How to turn marketing into a profit centre

While every marketer understands the importance of knowing the customer, the process and nuances are different for B2B marketers than B2C – at least to some extent. But if your company is one that is set in its ways, as B2B marketers, how do you orchestrate the change throughout the organisation?

According to Lynn Huang, head of marketing and strategy for Asia Pacific at Honeywell, it’s a change marketing is responsible for.

She was speaking at the B2B Marketing conference recently held at the Four Seasons organised by Marketing magazine. (Read also: 3 ways to ease marketing’s tension with sales)

“You have to be able to articulate that dollar value to be able to convince the buyer to buy,” she said.

In the B2C world, if the product is “cool”, people may buy it, but in the B2B world, people won’t buy your products unless they have seen the numbers, and have made the calculation to assess whether it can help them make money (or not).

For marketers, the first point of contact should be the stakeholders at every step. What also matters is the process, Huang says, adding that waiting for a top-down approach is not the best way.

“This thought-leadership needs to be driven by marketing, together with its stakeholders,” she said.

“As B2B marketers, you need to talk to the IT managers, finance managers, the decision makers consisting of different groups and stakeholders and make sure all of them can see the product can help them make money.”

What then defines marketing?

The sales team is defined by sales revenue, finance by numbers, and HR by hiring the right people for the right positions. What about marketers? According to Huang, they are defined by how much they know their customers and what insights they can share with other departments for the entire organisation to be customer-centric.

This, therefore, requires a shift in focus – from downstream objectives activities such as interaction, and access to upstream ones such as understanding the customer needs and value of the proposition.

“Physical retail space; access online and offline – are downstream values. As a B2B marketer, we spend a lot of effort on the downstream. But do not forget the upstream aspects of creating needs and values for the customer. If you want to drive the profitability to your company and maximise the value of your customers, you have to focus on the bottom line. How do you do that? Get closer to your customers.”

While it may be a lot more cost-effective for B2B marketers to focus on downstream, if they do not shift their focus to upstream, it’s going to be hard for the company to become a truly customer-driven company.

It’s all about customer needs

In the old world, the segmentation was based on the industries, but that has lost much of its relevance today. The effective way to segment now is to analyse the needs of the B2B buyer.

Within retail, for example, B2B marketers should not group all the supermarkets together.

“Do not just pull out the industry index and perform the segmentation.

“B2B marketing is focused on driving the profitability of the business and identifying the customer needs and ensuring that you have a competitive edge. How good you are is decided by how bad your competitors are.”

And that can be achieved through simple steps such as meeting clients over lunch to get a fuller understanding of their business and how it operates.

“For the role of B2B marketers – I encourage myself and my team to see customers from the business perspective, understand what defines the business, where the focus is, and the value you and your organisation could provide your customers.

“There should be a lot of interaction between marketing and sales, and marketing and innovation. Marketing is not a function – it is a way of doing business.”


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