In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
Rapid advances in technology and digital have transformed customer expectations at a consumer level, but they’re also placing pressure on B2B marketers to be more agile and innovative.
Speaking at the B2B Marketing Summit in Sydney, marketing leaders discuss key ingredients in gaining better responsive to customer needs and demands.
Embrace the B2B omni-channel experience
“Everyone is now connected and our customers are on multiple channels – mobile, social and digital,” Salesforce’s VP of marketing Asia Pacific, Wendy Johnstone, told attendees. “We need to know where our customers are and we need to engage with them in the right way across the right channels.
“At the same time, customers are more demanding, they expect their brand to be relevant to them and to be personalised.”
A recent Forrester research report revealed 74 per cent of B2B buyers have a preference to interact online rather than with a sales person, Johnstone claimed.
“As marketers, that really needs to set the tone in terms of what we do, and we obviously need to pivot to digital,” she said.
A good example of that is real estate brand, Domain, Johnstone said, which she saw as doing a great job in making life easier for agents while improving customer engagement with the buyer.
“Domain knows who the customer is, is automatically uploading more intelligence about that customer on CRM, and improving the experience for customers but also making things easier for agents,” she said. “So I think customer journeys are key and how we as marketers really improve the interaction at every stage of the customer journey.”
Make collaboration a priority
In today’s competitive and digitised environment, Johnstone also believed marketers have a critical leadership role to play. This makes collaboration a priority.
“It’s about having dialogue, having a discussion and listening across all the customer interaction touchpoints,” she said.
SAI Global’s CMO, Hayley Clarke, agreed, pointing out that in the B2B environment customer expectations are very high regardless of industry.
“This is also because they are investing a lot with us,” she said. “Whether they are buying a new CRM system or a telecommunications system, they are spending a lot of money. We now have to change the way we market more than ever before, and shift from traditional marketing models.”
Unlike B2C, where marketers have a lot more control of the various touchpoints, B2B marketers have more limited control, Clarke claimed.
“We’ve had to change the way we market and it’s become a lot more complex,” she said. “Because we’re also brand custodians, and we have a duty to inform the rest of the business the importance of living through that brand promise.”
Boost customer experience and innovation
In the insurance category, Metlife’s chief product and marketing officer, Tim Tez, highlighted marketing and customer experience as a core function for the organisation to boost customer experience and innovation.
“We’re taking full end-to-end accountability and control and from a customer experience perspective, the marketing function needs to take a leadership role,” he said. “You need to take accountability for the whole journey, regardless of whether you have control of it or not, which inevitably leads to better outcomes.”
Clarke said it’s also critical to align marketing goals with business goals, which means keeping communications with the CEO constantly open.
“For us at SAI Global, we look at what are the organisational goals and how we can get those results through constant communication with the team and keeping them focused and aligned,” she said.
Johnstone said organisations with executive buy-ins are a lot more successful, leading to more aligned investments in the marketing funnel, and greater clarity on what needs to be done. “In our organisation, we also encourage discussion on vision, value, methods, obstacles and measures, which really drives transparency and alignment,” she said.
Marketers are part of the business, so all goals need to be aligned, but it’s not without its challenges, Tez admitted.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day battle, but it won’t always get you to where you need to be in the long run,” he explained. “You need to have bravery and be a champion on your causes.”
Team and talent empowerment
In the midst of all the changes happening in the digital marketing arena, it’s important to retain control of your team and empower them to take risks, fail fast and learn from those failures, Johnstone added.
“That really leads to innovation,” she said. “And we need to keep that in the forefront, regardless of all the changes, we need to stay focused on that to build environments for our teams to be successful.”