One B2B brand on shifting marketing from ‘sales service to business driver’

Transforming the perception of marketing in a B2B brand is “not for the faint hearted”, says UBS Asset Management’s Anouschka Elliott, but an unwavering belief in marketing’s value makes a big difference.

When Anouschka Elliott joined UBS Asset Management as global head of marketing in January 2020, she took over the helm of a “traditional” B2B marketing team, the primary purpose of which was to support sales.

A year and a half later, Elliott has internally repositioned marketing as a key driver of business growth, wrestled control of the budget back from the sales team and secured the senior buy-in necessary to invest in the brand over the long term.

However, in B2B brands the journey to transform marketing from a “sales service” to a “business driver” is long and multi-faceted, she warned at the IPA’s Global Effworks conference this week.

Just five years before she joined UBS Asset Management, part of UBS Group, the marketing team was reporting directly into the sales team. There was therefore a “long-standing expectation” that marketing’s role was to support short-term sales campaigns. And while the business did have a global marketing budget, sales believed it could dictate what was spent and where.

Marketing’s role instead focused on developing content, delivering sales materials and arranging events, with “pockets” of digital excellence, Elliott explained.

“There was very little understanding or awareness of the value that marketing can bring and, unsurprisingly, marketing budgets over past years had shown a clear downward trend,” she explained.

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Embarking on a mission to transform the status quo, Elliott decided she needed a “crisp” articulation of how “marketing 2.0” would add value to the business, while demonstrating respect towards and understanding of the perspective of her sales colleagues.

“The  team and I shared with [sales] that we knew our activities operate in particular contexts – that of personal relationships,” she said, acknowledging that such relationships, while “critical” through the sales cycle, were also resource intensive.

“We explained that our role as marketing was to augment those relationships by connecting our client journey and data flow front to back across online and offline channels, making us smarter in our marketing, helping our sales colleagues to prioritise who they’re best to spend time with, and really helping to increase their productivity and be much smarter in their conversations,” Elliott continued. “There was a clear win-win.”

The marketing team also made sure to explain how its tactics could add value in the area the sales team care about most: sales campaigns.

On top of that, Elliott and her team began to change the narrative around the funnel, always referring to it as the “marketing and sales funnel”. They also began sharing their metrics channel by channel, to increase internal awareness and recognition of marketing’s ability to drive growth.

We are seeing marketing shift from being a service to a business driver.

Anoushka Elliott, UBS Asset Management

Finally, Elliott involved the sales team in the marketing process through its social selling programme, allowing them to leverage marketing’s content on LinkedIn in order to develop their profiles.

“Fundamentally though, we were on a journey to change the way we approach marketing at UBS Asset Management,” Elliott added. “With a more clearly controlled strategy, clear attribution and ROI analysis. Being a more collaborative partner, adding real insights and intelligence to augment collective lead prospects and brand impact, and ultimately driving greater commercial value for marketing activities.”

Aiding sales through digital transformation

As she began the process of overhauling UBS Asset Management’s marketing function and increasing its value, Elliott started looking at the digital storefront. Although every marketing tactic deployed by the business was designed to drive potential customers online, its website ranked 78th out of the top 100 asset managers around the world.

A revamp was therefore required. Launching in November, the brand’s new website will include a refreshed homepage, on-demand content, connectivity between thought leadership and its products, and the ability to compare products.

Elliott’s team also prioritised the development of an end-to-end target operating model for marketing, with the aim of joining its channels together and enabling the business to drive automated, dynamic personalised content.Ehrenberg-Bass: 95% of B2B buyers are not in the market for your products

“We knew what we were doing wasn’t rocket science,” she said. “It was bringing us up to date by building a digital experience that added meaningful value to the sales process through lead generation, rather than people simply filling in forms and us flipping the email addresses over the fence to sales.”

The new digital experience has also created a “tailored education and nurture experience”, which guides the user to the next best action and measures their engagement, allowing the brand’s marketers to deliver qualified leads to the sales team as soon as they’re ready for personal contact.

The team also connected the marketing and sales funnel by enabling “digital nurturing” before, after and in-between sales interactions, providing the sales managers with insights about how their clients and prospects are engaging with the business digitally.

Winning over stakeholders

UBS Asset Management also needed a clear value proposition, which would be infused across the brand’s marketing activities, corporate communications and throughout the wider group.

The brand therefore underwent a pitch process to appoint an agency which would “challenge” its thinking and help establish a “bold, meaningful and uncompromising value proposition”, as well as a “strong and compelling” voice in the market to capture attention and feed future growth.

It takes two to three years, as well as an unwavering belief in the value of marketing, to create a vision, educate others, and have them join you on this journey.

Anoushka Elliott, UBS Asset Management

At the same time, Elliott worked to gain stakeholder support for investing in the brand. Brand surveys conducted by the UBS Group indicated “great” results in its B2C businesses, but the B2B brand metrics needed a lift.

“We’ve actually never invested in brand before at the asset management level,” Elliott said. “So this was a very much needed first, in order for us to achieve the mental availability of our target audiences”.

However, “unsurprisingly”, the sales team were “less than delighted” with the prospect of marketing carving out larger budgets for what they saw as centralised global marketing activities.

“I needed to win hearts and minds, and with my audience [of sales colleagues] that required hard facts and data to prove the value we were looking to achieve through our brand campaign,” she explained.

Research from the likes of the LinkedIn B2B Institute, the IPA and System1 helped Elliott achieve this aim.

Source: UBS/Les Binet & Peter Field, 2013

Likewise, a 2013 chart from effectiveness experts Les Binet and Peter Field (see above) was described by one of UBS Asset Management’s C-suite as prompting their “aha” moment, when the role of marketing clicked for them and they conceded to sacrifice a chunk of sales activation budget to increase the mental availability of the brand.

“It provided the credibility that marketing needed to start changing minds,” she explained. “Needless to say that we got the buy in to invest long term, and our first brand campaign was in September.”

Content, talent and sales activation

After achieving agreement over the brand’s value proposition, the marketing team took a fresh look at its content strategy to ensure the two were “mutually supportive”.

“What we found was our existing content started too far into the sales process,” Elliott said. “Our top layer focused on investment trends, so we needed to take it up a notch. We needed to start creating hero content campaigns that could also be used for cut-through brand level impact, rather than simply support the next sales campaign.”

The business also worked on improving its marketing talent over this period, bringing in new employees and creating a marketing curriculum to bring rigour and discipline to the team.

According to Elliott, this helped the team by giving them the “credibility” they needed and publicly demonstrating that marketing is a “professional discipline with clear technical skills”.

Finally, the brand circled back to sales activation, embracing targeted digital approaches with content aligned to drive the targets of hero campaigns through to investment strategy and into products.

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When it came to measuring value, the team ended up with a “multifaceted” dashboard, incorporating long-term brand measurement alongside real time campaign activity.

These are broken down into three pillars: optimising brand awareness, improving client engagement and increasing both share of market and share of wallet.

“When put together, these three elements drive profitable growth in assets under management, which is ultimately what we are measured on,” Elliott added.

Acknowledging that the long sales cycle of B2B makes it harder to accurately attribute ROI, she argued that if the team fail to think in terms of value, they will be unable to articulate their effectiveness.

While admitting the transformation is not yet perfect, Elliott believes it has given the team a “rational, sound framework” on which they can measure the impact of marketing, adding that the business is already seeing results. Marketing has shifted from “being a service to a business driver”, although Elliott admitted the journey is “not for the faint hearted”.

“It takes two to three years, as well as an unwavering belief in the value of marketing, to create a vision, educate others and have them join you on this journey,” she concluded.