B2B marketers need to stop playing the victim

Mitel EVP and CMO, Martyn Etherington, sees the CMO role in 2018 driven by customer centricity, data insights and business growth - areas B2C marketers traditionally excel in

B2B marketers need to stop playing the victim and spend more time learning customer centricity from their consumer counterparts if they wish to remain relevant in five years’ time.

Speaking during a recent CMO Council webinar on what the role of the CMO will look like in 2018, Mitel executive vice-president and chief marketing officer, Martyn Etherington, claimed the reason B2C marketers have traditionally been more successful than B2B marketers is thanks to their customer centricity. He predicted a blurring of the line between the two types as customer centricity and micro-segmentation become the norm across all businesses.

“B2C marketers have understood the customer and been highly accountable for driving high-level growth and customer satisfaction,” Etherington said. “There has been more rigorous discipline for driving high-level growth and customer satisfaction [in consumer marketing], underpinned by data and analytics. The result has been that consumer marketers seem far more relevant than B2B.

“The B2B marketers have to some extent, been irrelevant. We have focused so much of our time justifying ourselves and our budgets, we missed the mark in becoming more relevant to the business, the channel, and to our customers. As we move forward, B2B marketers that are successful will be those who forget they’re in B2B and market to the person.”

To achieve this, Mitel has created three persona-based types based on its customers using demographic, psychographic and firmagraphic targeting, which is then uses to serve up relevant content propositions, Etherington said.

“There is a lot to learn from our B2C colleagues in terms of really understanding the customer dynamic and who that customer is will be the underpinning of successful B2B,” he continued. “The B2B marketers have got to stop playing the victim. Those who can manage our business and point to their ability to grow a company top and bottom line, and also increase customer satisfaction, will be successful.”

Also key to the debate about what the office of the CMO will look like in 2018 is the extent to which marketers own the customer. Chief digital marketing officer at coffee brand DE Master Blenders 1753, Corinne Avelines, called on the CMO, as the chief customer officer, to lead customer-centricity within their organisation.

“Owning the voice of the customer in every part of the organisation and bringing the insights, knowledge and data we collect on the customers is key and will help the business in every single domain,” she said.

It is vital therefore for CMOs to embrace the numbers, particularly as data sets increase and unstructured data, such as social media, becomes increasingly vital in customer engagement.

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“The CMO needs to become a number cruncher,” Avelines said. “Big data will be very important in the next five years, and massive data collection through all the touch points customer have will become the norm.

“The CMO in the future needs to own this data and have a firm grip on it, as that’s how they’ll get the deep customer knowledge they need.”

Time Warner Cable group vice-president, ecommerce and interactive marketing, Rob Roy, agreed CMOs must be able to find their customer in any channel, and know what to do with the data. He pointed out new technologies such as mobile were game-changers, transforming interaction and our conception of consumers.

“The CMO needs to start thinking about marketing as a technical roadmap, looking at what are the types of things I’m going to need to be able to house and leverage the information, and be able to talk to customers at the right time, as well as create the tight experience for the right customer and at the right time,” Roy said.

“The CMO will own much of, if not all, of the capital to help drive those projects. They will be the face of the company and the one interacting with the customers and therefore need to be up on those trends to know where the customer wants them to be at.”

Given the rising pressure on marketers to demonstrate ROI, learning the language of the CFO and business is another important area for CMOs. Mitel’s marketing team shares KPIs and action plans with sales, Etherington explained, a step that helps cement marketing’s contribution to top- and bottom-line growth as well as break down the barriers around customer data and ownership.

“The silos are often there when you don’t have fact and data. When you can’t show a CEO or CFO this is what you’re doing to drive growth, you defer back to political gains, smokescreens, and so on,” he claimed. “That’s where you have a dysfunctional organisation. Clear ownership breaks down those silos.

“I own all the sales growth. Each of the marketers has a compensation plan tied to their sales peers. It’s about shared goals, rewards and consequences.”

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