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Sales, marketing and technology - tackling the digital challenge


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Digital media and smart devices are now deeply embedded in our everyday lives. Sales and marketing professionals who want to reach out to customers on their own terms therefore need both a deep understanding of technology and the ability to exploit it.

Our survey of 50 sales leaders and 34 marketing executives found that the former are especially confident that they will have more control over technology in future. Collectively, sales and marketing are confident in their ability to manage technology themselves. However, they nevertheless recognise the need for collaboration with IT.

This report, sponsored by Oracle, explores how and why the two departments are taking control of technology, and features in-depth interviews with:

-Kirsty Andrew, head of sales, Cosworth
-Matteo Battaini, vice president of global marketing, Pirelli
-Thomas Brown, associate director of research and insights, Chartered Institute of Marketing


Published in: Technology, Business
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Sales, marketing and technology - tackling the digital challenge

  1. 1. Sales, marketing and technology: Tackling the digital challenge 4 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2014 Running to stand still 1 Sales and marketing were once seen as primarily intuitive pursuits. But as digital technology has permeated our personal and commercial lives, the customer relationship is now mediated by all manner of gadgets, systems and information services. Those business leaders who are charged with managing that relationship have a lot to take on board—and they can no longer rely on intuition alone. Social media, for example, is a transformational medium that is replacing broadcast media as the primary way in which customers learn about products and services. It allows customers to share their views with their peers, changing the dynamics of market sentiment. Mobile technology, meanwhile, provides them with an immediate link to brands, which they carry with them wherever they go. And the insight needed to promote products and services comes not from traditional surveys and focus groups, but from deep analysis of their behaviour across digital channels. Simply put, when it comes to marketing and selling to the digital customer, businesses are running just to stand still. It’s no surprise, then, that in a survey of senior executives in sales and marketing, conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, 50% of marketing executives and 46% of sales executives say that they believe their business processes are more reliant on technology than those of most other departments in their organisation . (The view from the IT department is more mixed. When asked which business unit they consider to be the most reliant on technology, 26% of IT executives and senior managers cite marketing above all others. However, sales come much further down the list with just 8% of the vote, above only HR.) The pace of technological change has proved extremely disruptive to most sales and marketing organisations, according to Thomas Brown, associate director of research and insights at the UK-based Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). “Greater proximity to the customer sounds great on paper, but it demands a level of attentiveness and responsiveness that they’ve never had to demonstrate before. There’s no point in starting a conversation if you then walk away and are not there to respond when a customer comes back How important is technology to your business unit’s processes? (% of respondents) Chart 1 Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit. 46% 46% 8% Sales Marketing Our business processes are more reliant on technology than those of most other departments in the organisation Our business processes are no more or less reliant on technology than those of most other departments Our business processes are less reliant on technology than those of most other departments in the organisation 50% 36% 14%
  2. 2. Sales, marketing and technology: Tackling the digital challenge 5 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2014 to you with a comment, an enquiry, an issue or a criticism.” This is just as true for business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing as it is for business- to-consumer (B2C) activities, Mr Brown adds. “I find it tiresome when businesses say that social, for example, has no place in B2B. That’s a load of nonsense: the reality is that B2B is still built on human interactions. We may not be talking about the same mass markets of the B2C world, where Unilever, for example, is speaking with an audience of millions. A B2B organisation might have only 100 buyers, but they’re not absent from these new digital channels.” Kirsty Andrew, the recently appointed head of sales at Cosworth, a UK-based engineering company, agrees. “We may sell our products through distributors, and the model we follow may be different to organisations that sell direct to customers, but our aims are the same: to develop appealing campaigns and promotions, to improve our service to customers, to have the products they want in stock when they want to buy them, to keep them coming back to us,” she says. “We’re putting more and more effort into ensuring that our interactions with customers on Twitter and Facebook are more actively managed as part of the sales and marketing process. First, it’s about responsiveness, and second, it’s about being cognisant of the fact that a dissatisfied customer can have a big impact. You never want unhappy customers, clearly, but there’s an extra dimension now, when they have an instant way to express their dissatisfaction, publicly and widely.” So which technologies are having the most impact on the way sales and marketing executives work? Mobile technology takes centre stage, topping the list with 61% of executives in both Sales Marketing Which of the following technologies, if any, are changing the way your business unit works? (% of all respondents) Chart 2 Big data Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit. Cloud computing Digital marketing E-commerce Internet of things Mobile technology Social media Software as a service Web publishing 55% 33% 20% 61% 51% 35% 33% 36% 42% 28% 61% 50% 33% 31% 42%33% 33%49%
  3. 3. Sales, marketing and technology: Tackling the digital challenge 6 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2014 sales and marketing pointing to it. For sales executives, digital marketing comes next, cited by 55% of respondents. Interestingly, it scores poorly with the marketing executives surveyed, with only 36% saying digital marketing is changing the way their business unit works. This may be because marketing professionals may associate the term with email campaigns and websites—technologies they have long had to deal with. Executives from both sales and marketing agree, however, on the impact the social media are having: they are cited by 51% of sales executives and 50% of marketing executives as a driver of change in the way they work.