This week, Anders guested The Onlinification Pod to talk about what he thinks companies should prioritise and focus on in the coming months. We also discussed what lessons B2B companies have (or in many cases, haven't) learned from the last two years of the pandemic.
Back at the start of 2021, when this incarnation of The Onlinification Pod started, we spoke a lot about the changes the pandemic had forced us to make and how it impacted business. The pace of digitalisation increased exponentially, but there was also a concern that companies were simply waiting to get back to 'normal' as soon as they possibly could. Now that it seems like the worst months of the pandemic are drawing to a close, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the enduring changes, positive and negative, that the last two years have brought.
Anders also had some recommendations and advice about where B2B companies should focus their budget and attention this year. A slimmer, more consolidated tech stack is a major point and the need to get beyond engagement and focus on how marketing and sales activities actually contribute to the bottom line.
You can listen to this episode on the podcast platform of your choice using the links below. There's also a complete transcription of our discussion available further down if you're in a rush.
Doug Bolton: Hello Anders, welcome back to The Onlinification Pod.
Ander Björklund: Hello, Doug. I realised when I took a coffee at the coffee machine that it was a while ago that I was in the pod.
DB: Well, it was definitely the last year, at least.
AB: Yeah. And were you really the host the last time I had the honour to be here?
DB: No, I think that was Alexander. I think that was before I inherited the pod from him.
AB: What will happen now when Alexander returns? Will you really let him in?
DB: I don't know. I don't know. We'll see. I respect his contribution to the podcast, but I feel like it's been a change of hands now, kind of a coup over the last few months. But we'll see.
AB: There were some rumours last year when he was the host that he treated you like a sort of second-grade technician in the pod, was that how it felt for you?
DB: There was a bit of creative difference, but says he's been on paternity leave for a few months now, so maybe we've cooled off a little bit.
AB: We'll see and we won't look back in anger.
DB: No, good. Today, I thought we would talk about an article that you wrote earlier this year, which was called 'Marketing thoughts for 2022'. And well, it's almost March now, but I suppose you could say we're still fairly early on in 2022, so we may as well reflect a little bit more over that. But I suppose now we are a few months into 2022, and certainly, the thing we've spoken about on the pod quite a lot, the pandemic and all the digitalisation and all the rest of it, seems to be less of a factor now perhaps than it was a year ago, at least. But what do you think will be different this year compared to last year and also to 2020, which were very different years, I would say.
AB: I have to start where you started- I hate trendspotting. Like, like sort of saying this will happen in 2022, this will do this and this will happen in sales and marketing. But the reason for writing it anyway is that if I remember the article right, I bring up like two or three thoughts that I claim or presume will be important. And I think the intention is not to say I'm right or I'm wrong. The intention, if I remember them right is that I would say that there was an obvious reason why I in that article had some thoughts around ABM. I would say, if I remember that chapter right, I will not speak that much about ABM today because finally, I hear most skilled people and companies start to take away that expression, which is fine because what it's all about is whom do you want to reach, and do you reach them with the messages that answer their needs or challenges or questions? How exact are you on that? So if I remember right, that I had thoughts around ABM, then let's skip them for today.
DB: Sure. But something that we won't skip was another point in the article, one of your points about evolving the tech stack. That was an important point, but the point was not to add a bunch of new platforms and tools that you use as a company, but maybe fewer or I suppose more consolidated ones. How do you think that should evolve? What do you think needs to change at most companies?
AB: Of course, it depends. But let's take the old favourite subject - CRM. A couple of weeks ago, we had a very nice RFQ or whatever we should call it from a company who had told us, "This is the platform that we have. Can you show us best practice, how to maximize it? And can you give us advice on 'as is' and give us your recommendation?" And they told us what CRM they had been implementing, not globally, but internationally. We looked at the RFQ and we said, "We are not your partner, we are not the right partner for you because you have already done the mistake that those companies have been doing for 30 years." And they said, "Well, what do you mean? Because we asked you about the objectives of this, and the objectives were full alignment between pre-market, market and aftermarket," although they formulated it as marketing, sales and service. And we said, "With the chosen CRM, you will never be able to do this." "Yeah, but the supplier said that we can do integrations and we can do this and we can do that." And then we said, "Yes, but we are not the right partner or supplier or agency or whatever we are referred to as." I hope they appreciated it, but they will never, ever with their chosen road, get full alignment between sales, marketing and service. No possibility. So we actually gave them some recommendations, and one recommendation was; here you have a tool where we can implement everything that you wish for long-term in six to eight weeks.
AB: So without sort of giving a very straightforward answer on your question, it depends. But still, companies make the same mistake. Sales decides what CRM to have, or even management decides, someone in service implements and tests something to keep track of the service tickets or whatever they have. And then all companies are aware of the sort of eight to eight hundred logins that marketing demand to do things, and all the people involved to be able to do everything from sort of simple things like looking at the KBIs, you know, Google Analytics, to pretend to work with marketing automation or lead nurturing or whatever it is. Many have taken a sort of single solution on everything, and they still hope for an IT company to integrate everything so it becomes smooth. If I would be them, I would pick one tool that is not best-of-breed in every single discipline. I would use something that makes it as easy as possible for all internals and as relevant and personal as possible for all externals. And then you have perhaps maybe a handful of tools or ways you can go, that's sort of my general view on it when it comes to the tech stack.
DB: We spoke about this in another episode with Tobias, I remember, that lots of people get tricked by a nice, shiny new tool that I hope will solve all their problems. But the internal processes are not really in place for anything to change.
AB: Some companies do this right. I just came from a meeting which in the old language would be referred to as coaching, perhaps mentorship, where they have fully changed their way of working with sales and service. So, Stellan, our colleague, is coaching them on the service side and I'm coaching them on the sales side, and the changes that are made every day with the people that work with it are quite impressive, because they take steps every day in changing their very, very traditional way of working from before, to things where they ask account managers, or managers of service, or just individuals working to have an absolute full 360 view of everything that happens. But it's not the tool that provides it. It's their changed way of working that provides it. And sometimes they can say, "But Anders, now we're doing some manual work." Yes, that's to get intelligent, and to have sort of everything from contact data to snippets to everything else in the right place and relevant for you. Maybe in the future, tools will make an interview of a person and then adapt based on that person. But we're not there yet, that the tools interview the users and then adapt all the software to that individual. We're not there yet. Maybe we will be there someday. But today, as we have spoken about before as well, the manual work is how automated and personal it will become.
DB: There's another point, just on the topic of the new year and how things will be different this year compared to the last two years. I remember, I think it was probably around this time last year when we started the pod again, I think in 2020 we had a few episodes and then we kind of started with this version at the start of 2021. And in one of those early episodes, you said that you were concerned that companies were just dying to get back to normal to how it was before, you know, at that point, all this stuff with working from home was still relatively new, I suppose, and people were still getting used to it. And there was a concern that, you know, the leadership of big companies would just be waiting for the first possible chance they had to just turn back the clock and not learn anything from the last year or so. So now that stage that they were waiting for has kind of arrived, do you do you think people have learned very much?
AB: I think, generally speaking, without knowing, I think that employees, individuals, people have a lot of learnings. The problem is when you work in an organisation like Zooma, where most people think that all perspectives of life have become better, then you need to be aware that that is not the general thing that people think. If we go to management and decision-makers, sadly, I would say that I was right. Very few have learned anything at all. And when I hear about companies where decision-makers and management delegate the decision if people should be at work or work remotely or a mixture, to maybe someone who's a manager a bit down, then I get sad. But I think I have proved that I now can see that very few have learned anything when it comes to decision-makers and management. I think I'm brave enough to say that, while I'm also aware that people that I work closely with as customers and colleagues and suppliers and the friends that I interact a lot with, my God, they have changed their view on things, their way of working, how it is to be a parent, how it is to be a child and everything else. I had a discussion with two colleagues that are actually physically here in the office today, and I heard them, it's two of them, let's refer to them as developers. And they both spoke so much about three things - one was quality. The quality in how they perform, whether it's in pre-studies or in code. The second thing they spoke about was how much help they have given each other during this two year period. And I asked them, "What do you mean, help? You have always been working together." "Yeah, but although we physically in the office sit opposite to each other, face to face, some days now when I have been coding," one of them said, "I have actually been online with my colleague six or seven hours and both unmuted and asked each other things during the workday. That is not possible to do in the physical office because then we disturb the other people that sit next to us." But again, this story, this sort of description. I also know that we are a company where it has been functioning very well, and I would say that I also have input from companies where it hasn't been working at all. And then always, the argument comes up with friends that are decision-makers in big companies, "Yeah, but it's so easy for you and us because you are 30-, 40-ish people. And I mean, our company is 10,000 people." And then I always say, "Yeah, my company is much bigger than your company because, in your company, no manager has more than four to six people reporting to them. But in our company, those figures are much bigger. So we are a larger company than you." Typical Anders logic. I don't know if that answered your question, but sadly, most companies and decision-makers have not learned anything.
DB: And what are the consequences of that, that you see?
AB: That they lost a fantastic opportunity to go in a direction, start going in a direction, that they have been speaking about for quite a few years. Let's call it, they would modernize ways of working, structure, decision making, HR, how they'd recruit, how they interact with customers, how they get better statistics of what is worth things and what is not worth things. I'll give you one, which was a private discussion this weekend with a friend. He's second in command in a huge company, and he told me that they're going to start with events and stuff now again. And then I asked them, "How much did your turnover decrease the last two years?" "No, no. It has increased." "How much did your profit decrease the last two years?" "It has gone really well." "OK, how much will your profit increase now when you start with events again? Because obviously in the last two years you've been able to do really good results." "Yeah, but it's almost like a social thing." OK, that he had to stand for. But I don't think it's an uncommon case, it's just that he was very honest with me, because many companies that two or three years ago thought that they have had to meet people in person, they had to go to the events, they had to do this and had to do that. They haven't been able to do that for two years now. So why go back and do exactly the same activity plans as before this extraordinary but very good chance to implement changes and improvements?
DB: Mm-hmm. There was another point you mentioned in the article about getting beyond engagement, which the idea was that, you know, traditionally a marketing department focuses on downloads or page views, and sales focuses on booked meetings and service is, you know, how quickly do we resolve issues and stuff like that? But from the marketing side, you mentioned that they should kind of shift their focus away from all those traditional metrics and look a bit more at how they're actually affecting revenue. And that's always been a challenge for marketing departments and B2B companies, traditional companies. But why do you think it's more important now than it has been before?
AB: Remind me to answer the question, but I think the things we now said that you must get beyond - most companies don't have in place. Most B2B companies have not succeeded with what you mentioned. Sort of, OK, did you get more downloads? Did you get more sort of subscribers? Did you get more? And what happened then? Did they become customers? Did the existing customers who were subscribers and downloaded actually buy more? Having that said, very, very few companies can show that they even on that level, can perform. So why do I say that we must go beyond that? The reason why I put it there is to show them that when they have succeeded with doing the basic stuff which most companies haven't been able to do, then there is more to come. Uh, so it might be a bit naughty, my intention with saying you must go beyond engagement is two things - most companies are not even close to the things that I said you must go beyond. But at the same time, putting the touch that it is about relevance, it is about experience, it is about engagement. So hopefully the people and the decision-makers and influencers that read this get inspired to want to know more. I know it's a bit of sort of circling answer to you. But that was the thought behind saying you must go beyond, maybe a bit rude and maybe a bit of a circling answer, but you're the one who judges if it was understandable.
DB: I think so. I think we're used to circling answers anyway. Fantastic. Thank you. I will put a link to; he's this article we've been speaking about in the episode description. And thank you for coming back to the pod.
AB: Thank you, Doug, and where we started, we must end. I think you have our main listener behind you. You remember this American guy; he's not intrusive, but I mean, he's eager about this pod. And if I understood his SMS the other week, he doesn't miss Alexander.
DB: Ah, OK.
AB: That's at least how I interpreted it. So it might be good for you to know if sort of it's a political fight now, who will be the host. The biggest fan, it seems like you have behind you.
DB: Okay. Well, Alex, I'm sorry that you have to hear that this way. Alright, fantastic, thank you very much. We'll see you next time.