B2B Tech Companies: Marketing is about more than just supporting sales

Marketing is more than just sales supportLast week, along with 250 other marketing professionals, I had the pleasure of attending the ICT Marketing Directors’ Club (CMIT) annual Forum in Paris.

This association of mainly French-based, marketing and communications professionals from dozens of small to large technology companies includes marketing directors from international firms like Adobe, Alcatel-Lucent, IBM and Sharp.

This year’s forum focused on the main challenges and opportunities in marketing over that past 10 years. In particular, the topics discussed dealt with various outbound marketing activities: Creating market positioning; Generating leads in the digital age; The challenges of channel marketing, and how to manage branding and reputation on and offline.

While the forum was very interesting and informative on the whole, examining the discussions more closely, the topics addressed related mostly to generating sales and business growth; an important yet partial function of the marketing practice.

The main part missing was the key role that marketing plays in generating client and market insights to direct strategy, to in turn create new value for customers, and ensure satisfied, return customers. This is the added value of marketing.

Marketing is more than just about outbound programs to stimulate sales growth

The simple conclusion from the forum is that many French-based marketing directors see marketing as simply a means of stimulating sales and growth, with little, if any, direct link to influencing strategy or creating more relevant client offers to provide a superior customer experience. Whether this is intentional or not, I can not say.

Throughout my career I have seen companies in areas including IT, software and telecoms, that do not systematically apply client or market-driven methods to identify emerging needs and demands in order to translate them into marketing-driven products.

This may be partly due to the engineering-driven culture that exists in many tech companies, in France and beyond, where the product development function is often led by technical product teams who mostly create new offers based on a filtered and sometimes biased, second-hand understanding of clients’ business needs. While this can sometime result in technically superior offers, they may not always be well-presented or adapted to the market or to their clients’ practical or strategic business needs.

To benefits from a stronger, client-driven approach tech companies need to see marketing not just as a means of driving additional sales of existing offers, but as a driving philosophy for creating customer value and business growth.

Marketing-driven firms generate new market insights to create new value for customers

Developing a company culture, organization and related processes for generating, analyzing and applying market and client data is essential for creating marketing–driven products with strong client appeal, offering superior value to customers.

Merkado has recently worked with OneAccess, a provider of enterprise network routers serving the global telecom service provider market. While their clients already look to them for mass-customized, cost-effective, multi-access network devices, OneAccess is keen to enhance its understanding of its customers’ business needs, and of their business end-customers, in order to further improve its offer, communicate and deliver value to its clients beyond just products.

We have helped them extract deeper insights into what their clients’ businesses look like today, the specific challenges they currently face, and what they expect from OneAccess as a key partner for enabling the latest set of profitable business communication services.

OneAccess - Business IP Voice Services ReportUsing some of the same information we have also produced a range of customer value-driven reports on several topics of interest to their clients’ business decision-makers, offering their customers a view into the current trends and issues, the key factors for creating successful business communication services, and how OneAccess can help to be successful.

In certain cases these market insights and reports have proved quite compelling to their clients, generating new contracts and sales for OneAccess (See our related case study).

This type of information offers companies like OneAccess some of the relevant customer insights needed to develop more adapted client value propositions, satisfying not only their clients’ technical product needs, but also their broader business requirements.

This demonstrates how a leading global technology company is successfully making the shift from a technology-focused to market-driven approach, delivering new forms of value to its customers along the way.

Effective customer value propositions lead to increased satisfaction and client advocacy

Beyond creating great products and services that deliver superior value, tech companies must also strive to ensure customer satisfaction, ultimately inspiring their lead clients to act as ambassadors.

Last month we attended Salesforce.com Customer Company Tour, where the leading enterprise cloud software company discussed its latest range of innovative, cloud-based software, powering the sales, marketing and customer service functions of its business clients, enabling them to tune and focus on today’s customers, foster more meaningful relationships and deliver new forms of value.

As part of the keynote session several high-profile, client senior executives took the stage to discuss how Salesforce has helped them develop and grow their business:

  • Axa Insurance’s President Nicolas Moreau described how by working with Saleforce they have become more client-centric. They have been able to simplify the customer buying process using a dedicated mobile application that allows them to quickly evaluate prospects, generate the best insurance solutions, and provide instant, paperless sign-up. Furthermore, by integrating client data into their CRM at all stages of the relationship – including clients’ online footprint – they can also provide more relevant and timely client services.
  • Pernod Ricard’s President Alexandre Ricard discussed how they used the software firm’s collaborative communication platform to stimulate and manage the collective creative efforts of internal and external communities as they have developed their latest brand of spirits. It not only sped up the launch and success of their new offers, but also integrated many new ideas and inputs from across their communities, making their latest creations a success.

These examples shows how a leading technology company’s offers have delivered tangible business value to its client, helping generate high levels of satisfaction, and spawning outspoken customer advocates who are ready to share their great experiences with others.

Among many technology companies today, marketing is viewed mainly as the techniques and tools for stimulating sales and growth. At the same time there is much more to be gained from adopting a broader, marketing-driven philosophy.

An integrated marketing-approach allows tech companies to benefit from a true, customer and market-driven culture, helping create and deliver value to their clients, generating new growth and leading to satisfied clients.

Is your company marketing-driven? If not, what’s holding it back?

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