Q&A with Amaysim’s CMO Renee Garner: Getting consumers to ‘love’ telcos, and how to bounce back when you’re at your worst

Amaysim's chief marketing officer Renee Garner believes if you can succeed in marketing utilities, you can succeed in marketing anything. Not only that, she thinks she can get consumers to love their telco.

Speaking to Mumbrella's Vivienne Kelly, she also reveals the harsh truths she has learned on her way to the top, including the need for women to support women, what can go wrong when your personal life bleeds into your professional life, and the tools you need to recover when it's not quite working.

Renee Garner, chief marketing officer, Amaysim (RG)
Vivienne Kelly, editor, Mumbrella (VK)

VK: Do you think we still need International Women’s Day, and why do you think it’s important?

RG: Absolutely, would be my first answer.

I think we need it because we need to continue to shine a light on supporting women in all of their aspirations, through all aspects of their lives, through access to education, through success in the workplace, through equality across various issues, but I think it’s just something that we’ll endure for many, many years to come.

And I also think we need to have International Men’s Day, which does actually exist, which is good as well. Because there are issues that are relevant to men that we need to shine a light on as well. And there are unique issues across those different groups.

VK: When it comes to marketing more specifically, what road blocks do you think are still in the way of women getting to the top?

RG: I think there’s many organisations where the reality is, they are more male-dominated for whatever reason.

I think there’s a job to do in women continuing to support women and solidarity in the workplace.

There’s also a job for us to make sure that women can return from time away, and we had a fantastic session today at lunch from the ladies at She Drives, who we use for our females in the workforce that go out of the workforce and helping them come back in really successfully, transition back. There’s a big job to do there, because it’s a super important part of their lives.

Garner: Women need to support women

I think we’ve got to continue to support women coming up the ranks, give them access to the opportunities, give them the mentorship that they require to be successful which is around, from my perspective, courage and confidence. And then to ensure that they can go out of the workforce and then [re]enter the workforce in a really successful way that they thrive once they’ve gone and had a family.

VK: So speaking of courage and confidence, whenever discussions about the gender pay gap come up, someone will inevitably say ‘Oh, it’s because women just don’t ask, or they don’t negotiate as hard, or they don’t have the courage to say and go after what they want’. What’s your perspective on that?

RG: It’s interesting, because I do mentor quite a lot of women, and I think most of them are really quite competent, smart and intelligent. I do think that confidence to have the tough conversations, to say what [your] true ambition is to [your] manager, to put [your] ask of the world out there, I think that is something that is there in women, sometimes a bit of a lack of confidence. And so I think certainly, being confident is a really important thing to do those things, to ask for the things that you think you deserve. To ask for the opportunities that you want to take. You can try something new and be at your edge, to have a tough conversation, to give feedback – confidence is super important in women. That is something that as a female I certainly focus on when I’m mentoring others.

VK: And so what advice do you give your mentees for having difficult conversations?

RG: I think I take a broader view. When I’m mentoring young women or any of my team, I say ‘Just do not hold back from being you. Feel absolutely confident in your ability, in your competence, in your smarts, and be confident in sharing the truth – your passion, your ideas, your quirks, your dreams, your fears – just do it. What’s the worst that can happen? You’re a magnificent human. If others try and bring you down, what is the worst that can happen?

So, it’s really, I think you’ve just got to give people the courage and make them feel comfortable that they’ve got the mechanisms there and the confidence to do it to have the tough conversations.

VK: And speaking of ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ So far in your career, what’s the best and the worst moment?

RG: Hmm. What’s the worst moment of my career?

To have a lot of wins, you’ve got to have a lot of failures, and I’ve had some absolutely huge ones.

I’ve had times where I’ve just not been at my best, and I’ve had feedback.

[I was] going through a really challenging, stressful period a few years back when there was a lot on my plate and I had very high expectations of myself. I felt like I wasn’t meeting them. And I was going through quite a stressful time. My mother became quite unwell, and I got some feedback then that I had, feedback from peers, that I was not at my best.

I think I was acting out a little bit, wearing a lot of the emotion on my sleeve, because I was highly stressed. And it was a really tough time, but I got some really great feedback and I was in such a supportive environment there, where I had both males and females around me that shared with me that feedback in a really positive, constructive way, and in a way that felt so supportive, because the worst time of my life, I was able to get that feedback from really great humans who enabled me to get that self-awareness.

And that’s where the support is so much required from females, or men, when you’re going through different parts of your life. You can’t be happy all the time. You’re going to go through these periods. And so that support at work and having that support network is super important. So, that’s sort of the more challenging times of my life.

And then, what’s been the best?

The best times I have at work is when I’m kicking goals with the team, I must say. When we’re all after some big, bold, ambitious thing, and we’re all getting after it. Whether we get there or not – it’s that vibe of feeling like one team, one dream – I know that’s cliche – and getting after something together, and all humming, getting along, supporting each other, and getting after something that is big. And some big learnings I’ve had in my life, as I’ve gotten to more senior roles, I don’t want to chase the small stuff with the team. It’s really important not to drive my business like a project, like project management. It’s important to get the team all around some exciting, big goal and just go for it. That’s where the fun is.

VK: So, you’ve mentioned quite a few times about supporting each other and being supportive and creating supportive environments, how can women better support women in the workplace?

RG: I think first of all, we have to make sure that we look out for each other. And I think a big part of that is being really in tune with your team and the people around you. So, really keeping an eye out, watching their energy levels, asking questions, checking in all the time. And then, really, offering support of, where do you want to get to? What help do you need? And often having coaching conversations and mentor conversations as the case may be. And I certainly found that that personally has been hugely impactful in my career.

I’ve been really fortunate to have worked with some really strong female leaders. Catherine Tanner, for example, who’s the CEO of Energy Australia. Kim Clarke, who was my CMO when I was working at Energy Australia. And Clare Savage, another very strong female leader who’s now the chair of the Australian Energy Regulator. They’re all incredibly impressive women, but incredibly connected in terms of the way they watched, mentored and were really attuned to what my ambition [was], but also playing to my strengths. And also supporting me through challenging situations, where I didn’t have all the answers and really needed their guidance.

And then the way I’ve really adopted a lot of that and the way I approach my team, I mentor people outside of this business, but also, spend a lot of time with my team trying to emulate essentially what I’ve learned and what I’ve got from the mentors who have given me such development opportunities over the years.

VK: So, just to speak more broadly now about your current role, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities you’re facing with your brand?

RG: I think marketing’s quite an interesting thing, because it’s really just influencing behaviour, and so simply put, we exist, Amaysim exists [so that] people choose us, love us, stay with us. That’s pretty much why we exist.

And I think in that world, what we’re seeing out there is the rise of middle Australians under a lot of financial pressure. And I think there’s this rise of the value-driven shopper, and I think one of the most challenging things that we face is in homogenous type of utilities – like energy and telco – it’s typically very price driven, and so we’ve got to escape the sea of sameness with a race to the bottom on price, and actually redefine what value is to consumers. Because cheap isn’t always the best. The cheapest is not always the best, because you’ve got to make sure that you’re delivering that service with quality and with making sure the customers know you’ve got their back. And across the industry in energy, and in some of the other utilities, there’s a lot of bad behaviour out there by the industry and the way they treat consumers, putting a lot of pressure on this middle Australia that’s under financial pressure. And so a big part of it is really in the delivery of those day-to-day, everyday essentials, like telco and energy, it’s really about how do you deliver those with value? So great, great deals, but also do it in a way that delivers fantastic customer-centric service, and so that customers know you’ve got their back.

And I think at Amaysim we’re really beautifully set up to do that, but it’s an ongoing challenge for the mobile and energy industries over the coming years.

VK: And what will success look like for you in nine months time at the end of the year? What will make you think that 2020 has been a successful one for you career wise and for your brand?

RG: We want to be absolutely famous for customers loving us.

VK: That’s a big ask…

RG: Yep. And that’s why, you know, it is interesting in utilities – does anyone love their utility provider? No, they don’t.

And I always say, look if you can do well in marketing energy and telcos, because we think they’re sexy – but they’re not the sexiest of brands. So, if we can get customers to not just like us, but absolutely love us, that is a huge achievement. And we’re going to do that not just through our brand marketing,  but we’re going to walk the walk on it.

We just gave all of our customers for Valentine’s Day, nine gigs of data, just because. This morning, we sent a cake that one of our team actually baked out to a customer at their front door, and gave them this huge big cake with their name on it, just because.

Garner wants consumers to love Amaysim

Last week, we wrote 264 personalised Leap Year cards to customers who were born on a Leap Year, because we felt that they’d be forgotten. Just because. So, we like to think that we show our customers so much love and actually we think we’re big enough to deliver that, and small enough to care.

And that’s what we can do differently, and we want to be famous for that.

And I’ve got a team of absolute rockstars here that are coming up with things every day, which is just out of pure love for our customers, not just to get the runs on the board, but just because they want to show the love. So, it’s really exciting, we’ve got so many great initiatives ahead of us, and in that, we want to be famous for that, but we also want to obviously grow the business and win the market.

So very ambitious over the next nine months.


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