A B2B brand on the passage of marketing from “sales service to business engine”

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When Anoushka Elliot joined UBS Asset Management as Global Marketing Manager in January 2020, she took the lead of a “traditional” B2B marketing team, whose primary focus was to support sales.

A year and a half later, Elliot internally repositioned marketing as a key driver of business growth, regained control of the sales team’s budget, and gained the buy-in from the seniors needed to invest. in the brand over the long term.

However, in B2B brands, the journey to transform marketing from a “sales department” into a “business engine” is long and multifaceted, she warned at the IPA Global Effworks conference this week. .

Just five years before she joined UBS Asset Management, which is part of the UBS group, the marketing team reported directly to the sales team. So there was a “long-held expectation” that the role of marketing was to support short-term sales campaigns. And even though the company had an overall marketing budget, sales believed it could dictate what was spent and where.

Instead, the role of marketing has focused on developing content, delivering sales materials, and hosting events, with “pockets” of digital excellence, Elliot explained.

“There was very little understanding or awareness of the value that marketing can bring and, unsurprisingly, marketing budgets in recent years have shown a clear downward trend,” she explained.

Is B2B and B2C Marketing Really Different?

Embarking on a mission to transform the status quo, Elliot decided she needed a ‘clean’ articulation of how ‘Marketing 2.0’ would add value to the business, while demonstrating respect and understanding towards the point of view of his business colleagues.

“The team and I shared with [sales] that we knew our businesses operated in particular contexts – that of personal relationships, ”she said, acknowledging that such relationships, while“ critical ”throughout the sales cycle, were also resource intensive.

“We explained that our role as a marketer was to increase these relationships by connecting our customer journey and our data flow across online and offline channels, which makes us smarter in our marketing, helping our sales colleagues prioritize who they are best to spend. time with, and really helps increase their productivity and be a lot smarter in their conversations, ”Elliot continued. “There was clearly a win-win. “

The marketing team also made sure to explain how their tactics can add value in the area the sales team cares about most: sales campaigns.

On top of that, Elliot and his team began to change the narrative around the funnel, always calling it “the marketing and sales funnel.” They have also started sharing their metrics on a channel-by-channel basis, to increase internal awareness and recognition of marketing’s ability to drive growth.

We are seeing marketing move from a service to a business driver.

Anoushka Elliot, UBS Asset Management

Finally, Elliot engaged the sales team in the marketing process through their Social Selling program, allowing them to leverage marketing content on LinkedIn to develop their profiles.

“Basically though, we were changing our approach to marketing at UBS Asset Management,” Elliot added. “With a more clearly controlled strategy, a clear attribution and an analysis of the ROI. Be a more collaborative partner, add real insight and insight to increase collective leads and brand impact, and ultimately generate greater business value for marketing activities.

Helping sales through digital transformation

As she began the process of overhauling UBS Asset Management’s marketing function and increasing its value, Elliot began to look at the digital storefront. While all of the company’s marketing tactics were designed to attract potential customers online, its website ranked 78th out of the World’s Top 100 Asset Managers.

A redesign was therefore necessary. Launched in November, the brand’s new website will feature an updated home page, on-demand content, connectivity between thought leadership and its products, and the ability to compare products.

The Elliot team has also prioritized the development of an end-to-end target operating model for marketing, with the goal of bringing their channels together and enabling the company to generate personalized, automated and dynamic content. Ehrenberg-Bass: 95% of B2B buyers aren’t. on the market for your products

“We knew what we were doing wasn’t rocket science,” she said. “It was updating us by creating a digital experience that added significant value to the sales process through lead generation, rather than people just filling out forms and returning email addresses to us over the fence for them. sales. “

The new digital experience has also created a ‘tailored education and education experience’, which guides the user to the next best action and measures their engagement, enabling brand marketers to deliver qualified leads to the sales team as soon as they are ready for personal contact.

The team also connected the marketing and sales funnel by enabling ‘digital consolidation’ before, after and between sales interactions, providing sales managers with insight into how their customers and prospects are engaging. in the company digitally.

Gain stakeholders

UBS Asset Management also needed a clear value proposition, which would be disseminated in brand marketing activities, corporate communications and throughout the group.

The brand therefore underwent a pitching process to appoint an agency that would ‘challenge’ its thinking and help establish a ‘bold, meaningful and uncompromising value proposition’, as well as a ‘strong and compelling’ voice on the market. market to capture attention and fuel future growth.

It takes two to three years, along with an unwavering belief in the value of marketing, to create a vision, educate others, and have them join you on this journey.

Anoushka Elliot, UBS Asset Management

At the same time, Elliot has been working hard to gain stakeholder support to invest in the brand. Branding surveys conducted by the UBS Group indicated “excellent” results in its B2C activities, but B2B brand metrics needed a boost.

“In fact, we’ve never invested in a brand before at the asset management level,” said Elliot. “It was therefore an essential first, in order to reach the mental availability of our target audiences”.

However, “unsurprisingly,” the sales team was “less than thrilled” that marketing was cutting larger budgets for what they saw as centralized global marketing activities.

“I needed to win hearts and minds, and with my audience [of sales colleagues] it required hard facts and data to prove the value we were looking to achieve through our brand campaign, ”she explained.

Research conducted by the LinkedIn B2B Institute, IPA, and System1 has helped Elliot achieve this goal.

Source: UBS / Les Binet & Peter Field, 2013

Likewise, a 2013 chart by efficiency experts Les Binet and Peter Field (see above) was described by one of the UBS Asset Management C-suite members as having sparked their ‘aha’ moment, when the marketing role clicked for them and they conceded sacrificing a share of the sales activation budget to increase brand mental uptime.

“It provided the credibility that marketing needed to start changing minds,” she explained. “Needless to say, we got the buy-in for long-term investing, and our first branding campaign took place in September.”

Content, talent and sales activation

After agreeing on the brand’s value proposition, the marketing team reexamined their content strategy to ensure that the two “support each other”.

“What we found is that our existing content started too far into the sales process,” Elliot said. “Our top layer focused on investment trends, so we needed to take it up a notch. We needed to start creating hero content campaigns that could also be used for brand-level impact, rather than just supporting the next sales campaign. “

The company also worked on enhancing its marketing talent during this time, hiring new employees and creating a marketing program to bring rigor and discipline to the team.

According to Elliot, this helped the team by giving them the “credibility” they needed and by publicly demonstrating that marketing is a “professional discipline with clear technical skills.”

Finally, the brand returned to sales activation, adopting targeted digital approaches with aligned content to drive targets from hero campaigns through to investment strategy and into products.

B2B brands move from “product superiority” to customer service

When it came to measuring value, the team ended up with a “multi-faceted” dashboard, incorporating long-term brand measurement alongside real-time campaign activity.

These can be broken down into three pillars: optimizing brand awareness, improving customer engagement and increasing both market share and portfolio share.

“When put together, these three elements generate profitable growth in assets under management, which we are ultimately measured against,” Elliot added.

Recognizing that B2B’s long sales cycle makes it more difficult to accurately attribute ROI, she argued that if the team didn’t think in terms of value, they would be unable to express their effectiveness.

While admitting that the transformation is not yet perfect, Elliot believes she has given the team a “rational and solid framework” on which to measure the impact of marketing, adding that the company is already seeing results. results. Marketing has gone from “being a service to a business driver,” though Elliot admitted travel is “not for the faint of heart”.

“It takes two to three years, along with an unwavering belief in the value of marketing, to create a vision, educate others and have them join you on this journey,” she concluded.


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