Most companies will tell you that ‘Our customers come first’, that is almost an answer you expect, right? Well, Huawei lives and breathes this statement in everything they do and they take it one step further – Their employees come first too! Yes, you heard me correctly. Employees are one of the biggest contributors to Huawei’s success and they are very proud of this statement.
Huawei enables their employees to make decisions to make sure that everything is done best they can to serve the customer. Silos are broken down and automated processes are put in place to streamline work processes and to make employees productive, successful and satisfied in their roles. Huawei is a private company owned by 85K+ employees.
In September 2016 Huawei hosted their biggest global event yet hosting over 20 000 industry experts from around the globe at Huawei Connect 2016 in the beautiful city of Shanghai. I was invited to be Huawei’s guest at the event and to come and learn more about the company besides attending keynotes and attending the event. I got to meet some of the faces behind the name ‘Huawei’ and took some time over the last few weeks to research and monitor closely what they do in terms of their marketing approach globally and to put all the pieces of the puzzle together that I learned from my visit.
In my week long journey I met a few key people responsible for driving a big part of the success in marketing the brand and building partnerships. I want to tell you more about this, who I met and what Huawei’s vision is in Building a Better Connected World.
1. A Strategy session with Huawei Head Office Marketing Team
2. Boardroom Session - One on One with Huawei Executive Director of the Board Chief Strategy Marketing Officer, William Xu
I truly appreciated the outcome of this session as it was the complete opposite of what I expected it to be – and I love challenges and surprises!
When you see a strategy session is booked in with a marketing team you think along the lines of – Target Markets – Social Media Strategy - Content Marketing – Sales Funnels and Analytics right? Well to my delight that is not what was discussed in our personal session with Huawei’s marketing team – instead we discussed innovation, the future – what can we do, not just for Huawei customers and partners but also the world. What will improve lives? What will we need in a new Digital Age?
Mr David Wang, Marketing Manager for Huawei got us excited about a Better Connected World and what that means. We jumped straight ahead to Digital Age 2.0! Mr Wang did a presentation for us and I share some slides here (with permission) with you:
Technology has expanded so much the last few years, sometimes it is even hard to keep up with the latest ground-breaking discovery or invention but we need to keep up and we need to keep on improving so we can save planet earth, improve lives and provide a good future for future generations.
So, what does the future of A Better Connected World (BCW) mean for us?
A BCW will allow us to improve and evolve with new and improved technologies. Think AI, VR, our brainwaves, 5G and Iot. Can you imagine what we can achieve with all of these in action?
As you can see Mr Wang had me captivated by all these possibilities and what our future can look like – As he was doing this presentation I realised why Huawei is the global leader in ICT – it is because even the marketing department is inspired to innovate and think ahead – what can be done to be ahead of the curve and how can we improve people’s lives? How can we be better in making things better?
Once we solve the problem it will market itself, right? How inspiring!
"A Better Connected World will continue to remove boundaries amongst people, business and things" – David Wang @Huawei Marketing
It was then over to a group discussion with other members from the marketing team and Huawei KOLs. We worked together in groups and discussed the vision for a Better Connected World and what that could mean for the world.
It was an interesting group discussion and some of the main points KOLs came up with to answer the question of better global connectivity was:
Personalization – Giving attention to what the customer wants and need and deliver that with a personal touch.
Disabilities – How can people with disabilities like hearing and seeing etc. be helped to have easier and better connectivity and communication with others around the globe using digital communication.
Language barriers – To be better connected in the world we need to be able to understand each other. Reliable translator services are needed on social media platforms and technology software systems etc. Instant translation – Instant communication.
Digital Divide/Infrastructure – We still have % of the world that is not connected. We need to build more infrastructure to get everyone connected.
Education – Teaching people about the internet and digital skills (rural areas and new connected areas)
As you can see this was a great discussion and I am excited to see what BCW Digital Age 2.0 has in store for us!
The Huawei marketing team and KOLs who attended the strategy session.
Meeting one on one with Mr Xu was a very refreshing experience. He is probably one of the most humble, funny and genuine executives I’ve met so far. Mr Xu’s passion for his position at Huawei is clear to see. We kicked the conversation off with a discussion about the Huawei Connect 2016 Conference.
Mr Xu said hosting Huawei Connect serves two purposes:
1. To learn from others at the event through communication and collaboration so they can identify the right direction to take for the future.
2. To establish a global cloud ecosystem of everyone working together including strong partnerships.
"We want to shake hands with the world and build a global cloud ecosystem" – William Xu @Huawei CMO
We collaborate with our industry Partners to gradually evolve such an ecosystem which consists of the top layer being Brainstorming – The middle layer being the Ecosystem, but we need to get down to earth which is about the Connectivity! says Mr Xu.
A big focus and a large part of Huawei’s growth and success is due to strong partnerships. Building partnerships are a top priority, this was clear from the conversations.
I found Mr Xu’s slogan ‘Open Collaboration’ mentioned a few times in the meeting very inspiring. Through my visit in Shanghai and talking with various employees of Huawei, collaboration was always something that came up in conversations. They are eager to learn from others and work together!
In the carrier market Huawei is one of the leading major suppliers which also supports carrier transformation. Digital transformation brings challenges to carriers on business growth, operation and architecture. Cloud enables carriers to develop cloud business, unified cloud architecture and agile IT services.
Mr Xu said that they consider themselves as very successful now in this area and are happy with the steady growth. Huawei is hoping to maintain rapid growth in the next 5 years and become a serious top three or even top two player in the smartphone market.
Enterprise business is still young for Huawei, but after several years of effort they are making good progress in the Enterprise business.
In 2016 they demonstrate a lot of progress in the IT domain. Huawei now supports Dodge Telecom to provide public cloud services and partnered with Telefonica in China.
We asked Mr Xu about digital marketing covering the aspects of social media and how Huawei market themselves globally outside of China – we couldn’t let a conversation with CMO go without asking details on this topic, especially with the limitations that China has on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube etc. China has their own social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo which are huge but we know that Huawei wants to become a household name globally – so how do they go about achieving this? Facebook and YouTube are platforms that dominate the western world.
Mr Xu said they can learn a lot in terms of digital marketing from the US and other western companies. He said they know that they have some of the best products and solutions but lack in the marketing of these products. One of the reasons they decided to host Huawei Connect inviting over 20 000 industry experts, to assist in brand awareness and to showcase their technologies to attendees. Word of Mouth advertising is still one of the best forms of marketing as we know.
Besides traditional promotion Huawei use companies like Ogilvy to handle digital marketing on platforms like Facebook. Mr Xu said that traditional marketing cost is very high for Huawei and the focus will slowly shift more towards digital. Huawei now has two digital marketing centres – One in the UK and one in Shenzhen.
Xu said to compliment all the efforts, Huawei decided to launch a KOL (Key Opinion Leader) program to work with leading digital professionals, influencers and celebrities that can reach their audiences must faster across the globe using their own social media platforms.
"The opinions, comments and recommendations from our KOLs are really critical for us" – William Xu
Klear.com recently did a case study reporting on the KOLs visit at Huawei Connect 2016 and if you look at the calculations the ROI seems well worth the effort with a reach of about 4.6 million and a potential ROI of $128 900.
Joy Tan summed up their influencer marketing effort using KOLs as follow:
‘KOLs are a force multiplier for all corporate communications, and companies that fail to harness that force are missing a great opportunity to help build a following and reinforce a brand. Getting started in influencer marketing is relatively easy: identify a pool of target KOLs, research their interests and degree of influence, and start making those connections. Not all of them will be receptive, but many will be; and you will have a new set of allies who can help set your brand apart from the competition.’
As you can see from my article Huawei’s eagerness to learn, collaborate and innovate is truly inspiring. They understand their weaknesses just as well as their strengths and I believe that is the key to their success – Customer centric focus with a vision of what the future could mean and how they can truly make an impact on a global scale.
After reviewing and researching Huawei’s digital marketing efforts the past few weeks across social media networks incl Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram – I would say they can be proud of their strategy. Content, engagement and brand sentiment are all top notch. At the end of the day in my opinion, you don’t have to be the top performer in brand marketing rankings when your product is what truly solves problems and are of high quality and value to the consumer.
Thanks to Huawei for having me as their guest at Huawei Connect and for an invite to be a part of the KOL program. Huawei sponsors all my traveling to learn more about them and attend events. My content including this blog post is not sponsored and are my own views and opinions.
Some highlights of my visit to Huawei Connect 2016 in Shanghai