CMO Spotlight: 5 Questions B2B Marketers Should Ask


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“This is pretty achievable – initiate something that no one expects you to do and really try.”

In response to the great feedback on our CMO Spotlight Series in 2014, I’m happy to continue with it this year. I’d like to start with IBM’s Senior VP of Marketing and Communications, Jon Iwata. He has a very realistic view of what marketing needs to do in order to deliver what the customer wants. His advice on how to get there is unique: “…initiate something that no one expects you to do and really try.” That’s very interesting. I guess that’s what drives IBM to “reimagine business”. While we hear all around that we must understand what our customers want and deliver to their expectations, Jon urges us to step outside the box. Bringing in the element of surprise and delight is what makes a brand stand out in the crowd and encourages customers to engage.

Based on Jon Iwata’s approach to marketing, here are 5 important questions your B2B organization needs to ask:

1.  Does Your Customer Need You?

Jon emphasizes the need for effective demand generation when selling to businesses. Too many corporations are still selling “products” and “services” when what they should focus on first is selling the need. Particularly in the field of technology, where users never really have a true picture of what their current systems are lacking or what their new ones must deliver. It is up to the vendors to dig deep, identify the gaps and needs, and design custom solutions that solve real, cost-draining problems for their customers.

2.  Does Your Data Give You the Right Picture?

The historic shift in power into the hands of the buyer is one of the most significant changes in the marketing landscape brought about by the Internet. To influence decision makers in favour of your brand, you need smart marketing that starts with reinventing your segmentation model. Iwata cautions that there is a tendency to get caught up in jargon and draw up wish lists that typically include the terms, “Big Data”, “Predictive Analytics”, “Mobile Marketing”, “Social Marketing”, and so on. The reality is that indulging in cookie-cutter ‘solutions’ for any of these is simply a waste of time and money. You must have the technological capability to listen to your data, draw intelligent insights and revise your actionable plan to impact positive outcomes.

3.  Does Your Brand Message Have Resounding Clarity?

Clear thinking and clear writing, says Jon, are critical to marketing communications. We know this, it’s not new. And yet, with the explosion of media channels available to marketers and the unexplained need to have a voice on any and all of these channels, many brands lose clarity in their brand messaging. The last thing the buyer needs in an already cluttered and noisy marketplace is more confusion and mixed-up or hazy brand communications. It’s important to realize that the greater impact on buyers today is through peers and third parties rather than the brand marketers themselves. So, given the limited impact your brand has the potential to make, isn’t it absolutely essential to maximize the opportunity?

4.  Does Your Buyer Trust You?

Buyers have problems; cost pressures, threats of competition, tight deadlines, labour issues, and a multitude of other challenges in running a smooth and profitable business operation. They don’t want additional problems to handle by having to deal with vendors they cannot trust; so they won’t engage anyone like that. Trust in a relationship is paramount to doing business. The faster and better your brand is at establishing that trust and then maintaining it, the greater the likelihood of winning and keeping business. A big portion of the trust quotient is dependent on satisfied customers, so make sure that post-sale communication and customer support is exemplary.

5.  Does Your Company Have A Strong Character?

Iwata reminds us that no matter what the size of your organization might be, you have character. Is it a positive and strong character that you are constantly monitoring and nurturing to be the best in its class? As Jon says, “We are living in an age of transparency, in which people, public figures, celebrities and especially companies are watched 24 hours a day and observers share what they see with others. It has never been more important for a company to be authentic.” It takes work to build and preserve this authenticity; and it doesn’t happen within the walls of your offices. It happens everywhere your buyers can touch and feel and experience your brand. It happens when social chatter takes place on channels you have no control over. It happens when a bad review online fires up a slew of disparaging remarks from customers you believed were satisfied—but you didn’t bother to find out the truth, did you?

“To be a great brand, you must first be authentic. Your brand must be grounded in your culture, in the behavior of the company and its people.” – Jon Iwata, IBM

  • Does your demand generation strategy focus on peeling the onion and identifying what keeps your customers awake at night?
  • Is your company able to grab the bull by its horns and deliver real solutions to your buyer’s problems?
  • What steps will you take in 2015 to become the brand your customers trust and love and continue to engage with?

I would love to hear from you on my blog. Leave me a comment.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


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