You need to know: the importance of field marketing
Field marketing has never been more important, as the customer journey — especially in the B2B space — complexifies (as Jeff Bezos would say). That’s the message I took away from a wide-ranging conversation this week with SAP’s President of corporate marketing, Alison Biggan. But first, I asked how her role fits into SAP’s extensive marketing operation.
“We have a global marketing organization. Alicia [Tillman] is the CMO, and I work directly for her. I have a counterpart, Ivo Totev. Ivo is responsible for all of the product and line of business marketing.” Other SAP CMOs, like Jason Rose, CMO of SAP CX, “sit within their business units but align in a dotted line fashion with Ivo. I’m responsible for what we call corporate marketing, so I own the marketing functions which are more cross-solution; functional areas like brands, digital, events, partner marketing, sponsorship, and the like. For simplicity’s sake, I have kind of horizontal responsibility.
Field marketing falls within Biggan’s purview too. “I actually think that the role of field marketing is critical in relation to the complexity of the customer journey. Historically it’s been quite focused at the top of the funnel, converting leads into pipeline, and conducting activities which accelerate pipeline and help close deals. Where it has a place today is in those same areas, but there’s a much bigger role for field marketing post-sale; whether it’s thinking about the nature of cloud and subscription software, and the importance of customers actually using the software so they renew, or topics like retention and customer advocacy. It’s a relatively new evolution, especially in the world of enterprise software.”
In other words, there’s a thread of marketing which runs right through the customer experience, surfacing at touchpoints traditionally associated with sales and service. “I couldn’t agree more,” said Biggan. “I think this also changes at times the complexion and the nature of the marketing. First of all, it can’t all be ‘push,’ it has to be more ‘pull’ in nature. It has to be much more of a two-way engagement. Field marketing, and not only field marketing, really has to think about the way it communicates with customers and prospects, and how it makes itself kind of a steward of the business, to make sure customers are successful.”
I asked about the length of the purchase cycle, and the number of people now involved in “buying committees.” It’s not just a matter of convincing the CMO or CIO any more. On the first topic, Biggan said that the despite the long cycle, there was a much greater likelihood today that prospective buyers get the chance to experience a version of the product at an earlier stage of the journey. “It depends on the product, and the market you’re offering it to, but the end user is much more powerful in buying decisions today; they’re critical in endorsing the decision to purchase, and some of them have their own purchasing power. If they’re setting out to solve an immediate business problem, it may be a smaller purchase, but with a shorter sales cycle. That’s an opportunity for a vendor like SAP, because once tools have been adopted by certain lines of business within a brand, “we’re in a much better position to drive an enterprise-wide conversation.”
Some of the changes we’re seeing in field marketing, and B2B marketing in general, are coming from B2C. “We all have a certain amount of expectations from our consumer lives. If you’re going to market to me, you need to know who I am, what I care about, and what I already own from your company — and if you don’t, you’ll be drowned out in the noise.”
What does field marketing mean in practice for SAP today? “Our field marketers really are not just the feet on the street, but the feet on the street for all our regions and our market units. They really are the integrated marketing experts in the region in which they sit: and that means they have to be experts in a wide variety of areas. Certainly, the physical event has not gone away, and in many ways plays a more important role than ever when done properly. They have to be digital marketers; they also have to have, not so much subject matter expertise on the product side, but content expertise — what kinds of content are customers and prospects expecting to see? What are the newest ways they’re choosing to engage? How do you find and engage them in the places they choose to interact?”
Traditional paid media, like paid search, now needs to converge with earned and owned — communications, social. “It should all come together to feel like an integrated experience. I don’t want to say it’s a consolidation of tactics; it’s an integration across, with the criticality of the brand narrative that goes through it — I don’t think it’s ever been more important than it is today.”
Anyone reading my article this week on how CX can go badly wrong, or my interview with Isobar executives at Connections, might rightly think that connecting marketing with service (and sales) should be table stakes. It’s not yet, of course, but here comes HubSpot with a timely report on The State of Customer Service in 2019. Top takeaways:
- Almost 90 percent of customers are more likely to be vocal about negative (and positive) experiences, and have higher expectations than in the past
- Although brands pay lip service to customer-centricity, over 40 percent don’t collect customer feeback
- Only 12 percent of customers (firmly) believe brands when they say they put the customer first
There are some disconnects there, right? Commenting on the findings, Michael Redbord of Hubspot Service Hub wrote: “10 years ago: customers were patient. Today, customers demand an immediate response.” I wouldn’t even go back ten years. I think five years ago, I’d have shrugged my shoulders at a CX experience like the one I wrote about on Monday. I now know what’s possible, and that is what makes that kind of CX unacceptable. Perhaps it’s because I cover this space that I was quick to analyse the communications bottlenecks and data silos, but any savvy consumer now expects to be recognized when s/he traverses departments and channels within a business.Treat your customers right, because they’re going to define your success more than you can.
As Redbord put it: “Treat your customers right, because they’re going to define your success more than you can.” And more than that: “Treat your service workers right, so they are empowered and motivated to create great customer experiences.”
And a reminder that we’re still accepting nominees for the DMN 40Under40 Awards. Let us know about high-achieving young marketers, and don’t delay. Nominations won’t be open much longer. More information here.