Stankevicius interviews marketing experts from various industries to get a unique perspective and in-depth professional insights about the ever-changing marketing industry including important roles of advertising and public relations.
In this interview with Natalia Samoylenko who is a senior marketing manager at MARS, we will dive into her B2B marketing experiences and personal challenges she had to overcome at MARS.
You have been in the marketing industry for over a decade working in large enterprises. What are the main key learning points you could share with the audience?
As a young marketer, I always thought it’s imperative to be able to come up with great ideas in marketing, and surprisingly throughout my career, I realized that it’s not even that hard to come up with a good business idea itself if you are open for ideas and most importantly listen to people around.
I can say that the most challenging part is the execution, making the idea actually happen. Thus, effective communications within project groups and with partners is an element which brings competitive advantages to the company.
Poor execution can kill a brilliant idea, and a great performance can make a mediocre idea stunning. Therefore, knowing that for big enterprises significant development constraints lie within internal capabilities and processes was a bit of surprise for me at the beginning, but it was a very powerful step for me in the industry to learn and be able to change the performance for brands I worked with.
As you have been doing marketing for both B2C and B2B companies, could you share the main marketing differences between B2C and B2B?
A role of marketing manager is about putting customers in first and the designing customer journey. Marketing manager job is to make sure a product or a service really meets customer’s needs profitably.
The same challenges apply for B2B and B2C marketers except the end customer needs and expectations are different.
Many tend to think that B2B customers are more difficult than B2C as they are more logic oriented, decision making take longer time and the whole project would eventually cost more, but it’s not necessarily true as at the end we are all people and have the same psychological processes which a marketer should be aware of when guiding his customers through the sales pipeline.
Marketing laws and principles are as well the same but within B2B sector you have the luxury to contact clients regularly on a personal level which is a considerable advantage that companies shouldn’t ignore. While in B2C sector, there isn’t that much interaction between customers and the company which is unfortunate as effective communication can influence company’s brand significantly.
Based on my own experience nowadays I see that digitalization brings B2B and B2C marketing closer in terms of required skills and efficient practices from the employees but still there’s a lot that each sector can efficiently take and adapt from one another.
Usually, B2B companies are not too much into marketing themselves rather than doing direct sales. Do you think that branding and marketing are essential for B2B companies as well? And if so, what are the best ways to brand a B2B company?
Direct sales and direct communications with customers are powerful ways to engage, and that’s why they are used more often. However, branding is underestimated.
A good brand is about reputation and long-term relationship. B2C brands do not have loyal users and won’t anymore, but B2B still can.
I know a B2B company which was building its brand for years. All of a sudden it had its major factory destroyed by fire and all customers switched to the competitors. However, in two years when the factory was entirely rebuilt, most of the customers resorted back to their favored brand restoring almost 80% of the previous turnover within the first three months.
This was due to a strong reputation and true brand loyalty to the partner who delivers a consistently high-quality product and helps customers grow their businesses. I think, this would be impossible without a strong brand heritage.
In terms of best methods for marketing a B2B company I can’t really say because every case is different and it depends on many factors such as the marketing itself, the environment, regulations, product life cycle, available budget, targeted profitability and growth ambition of the owners, and many other factors. The answer in marketing for most of the questions is always “depends” - because it actually does.
As you are currently working at MARS, could you tell what was the biggest challenge that you faced in the company and how did you overcome it?
My biggest personal challenge was about adapting into the culture and transforming my habits of doing business. As I came from companies where all decisions were made based on written documents and official letters, MARS amazed me by its open culture.
I learned to communicate more and in an efficient way I learned to adapt to very different groups of people. The most challenging thing was to adapt to the working style of existing factory workers who had been at the company forever, and help them to improve the existing working style and overall company’s performance.
I was to bring changes to their ways of doing an everyday job. I was transforming their beloved brands and recipes, pushing for new processes and new attitudes. In the end, it all worked because my attitude was not about overcoming their resistance but about understanding and learning from their knowledge and experience, and together we made a lot of significant changes.
We launched new products that were produced on a newly installed production line while changing the ways how innovations were developed, and we also managed to set up new efficiency targets. We did many more things which were all done to improve overall company’s performance.
What recommendation could you give to international SMEs and startups for doing a better job at branding and marketing themselves?
I would recommend as a starting point to have branding in the company’s list, in the first place. As you have no second opportunity to make a first impression, proper branding is cheaper when creating from the very beginning.
Secondly, companies should admit that marketing is not only about branding - it is much more, and proper marketing manager should be able to find efficient ways of designing a product or a service, reaching the customers, setting up correct pricing, improving business model, promoting business; and if needed without an investment. There’re plenty of opportunities to do zero-budget marketing within the digital world. A good marketer should seek partnerships and come up with solutions to various business challenges that a company has.
I would also recommend entrepreneurs to have a marketing auditor at hand, who would help the owner to set up communication with agencies and freelancers, help to set up proper KPI-s, help to audit the promotional proposals and budgets, and would help to design an overall business strategy.
Keeping such a specialist within the startup is very expensive but having him or her on a part-time contract will surely improve company’s performance while maintaining low budgets.