B2B Marketing: C-Suite Executive Briefings

Q&A: Cody Pearce, Chief Operating Officer of Nelson Schmidt, On An Evolution in B2B Marketing

The C-Suite Network hosts a monthly online event called Executive Briefings. Each event features an executive thought leader discussing a topic important to the C-Suite. Thomas White, CEO of C-Suite Network, hosts the event with a unique Q&A format. 

During one of our recent Briefings, Cody Pearce, chief operating officer of Nelson Schmidt, joined us to discuss the evolution and landscape, both present and future, of B2B marketing. Nelson Schmidt is a leader in helping companies and clients truly think about the marketplace and how they can engage with buyers in a way that’s really effective both to the top and bottom line.

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If anybody has been around marketing they’ve heard a couple of terms: B2B and B2C. So when somebody is talking about business to business, or B2B, what does that really mean?

We talk a lot about the evolution of B2B marketing and to some extent the dissolving of B2B marketing. When we look out at some of the trends that we’re monitoring, we look at three things: One, the market landscape has really dynamically changed even over the last three to five years. Just about every business model has been significantly disrupted. There is a massive influx of information and information technology that is changing the way we do business – changing the way we go to market.

Secondly, the customer landscape – both demographically and the way the customer has been empowered – are dramatically different because of the evolution of tools and information. The empowered customer has changed the way we think about marketing.

Lastly, the B2B landscape is dramatically shifting. We’ve seen a disappearance of our trade with the BMA (Business Marketing Association) being absorbed by the AMA (American Marketing Association) and with our Trade Voice BtoB Magazine being absorbed by Advertising Age, for example. Those trends are real evidence for us that there is a tremendous shift taking place, and a movement towards the creation of a single community of marketers rather than a definitive distinction between B2B and B2C companies, brands, and marketers. That shift, for us, is an incredibly important one, and one that we’re making sure to pay close attention to so we can change our business and our business practices with it.

We certainly have seen these changes in the landscape, the kind of things that we all supported and helped build this market we call B2B are certainly evolving pretty rapidly. What is causing this change? What is going on in the customer space that’s having this change come about?

What we look at, first and foremost, is the emergence of new channels and the access to information for customers that just hasn’t been there until the last three to five years in the way that it is today. That is changing the way the customers get information. It’s changing their ability to be much more intelligent and informed, and it’s forcing companies and marketers to think less about the product or solution they offer – a business or commercial audience versus a consumer one – and to think more about the journey and the considered purchase process of their customers. We need to evolve with these changing demographics, market landscape changes, and emergence of new tools and channels.

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You talk about the change in how we market, but this question of the evolution of B2B to considered purchases isn’t really just an issue for marketing folks. It’s really an issue for all the C-Suite, isn’t it?

It really is. I think the changes that we’re starting to describe, and the trends that we’re looking at, it changes how we do business. It changes how we connect with customers. It changes, perhaps, how we go to market and make money. For us, as an agency, and as a considered purchase marketing agency, it means thinking differently about the way that we help our customers from the executive office all the way through the commercial marketing teams and into the sales organization. So it does affect our client’s businesses literally from top to bottom in the way that they do business.

You’ve used this term a few times called considered purchase, what does it mean?

It simply means that rather than defining marketing as business-to-business or business-to-consumer, we are defining our practice of marketing around the idea of the level of consideration we see that customers make before making a purchase choice. Considered purchases are complex and have a great deal of emotional and financial risk and reward.

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So you aren’t getting this idea because you sit around a room. You go out and talk to folks and find out from them what they’re seeing.

That’s absolutely right. It’s not just about coming up with a new term for the sake of having something catchy to talk about next. It really is about re-inventing the way that, as an agency, we’re beginning to practice and the way that we solve problems for our customers.

When we talk to marketers, what we’re hearing are a couple of emerging trends. Number one, we hear that there’s a lot more focus around the consideration for purchase of those goods or services. It’s less about B2C and B2B, and it’s more about the level of consideration a customer has to make before making a purchase choice. We also find that the marketers probably feel less informed, especially as business models change and are disrupted. We begin to then shape our conversation around the purchase journey, around the consideration required, and the consequence and complexity tied to a brand choice to define the way that we practice.

For example, if we start to look at and map different categories of products and services along a spectrum of consequence and complexity, we can start to draw a line differently than traditional B2B and B2C lines have been drawn in the past. There’s kind of a convergence and a similarity now between the process someone may go through when choosing a banking alternative or a college choice, and very much being able to connect that to what a capital equipment purchase might look like. That journey looks very similar regardless of a consumer or a business target audience or offering. 

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Do you think because we have had these distinctions of B2B, B2C, and so forth that we have failed to really understand what you call the customer journey and how the sales funnel really works?

Yes, and marketers tell us that. They’re starting to question the traditional sales funnel and rethink the way that customers, in a more informed setting along a path of highly considered purchase, are moving through that funnel in a less linear fashion. Instead, they are coming in and out of it much more rapidly, and carrying forward with them preconceived choices based on the level of information available to them. As we look at the customer journey in the highly considered purchase path, it forces us to rethink the sales funnel and how we engage with the customer to affect their choices.

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Let’s talk about the customer journey. How do you help people map that out?

We actually give a lot of credit to a company called Adaptive Path. We found some very compelling tools that this organization had developed. They are a thought leader in the space of customer experience, and they make available to us, and this is public domain, a great set of tools that we’re beginning to use to provide structure to mapping out the customer journey.

The tools help us look at the stages a customer goes through, whether it’s in a business-to-business or business-to-consumer setting. We then can map those stages out from decision, through research and shopping, into buying and consumption — all the way down to using and feeding back into the loop their experience.

Not only does this allow us to look at the functional aspects of what customers are doing, but it lets us explore the emotional aspects of what customers may be thinking, feeling, and experiencing at each of the stages of the journey. That allows us, ultimately, to provide some guiding principles and seek opportunities for where we can be most effective with the right content, at the right time, through the right channel, as we begin to map this more comprehensively. 

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By mapping this out we know what to do when.

That’s right. It’s about what to do when. It’s about what channels to use. It’s about having some predictability in the work that we do to the outcomes that we’re trying to measure. This allows us to set up analytics and KPIs around our marketing programs to know that the investment is working as best as it can.

We begin to apply this as simply and as informally as a brainstorming session. We literally project it up on a wall for a post-it note session with our media and public relations and digital teams. We also take it very formally into the way that we scope and manage comprehensive annual campaigns.

Through this modeling we can start to look at the tools and the modes of communication. We can look at what customers are functionally doing, thinking, and feeling at each individual stage. We can much more intelligently then shape our messaging, our creative strategies, our channel mix, and investment in a way that we know is going to be most effective and optimized.

This guideline has given us a great framework to start looking at both consumer and commercial purchase cycles and building intelligent plans that use a modern set of tools in the most effective way.

What is the “Zero Moment of Truth”?

Zero moment of truth is something that has been talked about for a few years. This is the ultimate point in time in the customer journey of where they decide and make a final decision. It’s that moment of truth where we can start to look at the first moment of truth – that is when a customer narrows down its final set of consideration brands – and the zero moment of truth when they actually go from the shopping and evaluation to the choice. They have made a critical decision.

This model that you’re using is a considered purchase model. This could apply to what has traditionally been thought of as a business to business or a business to consumer orientation.

Yes, it doesn’t matter for us. For example, laundry machines. A laundromat owner may be considering replacing equipment in his or her store, or a homeowner may be looking to replace the washer and a dryer in their home. Both are highly considered purchases.

For both of those scenarios, we can map those purchase journeys. We start to model very closely the tools, the channels, the content, and the delivery of what we do as marketers to affect their choices.

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We’ve got this picture of the customer journey. Is this it or is there more?

No, there’s more. Obviously this is one step towards them building an effective brand and communications plan and strategy. The example that we will use here is connected to that laundry store owner. How it impacts what we then do as marketers can come in three ways and shapes. 

Number one is this has dramatically impacted the way we are shaping and delivering our creative and message strategy that we’re using. We have typically focused heavily on the promotion of our functional benefits. We talk a lot about the value proposition. We talk about promoting features and benefits of a solution.

Now having gone through these exercises, it has completely changed that mindset for us. It lowered the purpose and the role of the equipment and it heightened the emotional feeling of risk and of challenge and connecting it to a broader set of solutions that our brand can deliver. In this case we talk about financing. We talk about construction services. We talk about the business that they’re running and the impact we can have on improving that business. We connect emotionally through digital platforms by showing and telling through much deeper engagement how that is happening, and what other customers are feeling, and how they can connect. The first impact it’s having is changing the way we build our message and creative strategies and the mix that we use. 

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The second thing is these individual moments of truth. The great news is that marketing automation, programmatic media, CRM and other marketing techniques have dramatically improved our ability to intelligently hone in on this and very predictably insert the right content at exactly the right moment through the right channel, and keep that engagement to make sure that we are a part of that zero moment of truth. It has really changed the way that we bring automation and use technology to deliver our content in a much more sophisticated and predictable way.

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Lastly, it lets us build metrics that are a little bit different than the traditional KPIs of a marketing program. We can not only look at the things that are typical in the funnel in terms of impressions and the things that we usually have looked at as marketers. It starts to help us really hone in and drill down on activities where are we seeing engagement. Getting this in real time and connecting it down to the sales funnel, in terms of active deals and closed opportunities, lets us measure in real time how impactful our message, our mix, and our strategies are at being part of that consideration set.

Those three things to us as marketers are incredibly powerful. What we’re saying and when. How it is being delivered. The way that we hone in predictably on the behavior of consumers at exactly the right time. Then the visibility to measure that along the way to affect our decisions. Those are the three big ones for us.

What does all this mean to how we measure marketing effectiveness? It seems like we have a whole new way to look at things that are much more clearly tied to the sales results we’re producing.

Yes, that is probably the most important question marketers are asking themselves. They are looking at their investments and seeing pressure from the C-Suite in terms of what am I getting, what should I invest, and how are we performing. We owe it to ourselves as marketers – and frankly as an agency committed with a tagline of “we deliver customers” – we have to back that up with evidence.

We’re starting to talk about engagement versus the quantity of impression. Where we typically are thinking a lot about the top of the funnel in terms of impressions, awareness, and perception, and attitude measure – that matters and we care about it, but we also have to know what impact that is having on the quality of engagement – from the engagement of consideration, to ultimately the choice. Being able to connect that from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel literally in terms of active deals through visibility in CRM and a connection to our customer sales teams, is critically important.

What does somebody do if they want to start bringing in this understanding of the customer journey in a considered purchase way but they don’t have a large budget? Where do they invest their money?

Frankly, what I would encourage is to go through the process I discussed earlier — go through a process of mapping the customer journey. Go through a process of truly, intimately understanding what your customers are going through in making their choices in a highly considered decision. Zone in on the areas where you feel you can affect that first and final moment of truth to bring your brand into consideration, and dominate and own that area of your marketing investment.

Regardless of the size of budget, being thoughtful about the approach and careful about the measurements can help you determine the right thing to do at any investment level.

Moving forward, what do people do?

We are hypothesizing here – based on the trends we’ve talked about and the evolution and witness of our B2B trade dissolving, we believe there’s an evolution taking place. We believe that organizing the way we practice around considered purchase versus B2B and B2C is a meaningful path. We believe that the playbook, the way that we deliver, should be centered on the mapping of that customer journey in a much more modern way with the use of the most sophisticated tools we have available to us as marketers. 

We want to continue the dialogue. We want to continue to learn and listen to marketers. We want to invite everybody here to join in this conversation and debate. Let’s, as a community of marketers, regardless of B2C or B2B, begin to recognize truly how disrupted our space has become and how important it is for us to start moving in a direction to re-invent ourselves and redefine our impact in business value. That is critical for us and I think that is what we can all go forward thinking. We believe there is something relevant here for everyone to dig in with us.

You can learn more about Executive Briefings, watch other sessions and sign up for future events here.

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Thomas White is the CEO of the C-Suite Network and the host of the nationally syndicated video program, Business Matters. This was taken from dialogue on C-Suite Executive Briefings.

EEA in Education Pact on Engagement With C-Suite Network

The Enterprise Engagement Alliance and C-Suite Network at C-SuiteNetwork.com have announced a broad marketing partnership to educate corporate management on the emerging field of engagement and to provide the EEA community with a broad range of the C-Suite Network’s learning and networking services.

Under the agreement, the Enterprise Engagement Alliance will develop an education program and content track on all aspects of Enterprise Engagement for the fast-growing C-Suite Network community. C-Suite Network describes itself as the “world’s most powerful network of C-suite leaders with a focus on providing growth, development, and networking opportunities for business executives with titles of vice president and above from companies with annual revenues of $10 million or greater.”  The group currently has over 175,000 executives in its community.

The group holds three conferences a year; hosts online television and radio broadcasts on topics of interest to top management; manages a private online community for business leaders, produces specialized interactive learning programs for C-suite leaders, and offers a book club featuring titles of interest to business management. The EEA will promote these services both through its Engagement Strategies portal at Enterpriseengagement.org and its annual Engagement University at eeaexpo.com, held this year in Orlando April 25-28.

Said Thomas White, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the C-Suite Network, “The emerging field of Enterprise Engagement provides a compelling roadmap for today’s business leaders seeking to gain a competitive advantage by harnessing the power of engaged customers, distribution partners, employees, vendors, and communities to achieve their short- and long-term goals. It’s our mission to help our community find the latest strategies and tactics to improve the performance of their organizations.”

Bruce Bolger, President of the Enterprise Engagement Alliance said, “The C-Suite Network has done a great job of building a community of executives committed to excellence and creating a complete set of learning and sharing tools to help their organizations excel. We couldn’t imagine a better education partnership.”

Original Article from Engagement Strategies Media

Your 2016 Business Reading List

by Thomas White, CEO

It’s the start of the new year. A time of new beginnings, new goals and yes, even a new reading list. As a CEO myself, I always get asked, “what are you reading?” Well, look no further. Here’s a list of the Top 10 books you should have on your coffee table in the coming year – in no specific order.

Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary, by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval 

This book explains what ‘G.R.I.T.’ is and why is it important to have it. ‘G.R.I.T.’ is an acronym for Guts, Resilience, Initiative, Tenacity and the good thing is anyone can develop it – at any point in their lives. Today’s greats weren’t born great – Michael Jordan didn’t make his basketball team in high school; Steven Spielberg didn’t get into film school. Passion and tenacity are the reasons they made it big and it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and find your ‘grit.’

Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless, by Jeffrey Hayzlett.

I would encourage you to read this one because it’s a compilation of interviews, insights, and advice from leading c-suite executives around the world, meant to inspire entrepreneurs to own who they are by being bold, fearless and relentless. It goes beyond the excuses, self-imposed limitations, and preconceived notions to inspire readers to become the biggest, boldest, versions of themselves.  It is also about taking action and having an attitude to put oneself out there, steamrolling obstacles, ignoring perceived boundaries, and even being a little irrational.

Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans, by Peter Shankman 

Peter Shankman is a well-known personality – from his TV appearances, to his speaking engagements, to his insightful books. This time around, he defines the term “zombie loyalist” as a customer who is loyal to one brand all the time and gets their friends to engage in the same behavior. These customers are “zombies” to a specific brand because they are treated well and in turn, they are considered the brand’s best customers. Shankman adds that one of the worst mistakes companies with an online social media presence can do is not respond to its customers.

THRIVE: The Third Metric To Redefining Success And Creating A Life Of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder, by Arianna Huffington

Huffington argues that society’s relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success — money and power — has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers.

Huffington likens our drive for money and power to two legs of a three-legged stool. They may hold us up temporarily, but sooner or later we’re going to topple over. She affirms we need a third leg — a third metric for defining success — to truly thrive. That third metric, she writes in Thrive, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving. She also talks candidly about her own challenges with managing time and prioritizing the demands of a career and raising two daughters — of juggling business deadlines and family crises, and how her “a-ha moment” came as a result of a health scare. 

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How To Tell Your Story In A Noisy, Social World, by Gary Vaynerchuk

Vaynerchuk shares hard-won advice on how to connect with customers and beat the competition as well as give readers a blueprint to social media marketing strategies that really work. He is certain that when managers and marketers outline their social media strategies, they plan for the “right hook”—their next sale or campaign that’s going to knock out the competition. Even companies committed to jabbing, which he defines as patiently engaging with customers to build the relationships crucial to successful social media campaigns, want to land the punch that will take down their opponent or their customer’s resistance in one blow. Right hooks convert traffic to sales and easily show results. Except when they don’t!

Thanks to massive change and proliferation in social media platforms, the winning combination of jabs and right hooks is different now. Vaynerchuk shows that while communication is still key, context matters more than ever. It’s not just about developing high-quality content, but developing high-quality content perfectly adapted to specific social media platforms and mobile devices—content tailor-made for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr.

7 Tenets of Taxi Terry, by Scott McKain

This book talks about ‘Taxi Terry,’ a cab driver and successful self-starting entrepreneur who combines passion with effort and skill to create distinction in his job and in his life. McKain was so impressed by Terry’s joyful approach to customer service that he incorporated the driver’s inspiring personal philosophy and uplifting advice into his book and speaking engagements.

The 7 tenets are:

1. Set high expectations–then, exceed them

2. Delivering what helps the customer . . . helps you

3. Customers are people–so, personalize the experience

4. Think logically–then act creatively and consistently

5. Make the customer the star of your show

6. Help your customers to come back for more

7. Creating joy for your customer will make your work–and life–more joyful

Digital Wisdom: Thought Leadership for a Connected World, by Shelly Palmer

Well-known media personality, Shelly Palmer, highlights how social media users need to learn to differentiate between a popularity contest and a quality contest. Having a small number of quality connections is a good thing for you and your business; whereas one million superficial connections look important, and impressive, but they do not benefit either of you in the long run. The book also explains what it means to be a digital leader in a connected world since nowadays, there is no difference between leadership in a digital world and an analog world. Everything is connected and having digital leadership is just a new twist on an old skill set.

Palmer also states that privacy, in today’s world, is a generational issue and needs to be redefined. Millennials and those younger don’t care much about their online privacy now, but they might someday. Online privacy is being redefined as we speak and will continue to be redefined as technology changes. He argues that private is not the same as anonymous – it used to be, but it’s not the case anymore.

Amaze Every Customer Every Time, by Shep Hyken 

Hyken explores the ever demanding and always important world of customer service, and how stellar service can elevate a company from good to great. Delivering amazing service requires everyone in the organization to step up and be a leader. It doesn’t take a title; it takes the right set of tools and principles. 

In his book, Hyken takes the customer service experience and makes it applicable to today’s businesses. He believes all transformations require a role model and in this book, he highlights the successes of Ace Hardware, voted one of the top ten customer service brands in America. One way to achieve top status is by “asking the questions” and “focus on the customer, not the money.”

Display of Power: How FUBU Changed a World of Fashion, Branding and Lifestyle, by Daymond John

Daymond is a friend of mine and one of the brightest business minds out there. His book gets gets to the heart of his unlikely run to the top of the fashion world, and shines compelling light on what it takes to succeed-from the dizzying street corners of his old neighborhood to the dazzling corner offices of corporate America-and what it takes to harness and display the power that resides in us all.

Here is a man who is not afraid of taking risks and his drive and vision gives readers a glimpse of the new ‘generation’ of c-suite leaders.

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell takes readers on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”– the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful by asking the question, what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that people pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from — that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the diverse experiences of their upbringing.  Gladwell argues that the true story of success is very different, and that if we want to understand how some people thrive, we should spend more time looking around them. In revealing that hidden logic, Gladwell presents a fascinating and provocative blueprint for making the most of human potential. With this book, he transforms the way we understand success.