How marketers can use data as a weapon

Lenovo Asia-Pacific CMO Nick Reynolds explains why intelligent analytics create a competitive advantage.

Dressed in the casual business attire of a modern marketer, Lenovo Asia-Pacific CMO Nick Reynolds doesn’t look like a warrior. But Reynolds, who was named as one of Australia’s most influential CMOs in LinkedIn’s 2017 Power Profiles list, has a powerful weapon and he’s happy to wield it. His weapon of choice is data.

Reynolds says that any success that comes to him or Lenovo, a technology company that sells products in more than 160 countries, is based on intelligently using data and analytics to determine its most (and least) receptive customers and maximising its sales and marketing resources.

[caption id="attachment_962" align="alignleft" width="225"]Nick Reynolds Lenovo's Nick Reynolds[/caption]

Speaking at the 2017 B2B Marketing Leaders Forum in Sydney, Reynolds says that using analytics gives marketers business leverage, and that an informed marketing approach can be used as a foundation for creating a competitive advantage.

“Basically, focus on the customer and use data as a weapon,” he says. “It’s not revolutionary, but it’s what we’ve done at Lenovo in Asia-Pacific over the past three years.”

Reynolds believes the most successful marketers know the value of analytics, and cites a 2012 study of 330 companies by MIT Sloan School of Management and McKinsey. It found that companies in the top-third of their industries that used data to drive decision-making were 5 per cent more productive and 6 per cent more profitable than their competitors. “This stuff has been calculated,” he says, “it does make a difference.”

The first thing Lenovo did was map the IT infrastructure of its customers and prospects to identify their business potential.

“It surprises me that many people don’t think about doing this,” Reynolds says. “We sized up every single company with more than 100 employees in Asia-Pacific. That’s a big job – it took a bit of time. We put it into Salesforce and mapped all of our sales into those accounts. What this gave us was the buying power [of these companies] – how much are these businesses worth [to us]?”

“Once you set up your analytics frameworks you will be able to abandon the perceived safety of instinct.”

Reynolds’ team then classified the value of each business: either small, medium or large. Against this, Lenovo measured sales performance by each account – its share of wallet. For this, they were classified as either high, medium or low value acquisition, development or retention accounts.

“That allowed us to have a very different insight into our customers and where we were spending our time and effort,” he says. “What we found out, in particular for Australia, was that 70 per cent of all the IT potential resided in only 25 per cent of companies, which is pretty amazing. We weren’t aligned that way – marketing or sales. We also realised most of our business came from a small number of retention accounts.”

Based on these insights, Lenovo reorganised its sales and marketing teams. Depending on the market, Lenovo ensured that 30-40 per cent of sales staff were focused on finding new business.

It also changed marketing’s approach. “I made sure marketing spent 40 to 50 per cent of their time – at least – on new business. We changed sales, and marketing drove this change through customer insights.”

On the back of further customer research, Lenovo put greater emphasis on content marketing: “We found 67 per cent of [businesses] said they would consider you because you’ve educated me – either directly or indirectly. We positioned Lenovo as a thought leader.”

Lenovo also developed a more thorough social selling program. “We got better pipeline [45% increase], we got bigger deals [13% larger selling price] and our reps were [51%] more likely to hit their quota,” he says.

Reynolds explains in a LinkedIn post that as analytics prove marketing investments work, they can be directly attributed to increases in revenue and profitability.

“When projecting a new company or product to market and aiming to achieve a multitude of objectives, you have to know who has real power over purchasing decisions, and who is really in the market,” he writes. “Only then does it make sense to set goals for brand awareness, revenue, market share and P&L.

“Once you set up your analytics frameworks you will be able to abandon the perceived safety of instinct. You will gain greater confidence when you can see where to win and what awaits you. It is also a decision that is easier to pitch to gain internal approvals from managers and budget controllers.”

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