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Kim Pedersen on how transformation pushes sales and marketing together

May 27, 2021

Maersk’s global head of sales and marketing sees combining the two functions as the key to integrated logistics.

When your business ships roughly 20 percent of the world’s merchandise, you feel the impact of a global pandemic in all kinds of ways. Maersk’s global head of sales and marketing, Kim Pedersen, has watched shipping volumes move up and down dramatically. He’s seen the traditional monthly rhythm of C-suite meetings replaced by weekly calls and daily updates. And he’s seen a massive shift in the way that his business engages with its customers.

“What actually happened was a 40 percent increase in our customer touch-points,” he says. “There was a lot of uncertainty, with customers having to accelerate or reduce the supply chain depending on whether shops were open and how eCommerce volumes were changing. This increased the need for dialogue, and made it evident that we had to accelerate our transformation strategy. In particular, it amplified the value of combining sales and marketing.”

Combining for customer-centricity

The decision to combine sales and marketing under Kim’s leadership was taken just a few months before the pandemic struck. It was driven, not by the need to respond to disruption – but by a desire to disrupt. It relates directly to a bold new vision of the type of business Maersk should be.

“We are spearheading a transformation in our industry where we’re not just asset owners with ships,” explains Kim. “We’re helping customers navigate the global supply chain. Our board meetings are no longer about whether we should buy a big vessel or a small vessel. The asset we spend our time talking about now is those 70,000 customers. We want to grow with them and steer everything by the needs of that client group. It’s not just about coming up with a product, promoting it with marketing, and then hoping sales can persuade someone to buy it.”

Kim describes this determined customer focus as, “bringing the outside in.” It’s a growth strategy that expands the scope of what Maersk does: from shipping containers port-to-port to designing nimble, tailored logistics solutions that anticipate customer needs.

“We can make the supply chain more transparent through our digital tools – and we can also bring more reliability and accountability to it,” he says. “The dialogue with our customers becomes one about creating value rather than solving problems. We train our people to wake up every morning and ask what opportunities they could create for those customers. Then we bring that back to define what our products should be. When you believe in that opportunity, customer obsession becomes a thing. It creates more energy from our people – and that’s a good place to be.”

Putting growth thinking at the heart of business strategy

As Kim explains, more and more of that energy flows through sales and marketing. Bringing the two together has positioned them at the heart of the business strategy as the repository for customer intelligence – and the team responsible for orchestrating customer experience across an increasingly personalised buyer journey.

“The combined community of sales and marketing contains our insights about our ideal customers and how we can help them grow,” says Kim. “It’s also the place where we can segment our customers and line up their touchpoints for a seamless experience. Customer behaviour is changing from separate interactions between marketing and sales, into an integrated customer journey. B2B buying behaviour is becoming B2C buying behaviour, and that’s why marketing and sales have to go hand-in-hand.”

Could we see more businesses redefining sales and marketing as a common growth engine for the business? “The senior leaders I speak to are definitely thinking about the pros and cons – and that’s if they’re not already organised this way,” says Kim. “If you’re growth-oriented as a business then it’s essential to have a one-team attitude. The expertise and the capabilities of the two functions should work hand-in-hand to find the opportunity in each case.”

Linking creativity and growth

Maersk’s strategy definitely brings out the pros of combining sales and marketing. It might also allay some fears about the cons. One argument for resisting bringing the two functions closer together is that valuable aspects of the marketing skill-set get lost along the way – like creativity, thinking big and the art of building brands. Yet Maersk’s transformation of sales and marketing has coincided with an ambitious brand campaign, Connect the World in New Ways.

The campaign centres on Disconnected, a 5-minute film in the style of a sci-fi thriller that imagines what could happen if the world were wired differently. It’s attention-grabbing – and has proven extremely effective. “It’s generated more than 150 million views and clicks on our website, and it’s something to rally around,” says Kim. “It shows again how that border between sales and marketing is disappearing. When customers see that film, visit our website and make a booking with us without any human intervention, is that sales or is that marketing? We have to learn to see these different elements together.”


business strategy
customer centricity