New BMA Chairman Conrado shares strategies

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Eduardo Conrado took the reins as chairman of the Business Marketing Association last month. Conrado is senior VP-chief marketing officer at Motorola Solutions, which was spun off from Motorola Inc. last year. In the following interview with BtoB, Conrado discusses his goals for the BMA over the next year and his view of the state of b-to-b marketing. BtoB: What are your goals as chairman of the BMA? Conrado: We want to continue our momentum on growing our chapters. But more important, as we go through a major shift in b-to-b marketing, we want to use the BMA to allow marketers to share knowledge and ideas, and grow as a function within their own companies. BtoB: What is this major shift in b-to-b marketing? Conrado: The role of marketing has continued to evolve over the last few years. Traditionally, marketing was tasked with driving the top of the funnel at companies and working on stories of the brand. Over the last couple of years, I have seen the brand and the role that marketers play with the brand become more purpose-driven, which then evolves beyond customer-facing (to) internal to the company, where it links into driving employee engagement and driving the strategic direction of the company based on that purpose. From there, I've also seen—especially in the b-to-b space—changes in how we approach the market. BtoB: What are some of those changes? Conrado: If you look at the “Four Ps” of marketing that were created in the '60s, particularly on the b-to-b side, we have evolved beyond that. When you look at product, promotion, price and place, that needs to evolve. So at many b-to-b companies, product has evolved into offering a solution, based on customer needs. Then, instead of promoting individual products, you have to take a long-term view on education and thought leadership; so promotion goes to education. Then, as you move away from product launches and promoting them, the conversation moves away from a price-driven approach to a value-based conversation. And the last piece is we continue to see an evolution over time from what we call place, moving from a traditional face-to-face environment to having more interactive experiences with websites and social media. So the impact that marketers can have within their enterprise can be huge, and we have to change how we approach marketing. BtoB: What can the BMA do to help marketers address these changes? Conrado: Marketing by the textbook—those days are long gone. It is not about formal education we can use to enhance our skills from where we are right now. It almost becomes tribal learning: seeing what is going on as marketing evolves, seeing what other people are doing and taking away one or two points and looking at how does that apply to your own job or your own industry. And that is the role the BMA plays: Serving as a forum to connect thought leaders and provide a point of view; connect fellow marketers to share those experiences; and the ultimate hope is that our members walk away with better knowledge that they can apply to their own roles. BtoB: Are you planning any new initiatives or programs this year at the BMA? Conrado: The national conference is a great starting point to have a discussion on what are some of the major trends for the second half of the year and going into '13. There is a lot of relevant content from speakers that is created here. What we want to do is be able to connect those ideas and themes with events we hold at the local level with our chapters, so that we can continue the discussion throughout the rest of 2012 and into '13. BtoB: How would describe the state of b-to-b marketing overall today? Conrado: The state and opportunity for b-to-b marketing is very good. When I look at the role that b-to-b marketing can have within companies, the opportunity for marketing is huge. The role expands beyond the traditional communications role to a more strategic role within the company, across product, across sales—pretty much across all the functions. As you get into purpose, you also get into the human factor. Having said that, the need for change and the ability to change goes across organizational design, the processes we run and the tools we use that are in many cases IT-enabled, that then link up to sales tools and maybe some engineering tools. So I think the opportunity we have, and the challenge for many marketers going forward, is how do you set a strategy that maybe one or two years out that you're building and delivering every quarter? And that's where I think it will be important for us to share, as an organization, lessons learned.
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