​CMO Interview: Why aligning sales and marketing drives innovation at Konica Minolta

The global tech giant’s director of marketing and innovation, Shane Blandford, reveals why bridging the gap between sales and marketing is crucial to an agile digital transformation journey

Konica Minolta’s director of marketing and innovation, Shane Blandford shares his insights into how to better align sales and marketing to drive innovation
Konica Minolta’s director of marketing and innovation, Shane Blandford shares his insights into how to better align sales and marketing to drive innovation

A marketing executive with a background in IT and sales can be strategically equipped with the right skills to bridge the gap between sales and marketing, aligning both towards a more collaborative vision for innovation, agility and digital transformation.

That's what Konica Minolta’s director of marketing and innovation, Shane Blandford, brought to his role when he agreed to take the global tech giant's Australian arm on a digital transformation journey aimed at better aligning sales and marketing.

I’m not a pure marketer as such, because I come from a predominantly sales background,” he told CMO. “I had my first role as a national marketing manager in the late 1980s and 1990s. All my other roles have been sales related up to now.”

Eight years ago, Blandford became head of the enterprise team at Konica Minolta, where he began to discover a more pressing need for sales and marketing to become more closely aligned. He also began to see enterprise solutions becoming more complex with more decision makers and influencers involved, especially as the company began to move away from hardware to software.

“I began to become more interested in digital marketing and IT innovation,” he said. “And when the managing director asked if I’d like to take over the marketing department, I jumped on it. This is because I felt sales and marketing needed to be more closely aligned and we needed to have a more collaborative approach.

“Traditionally, it has been difficult for marketers to understand sales people. But I did, because I’m a sales person by background. I could form a bridge between sales and marketing, because I could understand both sides.”

The digital transformation journey

Blandford has played a key role in building a vision for Konica Minolta’s growth and guiding the direction of solutions for content management services and managed IT services including cloud computing, document management, workflow solutions, and enterprise content management. The vision has resulted in significant business process improvements and increased productivity and efficiency for customers.

“When it comes to digital transformation, we’re on a journey, we’re creating an exciting solution – and it has all interested me from a technical implementation point of view,” he said.

“The transformation journey actually began with my predecessor, who recognised the need to start a digital marketing transformation strategy and redesign our website. I came in at the beginning of that.

"We also needed to train more staff, develop new skills, and we launched our new site in November 2016. This happened nine months after I started the new role. In September 2016, we also took on Marketo as our provider of marketing automation. So the journey has been over 18 months.”

Harnessing digital marketing in-house

One of the strategic decisions Blandford carried through was to bring marketing automation and digital marketing in-house, a need he also saw arise during his time in the enterprise group.

“At that time, we were more transactional and we used an external company, but I felt we needed to provide a more streamlined offering that provided value to our customers to retain them,” he explained. “We set up our own digital marketing team responsible for the website, digital marketing automation, content management and content building. Good content is the pillar around which you build your programs.”

Optimising and tracking the sales journey

Konica Minolta has already enjoyed tangible results, as well as flywheel effect results, Blandford claimed.

“One example was a customer who googled ‘OCR' (optical characted recognition) and our paid Google ad came up,” he recounted. “They clicked on it and we were able to track the time they decided to click, when they submitted a form, when our sales responded and how we received the lead, and how sales followed the opportunity generated. We could track the whole process.

“That prospect clicked on the ad in January, and last week, their company announced they had chosen our solution, which could now become a $500,000 offering.”

But Blandford stressed the process wasn’t just about Google bringing up the right search. it was about Konica Minolta having an engaging website, an easy-to-use lead form and ensuring the whole process and ecosystem was seamless and worked in harmony.

“It’s about having engaging content, a great nurture system and follow-up process, and the way we measure customer interactions until sales decides it’s time to make that critical phone call to the customer,” he said.

Implementing an effective transformation strategy

In order to effectively leverage technology to drive transformation and innovation, Blandford stressed you need stakeholder engagement across the business – especially sales.

“And in many B2B companies, they don’t understand social media or Google AdWords, but we believe these provide real value and open up new B2B opportunities,” he said.

Data is also key, Blandford continued, and B2B organisations should leverage customer data in an appropriate and efficient way, while avoiding spamming customers at all costs.

“Look at your data, identify existing prospects, and not attempt to tamper with existing data,” he advised. “You also need to be able to have cross-functional data systems in order to engage appropriately and efficiently.”

Blandford also highlighted the importance of great inbound content marketing, which can be a powerful way to entice customers to engage with your offerings.

“When customers search for a solution online, they don’t want to just know about you, they want to know if you have information that can help solve or fix their problem,” he explained. “You need to invest in engaging content that helps them and offers them a solution.

“We are a global B2B company, and in Australia, one of our challenges right now is to repurpose and reuse global content in Australia in an engaging way.”

Weaning off analogue

In today’s fast-paced digital environment, Blandford said more B2B organisations need to wean off analogue to become completely digital.

“For B2B organisations like ours, you need to have integrated campaigns – for instance, your direct mail campaigns need to have a digital call to action to your website and social media, or a link to subscribe to an email newsletter,” he said. "There will always be a place for some analogue activities, such as exhibitions, the trick is how to integrate these with our digital capability as we transition to more digital marketing.”

In today’s brave new world, CMOs also need to keep their teams agile, trained and better leverage digital marketing.

“I still sometimes feel like I’ve jumped out of an aeroplane and question whether my parachute is going to open,” he said. “But I am confident in the expertise of our team and our providers to keep educating us and ensuring we remain agile and innovative. We also regularly attend industry events and upskill to ensure we remain cutting edge so we can be quicker to market.”

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