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The secret of marketing?

An Interview with Ben Veechai  (Regional Director, International Marketing, UBM Asia)

As marketers, we strive to learn more all the time – learn more about the customers, the latest technology, our competitors, the macro-economy, our business & new products, and so much more. One of the things I enjoy as the marketer for PR Newswire is that I get to know and meet communications professionals from all types of industries, and I thought it would be useful if I can ask them to share their secret source of marketing, so we can all learn and be better at what we do.

On a quest to find the secret source, I’ve interviewed Ben Veechai, the Regional Director of International Marketing for UBM Asia, who has a wealth of experience in trade show marketing, to share his views. Although he said ‘There are no secrets’ upfront, he did mention the key skill to be a good marketer – Storytelling.


Below is what Ben shared with me. (‘S’ is from me, ‘B’ is from Ben)

S: Hi Ben, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

B: Sure, I head the International Marketing Department at UBM Asia where we work with marketing and product teams across Asia to help increase the number of international visitors to our fairs, as well as adopt marketing best practices.

Prior to joining UBM Asia, I worked at UBM TechWeb/Think Services/CMP Game Group for nearly 5 years, serving as the Marketing Director for UBM’s Game Developer Division, which produces such products as the Game Developer Conferences (GDC), Gamasutra network of Sites, and Game Developer Magazine. Prior to joining UBM, I worked for International Data Group (IDG) under several brands including PC World/Macworld Magazines and their websites, and InfoWorld Media under marketing/ project management roles.

I moved to Hong Kong from San Francisco, grew up in Boston Massachusetts and was born in Bangkok, Thailand.

S: Thanks Ben. Let’s get to the question – what is the secret of marketing?

B: I always say there are no secrets, just well thought-out and executed strategies and plans. However, there are many many tips and tricks for how to optimize the techniques and gain the skills a marketer need in order to create great marketing.

S: What are the fundamental skills needed to be a good marketer?

B: In today’s day and age, there are so many facets to marketing that are expected as part of the package. There is online marketing, social media marketing, research, database analysis and so forth. However I feel that a fundamental skill of any good marketer is the ability to tell a good story. Of course, I am not talking about making up false statements, exaggerations, or the like. What I am talking about is your critical thinking ability and writing skills to analyze the worthwhile reasons to buy or subscribe to your product, service, or attend your event.

To me it’s a marketer’s job to come up with something to say. Repeating statements like, “We are the #1 show, a million exhibitors, and a billion attendees”, is not good story telling at all, it’s not even marketing, it is salesy “spiel” with a limited shelf life, and over time sounds more like propaganda to the audience than it does a convincing story.

A true marketing skill, is the ability to create an impactful story by understanding the needs of our target market, the market conditions, and the unique value proposition that your product or service can deliver to prospective customers.

S: With the many trade shows and events you have worked on, can you give us an example of how “story-telling” helped?

B: One of the shows I worked on last year was Food Ingredients Asia, specifically the 2012 edition that was held in Jakarta, Indonesia. The initial content on the webpage was pretty good, but not sufficient for the long marketing cycle. We had content that was very basic, and we didn’t really have product shots to show the audience what they might expect to see at the event.

So what we did was to make something interesting out of the contacts and resources available to us – exhibitors’ product information, our creativity, and a little elbow grease. The sales team helped the marketing team to collect ‘first to debut’ and exciting products with photos and descriptions, and then the local team created some dynamic pages on the website that displayed those items in an interesting manner. Creating good and interesting content on the website then allowed the team to generate some additional specific industry speaking points to highlight in their marketing materials, and which they could then use in other marketing channels like newsletters, social posts, and press releases to draw people back to the website and learn more about the event.

My philosophy is that it is never a waste of time to develop good content on your website.  Why?

  1. That content is yours and will be on the site forever, or until one refreshes it; 
  2. Creating good content on the website gives the casual online visitor more information to read and educate themselves on their own;
  3. Adding good and business specific content on a website helps to drive up SEO or natural search results; 
  4. Finally, by creating good content on your website, you actually create the foundation for better (and not to mention easier to create) content for your other marketing channels, such as e-newsletters and social media posts. You can literally just cut and paste a smaller teaser of the article into a promotion and hyperlink back to the source content – thereby gaining more readers and engaging the target audience more fully.

S: You constantly educate your colleagues about the value of content marketing, why do you think this is relevant to your team-mates in Asia?

B: As marketers we have to think about “the story” all the time, and ask ourselves questions like: can you deliver and recite an elegant 30 second synopsis of why the stakeholders should care about your product or event?  Can you say why sub-markets within the industry should care?  What opportunities are available to them? If you can’t answer questions like these then you know you have some work to do.

S: Any practical tips or example you can share?

B: A recent example for one of our shows in Thailand. Some of our events are quite well-known in the market they operate in Asia; however, we are now in a good position to focus on more international visitor promotion. One of our events is INTERMACH Thailand, where the team wanted to further strengthen this long running event’s image as ASEAN’s leading machinery & subcontracting exhibition.

I visited the Thailand office and met with the event director, and we decided that within the short amount of time we had to market the show, we needed to work on a marketing and mass communications strategy to create a picture and story of opportunity for the show. Traditional audiences know of the event, but what about the rest of the world? And what better way to tell a story than with press releases?

In the Western World (where the concept was first invented), the purpose of press releases is to give public information, to make a statement. Originally its purpose is to send immediate information to news outlets that is newsworthy. Now of course press releases have evolved over the years and in syndication formats, as well as with different regional styles. I won’t make this a discussion, instead, I will tell you what I think makes poor press releases – the ones that will “turn-off” an audience.

Poor press releases are ones that do not contain any news or information of importance for a mass audience/or specific group. Poor press releases are ones that contain just a sales pitch/marketing messaging. If you find your press releases falling in the latter category, save yourself from alienating your audience and hurting your brand by putting that message in a marketing promotion piece where it belongs, and not in a press release.

S: What results did you get from this PR campaign?

B: We are evaluating our success. What I do know at this point is that this release received over 450 online searches and 311 reposts across different news channels, with the top performers being Yahoo! Finance, Reuters, and Bloomberg Business Week.

I can also tell you that if you did a search for “Fiber Lasers” in Google, this was in the top 1-4 search results over about five months.

We distributed two more releases after this one before the exhibition took place, and the show had a record year in terms of sales and international visitors.


If you’re interested to share your ‘secrets’ in marketing, please do contact me, I’m interested to learn more from you.

Sarah Tam is the Regional Marketing Director for PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter at @sarah_tam.