Communicating change, engagement and relationships, B2B style

Business to business (B2B) marketing may want to be like business to consumer (B2C) marketing, but the cold hard reality is that its highly complex engagement with its customers may not allow such a transformation.

Yet B2B marketers like Robin Matlock, chief marketing officer, VMware are trying to transform B2B marketing by focusing on customer engagement, rather than pipeline.

“That’s the old model [pipeline], demand generation, what’s my response rate, what opportunities can I connect to a marketing activity,” Matlock told The Drum.

“In the B2B world it’s more complicated than that, your sales team engages with the customer, your partner engages with the customer, they come to your website, they download your app, they’re clicking and engaging on many new things. What we’re doing is focusing on measuring engagements and correlating engagements to business growth,” she added.

This resulted in building an engagement score, scoring the kinds of engagement which are productive and valuable.

“We are coming up with metrics and KPIs to measure that, holding targets for marketers saying, what I want you to do is drive collectively engagement with our customer, who are consuming our content, having a positive experience with us and correlate that with business growth,” said Matlock.

Marketing events still worth its salt?

The advent of content marketing, with flashy graphics and informative videos and articles, one might think that marketing events and roadshows might be going out the window for B2B marketers. However, Matlock believes there are still roles to play for these events.

“What we try to accomplish for customers is about building relationships and it's bi-directional. The more we can understand the challenges they’re dealing with, their priorities, their strategies, the more we can be effective with helping them along that journey,” said Matlock.

“Events like these are meant to be intimate, meant to be open and bi-directional, not just pushing information but engaging in conversation that’s relevant to their particular business, and then both parties get something out of that experience,” she added.

Such events have to be measured not in solutions or products sold but in the experience of the customers according to Matlock.

“The networking opportunities, the level of engagement they [customers] get with us or our partners. We have senior executives who are able to build relationships at the right levels of the company.”

She continued: “These also bring networking opportunities for them [customers], as part of the value of coming to an event is to talk to their peers, it’s not just about talking about the product, being able to hear their peers on stage as well.”

Communicating change

VMware has had to deal with an event most companies rarely face, an impending merger of two separate companies that would affect its ownership. When Dell announced the merger with EMC, this threw a curveball at VMware, which was caught unaware by one of its majority shareholders.

While VMware might have been caught unaware by the surprise announcement, Matlock noted that VMware’s responses have been public and vocal in reassuring both customers and shareholders.

“Not just VMware but Dell, because they [customers and shareholders] wanted to hear a consistent message, make sure that Pat [VMware ceo] and Michael Dell are consistent, particularly on how this was going to work, and how it will impact them,” said Matlock.

“They also are looking for behaviours, do they see any change in our behaviour in the marketplace, now we are a year into this, it is not brand new. I think VMware and Dell-EMC are extremely consistent,” she added.

Customers have come to expect more integrated solutions across the Dell network, and VMware’s behaviour has backed that up, Matlock claimed.

“They expect that the products are going to work well together, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a choice to choose other options, and that is close to VMware’s heart, we believe in empowering our customers in their choices,” said Matlock.

“Our behaviour has backed that up… none of that has changed under Dell or new ownership,” she added.