By Jim Preston, VP EMEA, Showpad
In 2004, the Leading Edge Forum coined the term ‘consumerisation of IT’, defining a trend in usability and customer experience that would be confirmed by the launch of the iPhone three years later. Long gone are the days of trawling through esoteric and poorly-written manuals, the trend said – if technology isn’t usable off the bat, it’s out of the question.
This trend gradually permeated all of IT, before making its way through customer and buyer experiences, regardless of sector. In fact, research has shown that a staggering 81% of B2B buyers purchase based on the buying experience alone, well ahead of either price or product. Of course, price and product are important, but with markets becoming increasingly commoditised, buyer experience, including the trust and relationships that are built, is fast becoming central to the equation.
However, this experience begins long before a customer meets with a salesperson, hits send on an enquiry email, or calls the sales team. According to studies, B2B buyers will spend an average of 20 hours doing research before they contact someone in sales – and if they’re not finding your content online, you can be sure that they’re finding your competitor’s content.
In short, this means that your marketing strategy needs to be much broader than just a Gantt chart of campaigns – a real marketing strategy encompasses all aspects of the customer experience, before, during and after a sale. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Regtech, payment processing or retail banking, it must be easy (and even pleasant) to find, understand and engage with your content and brand.
Where to begin
Sun Tzu wisely said, ‘know yourself and know the enemy’, and the same is absolutely true for your marketing strategy. Providing a good customer experience and consequently, good marketing, is impossible if you don’t know the market that you’re serving.
For example, if you’re in Regtech, make sure you know the exact ins and outs of the compliance headaches that you’re solving. Regulation is highly nuanced and will vary from country to country and sector to sector – so make sure you understand what problem your company solves and for whom! Regtech often relies on algorithms and big data to make life easier, which isn’t always easy to communicate clearly. Consequently, it’s worth spending time immersing yourself from the outset and fighting through the jargon until you’ve got it clear, so that you can brief teams and create marketing content that will really resonate rather than repel.
Similarly, if you’re working for a business bank, know the particular kind of businesses that you’re targeting – do they work in one country or multiple countries? Are they in particular vertical markets, or are they a generalist? What pressures are they facing at the moment?
Once you have a good understanding of your prospects, how they’re segmented, their challenges and how they work, as well as the respective strengths and focus areas of your own brand, you need a few more things – content, the means of communicating that content, and the means of measuring the success or failure of that content.
Clearly, if we were talking about historic marketing, we’d limit this discussion to just direct mail or events, but today, it needs to encompass all of that, as well as ongoing content that goes to existing customers – and even former customers! This means communicating better with teams like sales, customer success and product development. In fact, there is anecdotal evidence of companies pausing outbound campaigns to focus purely on marketing to current customers, in an effort to delight and retain during the pandemic.
This article won’t go into detail about how to draw up content at a tactical level – this is different for every single organisation – but there are a few very pertinent elements that apply to all companies.
The components of a great connected marketing strategy
First and foremost, don’t do less well, do less, well. Every buyer is almost drowning in content today. Producing infrequent but regular content that is excellent – whether that means being surprising, informative, thought-provoking or just plain useful – is much more appreciated than weekly drivel. In fact, research suggests that buyers often feel overwhelmed when presented with more than five pieces of content, so less is definitely more. Quality content is good for your brand equity, and it keeps you engaged with prospects.
Closely aligned to quality is specificity. In many financial areas, products are strictly controlled and how they are sold and advertised can differ or be limited by regulation. Consequently, it’s important to have a way of segmenting which marketing content goes to which audience – and ensure that this is consistent across your organisation!
Secondly, have analytics in place that can show what content is being consumed. As John Wanamaker said, “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half” – and the same is true for marketing. You wouldn’t run an event and not solicit feedback, so don’t create content where you can’t measure its success once it’s been distributed. Being able to tell other teams which content is working really well also helps them – and not just by bringing in new customers. If you can tell the sales team that prospects were really engaged with a webinar on the ePrivacy directive, for example, then that also gives them a conversation starter for their next interaction with a prospect.
Similarly, getting feedback from broader teams is important, either to reinforce that you’re taking the right marketing approach, or to use their insights to fuel your next marketing campaign. Most large organisations will store and generate a large amount of data every single day, so mining this data to create meaningful insights and translating that into content and approaches that are impactful is extremely important.
Finally, unless you’re working in a startup, you’re probably not going it alone, so you also need mechanisms to make sure that the content is being communicated and followed-up effectively by all members of the team. This means that tracking what’s been distributed, how it’s been received, as well as providing good training, coaching and performance management of staff, is key.
This also ensures that you can not only do more of what’s been working, but that you can improve things that aren’t. In some ways, it doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with an underperforming marketing asset or a member of staff – either way, you need to change something and then make sure that it’s improved!
Into the Future
With most western economies drawing a large proportion of their revenue from the service sector (in Germany, for example, this figure stands at around 70%, with the UK at 80%) it’s unsurprising that experience, above price and product, has become a central differentiator. It may have been slower to permeate through B2B organisations in the financial services sector, compared to B2C firms and retail banks, but as budgets tighten through the pandemic and recession, it’s crucial that marketers step up to take on the mantle of being experience champions.
Clearly, this will manifest itself in different ways, but whether it’s better enabling the sales team by producing highly specific content for one prospect, helping a CSM promote a product change because of customer feedback, or simply promoting a new service, the central tenet holds: experience has never been more important.
Three Predictions for the City of London in 2021
By Bob Santella, Chief Executive Officer, IPC
If CIOs in the City of London were asked at the beginning of 2020 about their biggest concerns for the coming year, they likely would have answered: regulation, followed closely by operational efficiency improvements and the challenges of adopting new technologies. These issues undoubtedly remain important for 2021, but the post-pandemic city now has very different priorities. These three in particular stand out:
Remote working is here to stay
While most firms adapted quickly to the new working environment, ad hoc solutions must be transitioned to permanent arrangements. Given the challenges involved in reorganising office space, plus the sheer logistical constraints associated with scheduling facility access, there will be many employees who will simply have to stay in their current remote working environments for an extended period of time.
In order to foster collaborative working environments that maintain required standards of security over the long term, firms will need to invest in more collaboration tools. Currently, virtual conferencing software allows for limited forms of collaboration, such as screen sharing. The City of London will need more, and better, ways of creating shared online workspaces for employees – for instance, virtual whiteboards. Development and cultivation of client relationships will also require new and innovative ways of hosting fully participatory events online, above and beyond the passive consumption of online webinars and content.
The City will fully embrace the cloud
Speaking of collaborative technologies, cloud adoption and the use of “software as a service” can facilitate better scalability and resilience, not only from a technology perspective, but also in terms of the ability to quickly connect to new markets for price discovery and execution.
The ability to leverage cloud technology, and a cloud-based community of market participants, is a key differentiator for any firm. With cloud deployments of in-house systems, firms can rapidly scale up resources to support high volumes and throughput without impacting their latencies and can then scale down these resources when they are no longer needed. This effectively creates unlimited headroom for any trading system, at a variable cost — a concept previously unimaginable. Cloud-based providers of services such as market data and exchange connectivity have been able to offer their clients rapid access to new markets, with no new technology deployment required beyond configuration. This is essential at a time when technology teams are working remotely and under constrained circumstances, and deployment windows are minimal and high-risk.
Lastly, participants in cloud-based networked communities can easily connect directly to each other. Given the demonstrable benefits experienced during the crisis by those already on the cloud, it’s clear that acceleration of cloud adoption will be high on the technology spending agenda for many firms.
Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), as well as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), will also play a more significant part in our financial market’s infrastructure going forward.
AI and ML platforms are informing better decision-making in often volatile, fast-moving markets by analysing huge amounts of data and information in a matter of seconds. The ability to augment the judgment of human beings, and to better react to volatile market conditions, is critical under current conditions.
For example, market surveillance is a mammoth undertaking for most firms. Data comes from many sources and exists in many formats: trading systems, chat transcripts and voice recordings. This is where the use of AI/ML techniques can have a transformative impact. AI-driven Natural Language Processing enables voice data to be automatically transcribed and digitised, and then processed in a standard format alongside other electronic communications. Firms can also supplement and make more effective use of their supervision and surveillance teams and allocate their time to higher value activities.
Meanwhile, DLT sits at the core of these systems. DLT integration into existing infrastructure is going to be a crucial requirement for firms wishing to benefit from these massive efficiency improvements. It’s not just about integration, though – to fully leverage the wider capabilities offered by DLT, such as real-time settlement, firms need to start thinking now about the wider changes to their infrastructure that will be required to support increased digitisation.
In summary, as we look to 2021 budgets and beyond, technology investment will need to be deployed in the three above areas by firms wishing to maintain a competitive edge. Remote work, cloud computing and next-generation technologies like AI and DLT support the growing demand for automation in the City of London. CIOs will look to these technologies as drivers of operational efficiency, a means of better managing organisational risk, and as solutions for reducing dependency on large office environments.
France’s Carrefour does not see Casino as an acquisition target
PARIS (Reuters) – Carrefour, Europe’s largest food retailer, does not see major acquisition opportunities in France and does not view smaller domestic peer Casino as a possible target, Carrefour Chief Executive Alexandre Bompard said on Monday.
“We do not see opportunities to strengthen ourselves in France. There is no Casino topic and there is no topic of massive acquisitions in France,” Bompard told BFM television.
Carrefour said last week it was “highly confident” it could accelerate its turnaround even without a merger with Canadian suitor Alimentation Couche-Tard.
“The Couche-Tard episode is behind us. The page has been turned. We are back on the offensive and we will continue to develop,” Bompard also told BFM on Monday
The deal with Couche-Tard, worth close to $20 billion, was killed off by French ministers who said the food retail sector was of strategic national importance.
“Carrefour is a magnificent company but not a ‘sovereign’ company. No-one can believe that the sovereignty of France hinges on the retail sector. Pharma, defence, these are sovereignty sectors but not retail. This argument is not the right one,” Bompard added.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; editing by Jason Neely)
British Airways owner IAG boosts liquidity by 2.45 billion pounds
LONDON (Reuters) – British Airways owner IAG raised total liquidity by 2.45 billion pounds ($3.4 billion), through a loan and deferred pension contributions, and said it continued to explore other debt opportunities to improve its finances.
IAG said that in order to clinch the deferral of 450 million pounds worth of pension deficit contributions due between October 2020 and September 2021, BA agreed not to pay any dividends to parent company IAG before the end of 2023.
Like all airlines, IAG has been burning through cash after close to a 12-month period with minimal revenues. It scrapped its dividend last April, and then in October raised 2.74 billion euros from shareholders to help it survive.
Countries around the world have tightened travel restrictions over the last two months in response to new variants of the coronavirus and it is unclear when travel will restart, putting further pressure on airline finances.
“In addition to these arrangements, IAG continues to explore other debt initiatives to improve further its liquidity,” said IAG, which also owns the airlines Iberia and Vueling in Spain and Ireland’s Aer Lingus, in a statement on Monday.
BA said it reached final agreement for a new 2 billion pound loan 5-year loan, which is partially guaranteed by Britain through its UK Export Finance unit, and would draw down the facility by the end of this month.
That facility was secured in December and also includes restrictions on BA making dividend payments to IAG.
Pension trustees also agreed to BA deferring monthly contributions of 37.5 million pounds, in a deal which included putting up property assets as security, and a suspension of dividends to parent company IAG until the end of 2023.
BA is IAG’s biggest and most profitable airline and the pause in dividends from it means it could be years before IAG shareholders see payments again.
That is unlikely to be a surprise for shareholders, given new debts taken on by the airline group, and the fact that travel is not expected to reach 2019 levels until 2024.
($1 = 0.7148 pounds)
(Reporting by Sarah Young, editing by Estelle Shirbon)
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