At GE Measurement and Control, marketing plays an important role in providing customer intelligence to the sales team. According to Chief Marketing Officer Marcelo Prado, this intelligence focuses on three key areas: market size, the competitive landscape and the needs of the customer based on their challenges.
Obtaining access to accurate customer data can be very challenging for GE because most of their products are OpEx rather than CapEx, so limited information is readily available. Prado says that in order to get more detailed views of their customers, they have open discussions with their top accounts to learn about their investment plans and where GE can help to co-develop solutions with them. He says that these open discussions help them identify areas for improvement, as well as how they can better serve their customers.
“Marketing is the foundation for these discussions, but sales, commercial operations, account executives and technology get involved as well,” he says. “Apart from these conversations, we have a number of tools that we use to obtain customer information, as well as companies that provide us with secondary research. For social data, it’s not really integrated into our system. We rely quite a bit on LinkedIn, but it’s not our primary source when we talk about customer information and account profiling.”
Another challenge to getting customer intelligence is the nature of certain companies. Large companies often have upstream departments that are very different from their downstream departments, and those with global operations often have local challenges.
“I have a marketing manager for every region, and we get market intelligence and information from all of these field marketing individuals,” he says. “The challenge is in aggregating all of this information and putting together a vision that we can act on.”
To help share this information, the company has an online share point where people can add information around certain topics, and the local leaders have a monthly call about what is happening in the marketplace to ensure that everyone is aligned and aware of what is happening specifically for certain accounts.
“Marketing is the primary stakeholder in identifying data platforms and distributing insights to sales, as well as watching the market and conveying information that we observe,” he says. “We also track very closely what’s going on with major competitors and customers, as well as gather information from the different events and trade shows that we attend to help sales make sense of the big picture.”
When it comes to multiplying relationships in key enterprise accounts, Prado says they have great relationships with their top customers’ headquarters, but when it comes down to a regional level, they often don’t have the bandwidth to build these relationships as deeply as he would like. However, he says that sales, service and support do a good job of maintaining positive relationships with their customers despite the fact that they aren’t evenly spread across the regions.
In terms of evaluating the profitability of potential key accounts, Prado says data presents a key challenge.
“One of the biggest issues we face is that it typically takes us a quarter to get the data and pull everything together, so we’re usually looking in the rearview mirror,” he says. “Also, we often sell to smaller entities that are part of a larger corporation, so there’s an issue with consolidating the data quickly. And once we sell products to a channel partner, we don’t have immediate visibility if they sell it to a major account.”
Because the company has gone through numerous acquisitions throughout the course of its growth, they also have a lot of ERPs that have not yet been integrated in their system, which would require a manual process and is further complicated by the fact that there is no single owner of customer data within the organization; it is currently shared by marketing, sales, finance and IT. However, marketing does own organizational data.
“Over the past year and a half, a small group of people in marketing that is dedicated to analytics has been working to consolidate our internal data with external data, so we run analytics and have data visualization and dashboards available for the commercial team to use,” Prado says. “Moving forward, we want to build a greater understanding of the challenges our customers are facing so that we can determine how to bring more value to them.”