The path towards becoming a loyalty marketing expert isn’t really an obvious one, and it’s not exactly a career path that features in our early childhood dreams. How, then, do you make it in the increasingly lucrative loyalty marketing industry?
If there’s anyone who can answer this question, it’s Manav Fernandez, a certified loyalty marketing professional and co-founder of a highly successful loyalty and CRM consulting company, Quick Brown Fox Consulting, with vast experience in the field, and his own story of how he got there.
About Manav Fernandez
Manav Fernandez is the co-founder of QuickBrownFox Consulting, a consultancy devoted to helping brands all over the world power up their CRM and customer loyalty programs. As with most people in the loyalty marketing industry, Manav’s career has seen many twists and turns, allowing him to develop countless skills along the way and ultimately make him and QBF Consulting a resounding success.
About QBF Consulting
QuickBrownFox Consulting is a renowned loyalty and CRM consultancy, known for its individual and meticulous approach, the ability to tackle multiple projects simultaneously, and consistently high results. Since its inception, they have worked with brands such as Emaar, Belgrade Waterfront, Eagle Hills, and Al Hamra.
QBF Consulting is also a proud partner of the Loyalty Academy for CLMP certification in the MENA region, having qualified 111 individuals thus far. Its success has recently been recognized by MEA HR and Learning at a ceremony held at the Ritz Carlton, Dubai, where QBF Consulting received an award for “Best L&D for Loyalty Marketing in the MENA region”.
How did your career in the loyalty industry begin?
I have had a very checkered career – I started life in the apparel industry, finally arriving at The Gap Inc. Working in this industry taught me the importance of expectation management and service delivery. Most importantly it made me a solid project manager and gave me the ability to manage multiple vendors and stakeholders, skills we use every day as loyalty marketing professionals.
I subsequently moved to the communications field and helped build a brand experience agency where I realized the value of converting brand experience into superlative customer experiences. Most importantly, I gained an understanding of how important it was to be able to measure results of marketing and advertising campaigns; something people loved to talk about but not do much about. Being a commercially oriented person, this began to irk me and I found myself looking towards the loyalty field where every dollar spent is measurable.
I got lucky with my first loyalty job – when I was offered the role at GEMS Education; I was asked what I thought of the ‘idea of loyalty in education’ and responded as I believed – “Genius”. The next question was if I could deliver on it – and I said “YES!” immediately. I knew if anyone could deliver a program, I could and I decided I would figure it out along the way. The program won an award for its first year of operations.
How has your role as a loyalty marketing professional evolved over time?
Well – the key strengths remain the same. Which is problem-solving. Let’s say a business has a challenge - typically, one of customer attrition or lack of engagement, and our role is to understand why this is happening and help reverse it.
In terms of what’s changed in the industry – the customer gets smarter every day and technology evolves all the time. In order to ensure brand loyalty, we must always look at program design from a customer’s point of view
Be GENEROUS, be RELEVANT and keep it SIMPLE. These are the fundamental principles if you stick to these you can’t go wrong.
What does your typical day look like?
My goal has always been to be the best at what I do and I strive for QuickBrownFox Consulting to be recognized as the best independent loyalty program consultancy in the region.
My day – while no two are ever alike, I will try and paint you a picture of how my day tends to play out…
I wake between 4.45am and 5am and take about an hour to read a book or go online to connect with my kids in Canada.
I then walk my dogs. These are key rituals that help me prepare for the day. After this I will go to the gym, with the aim to get to my desk by 9.30am.
Once at work, I connect with my partner and wife, Chayya Sakhuja, and ensure we have our priorities set up for the day.
We let each other know about our meetings and what we’re doing and then off we go.
She looks after business development, client management and project delivery while I work on project delivery, admin, and marketing. This could involve strategy design on a project we may be working on; admin including ensuring invoices are being raised and payments followed up on. Marketing involves ensuring our website is up to date; partnerships for business growth and proposals to support Chayya’s business development efforts.
I have lunch between 1 and 1.15 and resume work before 2pm working till 5.30 when I walk my dogs again.
If I have work to finish or deliver on, I will go back and keep going; however, this is not as common as one would think, and I am happy about that.
Dinner is typically done between 7.15pm and 8.00pm, with another work update/catch-up with Chayya, maybe a little TV and the off to bed by 9.30pm.
Honestly, no two days are alike, but the first few hours are consistently similar up until I sit down to start work.
What are the key ingredients of success in the loyalty industry?
I didn’t have this job or any role regarding loyalty up until 2014 when I got to work on the Emaar project. So I have been involved with the industry for nine years. I would say to be good at it – you have to be a critical thinker, flexible and open-minded to possibilities. Be a student all your life and truly commit to lifelong learning (I sincerely believe you only stop learning when it’s time to die). Be creative and embrace new and different ways to solve problems. Go back and look at programs you’ve designed in the past – how would you do them differently? Maybe due to technology innovations, OR something you understand differently about the audience. Learn about finance – building financial models around your program is a real gift and a talent not many people have. This is critical and I am blessed to have my partner who is excellent at doing this.
I would recommend for aspiring loyalty marketers or any person thinking about starting off in this field, to do the CLMP program from the Loyalty Academy - the first formalized educational and training curriculum for customer loyalty professionals. The program really makes you respect how complex the business can be and gives you the ability to structure your thinking to succeed. QBF Consulting has the exclusive rights to host and deliver these workshops across the MENA region and we have now had five such workshops between Dec 21 and March 23, qualifying 111 individuals with the prestigious Certification. Our latest workshop, completed on the 8th of March, has had 30 delegates attend.
How do you see the role of the loyalty marketing manager evolving in the future?
These are interesting times. I believe more and more that the global community of marketers will find themselves becoming primarily loyalty professionals – with a stronger focus on technology, tools, UX, customer behavior, psychology, and even finance.
Communication campaigns will also play a big role but with the way GDPR and Consumer Data protections are going, it’s becoming critical for businesses to manage their loyalty operations in a way that allows them to get to know who their customers (of value) are and to target ‘look-alike’ groups of people to ensure they are optimizing their marketing spends; targeting (and acquiring) the right kind of customer and retaining the ones that matter.
Well-executed loyalty programs, backed by the right strategic principles and practices, help do this efficiently.
If you could go back in time to the start of your career, what advice would you give yourself?
I wish I had entered this field earlier – to start my career in Loyalty in my 30s instead of my early 40s. And secondly study consumer psychology to better understand how people behave. I have had to learn this myself on the job, but I really wish I had done this earlier.
To learn more about The Loyalty Academy and the CLMP program, click here.