The Marketing Strategist:

Marketers Get Real About Customer Relevance and Intimacy

July 12, 2011

What’s hot in marketing today? Three marketing leaders and ITSMA’s Chris Koch (CK) delved into this topic at the ITSMA Marketing Leadership Forum. Here are some highlights from the discussion with HP’s Michelle Weiss (MW), Oracle’s Steve Pinedo (SP), and Xerox’s Jeannine Rossignol (JR). CK: What are some of the things you’ve done in the past year to make marketing more relevant for customers?  MW: We decided, as an overall enterprise business, to join around a common strategy and a common message, what we call the Instant-On Enterprise. The idea is based on lots of customer data that shows immediate gratification is the norm and technology has to be an enabler for the company. The whole notion of Instant-On for a marketing department means that we have a structured process of customer requirements and processes for how we go to market. JR: From an intimacy perspective, we have a thought leadership program where we look at what will be the hot topics for the client for the year. We then hold a thought leadership summit, which is an exclusive event, with a prequalified, C-level only attendee list. We have a mix of current and prospective customers, so it’s a great networking opportunity. We have both inside and outside subject matter experts and for the majority of the day, we feature clients who talk about how they’re solving the problem. Whether we are involved in the solution or not, we facilitate a conversation about the customer’s current solution and we bring together relevant thoughts and ideas about the things that are most important to them. SP: We’re starting to look at Oracle from a customer’s point of view. For services marketing, it’s critical that we focus on helping our customers adopt technology. We have a nascent thought leadership program, where internal thought leaders, who are best-practice custodians, address specific IT issues. We’re working through the resource challenges. We’re still early in the process, and there’s lots of work to do, but we’re off to a great start. CK: What are some of the ongoing challenges with customer intimacy? SP: Being an engineering-led organization, we always want to talk about our stuff—how good it is, why you should buy it. There’s a natural tendency to revert back to what’s comfortable and it takes time, effort, and humility to look at the world from your customer’s perspective instead of yours. To wake up thinking about how your customers will view things requires discipline and perseverance. MW: At the end of the day, our customers want us to know them. For marketers, the biggest issue is this notion of how to be context aware. How do I make sure that everything links together so I’m reaching the right person at the right time with the right information? JR: It’s a fine line between knowing your customer, knowing their industry, knowing your products, and finally knowing how they all come together. It could be a complete mindset change for the field. Some people can easily go from identifying the customer’s challenges to how we can help you, while others still struggle and can only talk about the offerings. From a marketing perspective, not only are you working to help the field, but you’re also working to make sure you have the right programs in support of the customers as well. CK: What are some of the overarching changes you’re seeing within your organization or B2B marketing in general? JR: We’ve put a whole team in place to help support data-driven business intelligence. Having data to help you really understand your customers, and making sure that you’re using it, is critical. Using this insight, we are much better at allocating our marketing dollars because we now know who we’re targeting and what the right messages are for that person. MW: It’s a different world now. Everybody goes to Google to find out about your company. It’s a digital world and you don’t always control the message. Whether it’s on your website or somewhere else, you want to rise to the top of the organic search. SP: From a support-marketing perspective, we ought to be having conversations with best practices around linking people and promoting people around subject matter expertise. We could have micro discussions with customers, where you’re adding value for them and putting your solutions in context to what they’re trying to accomplish. There’s an enormous amount of landscape for us to cover in how we drive those ongoing conversations with customers.

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