Dropbox is a company renowned and revered for its design capability. But what’s it like to work as a marketer in such a distinct culture?
We spoke to James Keating, head of marketing, EMEA, Dropbox, to find out what his days look like, and what skills and tools he needs to succeed.
Remember, if you want to fast track your development, Econsultancy offers a whole host of marketing training.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
James Keating: As head of EMEA marketing, my role essentially consists of two overarching goals: to drive the growth of Dropbox’s EMEA business, by championing the voice of the customer, and to drive awareness of the Dropbox Business brand.
I lead a large, cross-functional team across several offices in pursuit of these objectives. While Dropbox gained its initial fame as a file-sharing tool for the consumer market, we have evolved a sophisticated business offering that takes us far beyond these roots. Our products and integrations help a wide variety of businesses to collaborate both within and outside of their organisations, and my job is to encourage more businesses to do the same.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
James Keating: As a marketing team, we don’t operate in isolation – in fact, we increasingly find ourselves working with other teams, whether that’s customer experience, sales, or IT. In my position, being able to traverse that territory and connect all the dots is vital.
This ultimately comes down to a combination of soft skills and business fundamentals – you need empathy to understand, for example, the impact that an end of quarter pressure has on a sales team. And to work with and manage teams that don’t report directly into you, you need to establish shared goals, clear plans, and a predictable work rhythm. Communication is key.
Tell us about a typical working day…
James Keating: I often work across time zones, which means there is no typical day. It can sometimes start with a 7.30am call with Sydney and end with a late one to San Francisco. I could be talking strategy with the wider leadership team or getting deep into a specific sector’s collaboration needs with an industry team. It varies dramatically.
The good news is that Dropbox encourages flexible working to take this all into account, allowing me to manage my time effectively while maintaining that all-important work-life balance.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
James Keating: I get to work with fantastic people every day. Dropbox has a distinct culture and the hiring process is very thoughtful. We’re constantly in the process of building something, and this means we are very considered about who we bring on-board – ultimately, we want people to be successful at the company. As a result, I enjoy working with a group of creative and talented people who want to make an impact every day.
The only frustration is that I simply cannot do everything that I would like to in a given day. There are always areas where we could be improving things and turning the meter, yet you can’t strike in every direction – it’s vital to be focused and make tough choices. I’d love to be able to say yes more, but it’s not always possible.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
James Keating: It’s really important for marketers to choose their metrics well. They need to be able to communicate the impact of their efforts to the rest of the business, in a way that resonates with the C-Suite.
For us, that comes down to several indicators: marketing’s contribution to the sales pipeline, overall customer satisfaction and changes in Dropbox Business brand awareness. If these figures are growing, I know that marketing is directly contributing to the wider business in a way that anyone, from the CFO to a salesperson, can understand.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
James Keating: At risk of being outrageously self-promotional, I spend about 80% of my working time in Dropbox Paper. It’s a very adaptable product, and I can feed in any number of other useful marketing tools into it – whether that’s creative, analytical, or communication applications.
For example, the integration with conferencing service Zoom really helps me in my day-to-day working life. I frequently collaborate with people across the globe and with Zoom I can smoothly have a call with someone in San Francisco while we work on, say, a presentation together.
How did you end up at Dropbox, and where might you go from here?
James Keating: When I was approached to lead EMEA marketing at Dropbox, I had been working at Microsoft for almost a decade (amongst other large blue chip companies). While the Dropbox team approached me because they were keen to learn from the longevity and success of technology giants, I had also developed an appetite for smaller companies in a previous role at a UK start up.
I’ve spent most of my career working in B2B software marketing roles, whether at Oracle or Microsoft, and the great thing about working in this field is that there is the opportunity to build something that can make a massive difference to businesses everywhere. For me, Dropbox has only just begun its journey – we’re barely a decade old, and our best years are ahead of us. I see so much room for me to continue to contribute and build something in the coming years.
Which B2B campaigns have you admired lately?
James Keating: I think IBM’s work around Watson has been incredibly effective in terms of changing perceptions of the brand. IBM has a huge legacy behind it, but it’s not usually seen as a technology brand that’s on the cutting edge of innovation. However, by making this AI product the complete focus of their marketing efforts through a series of clever activations including adverts with celebrities and dramatic appearances at events, the brand has managed to communicate its continued relevance.
At a time when investment is flooding towards technology firms, demonstrating they are a leader in AI is invaluable.
Do you have any advice for people looking to work at a tech company like Dropbox?
James Keating: At a technology company, you’re constantly working at the margins of what’s possible. When building something new, you need to be comfortable with change, be curious, impatient and adaptable. Beyond any hard skills, developing that ability to make decisions and to be entrepreneurial is perhaps the key factor for thriving at a place like Dropbox.