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Mark Wilson, VP-corporate marketing, Sybase Inc.

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Title: VP-corporate marketing
Company: Sybase Inc.
Years in current job: 2
Quote: “As a marketer in the down economy, you need to hit the hard reset. Tried and true doesn't work anymore.”

Mark Wilson, VP-corporate marketing at Sybase Inc., is proud to call himself a “frugal” marketer.

“I am frugal: I own it. I live it. I love it,” he said, while introducing himself at a conference this summer hosted by the Association of National Advertisers and BtoB.

Like other marketers struggling to survive and thrive in a down economy, Sybase has faced the challenges of budget cuts and marketing to customers that are cutting back their capital spending. “The cuts are everywhere. Whatever you're selling, customers are saying, "We're not buying; we're cutting everything,' ” Wilson said.

Wilson and his marketing team took a hard look at how to market effectively and continue to carve out market share. “As we looked at our marketing mix in this environment, we had an opportunity to look at being frugal and drive efficiencies,” he said.

Sybase cut out some programs, such as large trade shows, while bringing more marketing efforts in-house. For example, it turned an unused conference room into a video production studio, hired interns and began producing online videos at an average cost of $500 each.

The company also cut back on travel, began doing more video conferencing for worldwide meetings, incorporated much more social media into its mix and developed a new way of selling to one of its core markets—the financial services sector.

“There was a huge uproar—financial services got completely turned on its head,” Wilson said, pointing to the financial crash of last fall. “In a down market where there is a recession, you really need to change your selling methods and marketing strategies.”

So Sybase created a new method of selling to the financial services sector, which Wilson calls “provocation-based” marketing.

“We had a very compelling value proposition around risk management and risk analytics,” he said. “If you looked at capital markets at the time, they were going through huge turmoil. Instead of asking companies what keeps them up at night, we would tell them what should keep them up at night. It was a very different way of selling.”

As part of this new approach, Sybase brought in its senior leaders at the beginning of the sales cycle rather than near the end, and it focused on higher-level thought leadership events. For example, it hosted an event for its C-level customers at the New York Stock Exchange, bringing in former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan to talk about the economy and its impact on businesses. It also published a book, “The New Data Imperative,” about managing risk in capital markets, which it distributed to customers and prospects.

Along with these thought-leadership activities, Sybase launched an integrated campaign (using print, online and outdoor ads) to reach the financial services market.

“It was the most successful product launch in our history, in terms of revenue and deals, selling into one of the worst markets in the worst economic times,” Wilson said.

—K.M.

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