Keith Pigues, senior VP-CMO at Ply Gem Industries, is the outgoing chairman of the Business Marketing Association.
When he took over as chairman last year, Pigues identified several challenges facing the b-to-b marketing industry, most involving the need for more strategic and analytic capabilities.
In the following interview with BtoB, Pigues talks about how marketers are performing in today's challenging times, the evolving role of creative in b-to-b marketing and how marketers are positioned for the future.
BtoB: How is b-to-b creative changing?
Pigues: B-to-b creative is continually transforming from product or service functionality messages to more emotional messages that better connect with buyers. B-to-b creative, among some companies, is becoming more edgy. I believe this is driven by the desire to break through the communications clutter. However, there is a danger that the more edgy creative may break through the clutter yet not accomplish the desired objective of the campaign. Creative should be remembered for the right reason.
BtoB: How do you work with your agency partners to develop successful integrated campaigns?
Pigues: The key to working successfully with agency partners to develop successful campaigns is to begin with sound marketing strategy. We spend considerable time with the agency immersing them in our business and marketing strategy. It's also important to continually challenge the agency during every phase of the creative process to perform a strategy check, asking ... “Help me understand how this will accomplish the strategy and business objectives.”
We evaluate each potential element of the integrated campaign, assessing its role in helping to move prospective buyers through the buying process. The appropriate weight must be placed on the elements of the integrated campaign to address the specific market challenge faced, to ensure we are not executing something that is “cool” that will not deliver the desired business results.
BtoB: Coming into this term as BMA chairman, you identified three priorities for b-to-b marketers: Playing a more important role in the financial success of their companies; developing more strategic and analytic capabilities; and being accountable for delivering measurable performance. How are marketers doing in these areas today?
Pigues: First, these issues continue to be the most pressing for b-to-b marketers. Marketers are making progress in each of these areas. However, many marketing organizations are in the early stages of addressing these issues.
A real bright spot is that more CEOs and boards are realizing the significant contribution marketing can make to the long-term success and valuation of the company, in addition to the short-term revenue growth and margin expansion results.
This is resulting in expanded roles for some senior marketing leaders. Now, the capabilities and talent must continue to improve to consistently deliver the results.
BtoB: What were the greatest challenges facing the business marketing industry over the past year?
Pigues: The most significant challenge facing the business marketing industry over the past year has been contributing additional measurable financial value to companies during an incredibly tough economic environment, with fewer resources. Additionally, the industry faced the challenge of continuing to build new capabilities to accelerate profitable top-line growth in the future.
BtoB: What types of capabilities?
Pigues: These capabilities are categorized by strategic areas for marketing and include: growth strategies, such as new opportunities for organic growth; customer strategies, such as creating customer value and relationship-building; brand, such as managing the brand portfolio; organization, such as integration of sales and marketing; and marketing communications, such as online marketing.
BtoB: How did the BMA address these challenges over the past year?
Pigues: The BMA addressed these challenges over the past year by continuing to provide support to marketers in the key areas identified by the association's strategic plan two years ago. We were well-prepared for these challenges, and we simply stayed the course.
The BMA continued to address the key areas of opportunity and challenge for b-to-b marketers by launching the “Business Marketer” newsletter, which helps marketers understand and address the critical areas of marketing success and gain access to proven approaches and tools to help them increase the impact of marketing in their companies.
During the past year, “Business Marketer” addressed some key challenges, such as marketers' role evolving beyond communications; green marketing influence and metrics; leading b-to-b growth strategies; improving sales pricing; social networks in b-to-b; new customer metrics; keys of successful marketing operations; and search optimization.
The BMA continued to provide professional development resources to help marketers build additional skills. The BMA held its most valuable and successful conference in recent years, with experienced speakers and panelists sharing proven strategies and plans that are transferable to other industries. The BMA also launched new professional courses addressing critical topics such as pricing and effective marketing strategy.
The BMA also continued to facilitate connections among the global b-to-b marketing community, launching a new online member-only tool to help marketers connect with other marketers facing similar challenges to gain access to best practices.
BtoB: What do you consider to be your major accomplishments over the past year?
Pigues: The most significant accomplishment over the past year is continuing the growth of the BMA during tough economic times. Despite the growth challenges faced by professional associations, the BMA has continued sustained growth in membership, offerings to our members and financial resources. We have also made significant improvements in the association management and operations, while continuing to strengthen our board of directors.
Our membership growth continued—we achieved double-digit growth for the second consecutive year, and we continued to increase the percentage of members in corporate marketing roles, while continuing to retain and attract members from agencies and other marketing services providers.
We also expanded the number of local chapters, launching a new chapter in the strategic Phoenix market in the past year. We plan to launch one to two additional chapters in the coming year.
Our membership growth and successful programming have provided additional financial resources to support future growth.
We significantly improved the association operations over the past year by bringing aboard an association management company, along with a new executive director [Pat Farrey], along with additional association management staff.
BtoB: How is the business marketing industry positioned to meet upcoming challenges?
Pigues: The business marketing industry is positioned very well to meet the current and future challenges. Companies are increasingly looking to marketing to drive or guide the strategic growth initiatives and deliver measurable financial results from marketing investments.
Marketers are continuing to improve their abilities to deliver on these expectations. The future for b-to-b marketing is bright—there is no more exciting and rewarding place to be during the next decade. M