Daniela López

Diversification leadership and trust keys to success in EdTech

In this discussion, we’ll learn about Daniela’s singular focus on leading joyful groups, and we will untangle the secrets behind her success in demand generation and event strategy. We’ll also dive into the role of product marketer and learn how Daniela has developed her experience in different areas.

Prepare yourself for a journey full of innovative ideas and practical advice that will help you to conquer the world of EdTech marketing.

Let’s get started!

Please tell us a little about yourself, Daniela

I’m currently the Global Marketing Director at uPlanner, which is a position similar to CMO. With a background in Social Communication and journalism, I’ve worked in public relations, publicity, and television, which has given me experience in diverse industries and allowed me to fill different roles within the marketing field. Over the past four years I’ve specialized in the B2B and EdTech sectors. Before joining uPlanner, I directed the Latin America region at CognosOnline, an Edtech solutions company that was one of the largest resellers in the region. This path has provided me with wide knowledge of the EdTech market.

What was it like landing at such a large regional operation?

At that time, CognosOnline was looking for someone who specialized in digital marketing more than B2B marketing or EdTech marketing. My career had been focused on digital marketing and it was the first time I had tackled the B2B market, which is different in the digital realm. I learned as I went, but I also had the help of advisors and people who guided me through the process of understanding the world of B2B. When it comes to B2B for EdTech, I believe a marketing professional who specializes in B2B can adapt to any industry. I had the opportunity to explore the world of EdTech and I discovered that I liked it. When you’re passionate about something, you really immerse yourself in it and you become an expert, and I think that was what happened to me when I entered the world of EdTech.

What do you like about the industry?

✨ Pearl of wisdomI love to see the meaningful impact that our work has in an industry tackling social issues that are relevant everywhere in the world. Although we’re focused on the B2B market, it’s so gratifying to hear someone on the field say, “I use that technology and it has been useful because of this or that.”

It’s clear that our work has a positive impact in multiple ways. That’s the reason I enjoy this industry so much. On top of that, I’ve always been interested in the world of academia. During my university days I was an involved tutor and I was active in student life. Out of that I found the perfect combination of marketing, communications, technology, and education, and I knew that I had found my place in the world.

What has been your biggest achievement?

In CognosOnline I managed to close a pipeline of close to USD $13 million in Latin America, which is quite a big number in the industry. In uPlanner we are also achieving very important things in terms of demand generation, and commercial closings of accounts brought from marketing management with close to USD $5 million in 2022.

✨ Pearl of wisdomIn terms of leadership, I’m so proud of my team. Leadership means choosing the people you work with carefully. If you’re not satisfied with your team, or if your team isn’t happy with you, it’s unlikely that things will work well.

I’m a strong believer in the importance of that dynamic, so I have built trust both with the managerial level and the C-level at uPlanner.

What do you do to generate leads quickly and effectively?

✨ Pearl of wisdomUnderstanding the processes of demand generation, visibility, and reputation reveals the importance of diversifying your actions to stimulate growth. It’s not enough just to create content, you have to integrate complementary strategies as well. I visualize this as like a wheel that is constantly turning, in which each crucial action is connected to and reinforcing the others. It’s like strategically distributing your eggs into different baskets to achieve an agile, productive flow.

This mentality has been key to the success of my projects, since it requires paying attention to multiple aspects and coordinating different teams. The profile of someone who creates content is different from performance specialists, and in our case, the industry experts also have a profile focused on the product.

How has your experience of integrating marketing and sales been?

Marketing-sales synergy is crucial, in spite of any mutual disagreements or finger-pointing. Finding a balance in the collaboration between them is of the highest importance. It means telling the sales team, “you are part of the process.” On my team, we do something unique that isn’t common at other EdTech businesses: the marketing director doesn’t oversee the Business Development Reps (BDR), which is the usual way to do it. In my case, I’m also in charge of that department, which has really been of value to my boss. That means that I have total control of the journey for potential clients and of everything we generate. I follow them from the moment they come in until the BDR starts working with them since they are our direct contact point with sales.

✨ Pearl of wisdomWorking with sales requires creating trust with the BDRs, as many people in that department may not understand why certain actions get taken. For example, a client testimonial generates potential clients, but sales is always asking for more demand. You have to show the value of diversification and how everything is interconnected to generate demand. The relationship with sales is important and challenging, but it’s essential to making sure everyone is aligned.

Of course, we’re also under pressure. We know when one region has better results than another and the salesperson is asking themselves, “why aren’t they giving me opportunities?” So then we need to focus. This is in real time, like on the stock market. I constantly have to be making decisions to generate more opportunities for a salesperson, and keep it up throughout the year. That’s the vision for what my role should be: understanding what is happening with my actions and constantly directing effort wherever it’s needed.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?

The biggest challenge right now is opening the market in the US and Canada. With uPlanner in Latin America we’ve already achieved a certain level of maturity--although that’s also another challenge, since the market is increasingly limited. We have to innovate, cross-sell, and a lot of other things to continue growing. However, right now we’re feeling comfortable in Latin America. In North America, we’re working on opening the market, which means adapting our sales message and understanding the market dynamics.

✨ Pearl of wisdomIt's important to understand how we are perceived coming from Latin America when we enter the U.S. and Canadian markets. We have to present an attractive and relevant proposition. It's possible that our product is not right for all the different possible segments and attributes outside of our home markets.

Understanding the market is a challenge in and of itself. Designing a communication strategy is an enormous challenge, since we have to satisfy the needs and operation styles of our clients.

✨ Pearl of wisdomYou always have to be thinking from the market in, not the product out. There are a lot of technology businesses that think that because they have the product, the client will come to you, and they don’t seem to understand what it is we do in marketing.

They don’t stop to understand the market, the segments, the buyers, the context, what the salesperson’s mentality is. You have to understand all that to understand different go-to-markets and to make them effective.  

What professional advice would you give yourself at 20 years old?

I lived in the United States and Italy for a while, where I would have liked to stay a little longer because understanding people is a whole different dynamic.

Another thing is that, for a long period of time, I felt that I was in a stage of uncertainty where I didn’t know where my talent truly was. I changed from industry to industry, from medium to medium... it was like I was asking myself, what am I really good at? But experience has shown me that that journey was really necessary.

It’s also super important for anyone who works in marketing in Latin America to speak Portuguese. I would have liked to start learning Portuguese earlier.

What should someone in a marketing role for a startup do to generate traction and be successful?

✨ Pearl of wisdomFirst, it’s important to understand what resources are available to you. I’ve worked at generous companies that gave me everything I asked for, as well as situations of total austerity. You have to be realistic about what you have to work with. Second, it’s crucial to understand who you will work with and what skills those people have.

Curiously, someone's role may not always reflect their strongest skills. For example, one of my BDRs isn’t an expert in getting meetings or being really sales-y, but rather in deeply understanding the psychology of the people he’s interacting with. Why? Because he’s actually a psychologist by profession. What’s a psychologist doing as a BDR? It’s all about understanding the real strengths of each person and how to make the most of them whether you’re in a situation of austerity or abundance.

In practice, I maintain direct and informal communication with my whole team. I don’t wait to take the time to write super structured emails that I know no one will read and I’ll have to check to be sure people understood. It’s important to have a good personal relationship with every member of the team.

What are the most important EdTech events for your brand?

There are different types of events that can generate demand and establish relationships. Some are focused on networking and building a reputation for our brand. Others are specifically to collaborate with our partners and maintain brand visibility.

For example, trade fairs are ideal events to generate demand. Especially those in which rectors participate as speakers. There is the REALCUP assembly, which this year is in Panama City. The QS Summit in the Dominican Republic will also be very important. Holon IQ, led by the Tec de Monterrey, and all those of AACRAO in North America are vital.

What is the thing you like least about the role you have now? What is the most difficult part?

Good question, because I think that sometimes I get more involved than I should with helping others do their work well. Then, when people don’t operate the way you expect, despite the fact that you’re confident you gave them all the opportunities and the resources so they could execute well, sometimes you don’t get the results you were hoping for and that can be very hard.

✨ Pearl of wisdomI think that getting too involved is exhausting. I think it’s better to find the balance between what you do and what you receive. That sounds very philosophical, but that’s how it is. If you’re expecting your whole team to run at full speed, that won’t happen.

And if you’re hoping that everyone will thank you for what you do, that won’t happen, or that they operate the way you want with the resources you give them, sometimes that doesn’t happen and you have to understand that.  

How is your region organized? Do you break it down by university size, by client, by country, etc.?

I look for strategically located people in each region. For example, in Mexico I have a BDR who provides me with all the necessary feedback about what’s happening there. And it’s the same in Peru, Chile, and Colombia. These people are from each of those places and we share information and understanding in our conversations. Although I can’t have a representative in every country in Latin America, I can at least cover every region. Ecuador and Colombia are similar, as are Panama, Mexico, and some countries in Central America. Countries in the south also share some similarities.  Working this way allows me to organize by region, dividing Latin America into south, central, and north.

✨ Pearl of wisdomIn the world of higher education, having people on the ground who really understand the culture and have inside information about the market is a big advantage.

Of course, we also have a Marketing Coordinator in North America.

How do you mentally prioritize resources and activities between running events, creating more templates, lead generation, etc.?

The first factor to keep in mind is the quota. Every region has a specific quota that must be met. That determines the priority and the focus that the budget will have. If one region has to reach double the quota of another one, I should prioritize that one over another region. Sometimes it’s necessary to be a little firm with these decisions when working with other stakeholders.

How do you prioritize the short term versus the medium term?

We go back to marketing basics: how does the funnel work? First, by generating awareness. If I already have enough recognition in Latin America, this year I won’t be focused on that. I prioritize closing sales. But if I’m opening a market, like in the US, I have to start from zero. I need to create awareness.

How has the work of defining a brand message and a product message been, especially when it is done by programmers or product folks, and how have you made it work?

✨ Pearl of wisdomIt’s crucial to understand that the role of the product marketer is unique. Engineers can’t create a message on their own, and marketers can’t do it on their own either. That’s when the product marketing expert comes in to bring together those two worlds in the best way possible.

Without that role, we couldn’t do what we’re doing. Having the expertise of people like Laureano and Kimberly Finkelman in North America is key.

It’s a question of each person having their area. Although that role may not always be very visible, it is incredibly important.

There is a perception that the marketing mentality and the way marketing works is very different from sales. How do you overcome those differences?

This is super difficult. It’s not enough just to have a chat and then everyone is in alignment. It’s more an issue of internal education where I need to explain to them and make them understand that what I’m telling them is a hook to bring them into our flows. Then they can adapt the conversation to their sales styles, but they should keep in mind that what I say and present in my documents and channels is a way of attracting the client and positioning our brand. We need to work together with our two messages, and that’s what we’re trying to do now. Although we talk about three main products or solutions, the salesperson has the freedom to broadcast them however they prefer.

What would you say is the ideal buyer persona for an EdTech?

The buyer persona for an LMS is not the same as for our other solutions at all. In fact, in the US the buyer persona for uPlanner is completely different. Everything depends on what we’re selling, because there are solutions that tackle various strategic topics and others that are focused on more operational aspects of the day to day. If we’re talking about the technical and operational side, we focus on an ascending strategy. On the other hand, if we’re looking at something more universal and related to the institutional vision, then we adopt a descending strategy.

🔥 Rapid fire questions
Agency or internal?
Both, that’s the only choice. The agency brings the knowledge and the capabilities that you often may not have access to, but on the internal side it’s very important to have someone who understands what’s happening in the business to be able to convey it.
Inbound or outbound?
Inbound, one hundred percent.
Marketing or sales?
Hubspot, Pardot or Eloqua?
Webflow, Wordpress or others?
Specialist or generalist?
Thinking or doing?
Act, one hundred percent.
Ed or Tech?
A great question. Ed, no question.
Quantity or quality?
Remote or in-person?
In-person, one hundred percent.

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