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How to turn small or regional marketing teams into revenue machines

Hexagon PPM’s Ljubica Radoicic on how B2B marketers can stay relevant: get business savvy and drive growth.

Digital transformation expert Ljubica Radoicic believes B2B marketers have the opportunity to be heroes within their organisations. “I think marketing is that function in business that's untapped to drive growth,” she says.

Radoicic is Marketing Director APAC for Hexagon PPM, which specialises in software solutions for the design, construction and operation of industrial facilities, particularly in the oil and gas industries. She thinks deeply about the role marketing plays in organisations, especially teams with limited resources. These may be marketing functions within small- to medium-sized businesses or regional marketing teams for global enterprises.

Radoicic says success comes when teams “reframe the conversation within a business” so they aren’t just seen as “doing” marketing. “How can our strategies and activities solve key business problems? Most of them are around growth or helping solve a particular customer problem. That's where marketers need to become not just more business savvy but sales savvy … not just sticking to their narrow scope of what they do, day to day.”

For inspiration, she says, businesses need to look at how fast-growing startups operate. “They say: how do we achieve double- or triple-digit growth? Well, one of the important levers to pull is marketing, so they invest in marketing.

“Investing in product is important but it's really marketing that's at the forefront. It helps the business crack into new markets, diversify within existing markets or expand by growing share of wallet.”

When Radoicic spoke about how to create a marketing revenue engine with limited resources at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC in Sydney in May, organisers had to raise the house-full sign. Following the presentation, she agreed to host a webinar for marketers keen to learn more.

“Marketing can’t operate in isolation. If it does, it becomes a cost centre. Maybe for some marketing teams that means going out of the comfort zone.”

What is clear, Radoicic says, is marketers everywhere face similar challenges. It’s a constant battle for budget and relevance. That's why she has spent the past five or six years developing what she calls a B2B Marketing Playbook – a guide for businesses on how marketing drives revenue. (She gives a cut-down version to those attending her presentations.)

“It’s a framework to operationalise the whole strategy,” she says. “It looks at how to deliver it while communicating internally and aligning the marketing team. It’s also about making sure the framework is clear to various stakeholders marketing works with – sales, product, service or other marketing teams within the organisation.

“Marketing is often viewed as a cost centre, so it’s expected to deliver. But if the business isn't doing great, well, you know what gets cut first.”

As a cost centre, marketers are often viewed sceptically inside organisations. It's believed marketers run campaigns and events that do little for the business bottom line and come cap in hand to management demanding significant investments for which they struggle to prove ROI.

This is why they have to begin reframing their role within organisations, she says. “Marketing can drive value through forming strategic alliances within the business, especially sales,” she says. “Marketing can’t operate in isolation. If it does, it becomes a cost centre. Maybe for some marketing teams that means going out of the comfort zone.”

How small and regional marketing teams deliver value

As well as holding a masters in marketing from Monash University, Radoicic has worked in large and small organisations with local and overseas operations. From her Sydney base, she now manages teams in Australia, Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan.

Her key insight is that marketers need to broaden their scope to be successful. Marketing has to become a strategic partner with product, service and sales, and show what needs to be done to drive value and growth. Importantly, marketers need to speak the language of business and stop talking about tactics, campaigns or events.

At the very least, marketing needs to position itself as the customer champion, she says. Regional marketing teams, in particular, can play a role as the global organisation’s “eyes and ears” by understanding and fulfilling local audience needs.

“That IP doesn’t exist at the global level,” she says. “Regional marketing teams can surface value through local market activity and localise global strategies.”

With APAC’s emerging markets providing growth potential for international B2B enterprises, Radoicic says regional marketers have to understand the importance of catering for local customers’ needs. “Maybe some global messaging will not resonate, for example, in Singapore or Indonesia because of the different market dynamics – customers vary in their needs and their drivers,” she says. “From a technology perspective, APAC is a very dynamic region with different levels of maturity.”

“It’s about delivering effective strategies, and that comes back to empowering local teams and regional leadership.”

She uses the example of the relatively slow adoption of software technology in Southeast Asia: “The attitude in many organisations is ‘why should I invest in multimillion-dollar software when labour is cheap? I can just employ 20 or 50 people to solve this problem for me, and it makes me look like a hero because we're supporting the local community and giving people jobs.’ But it's not a long-term solution.”

She says marketers need to ensure the right strategies are implemented locally and manage messages carefully. “It’s about supporting business growth in the regions rather than just saying one size fits all.”

Hexagon PPM, for instance, has shifted from a traditional marketing model – running events supplemented with global campaigns – to more local and account-based strategies. “With our more project management type of software solutions, we’re developing specific campaigns and programs that cater to the needs of those emerging markets,” she says. “That’s why we're partnering with local experts to develop more locally based campaigns.”

Radoicic says regional marketing teams need to strike a balance between the global corporate view and what resonates in local markets. “It’s about delivering effective strategies, and that comes back to empowering local teams and regional leadership.”

She believes marketers in senior regional roles must see themselves as fierce local advocates. They need to inform corporate head office of what works in their market and why it differs from other regions.

“It's critical that marketers go out there and become the voice of the customer,” she says. “One of my team’s KPIs, for example, is having at least one or two customer conversations a month. It’s about bringing those insights back into our local programs but also surfacing them for the global marketing organisation, as well as the sales, management and product teams. That’s how you develop strategies that resonate with local markets.”

Ljubica Radoicic will be speaking about this subject at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum event in Melbourne on November 19. To find out more, go to b2bmarketingleaders.com.au/melbourne.

Further reading: Why CMOs should be business leaders first, marketers second