What B2B can learn from consumers: Sophos CMO Matt Fairbanks

Sophos CMO Matt Fairbanks chats with CMO about the difficulties in measuring and managing awareness, lead generation, enablement and the keys to B2B marketing success.

Marketers in the B2B space can learn a lot from their consumer counterparts when it comes to customer analytics, even if the tactics employed by the two sides differ, Sophos’ CMO claims.

Matt Fairbanks joined the IT security vendor as its global chief marketing officer in September and is on a mission to transform the company’s fortunes with his focus on awareness, lead generation and sales enablement.

Fairbanks rose up the ranks through several companies in the IT security space, starting in junior marketing roles before moving into product marketing and management, a general manager’s post and now CMO. He is proud of his technical background and touts the importance of marketers in the B2B sector taking the time to understand their product set and gain a solid grounding in the engineering and technology.

“In the B2B space there’s no substitute for having a head of marketing with an opinion who can speak in a way that resonates with the audience,” he claimed.

Despite this, Fairbanks admits to a healthy admiration for marketers in the consumer sphere, who he believes lead the way when it comes to customer analytics and insight. “Companies like Procter and Gamble use metrics and big data in very interesting ways,” he said.

“Information that is increasingly relevant and measurable today such as social media and web trending is seeing B2B marketers moving more in that direction, but we’re still behind consumer companies that have had the luxury of data for a longer period of time.

“In B2B, we’ve not traditionally dealt with such a massive amount of data as consumer companies have resulting from information from store placements and barcode scanning for example.”

Another difference is the importance of sales force enablement for B2B marketers, Fairbanks said.

“With consumer marketing, your focus is on taking the friction out of allowing people to buy on the website or source pre-loaded software,” he claimed. “End-user marketing is critical to the selling process.

“In B2B, transaction sizes are higher, you need more customer touch, and there’s a strong focus on sales enablement and readiness. You need to leverage and tap the sales force in order to truly succeed.

“I think the same learning principles apply to consumer and B2B, but you don’t necessarily want to replicate the tactics. You don’t sell sophisticated manufacturing machinery in the same way your sell a smartphone.”

Plan of action

Fairbanks is responsible for all aspects of marketing at Sophos and has developed a matrix approach to tackle what he sees as the top three tasks of marketing: generating awareness and buzz, lead generation, and sales/partner enablement.

One of his first steps has been getting the right team established, leading to six new reports across a staff of 80. Fairbanks said he is increasingly looking for a diverse set of experiences to help the team collaborate more effectively.

Fairbanks has also implemented a dashboard tool and rates Sophos’ performance using 25 marketing and customer priorities he has identified. “We have many projects in place where we only rate one or two out of 10, although some of these are not as critical as others,” he explained.

“Where I’d give us an eight or nine, for example, is in blogging and social media – we have a very good team providing insightful and informed content around our core IT security focus and that is providing a compelling experience for our customers.”

An area Fairbanks is currently working on improving is Sophos’ website. The team is looking to cull the top 2,000 of its 400,000 English pages down to 100, and streamline 50 product SKUs to three. Work on the new website started in December, with the first phase due to launch in May.

“We have to cut to the chase and just focus on what’s working, not provide content for content’s sake,” Fairbanks said. “Our website is our most important lead generation engine. We have to think about the audience and what is easy for them, not the stuff the head of engineering wants up there.”

Marketing ROI

Like his peers, Fairbanks is faced with rising amount of customer and market data to analyse and interpret in order to better support Sophos’ business. He stressed how essential technology is to a modern marketer and said one of his key tools is a marketing automation platform from French vendor Neolane to score leads and obtain a single view of customer contact. The Sophos marketing platform integrates into the sales team’s Salesforce.com solution.

In a bid to improve lead generation, Sophos is identifying contacts by activity, scoring them, and associating new customers with its sales pipeline, giving it a sense of the customer as well as the cost of lead per campaign spend, Fairbanks said.

“We can get to average deal value, and are becoming more scientific with ROI,” he continued. “I’d say we are 50 per cent the way down that path to getting the instrumentation and projects in place to lift that to 90 per cent.”

Sales enablement is trickier and comes down to servicing the sales force and rating how marketing is assisting them via training, partnerships, surveys and discussion, Fairbanks said. “Another method of rating enablement is looking at how many reps are selling the whole portfolio of products,” he said.

“We have two product portfolios - endpoint and network security - and the goal is to have the sales team selling all of it as a more holistic solution. If they’re only selling 10 per cent, our enablement systems are not working, so we are looking at who is selling what to determine that.”

Awareness is the most difficult to measure, and has traditionally been left to marketplace surveys and third-party research. “True engagement also means looking at social media metrics and share of voice in the media,” Fairbanks claimed. “These tend to measure activity, but are also good as you can see if you are trending up or down.”

As he strives to lift Sophos’ analysis game in all three areas, Fairbanks said it’s important to keep providing the right content and respect the user and customers as smart individuals with a need to share smart information.

“In B2B I think there’s a lot we can still learn from Apple in keeping it simple without dumbing it down for customers,” he added.

Fairbank’s top 3 skills for CMOs in the B2B space

  1. Product and technical depth. “You need to know what the products do. You can’t outsource this to an agency; you have to spend the time on sales calls, reading reports and learning it yourself.”
  2. Discipline in systems, metrics and quantitative analysis. “It’s not a strong suit of mine personally, so I appreciate the need for obtaining this knowledge across the team,” he said. “Two of my new staff hold a master degree in maths and engineering, so I have surrounded myself with a team that brings that level of discipline to the table.”
  3. Speak the language of the business. “You have to have an executive presence. All too often, the marketing person is the red-headed stepchild of the company. Marketing needs to be vital the leadership team that the CEO/CFO/CIO/COO respects and feels has rightfully earned their spot as a peer on the board table.”

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