Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with VeraContent CEO Shaheen Samavati and seasoned marketer Yasmina Kazitani from SKLS CONSULTING, on why working with passion is key to success:

Shaheen Samavati 0:13
Hi everyone, I’m Shaheen from The Content Mix and I’m excited to be here with Yasmina Kazitani who’s a seasoned marketer, who recently became a partner in a strategic advisory firm called SKLS CONSULTING, which is based in London. Thanks so much for joining us, Yasmina.

Yasmina Kazitani 0:27
Thank you so much Shaheen, for inviting me.

Shaheen Samavati 0:30
It’s great to have you. So could you just start out just telling us a bit more about yourself in your own words?

Yasmina Kazitani 0:36
Sure. Thank you. So my name is Yasmina Kazitani and I’m Algerian born and raised. I moved around let’s say the world, that’s correct, a few countries, a few experiences. I started my career in PR and communications, so I have a journalism background, but it didn’t last that much. I didn’t like it. I was in the job for maybe less than two years and then I was like, that’s not my passion. I love marketing, I attended so many corporate things. I was like, okay, that’s my thing. So I moved to the marketing side and for the last 20 years, I’ve been doing that across various markets. So UK, Europe, Middle East, Asia, USA, and it was a fantastic and fabulous experience for me. Last year was kind of a big leap of faith from my side, because as a corporate person for the last 20 years, I never really thought of starting my own business. Three of my previous colleagues, friends I worked with, set up this consultancy firm and they asked me to join them. So since then I’m one of the co-founders and partners, it’s amazing how much you need sometimes to believe in yourself to make it happen.

Shaheen Samavati 2:07
Yeah, so it’s definitely an interesting time to start a new business in the middle of a pandemic. So could you tell us a bit about what SKLS CONSULTING does and the vision behind the business?

Yasmina Kazitani 2:20
Sure, I think that the pandemic was the right time to start because everybody was, in the first few months, everybody was panicking, stressing out, never had this pandemic, this situation, this crisis ever. Everyone thought that it’s gonna be a big collapse of businesses, which I’m sure that some of them, if they do not transform, will end up closing the doors. But in reality, we have been working quite extensively for the last couple of months. I did not expect it, but I was working with venture capital, because SKLS came up in a very specific niche, which is the startups. So eventually, venture capital will fund a project or the company, they will put money into it and obviously, you want to have a return on the investments. Sometimes it takes 3, 5, 4 years, sometimes it fails and the failure is not because of the product. So what we do is we help this venture capital when they fund this company to structure the startups because the entrepreneur who is leading this doesn’t have all the experience from a process point of view, a human capital point of view and the structure point of view. So sometimes they need this help to develop their sales department, and exactly know which kind of profile they want to have on the ground, and make these people work efficiently. Some of them had no clue, they were like techie, savvy people, but when it comes to the business, they were clueless. That’s why SKLS can fill this gap. So that’s where we’ve been doing quite a lot of jobs across the region. On the other hand, because of the background I had in marketing and branding expansion and growth, we ended up having this medium sized company who wanted to explore new markets. So giving an example of having a Canadian food brand connected with us again, and we’re like, we love what you have done in your career, and we would love to have you to advise us. We’ve been now working with them for the last four months, expanding the brand into the US and in 2022 into Europe. So again, I’m not gonna say it’s a wide spectrum, but we are really looking to help this venture capital but also helping this medium who would like to expand into new markets and having a new adventure, if I can put it this way.

Shaheen Samavati 5:10
So it sounds like you’ve hit the ground running with clients and everything very quickly. Did you already have contacts in this world?

Yasmina Kazitani 5:18
Well, to be honest, I think that as a marketeer, I always advise clients to say we have to have a holistic approach and we have to have a strategy. But when it came to SKLS, we had this holistic approach, we had this plan and we started working on it. But I would probably say that we had luck, because luck is something that sometimes business entrepreneurs and owners fail to acknowledge. It takes you some times to go through a lot to get it, we started talking, I ran a few webinars connected with people. I did all the marketing things. Out of the blue someone out of all these activities came to us and he was a venture capitalist, he was one of the big firms and I loved what he was saying, I love the structured way you do it. I’m a data person, so I like things in box. He was like, “Yasmina, can we have a talk?” And it started from there. So we started with this project with him and he referred us to others then the ball just kept rolling, it was fantastic. I would probably say it’s luck, it’s the adventure of life. I don’t know, this is how I would describe it as a human being.

Shaheen Samavati 6:36
So I mean what the consulting firm does goes beyond marketing. It sounds like a business advisory and different levels, right? But could you tell us about your role and how marketing plays into that?

Yasmina Kazitani 6:49
I’m the bossy person who is always stalking everyone in the team. I don’t think I am seen as the marketer person, it’s like, “Oh my God, here we go again. She’s gonna ask us to do this, and that, and, you know she’s gonna do this and this.” So the consultancy is based on the strength of the partners. So, as I mentioned earlier, they are mainly sales growth people, seniors in their jobs. So, again, they also run different other businesses on the side. This is their forte, minus business development, brand expansion, marketing strategy and implementations. We had lovely people, but very experienced ones calling us actually from all the posting and all the information we’ve done. That’s mainly due to the furlough last year and the loss of jobs. People contacted us and they were experts in financial, experts in training, leadership coaching, supply chain engineering. We start building a library of experts. So we will think of them whenever we have a project that is related to their expertize. So, then it’s not only what we do, but we also offer the best value for the people who are working with us, and with international experts in the room.

Shaheen Samavati 8:15
Okay. Do you have any examples of the kinds of projects that you’re involved in?

Yasmina Kazitani 8:21
Oh my God, Yeah. I have a few of them, but do you want one, do you want two?

Shaheen Samavati 8:30
Whatever you like, it can be more than one but just at the high level.

Yasmina Kazitani 8:33
From a project, I would probably say this food chain in Canada, which do Mediterranean food. So it’s a very Canadian… let’s say…brand, that has lovely things. When they got in touch with us, first of all, it was kind of… you know, I have no experience in the food industry, let’s be honest on that. But when they contacted us and asked for my advisory, I discovered that fundamental marketing and strategy applies everywhere. You have to twist and tweak things to customize it to the market but you set up some fundamentals for your client first, because any success, striked by putting structured processes and that helps enormously when you’re running a department, you’re running a brand, you know what it is. So I think within four months, they saw that that’s why it was a bit of a messy thing. They had a department, they have agency suppliers, but within that it was a bit of an interesting mixture. Putting things into, I’m not going to say boxes, but putting things very simply and clearly makes the job more efficient. So I always have a tendency to say to clients, if someone takes too much time to explain it, it means that they don’t master it. Anything is simple. I always compare it to cooking. You have ingredients, this is what you have to do. If you’re not following through, that means that either the recipe has been not explained clearly, so people are just mixing things. Or that the person reading does not understand the instruction. So let’s find the gap in between, you see? Another example is again a software development company based in the Middle East, who are growing exponentially, it’s of the blue success, in pandemic, they started skyrocketing. They came to us and they were like, what do we do? Well, again you have to look at the whole business model, you have to advise them, go in depth. I’m not gonna say all the consultancy takes ages. No, if you are good at what you’re doing, you can do it quickly, be agile and make it happen for the client. From that we’re working with this business to scale it up quickly, but also to expand. So the guys were just operating in the DCC now and we are having a project for the Q2, and Q3 to expand into North Africa, and the Mediterranean, which they never thought could be possible, as quickly and as fast as we put it together.

Shaheen Samavati 11:35
Okay. Speaking of industries, I was just curious, what are the range of industries that you’ve worked with in the past? I know you’ve worked with a few different ones.

Yasmina Kazitani 11:46
From a background point of view, I started my career in government telecommunications, so telecommunication meaning that mobile when they were setting up in North Africa, the mobiles. That was like, ages ago…23 years ago, when a mobile was something very rare, like gold. That means I’m very old. I have also worked in the automotive industry, which was amazing, because working with a French and Japanese brand, two different cultures, two different approaches to business, two different approaches to KPIs for return on investments, it’s a big learning curve there. My last industry was in E-learning. Within the E-learning, I’ve gone through the platform, so the technology, Opensource and SaaS. I worked for two different brands there and content development, in terms of producing. So I think yeah, it kind of varies. On the side I also do a lot of mentoring, free mentoring and coaching for people. If I have to include this, it’s technology, application, gaming. What else did I do? Helping some startups, pharmaceutical, you know, education. So the list is growing and you don’t realize until someone asks you the question.

Shaheen Samavati 13:27
Yeah, that’s an impressive list of industries. How different is your approach from one industry to the next?

Yasmina Kazitani 13:38
Well, that’s the million dollar question, right? I would probably say from what I have, from the moment I started up to today, there is two things. Every industry has specificity for sure. It has a different way of approaching things but the methodology is the same. So again, wherever you’re starting, I always start with assessing, reviewing, checking what’s going on, what is the current thing that you’re doing? How are you doing it? How good are you doing it? What are your processes? What are your KPIs? Something like that. Then dig deep into the details of what is specific to your industry versus another. Sometimes you can feel that some industries are sharing the best sales and guidelines. Some of them are slightly different. Some of them are totally different. But again, the principle is the same. It’s like cooking again, the baseline I sometimes think, the cake is a cake, but if you’re doing a cupcake or you’re doing a cheesecake, the slight difference is like the Patisserie at the end, right?

Shaheen Samavati 14:50
Right. So could you talk about how content plays into what you do and how important is content in a growth strategy?

Yasmina Kazitani 14:58
I’d probably say that always as a marketeer, I believe that content is the king, the queen, the kids, the kingdom, wherever you want to place it. I always smile when I see this post of king, and the platform is queen, the content is… no, the content is everything. If you know, who are you trying to talk to, what do you want to position the service, the brand to, you are putting all the marketing, emotional trigger into it, because that’s also another important fact. Then the platform is just the channel to reach these people. So always think, who am I trying to reach? Who am I trying to talk right now? Who needs this service? How can I create the service? It’s not only about how my service product will fit into this market, it is talking or working with new tech startups, we need to create the need. Steve Jobs created the need of having an iPhone, right? None of us needed something like a mini computer in your hand while talking, you’re multitasking, checking your emails. So again, the content in this approach is the most important thing. Then you build everything around it because once you know the way to do it, it’s then easier.

Shaheen Samavati 16:25
Absolutely. Do you have an example of a content campaign that worked really well for you in the past? Putting you on the spot.

Yasmina Kazitani 16:38
You think about so many things and you’re like, okay, which one? I remember one I’ve done during the pandemic. So during the pandemic, I got connected with a semi government body in Saudi who wanted to push online education, right. Obviously, for the people who do not know, so just to set the context here. In Saudi in 2020, the internet was not as good, the structure and filtration is good, but the structure is you have a call with someone and it can go, and, oops, he’s not here anymore. For this organization to want to educate and push people to do online, because the kids are still at home, you know, so it’s not something that is like “We would like to do it”—it’s like mandatory. It’s the holidays, we want to prepare people for September to ensure that everybody goes online, right? So how do you educate, I’m not going to say 14 million people, because there are 14 million people in the kingdom, but who are the target audience? So going through all this to make the story short, we used a blended approach. Sometimes people are like, “No, no go only digital!” No, sometimes people don’t really have these things, right? I’m not going to check my Facebook, because Facebook is not that popular there. Twitter, Instagram, yes. But you’re not gonna find many names on Instagram. And on Twitter, they usually are very shy to interact. So we approach things in a blended approach, strategic things. What we used also, which was quite new for them, was a social mobile, because they are very WhatsApp oriented, right? That made the tricks because then people were like, “Wow, we got enough things to happen!” That was an interesting way to see that. In my point of view, we planned it over the three months, because usually, this is how campaigns, at least in a long term, medium term, I’m not gonna say long term, sorry, but in medium terms will work. Within less than three weeks, we hit it to the target. So that was what proves that sometimes you have to understand clearly what you want to achieve and who you would like to reach out to. So if you’re clear on your profile, the content will just make it happen with the platforms that is related to it. So I think that’s one of the examples that I can remember. There’s food, there’s all these things, so yeah.

Shaheen Samavati 19:28
That’s a great example. Then I just wanted to ask if you have a favorite content channel right now, or content or social media that you think is up and coming?

Yasmina Kazitani 19:38
I would probably say I’m on Clubhouse quite regularly to moderate some rooms on marketing strategy and on business startups because I operate them with some venture capital clients or friends over there, and I help also small and medium businesses to take it to the next stage in terms of what do I need to do. The good thing about this, I’m not going to say that Clubhouse is amazing, it has also negative points. But the good thing is just to connect quite easily with people and share with them. For example, I am really a big fan of LinkedIn and I have been there since LinkedIn opened the doors. I like it, because it’s very professional. You can share insights, you can share content. I love writing, even if I don’t do the journalism, like you Shaheen and as goodn but I like to share in my blog, a few tips on the business, on marketing, on anything that is related, that is my passion actually…sales enabling, that helps a lot. But yeah, the short answer is I am a LinkedIn user, and a Twitter user. But in the last few days, I’m also a Clubhouse moderator. So here we go.

Shaheen Samavati 20:21
Very cool. I’m actually not on Clubhouse yet. You’ll have to send me an invite.

Yasmina Kazitani 21:03
I will, I will! I truly enjoy it to run a room there with content, with your tips I think we can make it happen.

Shaheen Samavati 21:11
Very cool. So I wanted to just ask for a few of your tips. First of all, any tips on productivity?

Yasmina Kazitani 21:20
Oh, wow, productivity working remotely or productivity in general?

Shaheen Samavati 21:25
In general, yeah, but it could be working remotely.

Yasmina Kazitani 21:29
Okay, so I think that I have moved into working remotely 10 years ago, because working for the E-learning industry, they were the first adopters of this methodology. We had head offices and subsidiaries around the region. Sometimes it was not needed to be at the office, developers were somewhere, the content was somewhere else. So the travelling was kind of creating challenges. Since then, I started looking really at what can I do to be more productive, because when you started 10 years ago, it’s like when I see my husband right now working remotely because of the pandemic. So he comes home and he’s kind of roaming around…it’s like, no, you have to have habits. So my habit since I started was to educate myself, because working from home doesn’t mean that I’m just working in pyjamas. So I need to wake up at a certain time. I have a habit, for example, I wake up at 6:30, get the kids ready for school. I make sure that I drop them at school, then it’s me time for half an hour. During this half an hour, I would be not touching my emails, going through the news updates on what’s going on in the economic side, the political across Europe. I’m interested in many regions, because we have many clients around, so I need to keep updated. When I’m sipping my coffee, it’s me time, reading for half an hour. So I’m just disabling everything else, I’m not answering Whatsapps, Messenger, messages, whatever. I just want to sink in and try to figure out what’s going on. The last five minutes, I’m going through my schedule, because I know that I have the planning and I always book my things to make sure that within this hour, I have this, within this hour, I have this, so I know what I do. I’m also an old fashioned person, I love writing my list on a notepad… and I love, I will show you, my kids laugh about this, because this is what I use, I don’t know if you can see it, but it’s colored pens. So I have colors, so let’s say if it’s pink, it means that’s less urgent, if it’s red, this needs to be done today. At the end of the day, I just cross, cross, cross, and if the thing that is red has not been done, I have to finish it. Honestly, I think that these few habits that I’m putting myself through have helped me to work quite easily and with the performance because I reply to emails and they’re like “Oh, my God, I emailed you and I got the answer within the day!” Yes, because you know what you have to do. That’s what I also share with my teams on the ground and my clients and I say guys, if you do not plan, if you don’t do it clearly, you can get in a mess at the end of the day. You’re like, “Oh my god, I have so much to do,” it’s only 12 hours of the day. Well, you can make the most of it, actually. You can read, watch TV, have some me time, with friends time, family time. So I know that, for example, between eight and nine is my family time. So we sit down, we call the grandparents, I don’t do anything, and after that it’s reading time for me just personally so I can refresh my mind. Otherwise you get caught up and you’re unproductive because then your health goes down, your mental health goes down and that’s not good. So that’s my advice.

Shaheen Samavati 25:01
Yeah, it’s really important and great advice. So next, who’s a professional role model or a source of inspiration for you?

Yasmina Kazitani 25:13
It’s gonna sound pretentious, but I would probably say me, a better version of me in 10 years. That’s what I keep telling myself and I’ll tell you why. I know it’s kind of like…what, a role model? I learned in my career, that sometimes role models, is just a fake PR piece. So you look at someone and you go, “Oh, my God, I would love to see them, I would love to be like them.” But then you refresh a little bit, have the opportunity to see these people and you’re like, “No, I don’t want to be like this. This is not me, they’re not my values, this is not my personality.” Then sometimes it’s like, “Oh, my God, I would like to be this guy,” but they have a different background, they have a diverse experience. I just want to be the better version of myself in terms of value. I believe in being open minded. I believe in certain values into integrities, into honesty, into collaborations, into giving back. I want this to be my values in the next 10 years and make it more being the role model of this value. So that’s why maybe it’s a strange answer, but for me, this is the best way to look at yourself and improve yourself on a daily basis.

Shaheen Samavati 26:34
Yeah, that’s a super interesting way to think about it, it makes a lot of sense. So, next, I just wanted to ask about how you stay up to date on marketing trends? I guess you talked a little bit about that already, in your morning routine, no?

Yasmina Kazitani 26:53
I also kind of, to add on to that, the reading is just to keep an update on what’s going on in the world. But on the other hand, I also have once or twice a week, depending on my schedule, I book one hour or sometimes an hour or 45 minutes slot, to book myself into a new tool that I have picked up on online. This morning, I was having a call with a guy for 30 minutes on lead forensic just a website, a data thing, you know, mining. Later tonight, I’m having a call with an algorithm patterns developer about how to analyze the data and create the best marketing models. So it’s keeping updated not just by reading, but by practicing, meeting these people, asking the questions, so I try to be, I’m not gonna say ahead of the game, but I like to keep myself constantly updated on what are the novelties. So I’m not taken by surprise, but also to make my life and my client’s life better. The more you’re aware of what’s going on, how that works, you can make it fit into your journey, it can make you fit into your plan. That’s what I think is the best.

Shaheen Samavati 28:12
Absolutely. So not only reading but from actually the direct experiences of others. But speaking of reading, do you have any book recommendations for us?

Yasmina Kazitani 28:26
You asked me questions on that and I’ll have to read, I’m not very good with memory, by the way. So I know that I mentioned the book I was currently reading, which was a Russian Experience.

Shaheen Samavati 28:39
Yes, you sent one called Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands.

Yasmina Kazitani 28:45
He’s one of the British authors, but he was the vice president of Ogilvy Media. I ran a few webinars with him, the guy is amazing, because I the way he kind of, his mindset, the way he approaches marketing strategies and that’s what I like about the collaboration. His book reflects the up to date mindset of the consumer behaviour, and how from a psychological point of view, you can see it. I had the pleasure to meet him, work with him. If someone wants to know more about the consumer behaviour from a psychological point of view and the emotional triggers, go and read this book. That’s one of the best on the market.

Shaheen Samavati 28:45
Yeah, great recommendation. Then the other book you mentioned is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

Yasmina Kazitani 29:27
That’s more of a friendly recommendation. I’m not going to be a boring person reading a lot about my industries or my field of expertise, but I’m more likely also to be the person who likes to have some recommendations. That’s kind of the beauty of the pandemic, positiveness. People started reading more. I love reading, I can spend the night reading sometimes. When you have people and friends from all different backgrounds and countries, this one is a Russian one. So my Russian friend called me and she was like, you’re gonna love it because it’s psychological, go through it, you will like it. I read it in one night and I was like, “Wow!” a different culture, a different way of politics. So very interesting.

Shaheen Samavati 30:32
Nice. Sounds like a page turner, I’ll have to check it out. Then just lastly, I wanted to ask if you recommend any other resources from marketers, whether it’s a publication, podcast, online community tool, software tool or anything like that?

Yasmina Kazitani 30:47
I think that’s depending on what they are looking for in their journey, where are they looking. The way I look at it is that I try to attend as many webinars or if they are recorded, I join them. I usually go to LinkedIn groups, which have marketeers groups there. I join and I try to keep a tab on what they are doing, what they are mentioning. I also found that Rory Sutherland does podcasts like you, he invites people who just started or some other people who are in the business field, he asks them questions. I unfortunately cannot attend all of his podcasts, I can’t listen to all of them but sometimes he gives me a resume which works well sometimes. But because I’m very interested in the psychological aspect of the end users or the behaviour, so that’s my little passion within the marketing field. I also recommend The Marketing Magazine, so for the English speakers, which is published in the UK. They give you tips, novelties. I know exhibitions do not exist physically anymore, but you have a few virtual exhibitions. I don’t know if I may say but when I look at these founders, these companies like Kim, they spam you with a lot of information, you go into these conferences, you pay, and then there is no novelty. I feel like I’m cheated, you know what I mean? If you do not have money to spend, don’t go to this, Neil Patel or Larry Kim, I think he’s a very good guy, don’t get me wrong. I’m not crazy. Just you pay that and you’re gonna get access, guys if it’s marketing and you’re promoting features, just give it for free because the return will be the use of it, right? So that’s how I believe it should be done, but that’s my point of view.

Shaheen Samavati 32:54
Yeah, no, totally, I get that. So we’re reaching the end of the interview and I just wanted to ask if you have any parting advice for other marketers in Europe, or final takeaways?

Yasmina Kazitani 33:06
Oh, my God. I would probably say that the only advice I can give anyone in the marketing field is keep your passion because if you feel that in the morning, you wake up and you don’t want to go there, that means that the job is not interesting anymore. But keep the passion in it. It’s not about money. It’s not about prestige. It’s not about ego. It’s not about how much I am well known or whatever. It’s about how much passion you put in it. Because within my 20 years, I still have people in my career calling me back or connecting because I impacted them with the passion I put into the work I’ve done and that’s what I found is the most interesting. People will not remember your name, they will not remember who you are, where are you from, but what they will remember is the passion you put into making something happen. That is really the reflection of good marketeers, you can make so much with that. So that’s my last tip.

Shaheen Samavati 34:13
That’s a great point and a great note to end on. Before we wrap up, I just wanted to ask you if anyone wants to learn more about what you do or get in touch, what’s the best way to do that? About you or about SKLS CONSULTING.

Yasmina Kazitani 34:26
Well if anyone would like to get in touch, get free advice, because I also do side mentoring, free for entrepreneurs, startups, anyone who is interested. I’m reachable on LinkedIn where I’m actively working there. You can find me as Yasmina Kazitani and I’m happy to reply to you, answer your questions or get on a call and help you out.

Shaheen Samavati 34:54
Excellent. Well yeah, we’ll definitely put the links to your LinkedIn and to the SKLS CONSULTING website on our show notes on the blog post. So people can find it there. I just wanted to say thank you, Yasmina, for sharing your insights with us today.

Yasmina Kazitani 35:09
Thank you so much, Shaheen, for having me and supporting my marketing mind. Thanks a lot for having me today.

Shaheen Samavati 35:20
Yeah, thank you. It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed the conversation. Thanks to everybody for listening in. For more perspectives on marketing in Europe, check out and keep tuning into the podcast for more interviews like this one. See you next time. Bye.

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