February 2, 2017
If there is one name synonymous to the Philippine E-Commerce Law, it would be Janette Toral. The outspoken purveyor of digital marketing in the Philippines has lobbied for the bill in the mid-1990’s until it finally became a law in 2000. But for Janette, the journey doesn’t stop there, it was only the beginning of a lifelong passion for equal opportunities for Filipinos as we slowly usher in the digital era.
After it became a law, Janette’s next mission is to spread it to Filipinos and what better way to do that than by taking advantage of technology. Although she still believes in taking the more traditional academic route, Janette already has presence on the Internet and she used it as leverage to ensure that the message will get across.
Janette plays many roles—entrepreneur, leader, teacher—but her fondest one is being the “Mother of E-Commerce in the Philippines” and just like what Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker, it comes with great responsibility. She doesn’t mind the title at all, but it comes with a price. “I feel like I have the responsibility to uphold e-commerce in the Philippines,” but she is happy to embrace it with open arms. Every day, she continues to spread e-commerce and digital marketing in the Philippines through her personal website and speaking engagements.
An Unexpected Career Turn
The Janette that we know today is a digital marketing guru, but she began her career as a writer in the 90’s. During that time, the Internet has just arrived in the Philippines. You could say that the universe conspired in her favor because her writing career geared towards an emerging industry that time—digital marketing. She took this opportunity and slowly (but surely) carved her niche into the blogosphere. Her website, www.digitalfilipino.com, is already 15 years old and is her “proudest accomplishment.” Her site is already unquestionably established, but “it will continue to evolve.” Right now, they have e-learning resources.
Behind her success, Janette did not have it the easy way. Today, there are many opportunities for women in digital marketing, but she is the first to admit that early on in her career, it was the biggest challenge that she had. “It was tough to have a break in the industry during that time because it was male dominated. But, I had passion and vision for e-commerce in the Philippines so I just focused on what I had to do.” Eventually, her vision grew and decided to include digital marketing in the picture. One of Janette’s strength is she mastered the art of branding herself through self-promotion. “When I was starting out, self-promotion was a foreign concept for Filipinos. They thought it was too “narcissistic”, but today, I must admit that it is one of the most effective ways in building and creating your brand. Everybody does it and if you’re not, then you’ll have a hard time in this industry.”
Digital Marketing for Filipino Businesses
Digital marketing is still a foreign concept for many businesses (especially smaller ones) in the Philippines. Janette is more than willing to help these companies not only in growing their business, but also making them understand the principle behind it. “The biggest misconception about digital marketing is that success is repeatable. I had clients who are expecting repeated success in every (digital) marketing plan they have, but I always tell them that it is not possible. There is no single marketing effort that will be effective for a long time because the behaviors of your customers are always changing.” She pinpoints social media as the precursor of this trend. “Your target market’s behavior two years ago is not the same as today. Their behavior is influenced by many factors and you can see this on their social media accounts. You have to research and study this.”
For her, this is the best way to have an effective marketing plan and frankly, she will tell you that “if you meet someone that says that their marketing efforts ARE ALWAYS SUCCESSFUL, don’t believe them because it just proves that they did not experiment.”
Carving a Career in the Industry
For someone to become successful in digital marketing, you need to balance a little streak of rebel, a dose of willingness and a pinch of positivity. Janette is a self-described “rebel” in this industry. As much as possible, she wants to go against the flow of her peers and try other techniques to test its effectiveness. If you want to go in this industry, do not be afraid to fail. As much as she is an established digital marketer, her “experiments” still fail her, but that does not stop her from trying again. “The most important thing is that you learn something from it.”
Digital marketing is on the verge of breakout in the Philippines and Janette is on the frontline—ensuring that everyone knows what they are dealing with. She is a staunch supporter of making digital marketing a standard curriculum in business schools in the country (currently, there are only two schools who are offering this subject). She is also tapping and partnering with different academic institutions and government agencies to broaden the reach of digital marketing. Janet believes that as much as we have the technology in our hands, it is also important to not forget about the foundations of learning.
Janette is the epitome of the modern Filipino technopreneur—successful, driven, and does not forget her roots. Despite her success, she is always willing to extend a helping hand to those who wants dip their toes in the industry, but she has a challenge to those who want a career in digital marketing: are you willing to experiment and accept multiple failures? Because only then you find the results that you are looking for. Are you up for the challenge?