This week we were privileged to sit down with Shonodeep Modak, Schneider Electric’s Chief Marketing Officer for North America!
Having majored in chemical engineering at Mississippi State, Shonodeep spent an internship touring power generation nuclear power plants and selling service solutions. After falling in love with the sales process, he switched career paths. He still spent a lot of time around boilers and machinery, but loved developing new products. Eventually he earned a Master’s degree at George Washington University, and ended up joining Schneider Electric back in 2018.
The roles of CMOs are a challenge no matter what company you work for– but being a CMO for an industrial B2B company is especially complicated.
It’s Shonodeep’s job to determine how they market to their customers and educate them about Schneider’s products; keeping them engaged over time.
Since Schneider deals mainly in industrial automation and energy management products, their sales process is very different from that of the average B2C business.
1. THE CHALLENGE OF SELLING B2B GHOST BRANDS
Marketing tactics can differ largely based on what you’re selling– and in the case of companies like Schneider Electric, they’re selling what Shonodeep calls “Ghost brands.”
“You can’t touch, feel, taste the product of a power plant… you can see the light, but you can’t tell the difference of one versus another… so I coined the term ‘Ghost Brands’ and that’s something that I feel requires a different way of marketing.”
And as if having a unique product weren’t enough, being a B2B marketer means that your messaging has to be different as well.
Manufacturing CMOs are almost always two degrees away from their end users, and must sell through channel partners or other intermediaries.
That means you have to sell your ghost product to distributors, and enable them to sell it to their customers.
In Shonodeep’s case, he actually prefers selling through channel partners because he feels that many of them know the best path to market. Many of them can also influence the projects at Schneider Electric as well.
2. HOW TO ADDRESS THIS CHALLENGE
A. Increased Customer Education
B2B brands may not have visibility as high as B2C brands when it comes to transactions. However, they have increased visibility in the solution-seeking portion of the customer journey.
B2B is a business model ideal for providing thought leadership. Manufacturing CMOs have the opportunity – nay, the responsibility – to educate their buyers.
B. Establishing 1-to-1 Relationships
Shonodeep and his peers do not communicate by sending mass messages from “big Schneider corporate” en masse to all of their leads or prospects. Marketing and sales and even customer service teams are divided up regionally, so customers have a more personal interaction.
C. Collaborating with Channel Partners to Close the Gap
Lastly, Schneider strives to work closely with their distributors. They establish point-of-sale analytics platforms in order to track buyers more closely and provide the materials that their intermediaries need to close the deal.
What did somebody buy in the past? Where are they now? Are they still using it? Could something else in the Schneider wheelhouse be useful to them at this new stage in their work?
This kind of visibility through digital tools like CRMs, automation, and account-based-marketing platforms is still quite new. However, they’re quickly becoming invaluable for manufacturing CMOs.
3. ASSEMBLING YOUR MARTECH STACK
There’s no lack of marketing technologies out there anymore. There are all sorts to choose from. But, while their usability may differ, Shonodeep instead advises focusing on their connectivity.
Focus on connecting your account-based marketing platform and your sales data to your CRM. Then connect your CRM to your marketing automation system.
Schneider actually has a custom analytics team to examine these different tools and their features. Shonodeep has found their insights to be especially helpful, because for marketers, “it’s so easy to get distracted by the next shiny thing.”
And even after their teams decide to adopt a new system, there’s still a careful process in place to insure a smooth transition.
“Change management is the biggest challenge a lot of us face when it comes to onboarding new [digital] platforms.”
“We never turn on everything all at once. We start either in a geography or a sub-geography; and we trial and test it out, then we start to scale.”
The change must be gradual. Celebrating little victories and success points with ’internal cheerleaders’ is also paramount to winning over upper management teams who might have initially been hesitant about the adoption.
Onboarding systems that encourage more one-on-one interactions with prospects has definitely been a success thus far.
Having small regional teams means that Schneider’s different branches can each focus on what their own customers need: functioning less like buckshot and more like a sniper rifle in their messaging. As a result, Shonodeep has seen the more localized marketing efforts by Schneider increase open rates by 500%.
4. MAKING SENSE OF ALL THE DATA
Lastly, Shonodeep emphasized the importance of actually sorting out data from one’s many martech systems. It’s key for manufacturing CMOs to integrate everything so that leads can be traced from first touch to final sale.
Sales and marketing need to be united in this.
Going through data from current programs is extremely important before yet another tool is onboarded. After all, the entire point of adopting each system is to increase productivity– and productivity comes from responding to data.
“We need to make sure that in every key campaign… we have analytics and measure ROI… because the worst thing we can do is move on without learning.”
If you don’t know what has brought in more qualified leads in the past, or by how much, then you won’t know how to set goals or create campaigns to recreate that success.
As we’ve often heard from our guests, start small. Establish a successful digital system before you try to fully-integrate it across the entire organization.
In other words, as we often say: “Nail it. Then scale it.” That’s what Shonodeep did. And that’s a tactic that many, if not all industrial CMOs, need to put into practice.
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