Exclusive Interview: Douglas Bellin (Industry Lead, Cisco Systems) on B2B Marketing in Asia

  • Jaspreet

B2Bento is happy to announce the launch of our exclusive interview series where we bring you the thoughts and opinions on B2B marketing in Asia by key marketers in the Asia Pacific Region.We kick off our series with our interview with Douglas Bellin, Industry Lead for Cisco Systems in Asia Pacific.

In his interview Doug shares with us his thoughts on the state of B2B marketing in Asia, key drivers of marketing for businesses today, the top priorities of marketers in Asia, how to tap into industry ‘watering holes’ to help pursue and meet your business and marketing objectives, and much more.

Disclaimer:The views expressed in the video are the personal views of the interviewee and and do not necessarily represent the philosophy or viewpoints of their organization or clients.

Transcript of the interview:

I’m Doug Bellin. I’m the Industry Lead for Cisco Systems in Asia Pacific where I cover multiple different areas from Cisco’s perspective of our relevancy to the market place. So looking at how instead of selling a product how we can start selling better solutions with our customers and trying to get better relevancy with those customers.

Changing Face of B2B Marketing in Asia:

I think the biggest thing that B2B is changing in this year is looking back over the past 2 years. You know the past couple of years have been a little difficult for everybody and Business-to-business marketing space. So really it’s looking at what did we do correctly and what can we do a little better moving forward. You know people always look and say we did these things right but did it have a consistency of trying to hit things over and over, again and again, trying to drive things moving forward. I think that’s one of the biggest drivers that are happening out there.

Another driver that I’m seeing, kind of seeing in the market place is the drive to get closer to the customer across a bigger breadth of customers but of course doing that with less. Now that kind of goes against itself right but how do you do that? By using the technology in place. By being able to tell somebody “I’m better for you because of these reasons” or “I can do things better for these reasons for you” – but at the same time proving that by hitting 3,4,5,10,15 different customers. Could that be viral messaging? Could that be tweeting? Could that be Facebook or something in those areas? Or could it just be really trying to be a better message to that customer driving them moving forward.

Evolution of Lead Nurturing and Demand Generation:

I think part of the thing with lead nurturing and demand generation from a marketing standpoint is figuring out where the consistency hits. So a nurturing aspect could be something that could go 3,6,12 months and as we know our last year was very difficult to have something go 3,12,6 months or whatever time frame we wanted to go. People wanted an event to occur, something to happen as soon as possible from that purchase order.

The nurturing aspect is trying to say to that customer: I’m going to stick with you for a longer time frame. We’re here for you. We’re going to help drive you and drive your business and be more relevant and be more consistent in what our discussion points are going to be in those areas.

That’s one of the big things I think in the nurturing aspect that has to occur. Now how do you track that over that timeframe of 3 to 12 months -that’s the hard part; making sure that you’re consistently hitting that customer over and over and over but at the same time driving them to make those decisions as they want to move forward as well. That’s the hard part.

Demand generation.

Demand generation is really getting the messaging to those people in the format that makes sense to them. You know moving away from just saying “This is a new product. Great!” and then walking away – really trying to say in that demand generation point “This is something that’s relevant to your business in these aspects”. Try to leave the technology to the side. Try to leave “Hey this is new because of these new features or these new areas” but trying to say “this is going to help your business do what”- that thing is the pain point that people are always trying to get, trying to drive, trying to help you move forward with.

Is there a preferred medium for reaching out?

I don’t think there is a preferred medium and it’s evolving. You look in certain markets, maybe a couple of the more mature market places you can probably start doing more viral marketing, more web 2.0 type of concepts – posting things out on YouTube or Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or something in those aspects which try and hit those, maybe those micro-groups, within those bigger groups that exist out there. But in less mature markets that’s not going to be the driver. People aren’t going to be going to YouTube to find out “Hey great. They have this new solution out there.” They’re going to YouTube to hook up with their friends. You know more of those type of things in that area. That will evolve over time.

But when you look at the decision makers in the company, the CIOs, the head of a certain department or region or so on, they don’t have the time to be going out to those websites and finding those things with them. So it’s really trying to target the messaging to them or their peers because discussions start happening out there. You start seeing more and more peer discussion- people talking to each other and driving things as they move forward. You want to be part of that discussion one way or another saying “Hey we’re relevant for you for these reasons”.

Now the hard part is finding where that discussion point is – we can call them watering holes or however you want to call them. Are there watering holes out there? There’s tons of watering holes out there. Can you hit them all? No, but you want to hit a few of them to try and help develop and drive things moving forward. Could they be 3 months trial type of things? Probably the best way to do it is to try and hit a couple of those and then move forward with those.

Go where the Audience Is:

I’m not a fan of creating your own portal to drive people to it. There are so many of those portals out there that exist already. Like I said you’ve got Facebook, YouTube, you’ve got Google Buzz and all the other things that exist out there and you only have 24 hours in a day. You have to sleep a couple of hours, supposedly, you have to do all these other things to help drive that at the same time. Now if you’re trying to track Facebook, LinkedIn, Buzz, all these other things out there as well as a Cisco site, a Microsoft site, an HP site, an Oracle site, an SAP site and all these other things- how are you going to do your day-to-day job? But trying to look at more market trending areas; looking at, not an Oracle user site, but maybe a user site that’s key for your marketplace using almost an industry-type of area. An industry water hole if you want to go back into that area.

So if you’re a banker you’d be going into a banking community. Not a banking community run by a vendor but a banking community of your peers that’ll help those discussions moving forward. Where are those? There’s lots of them. What are the right ones? Tough to say but a lot of that by using that b2b discussion point to start with and building that relationship with that C-level person, with that head of a certain area you can start asking them “What do you track? Where do you go? What do you drive into?” and trying to go into those areas to build a relationship and build a long-term involvement with that customer to build their trust and to build their information and trust in you as an advisor I think is more important.

Tips and Best Practices

Asia Pacific has a huge continuum of maturity levels. You have Australia, New Zealand which might be seen as a little further ahead. You have the developing countries that are developing. Developing in their infrastructure, their usage, their thoughts but also potentially leap-frogging some of the other areas when what we are looking at and how they are doing this. So is there a best practice? I think there’s multiple best practices out there. You still need that touch with the people. That touch could be a personal video like this as an email sent out to those people saying “Hi, this is Doug. Let’s do these types of things.” And video is getting cheaper and cheaper nowadays to be able to drive and develop and push that messaging out to more people.

How personal is personal? You need to have some personalization to it but I don’t think you have to each email video has to have their name in it. But if its hitting the personal of what their business needs are and driving those business points that’s probably more important than the personalization of the masthead saying somebody’s name or somebody’s area within that. And that skipping into the developed countries and the developing countries I think will start building those best practices. And it’s that personalization, you know the mass personalization, of marketing is what people are driving to. You know let’s look at what’s happened in the mass personalization in manufacturing over the past few years. Look at Mini. You know mini car you could order a few million different combinations of that car-colour, tyre size, tyre shape, you know whatever combination of that you can do with that. You can go on Nike and order a tennis shoe with your name built into it from the factory. That’s it-mass personalization that we need to start getting into in the marketing space as well.  Understanding what the needs are and starting putting those needs into a pocket of similarities to start driving our messaging to those pockets.

Gaps to Address:

I think there’s a gap between what we’re doing in the web 2.0 world and how effective it is. We can’t forget about it. Web 2.0 I think is going to be very crucial to getting that messaging out there, to delivering that message out there in multiple different formats. Could it be video, could it be voice, could it be texts/smses or so on going to the people who want to get that messaging?

Just dropping it to the side is not the right thing. But trying the little things that are coming out, trying to integrate those as part of the plan will show that you are an innovator and a leader in that space. Are they all going to work? Probably not. I mean how many websites come up and are gone 6 months later? Lots of them. It’s really that driver to try and get that messaging in as many formats as possible to as many people as possible. You can’t do that in traditional marketing means. You can do emails out to people but with 2.1% read rate your return on investment is pretty low. But if you can post a site up where that’s going to live for a couple of months and you might get a couple of thousand people on it – probably low investment, good returns at least for building some of that long-term relationship.

What’s the Magic Sauce?

It’s really driving towards where things are going to work for different people and is social media going to be the right one for business – hard to say. Is business media or business drivers going to be the right one? I think for many people posting up their case-studies, best practices, what other people are doing in the marketplace is probably more important than going out and saying “This is what we have valid for you”. If I can take an example of one person who did one thing, that pain point, that business reason or that buzz of why we did that one thing with that customer is probably more relevant to those other customers out there than trying to market to them a particular product or a particular range to move forward with that. Being able to post that information out there is tough. Getting that information from the customer, that first one that you did that with, is the hard part, sometimes, and positioning that with the others is that magic sauce. So having that customer be that testimonial for you saying we did this for this reason and we saw this type of return on our investment, we saw this type of thing happening for us is going to be the driver and is really going to be where the wins are going to happen.

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