The Covid years led many organizations to finally understand just how important digital transformation was to their business future. That includes the way companies market their products and services to other firms. But now, there’s a rebalancing taking place in the advertising business, with firms merging the best of digital with the physical world of customer relationships that remains critical.
“In many ways, we are getting the opportunity to build a new model, with the starting point being Covid in defining what that is,” said Michael Park, chief marketing officer at ServiceNow, in a recent CNBC CMO Exchange interview with CNBC senior media & tech correspondent Julia Boorstin. “The classic B2B model isn’t really it,” Park said.
The role of the chief marketing officer has also changed significantly with the rise of technology including AI and data science being applied to decision making. “I’m always amazed and I am tired every day,” Park said. But the efforts he is putting in across ServiceNow, from its product teams to sales teams and up to CEO Bill McDermott, and then out into the field, have led him to some key conclusions about how to lead in marketing.
Park shared a few of his top thoughts with Boorstin.
‘Business to people squared’ marketing
Prior to Covid, Park says B2B marketing was more of a straight line from building a brand to generating leads for sales guys and having executive dinners and then through to doing deals. But use of technology and greater emphasis on digital marketing has led firms like ServiceNow to find new and better ways to reach customers through a journey, so to speak.
In today’s world, with the tech available, physical touchpoints can be combined with digital presence to create an enterprise marketing experience that is similar to consumer marketing in scale and personalization, understanding the customer and how they are deploying your technology like never before, Park said. “Business to people squared,” he called it.
AI in advertising
As digital immerses the world of marketing, it can be applied to physical events and that’s something ServiceNow learned firsthand through a series of conferences it hosts. It can capture data from event interactions and build what Park called a “digital footprint on the journey” and then apply machine learning to the data to understand commonalities. “The beauty of digital is you can do A/B testing against patterns quickly. And you can turn it into local field action,” he said.
That means its centralized digital team, broken up into regional focuses, can analyze all of the incoming data at headquarters, and then help inform the local activity in the field where marketing plans are more specific to geographies, “where they hit the dirt,” Park said, and where the company does physical engagement of accounts as well as partner marketing.
Park said the annual ServiceNow Knowledge event was broken up into four events this year across continents, and while breaking up the annual conference was “nothing progressive,” being able to show customers across continents what the company had built physically over the past two years, which they had not yet seen in person, while also giving the annual confab a digital platform, “was a wow moment.”
And it paid off for the company, Park said, with “the trailing of the digital footprint after the event” and the number of people coming back to look at demos and keynotes 35% higher than in previous years.
“Nothing beats a real conversation,” Park said. “Everyone swung to the far left when Covid hit and said, ‘wow, we don’t have enough digital,’ but now we’re finding the real pattern sits somewhere in between.”
Look outside ad industry
Park advises companies to look beyond his experience, or any advertising-specific case study, for new ideas. That means looking outside of tech to best-in-class industry practices.
When he was at Procter & Gable and working on a change in soap lines, he was on a team that studied how Formula 1 pit crews made changes during races. He has also looked to how Netflix serves up content as a great example of “all kinds of opportunities to look outside the industry on all these components.”
How to spend dollars to reach customers
Ad dollars are shifting, but Park stressed that it really comes down to audience and geography. ServiceNow recently entered the Japanese market and its original intent was to go heavy on TV, but what it found was this approach is more of a confidence builder with its own employees than the best way to engage a specific target customer in a market. Executives in Japan are part of The Golf Channel demographic and that’s where ServiceNow focused its advertising and “boom, all of a sudden, we saw results,” Park said.
While some of the lessons from the Covid years and digital transformation can be applied broadly, when it comes to specific campaigns, “It can’t be broad brushstroke,” Park said. “You need to look at each geography and buyer and that leads to the overall top-down strategy.”