Driving force of marketing excellence
Valentina Bagniya, chief marketing officer at SOFTSWISS, discusses building a marketing team from scratch, how to turn mistakes into opportunities, and shares insights on how to create a disruptive and successful marketing campaign
Competitiveness in the igaming industry is steadily growing and companies must make serious efforts to engage and retain clients. One of the most crucial elements to capture client attention is a powerful brand, which cannot be established without a robust marketing strategy and a professional team. These two components lie at the heart of the marketing success of SOFTSWISS – a leading international product and technology company that creates innovative solutions for global igaming businesses. Having won a string of accolades at the EGR B2B and Marketing & Innovation Awards in both 2022 and 2023 further demonstrates its achievements.
EGR: When you joined SOFTSWISS in 2020 there was no marketing department. How did you create a team and what were the biggest challenges?
Valentina Bagniya (VB): It was an entirely new experience, but I found the challenge invigorating. Rather than rushing into hiring, I kept my primary focus on marketing strategy development. A clear understanding of our business goals and marketing requirements allowed me to identify specific skill sets, professional roles and functional tasks needed for the team.
Over the course of three months, I formed a core team of employees to handle essential tasks but as we settled into the daily routine it became evident which functions need additional resources. Initially, I aimed to have a maximum of 10 people in the SOFTSWISS marketing team. However, over the course of two-and-a-half years, the team has grown to 41. As the company experienced rapid growth, the marketing department naturally expanded, too. My focus shifted from hiring task-oriented individuals to seeking employees capable of making managerial decisions and taking full responsibility for outcomes.
One of the key requirements for candidates joining our company is their ability to embrace change. With the industry constantly evolving and new competitors emerging, along with our company’s ongoing growth, we continually face new challenges and tasks. Consequently, we embrace a culture of adapting our internal processes, prioritising internal communication and enhancing the team’s efficiency and overall marketing performance. This adaptation will be an ongoing part of our journey.
EGR: How are your marketing work processes organised? Do you follow a system of results?
VB: SOFTSWISS’ marketing department is divided into seven subdivisions, each dedicated to specific functional tasks and promotional strategies. This approach allows us to effectively promote our commercial brand while also strengthening our employer brand. The brand team focuses on strategy, positioning, and image and visual communications, while our other specialised teams are for PR, events and digital marketing, each playing pivotal roles in targeted promotions. Recently, we assembled a creative team to develop innovative and visually appealing solutions to promote our products and brands.
For our process organisation, we follow a one-year timeline for strategy development. The busiest and hardest period is September to November, during which we assess the current year’s results and hatch plans for the following year. Our marketing activities are guided by well-defined KPIs set on a quarterly and monthly basis for each team member. Monitoring these metrics regularly enables us to effectively track our progress toward our goals. Additionally, brand-wide KPIs are closely linked to achieving our business objectives, and every team member’s contribution is vital to our overall success.
EGR: Do you adhere to any specific model as team manager?
VB: I avoid relying on a one-size-fits-all method and instead tailor my management style in line with the unique strengths and preferences of each team member. A directive leadership style with clear instructions will prove effective for some, while a collaborative approach with open discussions and joint decision-making is more suitable for others. But overall, delegation forms the foundation of my management style. I firmly believe in entrusting my teams with responsibilities and empowering them to embrace our company’s ambitious visions and objectives. I aim to foster a sense of ownership and accountability among team members.
EGR: SOFTSWISS won this year’s B2B marketing campaign at the EGR Marketing & Innovation Awards. Why do you think you took first place?
VB: Our win was the result of a highly creative idea, drawing inspiration from product advertising campaigns in the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) industry. It was particularly exciting because many of our employees have backgrounds in this field. Notably, marketing in igaming is still in its evolutionary stages, so we sought a unique approach that would stand out from the usual strategies.
Our primary goal was to enhance SOFTSWISS’ brand awareness in Malta, a vital hub for igaming. We used a hot chilli pepper as our central visual with the slogan ‘Blazing in’. Stepping into uncharted territory for B2B marketing, we went all out to capture attention. Our campaign spanned various media and directions, from radio to buses, advertising boards to prime spots at Malta International Airport. We also served SOFTSWISS-branded chilli-flavoured ice creams outside the offices of potential clients, and featured key SOFTSWISS leaders, including the company’s founder Ivan Montik, in an epic photoshoot alongside those fiery peppers in show-stopping billboards. Our presence was impossible to miss!
This project was a testament to true teamwork and everyone involved had a fantastic time working on it. The outcomes exceeded all expectations and targets, yielding outstanding results.
EGR: How should a manager react to mistakes and failures?
VB: I strongly believe mistakes offer valuable learning experiences that help refine our working methods. It’s easy to overlook cause-and-effect relationships when things are running smoothly, instead attributing success to fortunate circumstances.
Years ago I gained an invaluable lesson from a conversation with a top manager that has stayed with me throughout my career. True professionalism in marketing goes beyond a few successful campaigns, it involves enduring multiple year-long marketing cycles. Some years may bring success while others less favourable results. Analysing these outcomes helps identify influencing factors and personal mistakes, which in turn foster personal growth.
At SOFTSWISS, we embrace failures as stepping stones to personal and professional growth. Recognising mistakes is not enough; we draw valuable conclusions and learn from them to avoid repeating mistakes.
EGR: SOFTSWISS has several offices in Europe with many also embracing remote working. Does this work well?
VB: When I was assembling the SOFTSWISS marketing department, remote work had already become the new normal. Yes, it comes with its own set of challenges. Being physically present together contributes to deeper immersion in processes, seamless information exchange, knowledge sharing, sustained motivation and heightened engagement, all of which move us towards greater efficiency. But I still view remote work as a modern necessity, particularly for an international company like ours.
Remote work allows people to enjoy the freedom of working from different locations. We have people in our team who live in Malta, Spain, Italy, Argentina and dozens of other countries. It’s challenging, but it adds a diversity that helps us look at familiar things in a different way and that contributes to more effective work.
Valentina Bagniya joined SOFTSWISS in 2020, stepping into her role as chief marketing officer. She has led the company to expand its marketing and now orchestrates the development of forward-thinking marketing and business strategies for SOFTSWISS and its products. Bagniya has also driven improvements in control performance and implemented regular analytics and desk studies.
SOFTSWISS is an international technology company offering a product ecosystem for the igaming industry. Focused on clients success and empowering worldwide operators with diverse opportunities, SOFTSWISS helps to launch an igaming business from scratch or enhance it with top-notch solutions, including the Online Casino Platform, the Game Aggregator, Crypto Casino Solution, Managed Services, Affilka, the Sportsbook Platform and the Jackpot Aggregator.