Ten things we learned at the APAC B2B Marketing Leaders Forum

APAC Marketing Leaders Forum
With brands more eager than ever to stand out from the crowd, we attended APAC's largest B2B marketing conference in Sydney to hear what industry leaders are saying about marketing, leadership, and industry innovation.

1. Some organisations have been able to use the pandemic to bring about much-needed change

  • Annabel Ausmus, Global CMO of Corporate Travel Management (CTM), said that tech and AI have been hugely important to get through the upheaval of the pandemic, and they will continue to focus on it.
  • CTM went from digital campaigns to crisis comms during last year, with lots of cross-training required. Marketing was highly aligned with the technology roadmap.
  • In spite of constrained budgets, CTM is undergoing system integrations to increase personalisation, use data better, and understand customer journeys.
  • The pandemic has taught her to be less afraid to make bold decisions.
  • Liz Towler, GM Marketing at ASX, was thrilled to invest into SMS alerts and short sharp live blogs allowing them to communicate to their customers frequently and share much needed updates about the market.
  • Their stock exchange listing ceremonies could no longer take place at their office, but they recognised the significance of this event and swiftly figured out a way to make the listing day special to their customers. Their Business Development Manager took the bell that companies ring upon getting listed on ASX, drove it to their customers, which saw multiple ceremonies take place in the comfort of the lounge rooms of the executives.

 

2. By not being able to do F2F sales, many brands turned to marketing and branding

  • For Karen Negus, Managing Director, ANZ Service Provider organisation at ‎Cisco, the digitisation process has been on steroids. When it comes to marketing, she recognised the importance of “talking the language of the outcome” to get attention from the business and be trusted to make a difference. Besides, marketing and sales pipelines need to be joined at the hip, they need to work hand in hand to power successful growth of the organisation.
  • Amit Yadav, ANZ Chief Commercial & Marketing Officer, GE Healthcare, said that the firm’s focus has shifted to three areas – growing their bottom line, improving customer journey and giving more value to customers.

 

3. Effective leadership and problem solving is as important as ever

  • Suzana Ristevski, CMO of NAB, said that you can never fix everything at once — there are always trade-offs, especially in large enterprises with manual entangled processes.
  • She encouraged people to call out the wrong stuff all the time, speak up, and follow your gut.
  • Her recommendation for figuring out what’s most important in your role is to think, ‘if someone took your job tomorrow, what’s the first thing they would change?’ — and then change that now.
  • Kendra Banks, Managing Director ANZ at Seek, learned from her previous manager the importance of asking better questions, even when things presented to you look great on paper.
  • Mark Renshaw, CMO at SiteMinder, added that you have to learn how and when to feed ideas to the team as there’s only that many they can work on at once.
  • Lisa Henderson, Managing Director at Aon Affinity, learned early on the importance of getting in front of decision makers and talking their language to advance your career. If you want a seat at the table, get some exposure to the board, and in her instance she got it by leading the production of the annual report of the company.

“To figure out what’s most important in your role ask yourself ‘If someone took my job tomorrow, what’s the first thing they would change?’ Then change that now.”

Suzana Ristevski, CMO of NAB.

4. Obtaining data to segment customers is critical

  • SiteMinder CMO, Mark Renshaw, said that small hotels stayed the most nimble and innovative during the pandemic.
  • He believes in a ‘what if’ over a ‘business as usual’ mindset, stating that BAU shuts down creativity.
  • Collecting data upon getting customers signed up allows brands to segment their audience and understand them better.

 

5. Small businesses want to hear authentic stories

  • Content marketing guru, Mahlab Founder and Chair Bobbi Mahlab AM, said that when it comes to content, small businesses want to hear authentic stories from people like them.

 

6. Marketing is an investment unlocking growth, not simply an expense

  • Michelle Stewart, GM of Marketing & Digital at Device Technologies, said that CMOs tend to receive more internal autonomy if they talk about ROI and data.
  • Modern CFOs look at marketing as an investment vs an expense. They still have to account for it as an expense, but it is something that unlocks growth. Ben Arthur, CFO at Device Technologies, also advised marketers to be clear and concise when talking about ROI, incorporate assumptions in your model, show the upside and the downside, and pull data from the same area like the CFO for data integrity.

CMOs tend to receive more internal autonomy if they talk about ROI and data.

– Michelle Stewart, GM of Marketing & Digital at Device Technologies

7. There is no hard-and-fast industry norm for spending on content creation v distribution

  • Sandipan Ghosh, Head of Marketing Medium Business ANZ, Dell Technologies, said that using macro trends can give rocket fuel and additional perspective when figuring out what to communicate to customers.
  • Dell’s marketing rule-of-thumb is 20/80 — they spend 20% on content creation and 80% on distribution, promotion, and amplification — though many in the audience and other speakers advocated strongly for other models (e.g.: one CMO said that they spend more on content creation than amplification, and rely on organic channels).

 

8. Change management skills are needed in marketing

  • Jodie Sangster, CMO at IBM, said she has learned that you need to bring stakeholders on a journey. For example, you can’t just present a new brand and accept immediate approval. You need to work with your team to understand what the change means to them.

 

9. Brands need to talk their customers’ language

  • Michelle Stephenson, ANZ and APAC Marketing Director at Adobe, said that her team is closely aligned with the operational rhythm of the sales team. The tech giant takes global content and customises it to the account based on the problems they are facing and where they are at in the buying journey.
  • According to Forrester, there are 17 buyers in an enterprise. You need to speak their language and understand their motivations. If you’re a marketer marketing to other marketers, think how you will make those marketers more successful or how you’d make yourself successful. B2B marketers need to ask, how can I help you as a brand every day?

 

10. Marketing communications are moving to an on-demand model

  • Vanessa Lyons, GM of ThinkNewsBrands, said that advertising in news is still an untapped opportunity. Two-thirds of us read news before midday. And readership is high across all ages.
  • Customers don’t want to hear from us when it suits us, they want to hear from us when it suits them. She believes that in the future, brands will spend 20% of their marketing budgets on always-on brand communications.

Customers don’t want to hear from us when it suits us, they want to hear from us when it suits them.

– Vanessa Lyons, GM of ThinkNewsBrands

With a focus on rethinking the ways we market and set ourselves up for success, the APAC B2B Marketing Leaders Forum highlighted the direction in which the industry is moving.

Key issues that came up time and again included tech innovation, aligning marketing with business revenue, using data to better understand customers and allowing greater personalisation of information.

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