What is perhaps the most basic requirement for B2B to succeed in today’s times, the sales and marketing alignment is still a far-fetched dream for many brands.
But it’s the responsibility of the marketer to convince top management to move in that direction, said Michelle Toy, head of marketing and communications for Asia Pacific at BNP Paribas Securities Services, at the recently concluded B2B Asia conference.
Here are some of the main points highlighted by her and other speakers at the conference:
Sales and marketing team alignment
Aligning sales and marketing as one team is potentially the biggest opportunity for improving business performance, ROI and business development cycles.
Many brands don’t even have a unified sales and marketing department and that is now essential.
“As marketers you are empowered to propose these changes to the management to improve business performance and show the value marketing brings,” she said.
You have to convince the CFO in his/her language, talk about top line sales, ROI, lead generation and if the CFO gets it, you pretty much have a seat at the table.
A marketing strategy throughout the sales cycle
At BNP Paribas, marketing is aligned to every stage of the sales cycle. As typical as it is in the finance industry, the sales cycles are long, products are complex and customised, stakeholders are many and buying is a pretty rational decision.
Read also: 4 tips to succeed as a B2B marketer
Toy shared the four stages of the cycle and marketing’s role in them.
Desire: On the prospecting side, marketing would come in to see the prospects and this is typically where PR comes in to see what stories can be generated and shared on platforms such as LinkedIn.
Focus: This stage is about knowing your segment and your strengths well. There is too much information out there and too much competition for brands. So to differentiate, B2B marketers must know what exactly their focus should be.
BNP Paribas, a year ago, did a rebranding exercise and polled over 200 stakeholders – clients, senior management and influencers – and asked them what the brand was good at, where it could improve, what was its perception and so on. From that data, marketing drew five key themes which it now talks about – globally, regionally and locally.
For example, RMB Internationalisation was determined as a key theme for the brand. As Chinese capital markets open up, Asian institutions either want to expand to China or want access to that market. On the other hand, there are Chinese institutions wanting to expand to Europe or Asia.
“So any sort of RMB initiatives coming out of China is a key focus for us. We will take it up, talk about it in bite-size information and put it out on social media, repurpose it and/or put some research to it and talk about it,” Toy said, explaining how marketers can leverage such developments for their brands.
Relationships: This is both a responsibility of sales and marketing and while relationships no doubt are owned by sales, marketers need to provide the sizzle or the “icing on the cake”. Events are a good impactful way of bringing it all together – investor conferences or VIP dinners and so on.
In the online space, BNP Paribas uses LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.
“Our customer segment is not big on Twitter, but the media follows us there so it’s an influential channel. LinkedIn connections sit with our sales teams, so we educate them on the content to be shared there,” she said.
The company uses YouTube to host its video assets and actively tracks engagement on the platform. And all the amplifications around social or traditional media bring it back to the real relationship-building.
Contribution: This is during the RFP stage where the mandate is given out from the prospects and marketing replies to them. “We do the formatting and make sure things like our data points and the executive summary is up to the mark,” she said, adding that when sales presents it, it can then deliver it like a story.
Winning edge: At this stage when the client is on board, marketing needs to ensure the partnership remains profitable and fruitful. These deals are costly and therefore, for profitability to kick in a few years after it has been signed,the deal typically needs to be for a long term period. During this time product and marketing should be involved in building loyalty and co-creating new solutions with the client.
Make digital and mobile a part of your marketing plan
For BNP Paribas, its marketing strategy is content-led. “We chop and change big reports into smaller nuggets of information and use social media to disseminate it.”
When dealing with content, marketers must create economies of scale, breaking information down into chewable snippets and pushing it out to social media or even trade media.
“We only use paid media after we have seen success on owned media. If we get good engagement levels on the latter, we will think about a paid update to get that breadth in the engagement.”
Mobile is the future for B2B marketers and it should be one of their main goals for next year, Toy said. “To be able to use video on mobile and have an optimised web presence on mobile is critical,” she said.
Improving CRM and analytics
And last, but not least, investing in proper CRM and analytics is key.
At BNP Paribas, the customer and marketing data is fed through a CRM system which tracks all client accounts, deals and marketing activity. On the analytics side, the goal is to create a dashboard to show what works, what doesn’t, merge it with event management tools and product life cycle management tools to give the teams a fuller picture.
“Essentially, for marketers all this helps in reporting on ROI both quantitatively and qualitatively,” Toy said.
“Being able to justify the spend to the top management is critical for any marketer. And because of such alignments, the senior management will become a believer in marketing.”