“Leaning back is not an option” interview with a CMO
In conversation with Lydi Siebers, Chief Marketing Officer, HelloFresh Benelux
Lydi Siebers joined HelloFresh as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in 2017. She is responsible for all marketing and communication activities in the Benelux region (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg). Her multinational team of around forty people is divided into three areas: the “Growth” team, the “Brand and Communications” team and the “Marketing Retention, Analytics and Special Projects” team. In her conversation with us, Lydi talks about her motivation in her day-to-day work, her personal career path and what she has learned along the way.
Lydi, what does a typical day at your job look like?
Lydi: No two days are the same – it's been that way ever since I joined HelloFresh. Together with my great team here in Amsterdam, we continuously work on new ideas, run campaigns and drive awareness for the HelloFresh brand to acquire new customers and retain them. One day we might execute a digital campaign with famous influencers, another day we will run more ‘old school’ activities like print advertisements in magazines or direct mailings. Planning and supervising all of this is part of my day-to-day work. Every marketing approach has its value for us, as we tailor our activities to the different segments of potential customers. I also regularly exchange ideas with colleagues from other markets so we can all benefit from each other’s experience and expertise.
One of the last in-person team meetings of the Benelux marketing team before the pandemic hit.
Can you tell us about any exciting current or upcoming projects?
Lydi: At HelloFresh we have a growth mindset, which means that leaning back is not an option. We are always running exciting projects, for example the launch of HelloFresh Market in the Netherlands that allows our customers to order products such as ready-to-heat meals, fruit, baking recipes, or even a pack of milk in addition to our meal kits. These so-called add-ons have been scaled up significantly, from around 23 items last year to more than 300 items today - and we’ll further expand that range until December. Our team is constantly working on raising customer awareness for this new feature, for example via emails or pop-ups in the app. The company's strong growth as well as the increasingly data-driven field of marketing has brought and will continue to bring new challenges in the future. These challenges, combined with a young and ambitious team, ensure that I continue to learn every day. This is what I love about my job at HelloFresh.
Let’s go back to the start: Where does your HelloFresh story begin?
Lydi: It begins with our great (former) colleagues Maartje and Pauwel. Maartje founded HelloFresh in the Netherlands in 2012. Pauwel took over as CEO seven years later. He was the one of the first who spoke to me about the newly created CMO-position. He was also the person who convinced me to take this opportunity. His genuine enthusiasm for the company has always been an emotion that we have shared from the very beginning. We all spend a large part of our time at work. Therefore, it is important to have a fantastic team with a great spirit. I am very grateful that my colleagues and I can be ourselves, can challenge each other and can have different opinions but always end up (after a good debate) with a better solution.
The HelloFresh Benelux leadership team at the distribution center in Bleiswijk. From left to right: COO Thomas Stroo, CEO Pauwel Wiertsema & CMO Lydi Siebers.
What do you think brought you to your position? Are there any skills that are crucial?
Lydi: I guess it is a combination of several factors, including great timing, a little bit of luck but most of all focus and dedication. Looking back, the following three things have inspired me:
Start off with ambition: The combination of creativity and business fascinated me about marketing. So, I got my university degree as fast as I could and started working at one of the best FMCG companies at the time when I was 21. I was lucky enough to have had great managers who encouraged me to develop myself and my career. I’ve always wanted to learn as much as possible - which is also an essential part of the HelloFresh-DNA : ‘learning never stops’.
Dare to make brave choices: For some people, a ‘safe job’ with a set path might be the right fit. Leaving the safe path and doing something completely different takes courage and might feel like a big leap of faith. But it was that leap of faith that brought me to HelloFresh. When I started working here, I realized that our company is different on so many levels from the others I had worked for before. More action oriented, keen to move forward, open to change, data-driven – and what can I say? I have loved it every day since. It's a much better fit for me than I could have ever imagined.
And last but not least, the love for good food: I am passionate about good food and have a crazy number of cookbooks. After a busy day at work, I enjoy winding down in the kitchen. Working for a company that is passionate about its products (and which you are also passionate about) makes life much more satisfying – and is something I would always look for in my professional life.
You are leading a team of around 40 people. How have you developed into a leader?
Lydi: There is no one course or workshop that turns you into a great leader. For me, it was a combination of hard work, people who believed in me and, most of all, a culture driven by feedback. Sometimes it is hard to accept that there is room for improvement in what you are doing. But constructive feedback has always helped me improve my own management skills. Having the ‘right’ people in an empowering and trusting environment to advise and support me enabled me to grow personally and professionally. I am forever grateful to those people.
Lydi, Pauwel and Thomas hosting the HelloFresh Benelux 2020 christmas dinner. To be able to hold a christmas event for the whole team during a pandemic, the senior leadership hosted a virtual dinner from a studio.
Did you encounter any obstacles in your career?
Lydi: Of course, there are some setbacks or decisions in my career that I would have done differently in retrospect, such as not getting promoted fast enough and staying too long at companies that were not a perfect fit for me. But overall, I stick by most of my decisions. Making mistakes and experiencing setbacks is something you learn from. Keeping patience and not losing confidence in myself was sometimes challenging, but it led me here – and now I could not be happier.
There are phases and circumstances in a career that can be particularly challenging, such as the current pandemic. From one day to the next, the whole team had to work from home. Many of our colleagues had to take care of their children. For me it was challenging not seeing my team in person and not being able to check in on them as much as I used to. I tried to be available via all channels and we surprised the team with little gifts like plants and fruit boxes. We even had a virtual Christmas party together, where we cooked a special meal all in our own homes. To keep up the team spirit we started a walking challenge, in which all of us try to walk a certain number of kilometres per month - together we have already virtually ‘walked’ to our offices in Paris, Auckland and Toronto.
Another tough phase was the time when my boys (I have two sons) were still very young – who by the way are two of our most critical customers. It was sometimes tricky to combine working in a demanding job and having two little kids at home.
Last question – what is something you would like to tell your younger self, if you would start working in your job today?
Lydi: Do a job you love and be confident in your abilities. I believe that passion and commitment to your strengths brings the best results. Have trust in yourself, you will get there.