heads who also influence the dean and can tell them, “yes, dig into this tool a little, I think it will be useful for us.”