How a traditional B2B business, PEXA, overcame a fear of the unknown and embraced digital transformation.
Property lawyers, financial institutions and conveyancers have used paper-based processes to settle property exchanges since the 1850s. But Property Exchange Australia (PEXA) aims to transition the entire industry to digitalise the process.
Alongside this transition, B2B marketing has also evolved and undergone wider changes. “The biggest change is obviously the technology that's available to support marketing,” says Daniel McDermott, PEXA’s former head of marketing.
While concepts such as personalisation existed decades ago, the delivery mechanism wasn't great. "You used to set these campaigns and you wouldn't know if they're working, or not for quite some period," McDermott says. "Now you have much more immediate feedback to be able to track and test – and therefore you can be iterative in your innovation. You can make much more subtle changes and always be looking for that improvement."
The martech revolution
PEXA uses Microsoft Dynamics alongside Marketo to power audience creation and lead-nurturing campaigns, and integrates community and platform data to “drive that next wave of personalisation”.
Remember when personalisation meant using someone's name in an email campaign? At PEXA, if you log on and watch a video demonstrating a new product feature, it's recorded on your community profile. You'll get a badge as recognition and reward emailed to you by Marketo. Then PEXA will suggest the next piece of content, selected using data showing past actions and comparing you with your peers and others in the market. That following message is more likely to be a perfect fit for you as an individual, and it will be sent at the right time on the right platform.
According to Harvard Business Review, personalisation can boost ROI on marketing spend five to eight times. But turning this idea into reality required change management both in marketing and the broader organisation. Monetate, a personalisation platform, found 91 per cent of senior marketers believe organisational constraints and silos make it difficult to hold anyone accountable to personalisation goals.
McDermott united departments by introducing new roles straddling marketing and IT – a martech manager and a martech analyst. “That's been important to help bridge the conversation between the idea and the marketing execution, and the marketing technology that's required to support it,” he says.
Proven steps to change management
A successful change project, however, takes more than adding a few roles. McDermott narrows down a process for CMOs to three steps: setting the vision, selling the concept and measuring against it.
“The first thing when you're trying to deliver change is to sell the end state,” McDermott says. “Not just what that innovation or change might be, but its importance for the business.”
This means focusing not on the work required or how you will put together a team, but what the change will mean for customers and the business. “If you don't have that end state in mind, it's hard to stay the course and to get people to deliver.”
The next step is to encourage innovation and experimentation. Your team should have the flexibility to explore opportunities and challenges properly. This allows junior staff to feel they can innovate; it gives them responsibility and an investment in the team's success. "They may not have the big idea at that early stage, but they can help innovate and deliver throughout the process," he says.
But McDermott adds that this environment must walk a fine line between experimentation and delivering clear, deliverable results. “I think we still talk about ‘failing fast’, but in reality most organisations don't like that,” he says. “Most senior executives have grown up in an era when failure is not an option and they've built careers on success.”
Balancing these two demands links into McDermott’s third step – measurement and refinement. Technology, he says, enables marketers to “mould and change more quickly, and adapt if needed, or double down and invest further in something that is taking off”.
Building a team of change advocates
Convincing key people across organisational levels and departments to become advocates for your vision can have a knock-on impact, building momentum internally. Those who believe in the vision feel enthused to bring energy and passion. However, the reverse is also true, and dissent needs to be quelled quickly.
“If you don't bring those people onboard, and they're a strong voice with influence across the organisation – and that doesn't necessarily mean senior – they'll undermine the project,” McDermott says. “Before you know it, every meeting you go into will feel like a battleground.”
No matter where the person sits in the organisation, the fundamentals of getting buy-in remain the same. “It's being able to take that step back and put yourself in their situation, and understand the history, what they're trying to do, why they don't see these things as important,” McDermott says.
Maybe they don’t understand the technology. Maybe they don’t believe your numbers. Perhaps they believe the change will create more work for them and aren't able to see the benefit to them. McDermott says you need to work through all of those points – listen to their concerns and make sure they feel heard, and explain your vision and how it will positively change their daily role. You may need to create prototypes, introduce more technology experts or create a model in a spreadsheet.
But first you need to understand the cause. "Otherwise,” McDermott says, “you can do all those things, and they still might not be on board.”
Change management for an evolving marketing leader
B2B marketing has undergone significant changes in recent times, with more to follow. One to note is a further reduction in sales cycles, especially with the ongoing shift towards incremental revenue models.
“I think the way we deliver our products and services overall has evolved from big-ticket sale items to the provision of services – in IT, for example, SaaS,” McDermott says. "Marketing in those sort of businesses is no longer about nurturing leads for a long time and building your nurture programs and automation around that."
This means advocates – customers that breed more customers – become an essential part of the marketing mix. “Now it's about generating a marketplace of interest,” McDermott says. “Getting people to use a product, making sure the product’s awesome, and then amplifying the success they're having quickly.”
This creates a need to focus on customer success, early and often. McDermott says B2B marketing leaders need to “unleash the inner fangirl in everybody”, regardless of who they report to. “There are a lot of different roles in organisations around digital or customer experience aligned with marketing, but not necessarily in the marketing function per se,” he says. “Once you have embedded that new way of working and a new vision, it can take on a life of its own.”
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Further reading: Cisco’s chief change officer
Photo: Abhishek Pawar on Unsplash