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Managing Marketing: The need for short, medium and long term strategy

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Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Mari Kauppinen is Head of Marketing, Digital, Channels and Demand Generation at IBM Australia, a speaker and on the Advisory Board of AdTech Sydney 2019. Here Mari shares with Darren her view of changes in marketing for B2B, B2C and what she calls B2I enabled by data and technology and the need for marketers to take a short, medium and long-term view of their strategy. You can hear Mari speak at AdTech Sydney March 12 & 13 2019. Details available here:  https://www.trinityp3.com/business-events/

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and today I’m sitting down with Mari Kauppinen, Head of Marketing, Demand generation, Digital and Channel and also the Chair of the Marketing Review Board at IBM Australia and New Zealand. That’s a mouthful but welcome.

Mari:

Thank you so much, it’s great to be here.

Darren:

The reason we’re catching up is that we‘re both on the Sydney AdTech Advisory Board and you’ll be doing a presentation next March won’t you?

Mari:

I am indeed and I’m very much looking forward to that. I’m going to be talking about marketing transformation and the need to be doing it every day. It’s a very broad topic. It covers the marketing organisation, the people, the capabilities but also the new mindsets because believe that the old tricks don’t apply anymore in the new world or the old tricks may come back.

Consequently, I believe that all CMOs and anybody interested in marketing need to be constantly monitoring and analysing on a daily basis to make sure we’re optimised in terms of our client value as well as our functional role.

Darren:

Absolutely. I don’t want to have any spoilers because I’m looking forward to your presentation in March next year. But one of the things that has amazed me is that you’ve had a very successful as well as enduring career at IBM. IBM is a really interesting company because people would see it as traditionally a B2B company but it also has many clients that are B2C. I imagine that’s quite an interesting landscape to be working in.

Mari:

It certainly has been and continues to be. And nowadays B2B or B2C—I think I look at it as more B2I—business to individuals. Technology has a role to play in that but we’re getting better and better as marketers, understanding the needs of our clients. And clients are driving the way that we go to market.

And in the old days we like to think that B2B decision makers didn’t eat and sleep and are not emotional or have a weekend and hang out with their family and friends. But in fact they do.

Darren:

They’re human beings you mean?

Mari:

Absolutely. And we have research that shows us that and now that we are making decisions on media we are sometimes surprised at the media selections they’re making. Whilst we can still define markets that way I think we’ve got to look at client value and regardless of which market they or we are in as customers or clients it’s really coming back to connecting the decision makers with organisations and ecosystems to drive value and personalisation at scale.

Darren:

It’s bizarre isn’t it because as marketers we are human beings and yet organisations that we often find ourselves working in have a totally different perspective to their own customers? I’ve noticed a lot of B2B companies still think of marketing as in support of sales whereas B2C often has marketing leading with sales supporting it. In actual fact the ideal situation is a blend of the two working hand in hand isn’t it?

Mari:

I completely agree. The partnership between sales and marketing, and marketing having a voice in the senior executive level is really critical. Once marketing is part of the strategy development then I believe it’s the role of the marketing practitioners to make sense of the overall business landscape, opportunities and challenges and then construct the marketing strategy and oversee the implementation of it.

I get asked a lot; what’s more important, the strategy or the execution, the work or the creative, the message or the offer? And it’s just a balance of what matters more. It can be determined by the industry and the size of the organisation you’re in, and part of your overall strategy.

I do agree that the days are over where marketing sits in a different floor and does it’s own thing and the rest of the organisation does something else. That’s probably not a winning strategy for any organisation’s strength or size.

Darren:

I get asked the same question, what’s the most important and I go the results. Ultimately, the whole reason that marketing and sales are there is to create customers and maximise the value for the customer but also for the organisation. It’s funny how, especially the larger the organisation, you get these territorial plays where people almost want to separate themselves from each other.

But for the customer/ consumer their experience of the brand is both the marketing and the sales.

Mari:

And the procurement; all the entities that have touch points with the clients. That’s when I think things like the NPS that drive direct feedback from the client are so fundamental to organisations. I think also this idea is that if we all work collectively together and all bring our subject matter expertise to the table that’s where magic happens.

Not in silos or restricting one function from another or sellers are more important than the marketing people or vice versa. I think marketers have matured hopefully in that sense that business outcomes matter and numbers matter.

One piece of advice that I give young marketers who are starting their career is be very blunt and know your numbers. Understand the numbers. What is the outcome you’re trying to achieve? Make sure you have KPIs that are measured in the business plans and then you can have your marketing metrics and feel all very good about clicks and all the rest of it. But ultimately, business outcomes are the way I define the success of marketing.

Darren:

My experience is that all the most successful marketers can read the balance sheet, the PNL and understand which of the metrics are going to be of interest not just to marketing but to the Board and C-Suite.

Mari:

That’s where we’re headed and I’d like to think that marketing as a function is headed to the Boardroom because we have a lot to offer. We bring to the table analytical thinking, understanding of the client, competition, marketing dynamics. We know how to make markets and to capture them, how to manage brands and understand the client from an end to end perspective.

I’m a big advocate for ensuring that we find a seat not just in the senior exec levels but also in the Boardroom because we can play a big role.

Darren:

A lot of people are talking about marketing driving growth. You almost can’t go to an event without someone doing the talk about growth. But in actual fact, the role that marketing has uniquely in most organisations is representing the interest of the customer or consumer because great marketers do have that depth and it’s an understanding that supersedes sales.

The sales is about taking our products and service and packaging it in a way that the customer will buy it. Marketers usually and should have a more holistic and intimate view of the customer don’t you think?

Mari:

Absolutely. And I think the other role we have is the driver of needs for the client and understanding where the client is going next and the buying behaviour. If you look at some of the examples where product development benefits from marketers or market point of view and cases where organisations have not understood where the client is going to go and have failed in that space.

I think the balance is going to be understanding and making sure that all parties come together. It’s not necessarily about market led, sales following but it’s about everybody coming to the table and having those cross-functional teams which is what agile is all about.

Everybody’s point of view counts but as long as everybody works to a common goal then you get committed to the task in terms of who is going to do what and how do we get the best return on investment?

Darren:

We’ve worked with a lot of companies that have claimed that they were becoming agile or embracing agile philosophies and yet they still have traditional silos and the agility operates within the silo. It’s interesting to watch the frustration because it’s not really agile. It’s a scaled down contained version of it. Do you think agile is possible in large organisations?

Mari:

Yes, I do believe so. I have been practicing agile in the last two to three years and my passion is for agile in marketing. I look at it like any way of doing things. This comes back to the idea of old tricks or new tricks and new mindsets and what it does in large organisations is empower people to make decisions that traditionally would have been made by those who were more senior, older or had a particular office power and it gives the power and the decision-making to the team who are experts in the field.

And if you’re a new young marketer in an organisation it may be very hard to have your voice heard but agile flattens the organisational structure and gives everybody an opportunity to speak up and work to the common goal.

We’ve run quite a few agile projects, some within IBM and some also with our agency partners and the feedback has been phenomenal. The client/agency can traditionally be a master/servant kind of relationship but to actually put the titles and seniority away and look at your role in this team, why are you in this team, what is your subject matter expertise or what are you responsible for?

And then sprinting, working everyday makes people very emotionally connected to the work. That’s where we start to see results that we’ve never seen before and speed. We took a campaign to marketing in 6 weeks which traditionally would have taken 6 months.

So, it can be quite dramatic in terms of the shift in thinking, not without its challenges. It tends to work really well on a good day and on the bad days when the pressure comes in people tend to revert back to their old roles particularly in the client/agency team that I was a master for.

But I’m a big advocate. I think it’s like learning a new language; people don’t have to be fluent tomorrow, they start today. But there are some methodologies or principles that apply to marketing really well. And once you start on that journey it’s hard to go back.

Darren:

I think the application of agile processes to strategy development and executions, the area where we see it falling over is in implementation because so much of the traditional implementation of advertising/marketing collateral has always followed a very linear production process.

And to see especially agencies get their heads around the fact that we’re not going to operate in a linear approach, we’re using an agile approach. People get to input, review and share, sprint, review and test and learn, and a lot of agencies struggle with that. Are you able to break that down all the way through the process?

Mari:

It’s a really interesting question. A lot of it, in our case, had to do with developing a social contract. The social contract says up front ‘everybody’s baby is ugly so we all have to be comfortable with 30%’. That is uncomfortable for agencies because they are used to presenting work they believe is perfect.

Darren:

I love that. That is a terrific philosophy. Even getting from the 90 to 100% they spend so much time and effort just trying to do that when if you’re testing and learning you don’t need to be 100% right all the time.

Mari:

That’s part of the contract so you know it’s 30% and we talk like that now at IBM. We say this is 30% so red pen great, ugly baby, very happy for it. But it takes a bit of stamina to be able to then accept we’re all going to have varied points of view.

The other trick to share is we no longer have the luxury of relays. And the relay is somebody briefs somebody and then we brief somebody and then somebody approves somebody’s brief and then we get a response to the brief and that relay is very time consuming. I’ve banned relays and we do things together now. We sit down and we write it together so it becomes ours from the start.

Darren:

We had, more than a decade ago, an automotive company. We worked out it was 27 steps to get anything approved. 27 steps up through the organisation and back down again and if they could just shorten that to about three steps it would save them around $2.5 million in creative fees a year but they could not change. Even with that logical and well-calculated saving it was because that’s the way it’s done here.

Mari:

And that’s what we as marketers need to start breaking. I’m not suggesting that agile is the only way to break the mould of 27 approval processes or things take 6 months to take to market. There are probably other great ways that my fellow marketers can share with us. But for us as a company of our shape and size I’ve been very delighted to see how people shift their thinking and get faster and figure out ways to get stuff done quicker.

And it doesn’t necessarily mean the quality of work is compromised. In some cases the quality of work is actually higher because there is that connection with the people, that understanding that everybody’s got their kimono wide open and we will succeed together versus somebody in the team is going to take the credit for the work of the team.

Darren:

So this is about collaboration (a word that’s thrown around a lot) but collaboration is built on openness and trust between teams and working aligned to a common objective rather than pulling in different directions.

But technology has played a big role in moving organisations from these very traditional linear factory approaches to this more agile or collaborative approach.

Mari:

I’d like to think they have and that technology plays a big role in that. I think it’s also about mindsets, about thinking differently and having a growth mindset to be able to think about what are the requirements of the future.

And again I come back to this idea that marketers should be thinking 5 to 10 years ahead and then bringing back where are we today and how do we get there? And yes, technology will continue to get bigger and better and that’s o.k.

But it’s not technology alone because it’s about people who solve problems, find solutions, and creativity and problem-solving are the skills that will continue to be required even in the new world where we talk about artificial intelligence or automation in high degrees.

Darren:

Do you think that technology has sped up the pace of things happening and also removed some of the drudgery that has traditionally been part of work even in marketing so that it then creates an opportunity for this type of thinking? There’s thinking about growth rather than just doing, focusing on strategy and customer rather than executing plans?

Mari:

I think that’s part of it we have by design or default, becoming more efficient in our operating models because of technology because you don’t need the pool of typewriters writing letters to clients or whatever the case may be. We can press a button and send 5 million emails.

Darren:

All personalised and customised on the data we have on those customers.

Mari:

Exactly. So, we’re much faster at doing that but I don’t think that alone is a contributor. We also work harder than we did before. Long gone are the long lunches.

Darren:

What no martini at lunch?

Mari:

Those Fridays where people were not seen in the office and also budgets. Zero-based budgeting is no longer what you had last year and maybe take 10% off productivity gains or add 10%. We’re having to spend very wisely now so it’s about smarter marketing.

It’s about making decisions faster to make sure you’re not trying something for a year and go well that didn’t work well. You become so data driven it’s like driving a helicopter and you have to keep driving and looking, making sure you’re not hitting trees or crash landing but you’re having to constantly monitor that everything is optimised.

That’s the world that we’re in today and that’s why transformation cannot be a yearly cycle or even a 6-monthly cycle. It has to be daily now.

Darren:

But it also has to be long-term as well; a long view, short and medium view as well.

Mari:

That’s exactly right.

Darren:

How are we going to change now, in the medium term and what’s our long-term vision? That’s one of the things that concerns me, and you’re talking to the choir in a way because one of the biggest frustrations we see is first of all resources are diminishing generally. Companies that are not in double-digit growth, are not investing the way they did in marketing and sales but at the same time options are increasing almost exponentially.

And we see so many marketers caught in this trap of wanting to do everything with fewer resources. And one of the key things about strategy is the strategy doesn’t just tell you what to do, it tells you not what to do. And do you think that is also one of the big challenges for marketers with so many demands and so much pressure to do it all that sometimes strategy is not living up to expectation?

Mari:

I agree but I think the strategy can be sound but your ability to execute the strategy is not there. Then you have to go back to the strategy because I do believe that the strategy and execution need to be aligned and work hand in hand.

But sometimes when you build strategy you are assuming that you have a certain amount of budget and people and that the market you are serving or would like to serve behaves in a certain way at that particular point in time.

So even when you look at long-term strategy development it’s not something you can develop and put in a cupboard and then in 5 years’ time take a look at it. You have to be constantly balancing between that short term and long term and adjusting daily.

I don’t believe we have the luxury anymore to think of them as two different tracks. They are one journey that has multiple dimensions. I worry sometimes that people have lost sight of the longer term in the rush to see results very short-term. And we are very short-term focused nowadays.

Yes, we have the data now to be able to make decisions very quickly. For me, data is all about having and understanding the data, knowledge and wisdom based on that data. It’s not the data in itself that matters (you need the baseline and the data) but it’s actually working out what do you do with that and what decisions you make.

I have seen data that suggests paths that make no sense but I have also seen data that has absolutely proved us wrong or right. And again that comes back to managing marketing and having a sound strategy that is executed and monitored on a daily basis.

Darren:

I think part of that was the way data was described; there was this big discussion about big data. From a mathematical point of view the more data you have the big number effect makes your observations and predictions more rigorous. But the focus is on the data. It should be on the insights.

That’s why it’s exciting for me to see data visualisation as such a big growth area because billions of data points are very hard to visualise especially in marketing. You need a certain numerical view of the world but when you can see that visualised you can start to see those patterns. And the patterns are potentially where your insights come from.

I think that’s the really exciting part where data suddenly becomes more accessible to people. The number of times I’ve spoken to marketers and they go ‘oh that’s for the propeller heads, those white coat people’. I’ve never met a data scientist who wears a white coat.

That’s the exciting part; where can technology get us to the point of taking data, giving us information, insights then knowledge, then wisdom?

Mari:

That’s right and ultimately it still comes back to the client, by whatever means you get there—sometimes it’s about talking to the client. You don’t need big data pools, just ‘what do you think?’ It could be as simple as that. The challenge is personalisation at scale.

And that’s where data and technology play a role because then you can start personalising in a way that is cost effective and provides you that return on investment versus having to do one on one marketing, which none of us really have the luxury to do nor do I think it’s the ultimate goal anyway.

But personalisation at scale, doing one on one marketing for 5 million or 5,000 or 500 now that’s very powerful.

Darren:

This is where I think a lot of discussion around artificial intelligence and machine learning becomes such a great tool to actually be able to do that because you can personalise at scale but then to collect the data on how people respond to that and then be able to learn and modify that personalisation is the really interesting thing.

When you’re doing not just ten customers but a million customers you need that sort of technology to do that. I see that as the big opportunity with AI but what’s your perspective?

Mari:

Completely agree. We have started looking at AI in our events space and building personalised events journeys that start from registration or inviting people to events and then screening during registration into interest areas and then tracking the journey on site to see whether it marries with what you actually said at registration.

This is very market driven and then you can have our sellers follow up and to (without sounding too creepy) you said you were interested in blockchain but then when you turned up you actually went to the other booths so what’s that about?

Those insights that we are able to gather, and the technology is out there today in being able to understand you as a person at scale (we’re talking 500 or 600 people at our events in some cases) and then to be able to understand what your journey is, ask you along the way how you’re enjoying your journey, and then look at what the future is going to be between us and you in terms of opportunities.

And that’s really important. That’s where the marketing and sales handshake is very evident because we have a role to play upfront in the funnel and the sellers take the lead on the latter part. So we’ve really enjoyed some of the technology developments that we’ve been able to leverage and use within our own events space.

Darren:

Technology is so rewarding when you get something back from it, it either surprises you or delights or challenges you. Just to have the technology is not the solution it’s the implementation but there is always going to be this (excuse the gender bias) man and machine. There’ll always be this need for this (creepy) role that marketers and sales people will always have to play.

How do you make that experience, ensure that use of the data, the algorithm, the insight comes across as a human interaction not a creepy human interaction?

Mari:

You’re spot on and the generation after us is even smarter than we are. They were all born with a mobile phone in their hand and that is a tracking device. And that’s the futuristic thinking here. My daughters for example they already know how they’re being tracked, and they’re very smart. We still think oh that’s interesting but they already know the game.

Darren:

And they game it to their own benefit. They know how it’s going to be used. Whereas I was searching for a car (I’m thinking about buying a new car).

Mari:

I’m assuming it was a red one?

Darren:

No, it was actually silver. But it was interesting because I googled the car and then the next day an ad from the same manufacturer turned up on my Instagram and of course the app is on my phone. I searched on my phone. It has access to everything. I gave it permission to have access to everything I do on my phone. How silly am I that I got a shock that this happened? It made me feel suddenly very old.

Mari:

There is that. As we’re getting older the decision makers and the clients are getting younger. So we need to make sure that we keep our tools, techniques, and approaches sharp and ensure that we engage, whatever organisation you’re in, is in line with the values and the mission of the organisation and aligns to how the decision makers and clients want to perceive us.

And that’s a challenge because we’re going to get to a point where we know exactly what you do, and when and where and how. We’ve become very predictable I believe as human beings, as consumers and as decision makers. And the challenge and opportunity for us is to be respectful but at the same time smart in terms of being able to engage in a way that is brand enhancing or client value increasing versus the opposite.

Darren:

That takes me back to where we started here because your talk at AdTech you said, ‘what’s old is new and what’s new is old’. It is going to be that combination. We don’t want a generation of marketers that are going to learn by making all the mistakes that we made.

But likewise we need a generation of marketers that will embrace the opportunities that are being presented by the new technologies, opportunities and ways that people interact with the multitude of channels that are coming at them.

Mari:

Absolutely. If you think about medicine. Medicine is medicine but the way we go about and practice medicine is very different to what it was 100s of years ago. Marketing is not 100’s of years well you could argue.

Darren:

Marketing is the second oldest profession. Post-world war two most people assume is modern marketing.

Mari:

The principles are the same but the new mindset and ways of doing things have absolutely changed and the complexity. The challenges were always there and what we need to do is continue to be continuously monitoring and making sure our toolkit is sharp, broader and bigger and making sure we choose the right tools.

And that’s a great opportunity whether you are early in your career or a seasoned CMO, you will get left behind but it’s actually not the profession or the function; it’s the clients who will leave you behind.

Darren:

Yeah because they’re the ones leading the demand, the change.

Mari:

They are driving us.

Darren:

It’s been fascinating. Thanks for making the time. I’m really looking forward to hearing you present in AdTech in March.

Is there a speaker you’re particularly interested in listening to on the day?

 

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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