Dave has been President & CEO of ITSMA since 2001 and oversees all sales, marketing, strategy, partnerships, and operations for this 18-year-old organization. As a member-based company, ITSMA works with B2B marketing leaders from technology, communications, and professional services organizations. Prior to joining ITSMA in 1995, Dave held senior-level field positions with Oracle and Apple, responsible for marketing products and services to commercial and government accounts. He lives with his family in Concord, Massachusetts and is an avid runner, hiker, and traveler, and enjoys anything written by Nathaniel Philbrick.
What are the two rules to follow according to you when it comes to B2B marketing?
Successful B2B marketing requires a number of things so picking just two isn’t easy. At the top of my list would be relevance. Marketers need to improve personalization and relevance with everything they market. There’s still way too much generic, impersonalized marketing out there. B2B marketing should take much more of a B2I (Business to Individual) approach, or at the very least a Persona based approach, that involves tailoring messages, offers, content, and interaction to real people who have specific problems. Secondly, marketers need to improve how they track and communicate the link between marketing activities and business outcomes. Marketing activities help move prospects through various stages of the sales cycle but often marketers communicate all the things they are doing versus how they contribute to end results.
How do you think the role of marketing and marketers has changed over the years in B2B Marketing?
B2B Marketing is much more strategic, thought leadership driven, technology enabled, and complex than it was 10 years ago. Marketing is easily one of the most exciting and dynamic professions today and it requires new skills and capabilities. With the explosion of new marketing software tools and technologies and new marketing channels, marketers need to be much more tech savvy than ever before. Marketers also need to develop analytics and data modeling capabilities to harness all the information that now exists from customer interactions to improve marketing programs and predict future behavior. Journalism skills are critical as thought leadership has become a critical component of the evaluation process for B2B providers. So are community management skills as marketers facilitate customer councils, advisory boards, and communities online and offline. And finally marketing organizations need strong strategy and operations skills as part of managing the business of marketing.
When it comes to customer engagement, what is your view on the way players are exploring it today? Also suggest ways by which customer engagement can be made more meaningful?
Customer engagement has changed dramatically from the days of the account manager as the focal point for customer relationships. Marketers are much more involved with deepening customer engagement, through customer councils, thought leadership development, reference communities, executive peer sharing, and Account Based Marketing programs. The more marketing is helping increase interaction and dialogue with customers the better, and the ultimate goal becomes building closer relationships based on advocacy that benefit both parties.
What is your view on the way B2B can explore social media/ digital media and where can it be used?
Social and digital media have become a critical and integral component to successful marketing and to business operations in general. But social media should not be thought of as an independent channel, because it’s now an important part of how businesses interact and engage with customers. When they engage, they’re seeking something very specific: new ideas that could lead to competitive advantage. They get these ideas through web search, communities (both online and in-person), suppliers, salespeople, and peers. As marketers, though, the key bit of context is how they are getting these ideas. Your people can put ideas in the right context for the customer they’re speaking to. Learning from people accounts for almost half of buyer research on new solutions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that suppliers have to meet buyers in person they can do it via online channels too. It does mean that customers are more likely to engage when they link to a named person with a point of view and a reputation. You still need digital and social channels, but digital alone won’t make a big B2B services sale.
How can research be used effectively to understand its customers and better the offering…suggest two ways?
Research has always been a critical component of a successful marketing organization. Regular ongoing research that monitors changing customer needs is important but so are studies to understand current relationships, interest in new offerings, and future spending plans. There are two types of studies marketers should be pursuing. The first one is a relationship survey that involves exploring a client’s perception of your company, their willingness to recommend you, and how they view your company’s ability to meet their future needs. These are critical to knowing where you stand now and in the future as compared to just a satisfaction survey that just doesn’t go far enough. The second type of study I would suggest involves conducting deep customer research to develop customer personas to help make your offers and the messaging more relevant to the specific executives and companies you are targeting. Both of these studies often identify changes that are required in your company to maintain or advance your position, and some companies may not prepared for that and need to be. This is a great example of the new strategic role in marketing, rather than a function that just markets things.