Listening Leads to Good Things, Says Lenovo’s IDG CMO

small business feedback

Ask a hundred Americans to define the word “gimmick” and most will be able to. But what’s the opposite of a gimmick? You could say, oh, something extremely useful, something that lasts, etc. Whatever the word is, good brands want it, and as a small business owner, so should you.

Ever notice it’s always the bad brands who try to sell gimmicks? How does a brand avoid going down a gimmicky path? Two universal principles are systematic listening, and genuinely wanting to solve customers’ problems. Small Business Trends had a Zoom chat with Emily Ketchen, CMO of Lenovo IDG. In a nutshell, Lenovo regards feedback loops as serious business, and a great idea pipeline for manufacturing useful features and/or useful devices. (Or non-gimmicks, you might say)

Small Business Trends: How are you helping SMBs? How should a big brand such as yours listen to feedback from SMB customers?

Emily Ketchen: We develop solutions based on customer insights that deliver very tangible benefits, sometimes addressing customers’ needs before they even know they have the need. A good example of that: we have an insights community of more than 4,500 customers who we talk to on a regular basis. We have several customer advisory councils with more than 200 customers who we speak to on a very regular basis. And we also have the ability to leverage big data and analytics through a customer insight dashboard where we capture unsolicited customer comments and feedback that we then turn into very actionable insights and results.

For example, in the current world we’re all in, with remote work and 24/7 collaboration, having a laptop that includes earbuds is a fantastic way for a small business to be able to be business-ready at any given moment.

And that’s a product we built that came out of an insight, by listening to customers who were on-the-go and in need of collaboration tools in the moment. So that’s a great tangible example of how those insights parlay into product innovations and the unique approach we take to SMBs.

Small Business Trends: What have you generally observed when it comes to SMBs’ attitudes toward cybercrime? What would you like them to know? 

Emily Ketchen: Most SMBs may not think of themselves as cybercrime targets. But in today’s world, everyone is. Each and every day, up to 360,000 new malicious files enter the digital ecosystem – they do not discriminate between the size of the business.  As SMBs grow and expand their remote workforces, they have to commit to more business-centric and agile approaches that put security and privacy at the center of their organizational strategies. It’s important for employees to be vigilant – it’s not their responsibility to necessarily define the security strategy.

And that’s a great example of where we come in. Security is very complex, but at the fundamental level: securing the supply chain, securing the device itself, securing the interactions between the device and the cloud, are core to an effective security strategy. And those policies and implementations need to be seamless to the employee as well as to the organization. Most Lenovo laptops have biometric fingerprint readers, they have hardware-based security chips and BIOS protection as a first line of defense. Lenovo further protects customers through ThinkShield. The elements of ThinkShield are specifically designed to deliver real-time benefits to vulnerabilities that may be out there.

The other solution we developed for the SMB community through listening and understanding the threat landscape and the issues that are out there is a product – specifically for them – called the Lenovo Security Console. SMBs are very much at risk for cyberattacks. There’s a statistic that shows almost 60 percent of SMBs that were breached went out of business, which is frankly terrifying. The Lenovo Security Console is a solution that offers more protection than what they’d typically get out of the box which includes end-point security, compliance on the actual device, blocking suspicious and abnormal activity, and also malware and ransomware which we’ve all heard a lot about. We think it’s our job to provide these solutions proactively.

Small Business Trends: Should a small business owner strive to be ‘cutting edge’ now more than ever? What would you like to say to SMBs?  

Emily Ketchen: I think it’s super important for SMBs to take advantage of what we’re beginning to see as “the recovery.” We’re at a moment of inflection where SMBs can take stock of what they have and start to think about how tech can enable them as a tool to future-proof. Safeguarding things like business continuity, making sure that business and digital transformation is at the center of their strategy, because I think we will see a continued press toward hybrid.

Small Business Trends: Did your personal and professional background add a special touch to your journey in becoming IDG Lenovo’s CMO? How would you summarize the value of the Lenovo brand to SMBs?  

Emily Ketchen: I am a “third culture kid” which means that as I was growing up, I didn’t really fit into either of the cultures of my parents or where I lived. I have an American father and a British mother and I was born in Brazil. Interestingly, I think that experience gave me a really unique perspective on humanity. I’ve always been a student of different cultures and approaches, and so professionally that translated after school and into a career in marketing. For the last 30 years the ways in which science and art come together in marketing are very engrained in my ability to be a student of life, and ultimately to [understand] our customers which is what’s at the center of what motivates me and the work that I do for both small and medium businesses and in technology.  I worked on the agency side and on the brand side in a range of industries from airlines to non-profits, but I’ve spent the last 25 years in technology and I’m super inspired by the pace of technology. I get great joy in making the complex simple.

I really also enjoy everything that goes into growing and retaining super creative talent and forward-thinking individuals. We have an incredibly entrepreneurial spirit as a company. It drives individual contribution and very meaningful results in our organization. It allows people inside the company to understand how to best support small business customers. Everyday I see examples of people going above and beyond the call of duty to really support customers in achieving their goals.  We have an enviable breadth of technology in the portfolio. But I don’t think we seek to sell hardware – we really seek to listen, understand and act as an advisor to small and medium businesses.

Image courtesy of Lenovo IDG

Image: Depositphotos

Alex Yong Alex Yong is a staff writer and host of the Small Business Trends Livestreamed Livelihoods interview series featuring sessions with today's movers and shakers in the livestreaming world. Alex was named a must-follow PR resource in Cision North America’s list of the top 50 Twitter influencers utilizing rich media tweets, alongside Guy Kawasaki and Lee Odden.