In the wake of COVID-19, rules for customer engagement are changing yet again. Marketers would have to find a way to ensure that the engagements are more personalised and resonate with individual needs. In this context, Publish Industry India recently organised a virtual interactive session, ‘Sales & Marketing 4.0 – Maximising the outcome, now & further’, which addressed factors from unique opportunities as businesses shift from the crisis triage to recovering to a holistic overview of the changing rules of customer engagement.
The ‘new normal’ in sales
The session began with the guest speaker address by Ravichandran V, Head – Marketing, CASE Construction Equipment and author of the book, 7 Value Drivers for Success in Sales. “The ‘new normal’ in sales now has restricted travelling, increased competition and more,” he said and continued, “These can be converted into opportunities. For instance, for restricted travelling, we must use visually attractive flyers and crisp & short videos and leverage the power of trust & relationships. Or for increased competition, companies should gather detailed information on competition strategy, formulate farming strategies for existing customers and look out for synergetic opportunities (inter-departmental & inter-functional synergies).”
Marketing is more dynamic now
It was then time for a keynote address by Mohit Kochar, Vice President & Head – Global Marketing & Branding, KPIT. Kochar informed that marketing has become boundary less. It not only impacts customers, but also various stakeholders – and one of the most important stakeholders is talent. “Plus, marketing is now more about dynamic skill-balancing than specialisations,” he put across and went on, “Various hats have to be worn, whether it’s a research hat or going into very specific account-based marketing. Also, marketing is tech-savvy. But what is very important is that there is a plethora of solutions out there and technologies available; the key is to not lose sight of the company’s objective & one’s goal and then look at an appropriate tech solution.”
This was then followed by the Fire Side Chat on ‘Sales & marketing in the digital economy’. The chat was initiated by Anvita Pillai, Sub-Editor & Correspondent, Publish Industry India, who mentioned why sales & marketing leaders need to adjust to the new normal and understand how their organisation’s approach should be in the face of new customer habits. The speakers for the chat were Shweta Berry, Head of Strategic Alliances & Marcom, Aeris Communications; Ruchi Mathur, Head of Commercial Marketing, Rockwell Automation and Nitika Das, Head – Digital Marketing & Business Management Office, SAP. The chat revolved around several elements like, the marketplace’s shifting power dynamics – moving from traditional to digital, navigating the increasingly connected world & changing consumer landscape to reach more customers more effectively, changes needed in one’s own internal sales & marketing system to adjust to the new world changes and more.
The chat began with Shweta, who stated, “The field of marketing is shifting gears to Marketing 4.0, which is the essential marketing approach that combines online and offline interactions between companies and customers.” With this, she turned to Nitika, asking her what her observation is on the marketplace shifting power dynamics that is movement from traditional to digital platforms.
To this, Nitika responded, “The shift from traditional to digital wasn’t a choice. All of us marketers had to come to cope up very quickly to speed with the changing dynamics. Companies that were already on the digital transformation path had a faster learning than the ones who had a completely traditional mindset. The challenge is that today’s customers have less time. We need to stand out & get their attention and generate high quality experiences with them. So, the question we really need to ask ourselves is that are we sharing content and solutions that are of value to our customers and prospects in the current context, aligned with the situation at that point in time, helping them understand the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. The other question we need to ask ourselves is that are we focusing on acquisition of new customers at the expense of retention of existing ones.”
Shweta then took over and asked Ruchi about her take on the entire marketing ecosystem and how prepared these stakeholders are in this shift. Ruchi replied that a very fair assumption to be made is that enterprises were all very in the initial few steps of maturity taken as far as digital is concerned. “We have to look at what we can do innovatively. Can we really look at the business objectives in the first place? Can we look at the real need of the market? And then tread into that segment. A fair amount of mix of offline & digital and human & non-human touch, really creating and touching the needs of the market is going to create differentiation,” she said.
Be relevant to customers
After this, Ruchi took over and posed a question to Nitika, asking her what the right way is to navigate in the increasingly connected world and how do we still take care of the changing customer landscape. To this, Nitika posited that it is possible now to reach a larger audience through a virtual connect. However, personalisation poses a challenge. “The key is to be relevant to customers; going all digital requires a very strong content strategy that is aligned to the current realities. It’s about providing customers with what they are looking for at that point in time,” she remarked.
So, on that point, Nitika asked Shweta what the changes are needed in one’s own internal sales and marketing systems to adjust to the ‘new normal’ in the COVID-19 pandemic. To this, Shweta came back, “The social side of a brand needs to be coming out very well. We need to focus more on transparency, and content being the king, building communications with more real-life examples of value delivered by the brand.”
Optimising the distribution channel
Following this, the next keynote address was delivered by Amit Sethiya, Chief Marketing Officer, SYSKA Group; Super30 CMO’19. He talked about how SYSKA, as a brand, has sailed through in the last couple of months together. “It’s true that there is a lot of conversation around digital transformation, etc. happening these days. My point is that it was always around the corner, happening at its own sweet space. What has changed is that it is now completely accelerated because now, people have no choice but to go for digital transformation. While the outer world was shut, people were still engaging in lots of digital conversations, etc and because of this, one still wanted to look groomed,” he explained and continued, “And hence, there was a lot of organic demand. When we realised this full organic demand, which was just getting formed within the consumer base, we quickly ensured that we optimised our distribution channel. We also used a lot of digital channels to ensure that we created a lot of content pieces.”
It was then time for the panel discussion – ‘Sales & Marketing 4.0 – Maximising the outcome, now & further’, where the panellists discussed the changing consumer behaviours, sales & marketing shifts with technology at disposal, formulating methods to cater to the evolving customer expectations and more.
The discussion was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Chief Editor, Publish Industry India and the esteemed panellists were Ninad Deshpande, Head – Marketing & Corporate Communication, B&R Industrial Automation; Daniel Raravi, Director – Marketing & Strategic Initiatives, Mastercam India; Abhimanyu Barthwal, Country Sales Manager, Oemeta India and Praful Shende, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Bharat Fritz Werner (BFW).
Capturing opportunities in a short duration
Jitkar shot his first question at Shende and asked him what his take is on the changing customer behaviour & the changing rules of customer engagement since the past few years and now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shende elucidated, “We have been watching customers deploying a lot of online platforms & techniques to search and get information about brands & unique propositions. One more driver during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big sense of unpredictability with customers & therefore, a sense of urgency to capture opportunities in a very short duration.”
Coming to Deshpande, Jitkar put him the question that what are the new approaches to cater to evolving customer expectations and new ways of real-time engagements in the coming months & years. Deshpande opined that as a B2B marketer, one cannot remove a human out of the interactions. Digital is just the parallel world where B2B marketers are working. Chatbots and AI are currently moving up the ladder.
However, could it be possible that this will not really replace the conventional marketing channels and it will just be complimenting each other? “In a B2B market, if it’s product buying, it’s more or less easy,” averred Deshpande and went on, “But if it’s more of a solution buying, then it becomes more critical because one will have to understand their customer requirements & then offer a solution.”
Nothing like an ideal strategy
Posing his next question to Barthwal, Jitkar asked him how sales & marketing functions can be collaborated effectively so as to boost the sales function in a particular region. To this, Barthwal revealed, “There is nothing like an ideal strategy – strategy is about creating a unique position that suits one’s business objectives. With the changing times, one has to change his/her strategies and probably build digital capabilities within the marketing & sales set-up of the organisation. As for how effectively sales & marketing can collaborate, I believe that there is no scope for a ‘can’; they should collaborate, otherwise delivering the right customer value cannot be achieved. At the same time, both of them have to be very agile & adaptive to come up with solutions in the fastest possible manner because this digital age is a really fast & rapidly changing age.”
Marketing is all about storytelling
Jitkar then turned to Raravi, asking him how the next decade of the sales & marketing innovation journey would be and how channels of marketing would evolve in the years to come. To this, Raravi responded, “Marketing is all about storytelling. One will have to fuel conversations – the more one lets people ask questions, the more answers he/she will be able to give them, without which it means there is no sale. As the next decade is largely going to be content, it is going to be surrounded by examples or stories of what one’s product or solution does. For instance, case studies are here to stay as a marketing tool.” Jitkar then concluded the discussion by mentioning that we need to analyse the current situation and devise our plan of strategic marketing or sales or customer engagement, or look at how the next journey would be in terms of how we market our products and sell them.
To flourish through it all
The session showed that the move from traditional to digital wasn’t an option and some of the best practices for marketing during and after COVID-19 would be to have more dialogue and the social side of a brand needing to come out thriving. Undoubtedly, being innovative will make a huge difference and it is of crucial importance to be pertinent to customers.