Unisys: Why storytelling is key to B2B brand awareness

The curiosity to learn, and a passion to learn something new, is what changes companies

How do you take a 140-year-old B2B IT company and transform its marketing?

Easy, you find a startup marketing and silicon valley guru, like Ann Sung Ruckstuhl, and have her lead a transformation.

And this is what Unisys did two years ago when it appointed Ruckstuhl as senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

Unisys is a global information technology company that builds security-centric solutions for businesses and governments. Unisys offerings include security software and services; digital transformation and workplace services; industry applications and services; and innovative software operating environments for high-intensity enterprise computing. 

Unisys also recently partnered with the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 as official information technology and cybersecurity supporter of the event.

Fittingly, Ruckstuhl is a 25-year veteran of silicon valley, having worked with six Fortune 1000 companies, among others, including HP, eBay, PayPal, Sybase (now SAP), Symantec, LiveOps and SOASTA (now Akamai).

Now responsible for all of Unisys' marketing functions, including corporate, product, solution, industry, services, partner and field marketing, as well as communications, Ruckstuhl told CMO her startup marketing experience has served her well.

So well, in fact, locally, Unisys’ Net Promoter Score (NPS) increased by 79 per cent in 2017, something she said comes from not only have a great team, but taking B2C marketing lessons and applying them to B2B.

“I’ve been involved in seven startups, and sold half of them. I’ve learned marketing needs to be digital first nowadays. B2B marketers also need to behave like B2C marketers, we have to be buyer-centric,” Ruckstuhl told CMO.

“NPS is a reflection of how you service your customers. What you do after you make the sale to make sure customers are successful, to inspire and share knowledge about how they can leverage the tools better, makes all the difference. I will give the credit to our service delivery team for that NPS scores. Communication is not what you say, it’s what you do.

 “Marketing conducts the NPS survey, we take suggestions to heart, and create action items. We are very proud of that. Our NPS is a little over twice the industry average now, and for a certain parts of the organisation, we are on the Apple level for NPS, which is pretty amazing.”

It all comes down to the customer, she said, and knowing them, their wants and needs, and personalising.

“We need to know how buyers shop and gather information, what content they consume, and the influencers they listen to. Digital is how people shop, and I also realised when I started at Unisys we were sitting on a treasure trove of accomplishments here, but I feel like this story was not told.”

Focus on storytelling

And storytelling has been key to Ruckstuhl’s four-step plan for marketing when she joined the company. In fact, it was and is the first part of the plan.

“You must communicate what is your brand about, but don’t talk about the technology, talk about what your clients are able to accomplish with it. This is the story that emotes and inspires,” she explained.

“So we starting telling the brand story, and the client story. We profiled our clients’ digital transformation journeys. Then we talked about products and services, but with buyers in mind.

“We typically service a buying committee of 15-18 people, and you have to address all 18 of them. If you can’t convey a story, your product is not going to appeal. So we changed our content from the brand all the way down to the sub level on how people experience our software. We changed how we tell stories.”

The next step was pumping up the volume on the storytelling to build awareness.

“If it’s not on your website it doesn’t exist. This is where you educate. You must offer content in the right format and steps, all the way from tyre kicking through to due diligence. So our website is now completely transformed. Writing for the web is an art. You must drill down, but don’t overwhelm.

“The lessons I learned doing B2C at PayPal or eBay, is your website is your store front. So we treat every single page with seriousness and care. We are always doing optimisation, even down to the colour of a button. Every page is treated with a heat map, I know what people read, so I know how to put content in the right place, and this applies 100 per cent to B2B.”

In April Unisys also launched a global advertising campaign, targeted to the end consumer, whether that be someone getting surgery, or travelling, and everyone else in between.

“Every set of eyeballs you grab eventually turns into wallet share. Sales has been cut out of 75 per cent of a buyer’s journey, because everything the buyer does is digitally engaged now. That gap is being addressed by marketing. So every single touch point is a monetisation opportunity.

“Finally, nobody can provide everything a client needs anymore. So we go to market with strategic partners. We create joint solutions, we co-market, we co-sell, and one plus one becomes 100.

“My team are geared to support those four key pillars.”

As for that startup experience, Ruckstuhl said it has been absolutely vital, and key to striking a balance within a highly established company.

“I highly recommend people try different things in their careers. Startups taught me a lot. To have a startup mentality, you have to be buyer-centric, making yourself easy, effortless and beneficial to engage with,” she said.

“If you’re really comfortable and think you know everything, you’re not pushing yourself. However, if you feel a little bit uncomfortable, you’re in a good place to learn something new.

Startups are a greenfield environment that foster the culture of trying new things, and failing fast, then optimising, Ruckstuhl continued.

"That’s the attitude I bring with me. I hope the cadence I bring to the team is: Celebrate your failures," she advised. “Try something out. You don’t know if it’ll work until you implement it. Don’t do it across the entire enterprise scale, try it on a smaller subset and see how it works.

“Startups are great because they don’t know any better sometimes, and this is a blessing. You don’t know it’s not possible. They learn as they go.

“Remember, bite-sized learning opportunities are readily available now. You don’t need a two-week course anymore. The curiosity to learn, and a passion to learn something new, is what changes companies.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu      

 

 

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