Several marketing leaders shared their thoughts on what it takes to drive long-lasting partnerships with customers in the business-to-business (B2B) space during a panel discussion to Argyle's CMO membership at the 2016 Chief Marketing Officer Leadership Forum: Spotlight on B2B Marketing in Atlanta on Oct. 27. The panel discussion, titled "Creating Lifetime B2B Customers," featured insights from the following marketing leaders:
Gene De Libero
Customer Experience Evangelist
Chief Marketing Officer, IS Product Solutions
GE Energy Connections
Vice President Marketing and Customer Service
In the discussion, the panelists discussed numerous B2B marketing topics, including:
1. Developing a Marketing Strategy for Today's B2B Customer
In today's always-on, always connected B2B landscape, marketers cannot settle for the status quo. Instead, B2B marketers must find ways to drive customer experience (CX) improvements across a company to help a business stand out in today's highly competitive B2B market.
Parker pointed out his company has been successful in the past because it has prioritized finding ways to keep its customers happy.
"We've really focused on thinking that if we just did it better, then that would be the difference," he said. "That's the ticket to the game. You've got to be really, really good at what you do just to be considered (by customers)."
However, today's marketers must explore innovations, particularly when it comes to CX. By doing so, marketers may be able to find unique ways to foster long-term partnerships with customers.
"How do you define that difference? … What [our customers] want from us is much more proactivity."
A proactive approach to CX enables a company to become part of a client's value chain, according to Parker. Thus, this business may be able to differentiate itself from rivals by providing exceptional support to clients day after day.
Customer-centricity is paramount for B2B marketers worldwide, yet few marketers understand exactly what their customers need at a given moment.
Fortunately, a broad array of technologies is available to aid B2B marketers, ensuring they can collect customer data and use this information to understand a company's target audience.
"A CX strategy can't be a marketing thing. It has to be a business strategy."
B2B marketers also should prioritize the customer when they develop a marketing strategy, as this will enable them to determine the customer's needs and find the best ways to fulfill customer requests consistently.
"We really need to start with the customer when we think about how we're going to develop strategies that cater to the customer," De Libero said. "The best way to find out what the customer wants is to ask."
3. Learning from Failures
Unfortunately, B2B marketing can be extremely difficult, but a mistake can provide a valuable learning opportunity for marketers both now and in the future.
Modak, for example, highlighted a recent communication problem that led one of his company's customers to receive an outdated product. The issue illustrated the communication limitations between sales professionals, the supply chain and other departments within his company and enabled the business to make long-lasting improvements.
"While we were communicating to the front end of the business and the sales team, we weren't talking to the supply chain," Modak stated. "We didn't communicate to the rest of the organization around how we can be more effective when we were introducing new products."
Ultimately, how an organization drives communication and collaboration among departments is essential.
"The best way to find out what the customer wants is to ask."
For B2B marketers to succeed, they must be able to keep track of a customer along all stages of the consumer journey. This will enable B2B marketers to foster a collaborative work environment, one that enables each department to stay connected to one another and ensure long-term business success.
4. The True Value of CX
CX serves as a key differentiator for today's businesses, and B2B marketers who dedicate the time and resources to learn how customers think and feel about a company, its products and its services can thrive.
As such, the development of a successful B2B CX strategy must involve B2B marketers, along with all other departments within a company.
"A CX strategy can't be a marketing thing. It has to be a business strategy," Parker noted. "It has to be a business strategy that all areas of the business not only embrace but are included in and are a part of."
5. Chief Customer Officer
Many companies could employ a chief customer officer (CCO) in the foreseeable future, particularly as businesses search for ways to stand out from the competition.
With a CCO in place, a company could be better equipped to engage its customers and remain connected with them for an extended period of time.
"In 2017 and beyond, the whole idea of having a chief customer officer is not going to be an outlier," De Libero pointed out. "Businesses are now starting to realize, 'Hey, the customer is really important!' … At the end of the day, you need to wrap everything you do into the lens of the customer."
Vidya Vishal currently leads strategic growth initiatives at Equifax, and has a reputation for steering high-performance teams to produce impressive results. Her prior experience includes B2B and B2C marketing roles where she drove customer centricity and outside-in thinking. With 10+ years in growth-oriented consulting across several industries, Vidya draws from a wealth of experiences to combine innovative strategies with creative action plans that achieve excellent business outcomes.
Vidya is passionate about community involvement and empowering women’s voices. She sits on the board of Synchronicity Theater, and is a graduate of the United Way VIP program.
Gene is an Enterprise Account Exec and Customer Experience Evangelist at Sitecore serving the New York Metro area. For over 30 years, he has worked as a strategic business, marketing, and technology consultant and C-level exec developing and marketing innovative digital businesses, products, and services. He’s founded a number of digital ventures in areas including social media/social business, mobile marketing, digital-out-of-home, and distance learning.
As a freelance writer, he blogs on topics including customer experience, digital marketing, big data, cloud computing, digital transformation, and marketing technology and has served as an adjunct instructor at New York University's School of Professional Studies since 2000, with a focus on digital marketing and technology.
Gene is the co-author of "Strategic Networking," which explores the relationship between networks as an infrastructure, the change brought about by them as an innovation, and the organizational and social issues that arise through their implementation and use. He likes to say that Al Gore may have invented the Internet, but he wrote the book on it!
Shonodeep Modak is the chief marketing officer for GE’s Distributed Power Services business responsible for strategy, commercial enablement and value capture across a global asset base of over 35,000 operating power plants. Insights arising from his team have anticipated evolving energy market trends and customer needs resulting in development of new IoT, asset performance management and end-of-life products that has transformed one of GE’s fastest growing aftermarket portfolios.
Prior to GE, he led strategy and analytics for ExxonMobil's consumer products division where his creative, data-driven approach helped commercialize several innovative motor oil lines that redefined the category and generated double-digit growth. With over fifteen years of experience cultivated in the largest global energy corporations, he has built marketing organizations, led global product strategy and driven demand creation.
Shonodeep holds a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Mississippi State University and a Master of Business Administration from George Washington University. He resides in Atlanta with his wife and two children.
Mike is a Marketing, Customer Service and Strategy Executive with more than 30 years’ experience. Mike led marketing for the dishwasher business at General Electric, led Marketing and Customer Service for A.O. Smith Corporation’s Water Products business, was Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for CHEP Containers Group, a division of Brambles, ltd. before joining Saia in May 2015 as Vice President of Marketing and Customer Service. Much of Mike’s career has been spent developing actionable, customer-centric marketing strategies in the business-to-business space focused around driving profitable growth. Mike has a BA in Economics from George Mason University and an MBA from Webster University. Mike and Ava, his wife of over 30 years, have three grown children and live happily as empty nesters in Dunwoody, Georgia.