Senior marketing leaders at b-to-b companies shared strategies for aligning sales and marketing during tough economic times at the SiriusDecisions Summit last month in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Going against the downward trend in event attendance this year, more than 300 marketers packed the ballroom to standing room only to hear the speakers.
“There is no doubt that the last 12 months have been a very difficult 12 months,” said Richard Eldh, managing director and co-founder of SiriusDecisions, a sales and marketing consultancy. He said that among SiriusDecisions' clients, “There is a passionate focus to align sales and marketing.”
During the conference's opening session, Eldh shared 10 lessons learned from high-performing organizations, including the following: Leverage technologies that are focused on sales enablement and pipeline transparency; mandate marketing ROI; blaze a trail with social media; and close the marketing skills gap created by new technologies and requirements.
In a keynote presentation, Deborah Nelson, senior VP-marketing for Hewlett-Packard Co.'s technology solutions group, said the down economy, as well as other factors, is forcing the company to change the way it interacts with its customers and operates internally.
“The macro-economic challenges have put a lot of pressure on marketing budgets for everyone and have also put a lot of pressure on our customers' budgets. They want payback now,” she said. “Our customers are changing how they want to interact with us.”
Nelson also discussed the technology giant's recent global reorganization. Noting that HP faced several challenges—including the downturn, a shifting competitive landscape and integrating 30 companies acquired over the past four years—she said, “We decided we definitely had to change.”
HP has taken several steps to streamline itself globally, such as reducing its number of agencies (in February it named Omnicom Media Group its global media agency); executing campaigns through global teams; and more closely aligning marketing and sales through improved processes.
The company has also moved to a more global structure, organized around centers of expertise. For example, global campaign teams set priorities and the campaigns are executed by centers of expertise in each country.
“This was a huge change for us, and we have streamlined ourselves,” Nelson said.
During another keynote presentation, Buell Duncan, VP-marketing at IBM Software Group, shared IBM's acquisition and integration strategies.
Over the past six years, IBM has bought more than 100 companies and has shown no signs of downshifting its dealmaking.
“In spite of the miserable economy, in the last 18 months we have not slowed our rate of pace,” Duncan said, pointing to 16 acquisitions during that period, totaling more than $6 billion. He discussed how IBM has successfully integrated those companies into its operations, as well as the marketing challenges involved.
“One question is, "How long do you keep a brand name?' We kept Lotus and intend to keep Lotus. With Cognos, we're having a lot of debate about the long-term brand,” he said.
Duncan also talked about how the economy has affected customer expectations.
“One change we're seeing in marketing today is that customers have a business problem to solve and they are not interested in the technology,” he said. “You have to show them the business impact of deploying your solution. In these times, more than ever before, there has to be a quick ROI that happens in less than one year.”