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Superior performance in shaky times

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Although the world economy has been badly shaken in the past few months, marketers will continue to go about the crucial business of talking to their customers and potential customers. Smart marketing organizations—those that combine creative concepts with rigorous measurement across multiple media channels and work closely with their counterparts in sales, research and product development—will help steer their companies through these uncertain times. As our annual issue of BtoB's Best makes abundantly clear, there's no lack of either business acumen or creative genius among the leading b-to-b companies. It's no accident that nearly all the 25 Top Marketers we profile talk about their work in the context of bottom-line numbers and business objectives. Nor is it a surprise that many of our Top 25 are creating comprehensive, global marketing architectures, with an eye to better coordinating sales and marketing activities on the world stage. “Xerox [Corp.] is a very different company today than it was a few short years ago,” said Michael Mac Donald, VP-operational effectiveness at Xerox. The company is in the process of developing its first global campaign rather than rolling out campaigns tailored to geographic markets as it has in the past, he added. Likewise, in our profile of Beth Comstock, senior VP-CMO, General Electric Co., we learn that GE, a worldwide partner of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, plans to take the new enterprise sales organization that handled its huge infrastructure projects at the games to other global projects, including the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and the 2012 London Olympics. At Eastman Kodak Co., b-to-b business made up only about 30% of total revenue four years ago. Now, it accounts for about 60%. Moreover, more than two-thirds of the company's total revenue now comes from digital products, compared with less than half four years ago. “My mantra is, even if we screw up, let's do it faster,” said Jeff Hayzlett, VP-chief business development officer at Kodak. Hayzlett, who has held his post for less than a year, is also the chairman of the Business Marketing Association for the 2008-09 term. Kodak even has an internal approach built around the idea of swift action. Called FAST (for focus, accountability, simplicity and trust), it is used in marketing communications, business development and other processes. “The operating procedures we've put in place have really opened up communications and simplicity, and have enabled us to have healthy debates,” Hayzlett said. Another advocate for structural change in marketing organizations is Eduardo Conrado, corporate VP-global business and technology marketing at Motorola Inc. Prior to a restructuring that began last year, the company's marketing efforts were primarily driven by the product side. Now, within its government and enterprise units, it has specialized vertical marketing teams that handle industry segments such as municipal CIOs and hospitals. In April, Conrado's team used this approach to launch a new campaign, “Technology That's Second Nature,” created by BBDO New York and Atmosphere BBDO, New York. The effort used print, online and events, and was aimed at vertical segments within the government as well as public safety officers in communities such as police chiefs, fire chiefs and municipal CIOs. Print and online ads drove users to a “virtual city” where they could experience different Motorola products being used in simulated emergency scenarios. It comes as no surprise that the Top Marketers in this issue are accelerating their movement online. For instance, after revealing that 15% of GE's media spend is on digital, Comstock added, “In my mind, that is not enough. One of my goals is to continue to shift that spend.” For the moment, there is a great deal of experimentation online, from Motorola's “virtual city” to social media tactics embraced by Bank of America, Hobart and others. But it remains to be seen how the global economic crisis—new projections suggest conditions will not turn around in the U.S. until, at the earliest, the second half of 2009—will affect marketers' adoption of these relatively new approaches. Another question mark is how business marketers will handle an anticipated wave of business mergers in the coming year. While bolstering their own brands, are they creating contingency plans for mergers and acquisitions? Are you? Last but not least, the Best issue includes our picks of the Top 10 Brands, an exclusive club of companies selected by BtoB's editorial staff, based in part on CoreBrand's brand equity rankings and Interbrand/BusinessWeek's global brand valuations. Enjoy BtoB's Best 2008. Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business, and can be reached at ebooker@crain.com.
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