#WomenInTech: The Growing Role of Marketers with Hana Abaza of Shopify Plus
Hana Abaza, Head of Marketing at Shopify Plus, is one of Toronto’s leading voices on marketing and growth. We sat down with her a few months ago when she was Head of Strategy at Uberflip to talk about leadership, the enduring value of quality content, and the growing role and influence of marketers.
Career, Leadership, and Culture
Menaka: How does where you are today compare with where you thought you’d be, career-wise, when you were in university?
Hana: I did a degree in finance, so I was definitely on a different path. I was good at it, so I did it. I didn’t really love finance, I didn’t really want to be an investment banker, which was sort of the initial path laid out before me.
At the end of university I started taking more marketing-related courses, and as soon as I graduated, I realized I didn’t want to go into that corporate finance world. I actually ended up managing the collective marketing for a chain of martial arts studios instead. It was sort of the time when Twitter was becoming a thing, and businesses started really needing an online presence, so I learned the skills. That was sort of my first step into it.
Menaka: How should leadership think about company culture?
Hana: First and foremost, I think you have to put effort into it. Company culture has got to be something that you’re actually legitimately talking about, something you’re focused on.
Culture is this abstract thing: I think when you’re small it just sort of happens organically, but you have to be really intentional and purposeful as you grow your company. You have to very intentionally nurture that culture to grow with you.
Importance of Quality Content
Menaka: These days there’s so much content out there. As a content marketer, do you find that it’s still important for companies to create quality content?
Hana: I definitely think it’s possible, but it’s harder than it used to be. In the early days, it was really easy to create content and get quick results. But now there’s a lot more noise – you’re competing for the attention of an audience who’s always got lots of options.
When it comes down to it, you have to ask, is the stuff that you’re creating really relevant to your audience? A lot of the content out there isn’t. I don’t think you can just get away with sort of half-baked blog posts and see that traffic grow – I think it’s far more competitive than that.
But for marketers who are creating quality content that’s actually relevant, it still works well. People are still going online to find the resources they need, and they’re not going to stop doing that; if anything, that’s going to grow.
Menaka: At Uberflip you hosted Flip the Switch, a podcast for all things marketing. Why do you like podcasting as a way to engage a network of people?
Hana: Podcasting, I feel, has gone through a little bit of a renaissance. It’s really sort of caught on in the last two years and the numbers have just blown up. It’s just far more accessible. So we just wanted to experiment with it, and because we’re a content marketing company, we wanted to be on the forefront of what’s new and find new ways to interact with our audience. And it’s been a lot of fun. I mean, I’m also a podcast junkie myself, so I definitely wanted to be a part of it. It seems to really be resonating with people.
The Growing Role of Marketers
Menaka: Why do you like marketing?
Hana: Marketing is going through a very exciting phase right now. Marketers, in general, have more influence and more impact than they’ve ever had before. Now we’re much more accountable, now we can show the tangible impact on revenue. Whether it be in branding or growth, marketers are now way more influential.
Everywhere from smaller companies to large organizations, marketers are being taken much more seriously. There’s a great quote by Seth Godin in a blog that Marketo published: “The marketer needs to be in charge of everything a company does…they need to be the first step.” That’s a pretty profound statement.