Forbes Italy recently released their Top 100 Marketing Directors. Among the nominees was Sherpany’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Andrea Ratzenberger, whose achievements in marketing were acknowledged. In this interview with Andrea, we look back at the foundation of Sherpany's approach to meeting management and addressing corporate leadership needs.
Sherpany: Being named in the Top 100 Marketing Directors by Forbes Italy shows that Sherpany is a distinguished company. What achievements led to this accolade?
Andrea Ratzenberger: Every major human achievement probably began in a meeting. Starting from this assumption of joint collaboration, the turning point was to focus on one of the needs of today's corporate leadership: How to optimise the process that leads to shared decisions.
We wanted to understand leaders' daily life in-depth, and provide explanations to some of their unanswered questions. We came to realise that in most situations, even more often nowadays, we are still using many different tools for meetings, such as software for inviting attendees, for video calls, and for managing documents.
Yet, from a customer's point of view, it is undoubtedly easier to use a single tool for all phases of the meeting process: From the creation of a meeting agenda, to the sending of documentation, to encouraging participation among team members, to supporting initiatives, as well as maintaining an effective overview of the decisions taken and their execution. Being able to guarantee a simple and unified experience to meeting attendees, as well as lead them to collaborate at the highest level, are the pillars of the entire meeting process.
Sherpany: Sherpany is a meeting management software. Meeting management, which embodies practices such as agile working and agile leadership, is defined abroad as “meeting science”. What has been the biggest challenge in Italy with regard to meeting science?
Andrea Ratzenberger: I would define it as "modern meeting management" rather than "meeting science", given the context in which we find ourselves today. The principle that meetings are a driving force for business results stands at the core of Agile working. Meeting efficiency depends on leaders’ ability to push forward projects and arrive at the right decisions. Having a clear meeting purpose applies both in Italy and abroad: Thus, the value of meetings is universal.
We often consider unproductive meetings as a necessary evil without remedy. At Sherpany, our main challenge has been to demonstrate, with the help of data, the fact that there is a way to manage meetings more effectively and efficiently. And that this way incorporates the use of appropriate technology.
Sherpany: How has Sherpany managed to position and differentiate itself from other document management systems and meeting tools (e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.)?
Andrea Ratzenberger: The lever of our positioning is simple: The most commonly used tools for meetings are not bespoke meeting management solutions. The tools you mention are undoubtedly high value solutions. Nevertheless, they only partially contribute to the entire meeting process, and not to the process as a whole. We can therefore consider them as complementary tools to our offered service, because they require costly manual coordination for meetings to be organised successfully. If these tools are used alone, considerable effort is required to manage the information and find the documents needed for meetings.
That is why we offer dedicated customer support before, during and after the meeting. The key to our customer-centric approach is to bring together people, processes and technology. This way, we are able to anticipate and manage the structural problems with the traditional meeting process and push for an enhanced "collaboration" by using a single holistic meeting tool. This applies to every single step that defines a good meeting: From the agenda creation to making decisions and even solving agenda items before the meeting starts.
This enables better organisation of the meeting agenda, which in turn allows for more open discussions regarding priorities during the meeting, and more time spent on strategic decision-making ''after the meeting''. As a result, a more efficient and productive meeting process will support strategic decision making, and save the most valuable of all resources: time.
Sherpany: Your recognition in Forbes Italy’s Top 100 Marketing Directors is evidence of an innovative approach to marketing. In what ways is your approach unique?
Andrea Ratzenberger: It is all about a sharp focus on satisfying customers’ needs. At the same time, it is also about demonstrating the ability to "think big", and knowing how to create an ecosystem which fits and promotes the interests of every stakeholder.
For example, in 2017, in Italy, we realised that despite the huge number of leadership figures and Corporate Secretaries, there was no Italian association to support Italian corporate governance, whose role is very important. We understood that we needed to create and promote a national association to connect experts and professionals to our own network. This is how Aisca was born, the Italian Association of Secretaries of the Board of Directors (in Italian: Associazione Italiana Segretari del Consiglio di Amministrazione). In only 3 years, Aisca has become a reference point to national corporate governance in Italy. The creation of Aisca is an example of how a versatile, empathic, attentive and sensitive approach makes a true difference.
The needs of modern marketing are no longer met with traditional promotion tools, and therefore we have to identify the stages that customers have reached, their digital maturity and - depending on their different needs - to provide dedicated and tailored solutions. Every day we see that the informational needs change considerably depending on the stakeholders. In some cases, we interact with clients who have never really thought about how meetings at management level are led and implemented. In other cases, we interact with meeting specialists who demonstrate a high level of knowledge of meeting management. Yet, the potential of meeting processes can always be further evaluated and optimised.
Therefore, we can proudly say that our marketing approach is not only about tools, but is also about purpose. The word "promotion" has evolved beyond a simple sales experience, and the view of clients is far deeper and more emotive. Sherpany’s vision to make every meeting count therefore connects people, in an emotive way, with both our company mission and the values on which it is built.
To increase customer retention, it is fundamental to take care of the customers' needs and requests as much as anticipate them. That is why dedicated customer support stands as the foundation of our strategy.
Sherpany: What are the key values that drive Sherpany’s strategy? And what value reflects the most your approach to marketing?
Andrea Ratzenberger: When it comes to identifying the foundations of our work, we have no doubts. We are driven by five core values: Appreciation, Service Orientation, Curiosity, Result-driven and Trustworthiness. Each of these values are linked to a cardinal point of our strategy and connected to agile working.
Appreciationof others’ work: it lays the foundations for a constructive collaboration. The best results are obtained by showing an open and honest, but also constructive approach.
Service Orientation makes it possible to plan activities ahead, to ensure we can tackle problems and capitalise on opportunities at an early stage. It is different from a traditional approach because it focuses more on individual efficiency than on the overall teamwork and synergy. To follow in this direction, Curiosity is the value that helps to improve oneself by seeking new approaches and alternative points of view. Being able to think "outside of the box" is the engine to be Result-driven, which is the true starting point of every process that leads to a great result.
And finally, Trustworthiness. Customers can count on us. We keep our promises, and we never lie. If we make mistakes, we acknowledge them and know how to solve them in a timely manner.
From my view, these values converge into a great resource: Collaboration. Collaboration replaces traditional hierarchies with a more horizontal hierarchy based on relationships of sharing ideas and contributions. This "value" is part of Sherpany's approach to agile working, and part of my personal working toolkit. We often say that leaders should be able to embody the cultural change they want to see in their team. This is an argument that I truly believe in.