Mark Wilson was named CMO at telecommunications equipment company Avaya Inc. in July 2012, after serving as VP-corporate marketing at Sybase Inc. for five years. Wilson, who was named a BtoB Top Marketer this year, shared his perspective on the current state of b-to-b marketing and his marketing plans for 2014.
BtoB: How would you describe the state of b-to-b marketing today?
There has never been a better time to be a b-to-b marketer. Marketing within b-to-b companies is becoming more strategic every year. B-to-b brands realize that marketing is a differentiator in terms of building the strength of brands and the ability to drive revenue for brands. Marketing used to be dispersed across corporate marketing, sales, field marketing, etc. In the last five years, marketing functions have begun to get consolidated. The tools at the disposal of b-to-b marketers have never been better, with Big Data and the ability to understand and target customers and engage with them in a deep way. Whether you listen to IDC, Gartner, Forrester or McKinsey, 40% to 70% of the buyer's journey happens before a buyer ever talks to a human being, and marketing is at the wheelhouse in driving engagement at the early stages of the funnel.
BtoB: Is it an exciting or scary time to be a CMO?
I think it's all great. There is more visibility for marketing as there is more visibility among the executive committee and the CEO. There is a need to more clearly articulate the ROI of marketing, and now we have better tools than ever before. The rapid change of technology is so exciting. It is a huge opportunity if you can figure out that technology faster than the competition and know how to use it to get that benefit relevant to your competition. Eventually everyone catches up, but if you know how to drive it into the organization and take advantage of it, all this technological innovation is awesome. You can't get distracted. Pick the things you will go with, place your bets and make sure it's executed well.
BtoB: Where are you placing your bets?
A lot of different bets. Some are related to technology, some not. One way is there are “moments of truth” that a brand has with a customer that reshape how the customer thinks about the brand. There are only a few moments of truth you get—it varies for all businesses. It may be the first sales meeting, a visit to an executive briefing center or the first time someone comes to your website. You really have an opportunity to shape how they think of your brand. Pick a small number—three or four moments of truth people have with your brand—and make sure you deliver an amazing experience.
One of the best bets is around Big Data. This ties to the most pervasive b-to-b trend that will happen in our lifetime, which is the digitization of human culture. That trend is the thing that affects our entire lives. When you digitize human culture, you're able to understand patterns in terms of what people are looking for and the ability to target based on digital body language based on what they're doing on the Web.
BtoB: What are the greatest challenges facing CMOs today?
As a CMO, you need to work across so many different teams in the organization, and you have to be in lockstep with sales. You also need to be in lockstep with the business units and the people developing products, people in the finance organization, and be in lockstep with the CEO in terms of how you're delivering on the mission. The number of people you have to be in sync with makes it a much more complicated thing. You need to clearly articulate the value marketing brings to an organization. If they have an additional dollar to spend, why should it be spent on marketing?
BtoB: Where will you invest your marketing dollars next year?
We want to increase in terms of the moments of truth. When we lock on those moments of truth, you'll see more investment there. Definitely we're looking to increase our investment in advertising. We will increase online, digital and improvements to the Web experience, and increase our investment in Big Data and Big Data targeting. We will increase our investment in our customer analytics that drive our offers and more in how we better understand what our market needs and how we drive the offers we create. We will increase our investment in executive briefing centers.
BtoB: What are your top marketing priorities for next year?
No. 1—Define and deliver segmented offers into the market. Know our customers, segment, create value propositions that are unique to the segment and bring offers and the value proposition to the market.
No. 2—Amplify our awareness through a whole variety of tactics to increase awareness, consideration and preference for the Avaya brand.
No. 3—Increase our pipeline. Identify all projects that are relevant to us to give to our account managers and partners.
No. 4—Help our account managers and partners close business by giving them great assets—comparison calculators, competitive labs, etc.
No. 5—Make sure we overdeliver on the moments of truth that people have with our brand. If we can do that, we will do quite well.