After our last insightful SLC session by ex-CEO of McDonalds China, Kenneth Chan, it was now time to hear from the B2B side of things. Enter Xiaoxuan Ng, who is part of the strategic programmes and digital/branding SEA team at SAP, a German MNC specializing in enterprise software and technology solutions.
Prior to SAP, she did an internship in public relations and joined a boutique agency after her graduation, both which focused on tech-related accounts.
From the differences between B2B and B2C marketing, to why marketers need to go digital, even dishing out some advice to our beloved interns - here are some of the takeaways from her chat with us on 26th July:
1. Strengthen your core skillsets.
“A degree does not define what you do, but it does help to define your area of specialty,” said the graduate from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.
We couldn’t agree more - understanding and being able to articulate your core competencies allows the employer to understand how you are able to value-create and have a higher impact footprint to the company, compared to other potential candidates. (Interns – are you listening?)
At AKÏN, we have a well-defined onboarding curriculum for our new fresh graduate family members, developed by our talent management head, Rachel. We strongly believe in on-the-job training, coupled with with proper mentorships and a handful of coaches to accelerate a newcomer’s growth. The curriculum is often aligned to the newcomer’s area of specialty, and may require them to complete compulsory certifications developed by renowned companies (such as Facebook, Hubspot and d.school), individual departments’ side-projects, to presenting their own Pecha-kucha. This is our very own AKÏN way of strengthening core competencies, while increasing one’s potential.
2. The need for B2B companies to embrace digital.
Xiaoxuan shared that many big companies, even some large tech firms, have not fully integrated digital strategies into the larger scheme of management, resulting in significant marketing gaps. A good number of such firms still rely on physical event roadshows and traditional above-the-line methods for lead generation.
“Some B2B Marketers don’t think of digital because they don’t see the effectiveness of it,” she explained, “But it’s really how they bring it across to the clients that’s important. It’s still important for them to develop digital expertise.”
She added that the main role of a digital marketer in a B2B company is to “generate demand for it – the customers are now smart enough to understand how the product can help them, and they often cross reference with other products”.
Changing consumer behavior (and yes, Google has accelerated this) has challenged the structure of a traditional marketing funnel. The consumer buyer’s journey has evolved to be non-linear and even at times, irrational (think of your last impulse buying experience on an e-commerce website). A B2B company needs to have automated workflows in place to not only better manage pipeline leaks, but to also create a structured yet personalised nurturing process for potential leads. Automation here enables marketing efforts to be optimised and the sales team will be able to focus on leads with a higher intent to purchase.
Xiaoxuan addressing the AKÏN team at the SLC session.
3. The general differences and similiarities between B2B and B2C marketing.
B2C marketing seems more exciting to the masses as it often seeks to leverage on creativity to convince the audience of its “wow” factor, as a way to attract them. On the other hand, B2B marketing is anchored on a more rational angle: how much Return-On-Investment (ROI) can the allocated marketing budget bring to the company? There’s little emotional marketing or significant increase in brand equity here; it’s all data driven, and heavily dependent on conversions – it may seem rather limiting, but that’s only because it seeks out much more tangible returns than its generally more creative counterpart. But that’s where the differences end.
At the heart of B2B and B2C decision-making is a person – and they are all driven by different motivations. B2B buyers might be driven by emotions ranging from fear (of losing their jobs) to nonchalance (“this isn’t my money anyway”), and what we see as important for our human-to-human marketing is to address these motivations – similar to how B2C marketing works.
4. Analyse internal operations and processes before defining a lead management strategy.
When working on account-based marketing, Xiaoxuan said that it’s important to conduct “in-depth insights and to find out exactly what the company needs”, and to make recommendations based on those needs. “We need [the clients] to know that we know their business best,” she affirmed, “Because we’re the ones that can enable them to track the conversions.”
One hurdle that AKÏN faced while working with B2B companies on marketing contracts is that the marketing team is not the only team we have to interface with. We also have to work with other departments, like Sales and Customer Service. Only with a thorough understanding of the company, conducting in-depth gap analyses with other stakeholders from departments, can we fully understand the intricacy of managing potential leads. A well-constructed lead management strategy will have to consider the efficacy of implementation by various stakeholders.
5. Localisation is critical to new market penetration.
Xiaoxuan acknowledges that not all sales are dependent on marketing efforts and how established your marketing architectures are. While marketing efforts alone can provide content on customer referrals and product recommendation, the localisation of these efforts are particularly important for companies with a global presence in different markets. A sense of localisation goes a long way, and understanding your local consumers’ needs in the different markets definitely helps build credibility in the market.
“Customers across the various markets think differently from how the global headquarters would think”, as factors like culture, the economic outlook and even current affairs in that particular market would come into play. It is thus key to be updated on the localised market, for a more realistic perspective.
A shoutout to Xiaoxuan: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Through our time with you, we were able to gain a valuable perspective of the industry through the eyes of a B2B marketer.
If you are interested to continue this B2B marketing conversation, or if you might be keen on customised ladies’ shoes, reach out to Xiaoxuan via LinkedIn.
Thank you, Xiaoxuan!
The SLC (Share, Learn and Coach) Programme is part of AKÏN’s 2016 talent management and HR strategy. We champion the philosophy of enablement, and aim to help our employees’ expand on their capabilities and potential via learning opportunities and personal development. This is achieved through sharing sessions with industry leaders and domain mavericks, co-learning via MOOCs’ curriculum/WDA approved courses, and intra-team coaching. We envision for the SLC programme to help build an environment of rapid learning, that also challenges the status quo.