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11 AAPI marketing and sales thought leaders you should be following

Only 5% of marketers in the U.S. identify as Asian, but their impact is immense. Here are 11 AAPI marketing and sales thought leaders you need to be following in the coming year.

11 AAPI marketing and sales thought leaders you should be following Blog Feature

Ramona Sukhraj

Associate Director of Content, Strategized Initiatives That Increased IMPACT’s Website Traffic From ~45K to ~400K

May 25th, 2021 min read

As of 2020, almost 60% of the world’s population calls Asia home. That’s roughly 4.6 billion people. 

Reading that is probably wild to many of you, especially to those in the United States, where the Asian population is only about 7%. Well, add the filter of “marketer” to that population and the number dwindles even further, to just about 5%.

No wonder this little South Asian marketer got a “marketing minority” scholarship in college!

There’s no sugar-coating it: The overwhelming majority of professionals in marketing and sales in the U.S. identify as white (88% to be more precise), but the impact of “minority marketers” remains strong, the Asian and Pacific Islander community included. 

🔎 Related: 11 Black thought leaders everyone in sales and marketing should know

In fact, that impact is only becoming stronger. 

You see, the face of the modern buyer is changing. Your buyer is likely changing. As the internet makes the world smaller, your products and services have the potential to reach farther: to find and help customers in more countries, speaking different languages, with different skin tones, and, overall, living different lifestyles.

Even if you only do business in the U.S., experts predict that by 2044 groups formerly seen as “minorities” (including multicultural buyers) are going to collectively reach majority status. 

🔎Related: 23 eye-opening inclusive marketing statistics that prove its power for 2021

That means many groups that are currently underrepresented or even an afterthought in your marketing and advertising are going to make up the majority of consumers, and you’ll need to know how to reach them effectively. 

The best way to do that is by diversifying your marketing talent, but that won't happen overnight. While you’re working on that initiative, start by opening your mind to new expert perspectives and insights. 

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, I’ve listed 11 accomplished marketers with AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) backgrounds who go above and beyond to share their impressive knowledge with others. 

1. Yamini Rangan

asian-marketers-sales-leaders-yamini-ranganImage Source: Medium

Recognized as one of the Most Influential Women in Business by the San Francisco Business Times, Yamini Rangan is the current and first-ever Chief Customer Officer at HubSpot. She was also the highest-paid executive on the team in 2020 (that’s right, it wasn’t the CEO or co-founders), and that’s with good reason.

Rangan has dedicated a large part of her 24-year career to sales strategy and reducing friction for the customer by helping organizations such as Dropbox, Workday, and SAP by helping embed customer focus into their cultures, while also multiplying revenue and scaling sales. 

As one of the highest-ranking leaders at HubSpot (IMPACT is a HubSpot Solutions Partner), Rangan plays a critical role in not only helping the company better solve for its customers across sales, marketing, and service, but also educating others in the tech space to do the same through podcast interviews, event keynotes, and articles. 

🎥 Free Session in IMPACT+: Yamini Rangan - “Pivoting Sales Strategy During a Crisis” (Virtual Selling Summit 2020)

In a market where buyers are more and more in control, follow Yamini for insights and the strategic benefits.

2. Guy Kawasaki

Guy-Speaking-04-e1546466490437Image Source: Guy Kawasaki (Mark Lobo)

If you’re in marketing, you’re likely no stranger to the name Guy Kawasaki, but he is one thought leader who is hard to summarize. 

Kawasaki is the Chief Evangelist at Canva, but he is also an entrepreneur, marketer, author, and innovator who shares his vast knowledge to listeners weekly on the Remarkable People Podcast

Prior to Canva, Kawasaki was the chief evangelist of Apple, a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz, and a trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation. He has also written 15 books, including Wise Guy, The Art of the Start 2.0, The Art of Social Media, and Enchantment. He has no shortage of expertise to share.

3. Shama Hyder

asian-marketers-sales-leaders-shama-hyderImage Source: Wikipedia

Shama Hyder’s accolades from the past decade are impressive: “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America by Inc. Magazine, Forbes' “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers, LinkedIn’s “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media list for four years running, a Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award recipient, and a recipient of the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media.”

And it all started when she founded Zen Media, a digital marketing and PR firm focused on helping B2B tech brands identify their big moments.

In the last 11 years, Hyder’s work at Zen has helped global brands such as Chase Business, Tupperware, and NASA run successful campaigns (and she has even been recognized by both the White House and United Nations). 

Meanwhile, she has made a name for herself speaking and writing about her approach to marketing and PR in the modern age.

4. Christopher S. Penn 

christopher s penn speaker-1

As Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist at Trust Insights, few people are more passionate about marketing data than Christopher S. Penn.

Ranging from which social media platforms deliver results to how press releases are performing and whether content republishing is worth the time and effort, Penn relishes diving deep into the numbers to help marketers understand what actually works and how they can identify this information for their organizations.

A few years ago, we were lucky to have Penn join us on The Inbound Success Podcast, and he also shares regular insights through his Almost Timely Newsletter and speaking events.

🔎 Related: "12 days of data ft. Christopher S. Penn" (Inbound Success Ep. 122)

5. Neil Patel

asian-marketers-sales-leaders-neil-patelImage Source: Neil Patel

Google any digital marketing topic, and you’ll likely see Neil Patel's name (and face) grace the first page. He always has his finger on the pulse of the industry and is quick yet thorough in his advice to help brands adapt and implement the most effective strategies.

A New York Times bestselling author and highly sought-after speaker, Patel’s blog generates over 4 million visitors per month while his podcast with Eric Siu Marketing School generates over 1 million listens per month, his YouTube channel has over 31 million views and 765,000 subscribers, and he reaches over 1 million Facebook fans and 372,000 Twitter followers.

He’s helped Amazon, Google, and NBC grow through marketing. It’s no wonder he was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations, among other accolades.

6. Eric Siu

asian-marketers-sales-leaders-eric siuImage Source: Typeform

Speaking of the Marketing School podcast, Neil Patel’s co-host for the popular podcast is Eric Siu. Like Patel, Siu is a full-stack marketer and entrepreneur whose pool of expertise ranges from growth hacking and operations to SEO, mobile advertising, social media, and sales. 

He leverages this wealth of knowledge to help Fortune 500 companies to venture-backed startups grow online at Single Grain, invest in and develop products like ClickFlow. 

Siu also recently published Leveling Up: How to Master the Game of Life, a book sharing 15 “power-ups” he believes will help you unlock your passion and level up in business and life.

7. Anum Hussain

asian-marketers-sales-leaders-anum-hussain

Anum Hussain is a self-proclaimed “journalist turned product marketer” who, in the past 10 years, has left her mark on organizations such as HubSpot and Snap Inc., and social media marketing in general, co-authoring Twitter for Dummies

During this time, she was named one of BetaBoston’s 25 Under 25 and was one of only 50 invited to a White House event for Emerging Muslim Women Leaders in America. 

Currently focusing on Below the Fold, a twice-a-week newsletter and startup she co-founded in 2018, Hussain also shares her insights and experiences in branding, startups, strategy, and more on event stages and across social media. 

(Note: She also recently shared with IMPACT seven valuable lessons she learned rebranding Below the Fold, linked below.)

🔎 Related: From brand MVP to rebranding: 7 lessons from rebranding our startup 3 years in

Outside of marketing, Hussain is also doing her part to bring South Asian culture more into the mainstream via the podcast Desi Standard Time (focused on all things South Asian Media) and her second for Dummies book, Bollywood for Dummies

8. Larry Kim

asian-marketers-sales-leaders-larry-kimImage Source: Nextiva

Larry Kim is a tech veteran and digital marketing pioneer, beginning his career in the space in 2004. He has since founded and grown two of the most innovative companies known to digital marketers — WordStream (focused on SEO and social media advertising) and MobileMonkey (focused on AI conversational marketing). 

He’s also one of the most vocal and influential thought leaders, speaking at dozens of events every year, and writing for platforms such as Search Engine Land, HubSpot, and Inc. 

9. Goldie Chan

asian-marketers-sales-leaders-goldie-chan

Praised as the “Oprah of LinkedIn” by the Huffington Post, Goldie Chan is a global keynote speaker, personal branding and social strategist, and top LinkedIn video creator whom everyone should have their eyes on.

Her series #DailyGoldie is considered the longest-running LinkedIn show (earning over 7 million views) and has forayed into running the #LinkedInCreators and #WomenOnLinkedIn communities on the platform.

🔎 Related: "How Goldie Chan Became 'The Oprah of LinkedIn' Using LinkedIn Video" (Inbound Success Ep. 88)

In addition to her LinkedIn prowess, Chan leads strategy at her social media agency Warm Robots, working with major B2B and B2C brands and Fortune 500 C-level executives. She also serves on the Producer’s Guild of America’s New Media Council and is a Forbes Fellow for 2018 and current contributor. 

10. Dharmesh Shah 

HubSpot-Dharmesh.jpg

With a background in computer science and IT, Dharmesh Shah is a self-declared “professional geek.”  

You likely know him as the introverted but beloved co-founder and CTO of HubSpot, but Shah is also an astute angel investor, keynote speaker (we were lucky enough to have him at IMPACT Live 2018), writer, and a poignant voice on company culture and diversity. 

🎥 Free Keynote in IMPACT+: Dharmesh Shah “Marketing Tech: What's Now, What's Near and What's Not Anytime Soon?​” (IMPACT Live 2018)

As I shared previously, “Dharmesh’s thoughts on everything business and company culture are some of my favorites to read in my free time.”

He makes even the most complex topics easy to grasp, incorporating personal stories and humor in truly a way few others can. He truly makes business and tech human, and in my nearly 10 years in the HubSpot space, he has remained one of my favorite thought leaders — especially as a young South Asian.

11. Eric Toda

asian-marketers-sales-leaders-eric-todaImage Source: Emissary.io

Eric Toda is a marketing executive and angel investor known for building competitive brands. He is currently the global head of social at Facebook, but previously built brands at Gap Inc, Airbnb Snapchat, and Nike.

Aside from marketing and business growth, Toda is extremely passionate about racial justice and inclusion, sitting on the board of directors for LAAUNCH (Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change), and TAAF (The Asian American Foundation), and is a convener, incubator, and funder committed to accelerating opportunity and prosperity for the AAPI community.

Representation matters in marketing

We live and work in an increasingly global market. No two buyers are exactly the same, and if marketers are going to survive and thrive, they need to start learning about their changing audience.

While ultimately bringing more diverse talent in-house is the best way to start understanding and reach a more diverse audience, thought leaders from underrepresented communities like those above can help you start expanding your perspective and challenging your assumptions. 

🎓 Free IMPACT+ Course: Digital Sales & Marketing Framework for Today's Modern Buyer

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