Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Mark de Bruijn, director of marketing EMEA at, on how to enhance the customer experience:

Shaheen Samavati 0:13
Hi everyone, I’m Shaheen from The Content Mix and I’m excited to be here with Mark de Bruijn, a marketing and customer experience expert based in the Netherlands. He’s currently marketing manager for EMEA at and previously worked for large software firms EY, SAP and Workiva. He’s author of “Customers Are People Too”, focused on the human side of the customer experience as well. So thanks so much for joining us, Mark.

Mark de Bruijn 0:35
Thanks so much for having me.

Shaheen Samavati 0:37
So can you just start out by telling us how you became an expert in marketing and customer experience and a bit about your background?

Mark de Bruijn 0:43
Yeah, absolutely. I don’t think I really planned to become a customer experience expert. Before I started working, I was cycling a lot and I think at the age of 18 or 19, I had to make the decision, do I continue cycling and become a professional cyclist or do I start a regular job? I obviously wasn’t good enough to become a professional cyclist so I started working in a bike shop. I think after about a year, I became the manager of the second bike shop that the owner opened. That was my foundation for this customer focus. I think that owning a small business is a really good foundation for a marketer or a customer experience professional because you have all the things happening in a small business that are also happening in a larger business. From there, I started studying again and started at various companies, then at EY, SAP, Workiva and now I’ve always been involved a lot with customer discussions and meetings, that’s what I truly love. So I kind of rolled into it and I just started sharing about customer experience and people liked it. So that’s how it grew.

Shaheen Samavati 2:06
So how does customer experience relate to what you do now at

Mark de Bruijn 2:12
Well I think marketing is very closely connected to customer experience. It’s the center team always when it comes to customer experience because everyone is involved with that. We try to deliver this amazing experience at our events for example, but also in any way that a customer or anyone really connects with our brands, it’s important that we have a really good customer experience for them.

Shaheen Samavati 2:43
So can you tell us about your book “Customers Are People Too” and how that project came about and why you thought it was necessary to write this book?

Mark de Bruijn 2:51
Yeah, well the book is really about humanizing technology and I wrote the book during my time at SAP, at least most of it. So a lot of people were quite interested why I was actually choosing a topic that focuses a lot more on the human side instead of the technology side, because the aim of SAP is obviously to sell software. I really know just talking to customers that most discussions are really quickly about technology and the more you think about it, the more you will notice it. Every business discussion will very, very quickly turn into a technology discussion and if you think about day to day lives, maybe you or a friend or family, there’s always somebody who has this super technology focus with smart lighting or smart speakers at home. You always want to have the latest technology and the same thing is really happening still for a lot of brands, they always want the latest technology. The red flag of the book is that it’s much more important to focus on the human side of it. Why do you really need it and what’s really the benefits for the customer? Then look at what kind of technology fits well there and when you have that picture clear and you then look for the technology that you need to accomplish that, then you will be much more successful and that is for the brand, as the software company, a much better way forward.

Shaheen Samavati 4:31
Could you tell us what you mean by the term customer experience? I think of it a little bit as a tech related term like user experience, customer experience, like the way someone interacts maybe with your app or your website. But, it sounds like you consider it more than that. So could you tell us what you think the term customer experience really means?

Mark de Bruijn 4:53
Yeah. For me, it’s more the customer centricity of a company. So it’s not just the experience in every channel but more so the mindset as a company, how transparent you are as a company and how you build trust, openness. I’ve heard once somebody say that customer experience is a feeling. I like that a lot, it’s kind of a feeling that you have with the brands. It’s hard to explain, the feeling is super difficult to explain. But to me it’s really customer experience. If you have a good customer experience, you feel welcome to a brand or you have a nice feeling with a brand. So that’s maybe the best way to explain it. Then everything connected to that, everything that impacts that from employees, to your social media, to email newsletters that you send out, all the typical stuff, but everything connected to that. Maybe it’s more customer centricity but I see that also as customer experience.

Shaheen Samavati 5:54
Yeah. Okay, that makes a lot of sense. So it’s every single thing in the company that impacts the customer. So could you tell us more about your role right now at and what your responsibilities are there?

Mark de Bruijn 6:12
Yeah, so I lead the marketing region here in EMEA. A typical day obviously changed a lot this year with COVID, that’s everything from running events to the more strategic decisions. For example, we have one flagship event happening in January so we’re now very much focused on that, making sure we deliver a great experience there but also that we have authentic content at the event. So it includes a lot of things from simple things to very strategic things right now.

Shaheen Samavati 6:48
I mean, at The Content Mix, we’re of course focused on the content marketing side of things. So I’m also curious on your perspective on how content plays into customer experience as well?

Mark de Bruijn 6:56
That is really important. It’s all about content. I think I’ve already mentioned transparency, but with content you can be transparent, you can share your view as a company, you can share your thought leadership and that creates trust, right? So you can do that with content. I’m very focused on B2B marketing so content is also used for demand generation. But especially within our company, we also create a lot of content to educate our customers or to have a self service platform for customers for the more easy questions. So that’s also a way that content can help to provide a better customer experience.

Shaheen Samavati 7:42
Well you just joined about a year ago, right? So an interesting time. What has been your approach to content and how has that changed over the course of the year, in a very strange year where context has changed as well?

Mark de Bruijn 7:57
Yeah. So first of all, we have a global content lead as well and creative people who are doing an amazing job when it comes to content, making it more authentic. If you look at our content, we have a high focus on making it unique and creative. I think the biggest change for us and many companies has really been on the events part and the event content that we produce. We’re quite a heavy event focused company and creating the content at those events, so not just the event itself but also the keynotes there, the sessions there, and making those available now obviously, to a full virtual approach. I remember at the beginning of the year, we basically turned our entire event strategy into one big virtual event in just that eight weeks, from basically nothing to a really large virtual event. That was really successful for us because we had about 7000 people joining virtually. So we were really agile as a team to move to this new way of working with a lot more digital focus.

Shaheen Samavati 9:19
So this event that you’re doing in January is going to be totally virtual?

Mark de Bruijn 9:24
Yes. So that will be that same event for a second time and we’re expecting 10,000 people now. So we’re hoping to grow a little bit.

Shaheen Samavati 9:33
So anything you’re doing differently this time or anything you’ve learned from the last virtual event that you’re gonna apply this time?

Mark de Bruijn 9:41
Yeah, absolutely. So I think the first time we were really fast with things. I think we were one of the first companies in the B2B software industry that did this full virtual event in the new type of setup. For now, for next year, we need to go next level. So there are so many virtual events, if you want to join a virtual event, you can join maybe 10 a day. So you really need to stand out, you need to do something really special. I think having authentic content, when we talk about content, making it really authentic, just making sure that whoever is speaking has the ability to speak about whatever they want, from wherever they want and not too many guidelines on the content. I think we always had great feedback on that. So the more authentic content is, the more it will stand out and help people.

Shaheen Samavati 10:43
Yeah, I guess it comes down to choosing the right people to speak as well, that really have something to say because if you let them say what they want, they have to have something to say no?

Mark de Bruijn 10:50
Exactly, it needs to be really inspiring or very educational focussed. There needs to be a good reason for people to watch it. To give you another example, content online used to be very long for us so maybe 20-30 minutes. The attention span of a lot of people right now, especially at these events is maybe more like 10 minutes for a session. So we’re also aiming to make it more casual and have a faster pace during the event, maybe doing things that people do not really expect at these events. That’s what makes it unique and that’s the focus.

Shaheen Samavati 11:30
So what’s your format on the event, how long of an event is it and everything?

Mark de Bruijn 11:37
It’s going to be a 15 hour event, a bit long but it’s a global event. So we’re starting in EMEA and Europe, then we’ll hand over to the US and then we hand over to APAC. So it’s basically four to five hours per region full of content and then live pre-recorded content, it’s kind of a mix.

Shaheen Samavati 11:56
So it’s like a big conference and people can pop in and out of like different parts of it?

Mark de Bruijn 12:00
Yeah, absolutely.

Shaheen Samavati 12:02
Okay. Very cool. Actually, for context, I don’t think I asked you to say more about what actually does and who’s your target audience?

Mark de Bruijn 12:12
So yeah we are a social advertising automation platform. So we combine the creative part of social advertising with the buying part of the order performance marketing part, and then combining that into one platform. So that means that we mainly have brands that are really focused on social advertising or the medium size or larger sized companies that obviously also have their social advertising. So yeah, the more focus a company has on social advertising, the more likely it is to use our platform.

Shaheen Samavati 12:50
Okay, so is social advertising one of the channels that you use yourselves, I imagine?

Mark de Bruijn 12:55
Yeah, absolutely. We need to practice what we preach. But social in general is important for us still because we run these events in a little bit of a different way. In B2B events are still very important so it’s events, it’s absolutely our social advertising and we also have a pretty good referral programme. Those are our three main channels.

Shaheen Samavati 13:23
And your target audience is leaders and digital marketing advertising area?

Mark de Bruijn 13:28
Yeah it’s quite broad. So social advertising experts but also creative experts and really more general marketing roles. So still quite broad.

Shaheen Samavati 13:40
Okay, cool. Definitely some overlap with The Content Mix community so that’s relevant for them. We’ll definitely put links in the article that we publish with the interview. Well, how would you describe your tone of voice in content marketing? Or across all of your marketing, really?

Mark de Bruijn 14:02
Yeah, so I think we have a very casual way of our tone of voice. We are the thought leader when it comes to social advertising so we do want to create content that really has an educational factor in it and no nonsense, I would almost say. So we remove the fluff and we just make and want to create content that people are really going to use. Not just so it has a great title and people are just going to click on it and download it. Really the aim is to create really authentic content that people are really going to use in a straightforward, casual way. So with beautiful design connected to it. So that’s how I would describe it.

Shaheen Samavati 14:51
Do you have any examples of types of content that have worked really well for you?

Mark de Bruijn 14:55
Yeah, we publish trends in social advertising every year. So focus on trends works well. I think content that is a little bit less obvious, we had an event where we did a museum tour actually in the Mauritshuis museum. There is a painting called Girl with a Pearl Earring, which is very famous. We did a masterclass tour there, so we recorded a video on how social advertising was used during the 17th century and they had a beautiful story around that. I think that’s the type of content that people really want to read because it stands out, it’s new, it’s like you don’t really find that anywhere. So I think the trend focus works well or super unique content works very well.

Shaheen Samavati 15:48
And I imagine the trends article is something that’s going deeper, like a more in depth article that’s really unveiling insights?

Mark de Bruijn 15:58
Yeah exactly. The ebooks that we create are not like three pages, it’s not like …

Shaheen Samavati 16:07

Mark de Bruijn 16:09
Yeah it’s more like 20 pages average, I think we really want to bring something well designed so that it’s also nice to read. Yeah that’s what we try to do.

Shaheen Samavati 16:21
So you’re responsible for the EMEA region, so I imagine you’re working with teams across all of these markets? Or, actually I don’t know, well you can tell me, how it works. I’m just curious how you adapt your campaigns for the different regions that you’re working in?

Mark de Bruijn 16:40
Yeah. So we have a global lead for content and also for the creative part. Our audience is, first of all, very English focused. So we don’t really have to translate things, which makes things easier. I know a lot of companies need to translate things and that makes it already more difficult. We try to at least use the content and also share it in the more local communities. So for example, in the Netherlands, we work together with a local community and we maybe share a blog around a certain topic so that we can also share that content, then we do the same thing in multiple countries here in Europe.

Shaheen Samavati 17:27
Okay, so you’re working with a local sales team and using the global content, but adapting it a bit to speak to the markets.

Mark de Bruijn 17:37
Yeah, exactly.

Shaheen Samavati 17:39
Well, switching gears a little bit, I wanted to ask you what skills do you think are most important for marketers today?

Mark de Bruijn 17:46
I think many. I think the few skills that really help me, at least, are really being data focused. A lot of people say data focused or something connected to that. I really think that being data focused, not just looking at the numbers, but even going deeper than that, really understanding the reasons behind numbers, that is truly important as marketers. Especially B2B, we should not be afraid to become revenue focused, so closely working with sales instead of making a hand over to sales, being a lot more revenue focused in the marketing team as well. When it comes to content, it’s really important for marketers to work on storytelling, so not just writing. I think writing is super important, if you can write in a good way that will obviously help a lot as a marketer. But if you can also then tell a story, in a storytelling way, that helps a lot. Finally, also being aware of technology, because there’s so much technology and I noticed that a lot of CMOS have this high level overview, but the development of technology is going so quickly that it’s really important to stay connected to that and understand what it does and what happens. So keeping up with technology is really important.

Shaheen Samavati 19:25
Yeah and these are obviously really diverse skills. So marketers are having to become super adaptable and be able to change between different types of tasks. I’m curious, how do you keep your skills up to date?

Mark de Bruijn 19:39
I do a lot of self learning. There’s so many different ways to self-educate. I actually watch a lot of YouTube videos, to be honest, just on certain topics and reading all the blogs about developments. I speak a lot at events, so I just want to read new things and new developments. But I also talk a lot with colleagues on these types of things, so that’s also a way to get new ideas. Even from other industries, I have old colleagues that work in completely different industries. Just sharing ideas and how they do things and how that could also work for a B2B technology company. I think self-education is an important part, it doesn’t stop when you finish university. I think it then just starts continuously. Education I think is important.

Shaheen Samavati 20:38
Do you have any tips for people or someone who’s just starting out right now, getting into marketing?

Mark de Bruijn 20:45
Yeah, well here in the Netherlands, for example, there are quite a lot of blogs that you can read, which I do a lot. But the most important thing if you start as a marketer is just talking to customers. Not a lot of marketers do that, even though they might say that they do. But really speaking to customers, not just about your product or the way that you as a company market to the customer, just in general, that helps a lot. If you don’t do it already, I would actually advise everyone to schedule some time with customers, have a meeting with them, just have a casual conversation with them. That will probably give you more information and you’ll probably learn more from that than any other thing that you can do.

Shaheen Samavati 21:39
That actually kind of goes back to the topic of customer experience. I was curious, since your career has been mainly in marketing, what made you interested in this more holistic approach to customer experience?

Mark de Bruijn 21:56
Yeah. That was more after being involved in a lot of sales conversations with customers, that kind of opened my eyes. I think marketers are maybe the CEOs of tomorrow’s worlds, right? They have so many different responsibilities and such a good overview of the company. When talking to all of these customers, I also get a lot of inspiration from that and challenges that they saw. I think marketing becomes a lot broader than just being for example, very demand generation focused or very product focused, it’s really more of a strategy of a company. So for me it really quickly turned into more of a customer experience view on things. So that’s what happened.

Shaheen Samavati 22:57
I was also curious, you’ve worked with some really large corporations in the past, why you decided to go to which is more of a growth firm?

Mark de Bruijn 23:07
Yeah that’s a question I often get. The larger firms are awesome to work for and actually a great education as well. But there’s just something about working for more of a scale up company, we’re now 400 close to 450 people now. There’s something about it, the culture that we have is so amazing, it is really such a pleasure to work for and the colleagues in every team. The cross collaboration between teams is amazing and that is a completely different type of working and I absolutely want to experience that. You own or are responsible for so many more things. It’s a different way of working and I value that a lot. There’s a lot of focus also on family and maybe the older I get, the more important I think that is, so I really love that. Also from a growth perspective as a person I think it’s important to experience both and then later on you can make a better decision on what you really want. But I really like this growth culture and focus on collaboration and things like that.

Shaheen Samavati 24:31
Yeah, awesome. Cool. I imagine there’s more, like you said collaboration crosses working with other departments and a lot of opportunities for learning. I wanted to ask you if you have any productivity hack you could share with us?

Mark de Bruijn 24:48
Yeah. Well, things that I at least do, that work well for me is one I wake up really early, I start the day really early, so for me at least early, between six and seven. It’s maybe because we have two small children so I would be awake anyway. But I think working in the morning is great. I also try to not schedule any meetings in the morning, I just block my agenda and just try to have all my meetings in the afternoon so that you can really get things done. I think that’s an important one. In marketing specific, the thing that I struggled a lot with in the past was that I was always so excited about things so I always wanted to do so many different things. I’d become more of a do more with less type of person. So it’s much better to focus on less things and do them really, really well. That clears your head and you get a lot more success from that. It’s more of a marketing advice but that at least helped me a lot in my career to become more successful.

Shaheen Samavati 26:00
I think it applies across the board, for sure. Focus is key. Then I wanted to ask about any professional role model or a source of inspiration?

Mark de Bruijn 26:12
Yes, so I get my inspiration a lot from anywhere basically. So from my family to anything that I can find online. My role model, I don’t have like a famous role model but I do have like one of my previous managers who really not only taught me a lot in marketing or being a marketing leader, but also I think becoming a better person, being more family focused and things like that. Even today, I really benefit from that. So yeah, he’s really my role model, if I have to name one person it would be him.

Shaheen Samavati 27:00
Is there a particular lesson that you learned from that role model?

Mark de Bruijn 27:06
I have so many. So I think family focus is one. I always used to be quite family focused but I think understanding that it’s totally okay that family is more important than work is important when you’re young. So that and also just to, for example, stay calm when things are maybe not going as planned. It’s totally fine to fail. I think creating a culture where it’s really okay to do all of those things, where it’s really transparent. That is what makes work so much more enjoyable. So yeah, I took that with me throughout my career. So that openness, transparency, having fun at work, always putting the family first, those are not always a given that you have to have. So I try to bring it with me everywhere I go.

Shaheen Samavati 28:09
Yeah, that’s super important and interesting to think about. Also, I wanted to ask what’s your favourite marketing or business book that you recommend?

Mark de Bruijn 28:21
It’s funny, because I wrote my own book but I don’t really read that many books. I do have an interesting book, Marketing Design from a Dutch writer, which is really a book about design, but also about partly neuro marketing. The author is called Eveline Van Zeeland. I think that’s a really interesting book to read. It’s in Dutch so this would only be for the Dutch viewers, maybe. But it’s a really interesting book to read as a markter on the importance of design, neuro marketing and maybe a different view on how you can do things as a marketer. So that’s a really good book for inspiration.

Shaheen Samavati 29:17
Cool. Okay. Then what’s your favourite software tool or app at the moment?

Mark de Bruijn 29:25
So I use Spotify a lot. Obviously, music is an important part of my life. A less obvious one is an app called Be My Eyes. It is not work related but this is an app that I used for many years now. It’s an app that connects blind people to people that are sighted. I think it’s maybe even the perfect example about humanising technology. You just get a notification and then somebody gives you a goal and you help them with maybe looking at travelling, so maybe they need some assistance in when is the train coming or they need some assistance on when there’s maybe a product in their home that may be expiring. So they just want to know the expiration date or maybe they just want you to read something. It’s super simple things that really help them. It’s great for them obviously, but also it’s great for the person who’s helping because it’s really meaningful. So when it comes to an app or technology, I wish we had a lot more solutions like that, because that really has a purpose. So that would be my example.

Shaheen Samavati 30:44
So it enables an easy way to give back and volunteer to help someone?

Mark de Bruijn 30:49
Yeah it’s super easy and it doesn’t cost any time, really. It means a lot for the people who need to help. So I would recommend to download it. It’s a really great way to interact with people.

Shaheen Samavati 31:02
Yeah that’s really cool. So last thing, I just wanted to ask if you have any other recommendations on resources for marketers, whether that’s an industry group, online community, publication or podcast?

Mark de Bruijn 31:16
Yeah, well if you’re interested in social advertising then obviously everyone should join our Sofa Summit event. I also like to read quite a bit on The Next Web, which is a really nice platform for more technology and marketing related stuff. There’s a typical Dutch website called Frankwatching, which I think everyone in the Netherlands at least will recognize. There’s a lot of different types of content on marketing in the broadest sense and that is really a good source of inspiration to have. I think every country has that one platform where there’s a lot of inspiration. So for the Netherlands, that’s absolutely Frankwatching, for me at least.

Shaheen Samavati 32:08
Cool, i’ll definitely check it out. So we’re reaching the end of the interview, but I just wanted to give you the chance to share any parting advice or final takeaways for other marketers in Europe?

Mark de Bruijn 32:19
Yeah, well the one thing that I think is most important as marketers is that we just keep it human, customers are people too and whatever decision you make, if you create a campaign or if you create a piece of content, I think if you keep that in mind that you are talking to people not customers. Customers are also people so if we keep it human, that will absolutely make decisions easier.

Shaheen Samavati 32:54
Yeah, absolutely. A great point to end on. Thank you so much, Mark, for sharing your insights with us today.

Mark de Bruijn 33:01
Thanks for having me.

Shaheen Samavati 33:01
Thanks everybody for listening in. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out and keep tuning in to the podcast for interviews with content experts. See you next time.

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