B2B marketing is on a path of transformation, and having a firm grasp on metrics, the imperative to move quickly and the needs of stakeholders—both internal and external—is driving success.
Top executives from four B2B manufacturing and high-tech companies convened at ANA’s Masters of B2B last week in Chicago to discuss how the role of marketing was evolving in their organizations.
“Marketing is no longer just the do-er of things” like ordering brochures and cake pops, said Lisa Cole, CMO of Huron. “Now, we have a strategic seat at the table.”
An organizational transformation that included engaging data scientists and adding advanced capabilities for tactics like PR and media helped transform the marketing team of Huron, a professional services firm. Key to the process was pulling all of its 16 brands—serving a number of different verticals including life sciences, healthcare, higher education and the commercial space—under one master brand strategy.
Zebra Technologies started out as a printing company, and has evolved as an organization to serve as a partner for retail customers. A key part of the shift, said CMO Jeff Schmitz, was getting a better handle on metrics, to better measure how marketing was impacting overall revenue.
“It was clear that we needed to change the opinions of constituencies, including our customers, because their buying journey is changing,” said
Schmitz in the conversation, moderated by former Google VP and current Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern professor Jim Lecinski. “We needed to show that we’re not just about generating leads for sales. We’re needed to transform how the c-suite thinks about marketing, because we’re becoming a revenue stream ourselves and driving new sources of growth.”
“I think the brand becomes an important way to have a conversation with stakeholders about how to do business, and deliver a certain value proposition,” says Gresham. “In a time of transformation, that can provide clarity about what’s important and how we are going to behave.”
A focus on measurable results can also help close the credibility gap that B2B marketing often faces, says Gresham. “When you choose to work on things that have hard metrics and deliver value, you go from lobbying to get support to people saying ‘that’s terrific—what do you need from us to do more?’”
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In an environment of transformation, marketing helps the organization make sure every interaction builds on the prior engagement, notes Cole. “Marketing’s seat at the table is earned. Marketing should be the voice and the advocate of the customer.”
Brian Krause, vice president, global marketing and communications at connector and component manufacturer Molex, agreed, noting that as his company shifted to being a solutions provider, it needed to put a plan in place to get the message out to both employees and customers.
Getting that seat at the table allowed them to create communications that were in line with the CEO’s vision for the organization.
“If we weren’t talked to ahead of time, we would have just been sitting there with our mouths open,” Krause says.
To have those conversations with the c-suite and other executives, it boils down to storytelling, says Schmitz.
“The language of the c-suite isn’t SQLs, MQLs and impressions. They understand P&L top to bottom, and you need to speak that language,” he says. “We’re master storytellers. If you know how your customers are increasing their order volumes with competitors, they get that. Tell that story—connect revenue with what you are doing.”
“Understand who your customers are,” added Krause. “Your marketing efforts have to be relevant, you have to have metrics set up to track activity and show the value of what you do.”
Getting support can also mean understanding not only what you do right, but where you may have missed the mark. Cole notes that her team has a “wall of shame,” where they post examples of potential buyers they’ve “victimized” with random acts of communication. Looking through their files they found one poor CMO who had received over 100 emails from different business units in a very short period of time. A
poster was created, to remind marketing that these aren’t the types of experiences they want customers to have.
“Think about the customer and use that [knowledge] to shape what you are trying to deliver,” she says.
When Molex restructured, thinking agile was at the top of the to-do list, says Krause. The team sat down and took a hard look at what it was doing well, and where it could improve. “We weren’t proactive enough,” he says. “When we structured the new organization, we [shifted to becoming] an organization that could move quickly and come up with different ideas,” rather than an old school marketing team that took eight months to launch a campaign. “This is allowing us to drive strategy and tactics.”
“You want a team that is focused on the outcomes, and what you achieve,” says Gresham, noting that there can be a lot of pressure in a B2B environment to find the least expensive way to achieve the result effectively. “What is the least you have to do to deliver the desired outcome?”