Transforming Concepts Into Concrete Results

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Martyn Etherington, CMO, Mitel
Martyn Etherington, CMO, Mitel

Transforming the conceptual into the concrete is one of the biggest challenges—and one of the biggest delights—of the chief marketing officer. As I've detailed in past entries, Mitel and our marketing function have put some big concepts through their paces in the past year. Most of those concepts, including the most important one—putting the customer at the center of our business— have proven to be valuable. We know this because of the arduous work required to take an idea and turn it into a business practice.

At Mitel, we refer to this transformative process as the operationalization of our strategic plan.

Our marketing function—as well as every other part of the company—has invested significant smarts and sweat over the past 10 months while transforming strategic initiatives into actionable processes and practices that we can track and, when necessary, correct on a monthly basis.

I want to acknowledge these efforts by zeroing in on some of the specific areas where we worked particularly hard and effectively. And as my team is well aware, kudos always comes with caveats; in other words, we always need to do better in the spirit of continuous improvement.

Tangible steps toward a growth mind-set

All of Mitel's strategic planning is now based on voice of the customer (VOC) and market data. Insights from these sources helped us winnow down more than 15 strategic initiatives to these three:

1. Protecting and growing our core business

2. Growing faster than the market in our contact center business

3. Accelerating cloud growth

One of the most important outcomes of this strategic refocusing had less to do with strategy and more to do with our culture. We're on the journey to adopt a growth mind-set in terms of driving revenue (i.e. topline growth). Our culture is also changing in terms of perspective. We've taken significant strides shifting from inside-out thinking to outside-in thinking. These shifts have been enabled by a number of concrete initiatives, process improvements, and other investments, including the following recent activities:

Creating customer personas: We researched and developed a set of customer personas that will strengthen our sales and marketing customer-acquisition programs and how we think about our customers in general. We used primary and secondary research from a consulting firm, Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), and media company UBM to help develop our customer personas. These personas provide demographic and psychographic insight that we believe will help us target and message our audiences in more effective and relevant ways; they'll also help Mitel develop content tailored directly to one of three personas: the principle or business owner persona, the financial persona, or the technical persona.

Revamping the selling process: We used other research from SBI during a four-month engagement to help us with an initiative that ultimately flipped our selling process on its head. We previously adhered to what's best described as an “inside-out” approach to sales; the sales process began with our offerings. Today, we follow an "outside-in" approach where the process begins and ends with our customers. We're implementing this new process with supporting technology from We're also running a train-the-trainer series for our sales directors, who in turn will train their respective teams. This new process will underpin future marketing campaigns and content development.

Harnessing our user group: Changes in how we collaborate with our user group represent another example of an outside-in initiative designed to place our customers at the center of our business. Since January we've grown user group membership by 370%. We've also significantly changed how we work with our user group. Rather than just enlisting our members' expertise and insights at the end of our product development cycles—as we previously did—we now collaborate with them at the beginning of the design process, as well as throughout the entire design life cycle. While this is not an earth-shattering step, I do believe it marks a pragmatic illustration of our commitment to customer centricity.

Consolidating our contact centers: In my August entry I mentioned that we were conducting an overhaul of our customer interaction centers—consolidating six disparate centers into one: our own commercial MiContact Center. (We also greatly reduced our toll-free numbers to help customers reach us more efficiently.) We launched the new contact center on September 16 and have been receiving positive feedback. The contact center has been integrated with our platform to improve the overall customer experience. We also rolled out training to all of our North American employees on what MiContact Center is, how it affects them, how they can interact with it, and—most important—to enlist their help in getting the word out to our channel partners. To date, 90% of all Mitel employees have completed the training.

Reallocating marketing resources: We applied “how customers buy” research from analyst firm Gartner to help us refocus and reallocate our marketing resources to the top four areas where our customers' decisions are influenced: 1) Internet, search, and manufacturers' websites; 2) peer references and recommendations; 3) sales consultants; and 4) content.

Implementing marketing automation: Many companies have already implemented marketing automation. In some respects we're late to the game and playing a bit of catch-up. That said, we also feel we made a highly informed decision. We chose to use an offering from Marketo, and it's already helping us change the way we market. In the past we would use, and likely would have exhausted, our customer database. Marketo allows us to augment customer contacts with various databases and every response will go into Marketo, a process that allows us to nurture these contacts over the short, medium, and long term without exhausting them. The technology also enables us to implement lead-nurturing programs and serve up relevant content that corresponds with where customers are at in their buying journey.

We've integrated Marketo with Salesforce and will be able to begin to report on closed-loop results in the next few months. Granted it will be spotty at first, but this will be a major step toward marketing nirvana (i.e., closed-loop marketing).

Of course, support technology is one of several changes working in concert; combined, these changes have greatly improved our lead generation results in the past six months. We've increased our qualified leads 100-fold, and this doesn't reflect the major increases we expect as a result of recent investments in digital. This is an important improvement because leads represent the key ingredient of revenue growth. Our challenge moving forward will switch to lead volume and quality.

Conducting Net Promoter Score (NPS) research: All of the activities discussed above could be considered attempts to “look good,” as opposed to truly “doing good,” without the results or benchmarks required to measure our effectiveness. That's why we conduct NPS research. We recently completed an NPS evaluation of our partner channel, and we're in the process of conducting NPS research on our customer channels (that, of course, is the most important score and one I intend to share in my entry next month). We received a 62 NPS for our channel partners, through which roughly 80% of our business is generated; that compares favorably to our industry average benchmark of a 50 NPS.

Year-over-year growth

So, how well are we doing? As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, we have three strategic objectives: grow our core business, grow our contact center business, and accelerate the growth of our cloud offerings. Four months into our new fiscal year I'm happy to report that we're posting year-over- year growth in all three of these strategic focus areas


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