BrandsProlific North brought together half a dozen leading B2B marketers and entrepreneurs to discuss the role of digital marketing and engagement in the B2B environment. The session was co-hosted by the leading global B2B agency Stein IAS and the discussion was anchored around the results of the agency’s Digital Marketing Maturity Index.

Joining the roundtable group were Charlotte Commarmond, Ingredion marketing director for Europe, James Lawton-Hill, head of marketing at Optionis, Manoj Ranaweera, the founder of tech platform UnifiedVU, Matt Hicks, a global B2B communications manager and Mike Doodson, Brother’s digital marketing manager.

Tom Stein of Stein IAS flew in from New York to join the session with two of his colleagues from the Bollington office, Craig Duxbury and Marc Keating, completing the round table line-up.

Following a two-year courtship, in 2015 Cheshire-based IAS merged with Stein based in New York and the enlarged agency has subsequently opened new operations on continental Europe, China and an office in San Francisco.

tom-stein

Tom Stein…jetting in

Stein IAS global client services director Craig Duxbury offered some light-hearted comparisons between the San Francisco office and Manchester suggesting both cities shared a long history of ‘tech firsts’…

The agency’s Digital Marketing Maturity Index (DMMI) was published after over 300 global chief marketing officers responded to the online survey comprised of just 12 questions.

The DMMI itself is predicated on a Google statement that around 70% of the buyer journey is complete before a buyer embarks on a purchase. This the agency felt, was worth fleshing out in more detail and with the B2B sector specifically in mind.

There are four main tenets to the Index:

  • Reach and attract
  • Engage
  • Nurture and convert
  • Analyse and optimise

Most digitally savvy companies are also customer obsessed

The most striking conclusion of the research was that brands (companies) typically fell – usually unknowingly  – into three main camps in their approach to their own brand management: they were generally either brand focused (on their own brand), customer focussed or customer obsessed. And the startling fact to emerge from the research was that typically the higher up the digital marketing index a brand was, the more to the right – i.e. customer-obsessed rather than other focuses – the companies were likely to be.

Other findings unearthed were that many brands are often surprisingly poor at web optimisation and that many companies are still much focused and consequently more successful at prospect targeting than they are at actually nurturing and converting said leads.

Duxbury also noted that their experience of working with US and European headquartered companies showed several instances of a disconnect between the companies’ HQ communication and engagement with the rest of those company’s global operations. In addition corporate communications still often operates in more of a silo and can be remarkably quite distinct from those companies’ digital and marketing activities. This cultural/physical issue could also be seen in the relationship between IT and the companies’ central buying bases which too often see a further disconnect between these bases and the outlying operations whose web, IT and subsequently sales needs and leads can be quite different.

Charlotte Commarmond

Charlotte Commarmond

The journey along the road to radically adopting digital and digital marketing first was expanded upon in some depth by Charlotte Commarmond.

Commarmond joined Ingredion in the marketing department in 2001 and has held a series of senior marketing roles including a global role based out of the company’s EMEA offices in Hamburg. She is a member of the company’s European Business Leadership Team. In addition to leading the marketing team across the region, she also has a remit to help deliver growth through innovation and to identify growth opportunities across the region.

Ingredion is a $6bn business headquartered in Chicago whose activities span food, sweeteners and starches through to concrete and personal care.

Three-year digital-first marketing plan is paying off

Before 2014, Ingredion had a traditional marketing focus but since 2014 the approach has been Digital First… and it’s paying off, said Commarmond.

Year One (2014) she recalled, saw a new agency brought alongside and between them they drew up a roadmap targeting audiences (built on customer segmentation), creating ‘personas’ for different sectors, devised a new integrated campaign anchored on digital and introduced Oracle’s Eloqua software.

The second year saw Ingredion introduce a new CRM system and the launch of the new website, with further marketing campaigns implemented and the creation of a new database. In addition, two new members were recruited to the marketing team and the initial result of the first 18-month investment was a 132% increase in new leads against 2014.

The third year of the plan in 2016 saw the investment reaching fruition with over $1m in new web sales generated – up over 700% against 2015 – and a substantial increase in Eloqua contacts. To further consolidate the growing sense of digital excellence, Commarmond enlisted the entire marketing team of 15 onto a foundation course in digital marketing with the CIM.

Commarmond’s perspective of some of the key learnings from their journey is that: “The internal buy in and ongoing collaboration is essential as is board purpose and intent.

“The digital-first approach has also enhanced our data strategy and our marketing technology and measurement. We’ve also all learnt a lot more about how we interact with our customers and what it feels like to engage Ingredion. And the digital-first strategy has undoubtedly led to greater cohesion and operational efficiencies as digital engagement has impacted positively on all aspects of the business from logistics to sales and production.”

Tom Stein asked the round table what currently really excited them as marketers?

Doodson felt that the speed of making things happen because of digital transformation was enthusing more than he had ever envisaged.

james-lawtonhill

James Lawton-Hill

Hicks said that he was thoroughly enjoying having the opportunity to own and enhance a greater slice of the purchasing decision than he’d encountered in previous marketing roles. Digital transformation he suggested is “enabling us to bring more to the process and getting our hands on the mechanics of the business”.

Ranaweera, having recently sold another business, said that the “exciting emerging digital landscape was throwing up all sorts of new opportunities to adopt and adapt existing products and create new ones to fulfill market gaps”.

Lawton-Hill, with a nod to his own private equity backed business, said the forecast huge increase in the numbers of self-employed was the overriding ambition for them and digital is enabling the company to exploit new business in ways they never could previously. In the US the percentage of self-employed people is forecast to rise to 50% plus within a decade and here in the UK and Europe, “our UK turnover is £300m and the big opportunity presented by digital engagement is how we enhance and expand our customer journey”.

Commarmond further articulated these sentiments by adding that “digital understanding, delivery and measurement is allowing us (marketers) to be taken ever more seriously at board level. Digital is enabling marketing personnel to speak with more authority than ever before and that’s hugely satisfying and energising”.