This year’s B2B Marketing & Sales Forum wrapped up just under a month ago, but I wanted to continue the great conversation I started with Penny Wise, marketing director of the Industrial Business Group at 3M, and get to more of the great questions posed by our Forum audience.

Caroline: Penny, I kicked off the Forum talking about mindset and the philosophy about the role of marketing. And from what I’ve seen and learned during our conversations together, you’ve been a missionary for customer-obsessed marketing. Can you share any techniques you use to ensure that your team’s mindset stays fresh and customer-oriented?

Penny: We find that the best way to stay focused on the customer is to make sure we continue to have regular interactions with them. Marketers are encouraged to get out in the field with customers and sales reps to interact with them and develop direct understanding and empathy. We make sure to continually update our research and knowledge. Because the world around us is constantly changing, our customers’ needs and interests will probably be in flux, as well. We can’t look at research results one day and assume they apply long-term. We also stay attuned to how others in our field are approaching customer-first marketing.

Caroline: Being in an innovative and product-driven company, how did you get exec support to invest in a modern marketing approach? What obstacles and objections did you get?

Penny: 3M has always been a customer-centric company in that the products we create are based on improving the lives of our customers. Our brand platform speaks to this: 3M Science. Applied to Life. So, as we thought about how to embed modern marketing, it was not difficult to gain buy-in for a solutions-focused, customer-centric organization. It was also very helpful that digital marketing is more easily measured and connected to outcomes, so we could show its worth and positive impact for businesses.

Caroline: How do you keep marketing engaged after the sale?

Penny: Our marketing doesn’t stop once the opportunity has been turned into a sale. Quite a few of the products we sell are consumables and will be purchased and used again. It’s important for us to continue conversations and engagement with our customers, through nurture and other promotional campaigns, for their ongoing loyalty. The team also gathers insights from customers and engages them to build out new ideas and opportunities.

Caroline: How do you work with sales in your role? How do you enable the sales force with modern sales engagement channels?

Penny: Marketing and sales are partners in the customer experience. I really enjoyed the metaphor shared at the Forrester event that described the interactions with customers as a square dance where a customer moved seamlessly from partner to partner. But before we could be good at passing our customer to the next dancer, we have had to work on making sure we know the steps and where the customer wants to go. Our focus for the last 12 months has been getting the marketing experience and demand generation right. Now, we’re working with our sales teams to leverage our new technologies and customer experience to make the journey through the opportunity pipeline even more seamless and effective. The process takes a lot of collaboration as we pass communications back and forth between the sales team and the marketing team. For a seamless customer experience, we are always working to keep each other up to speed on our progress and to coordinate what our next steps are.

Caroline: Increasingly, B2B buyers expect to see measurable outcomes from their solutions during the sales process. How does 3M equip salespeople to define ROI?

Penny: 3M has always been a value-add/solution seller — our products have unique features and added value that we want to share. Marketing continues to work with the customers and sales teams to understand the compelling value proposition and to deliver tools like value calculators that help customers understand the value-add or our products and solutions.

Caroline: I know you are passionate about the business value of marketing, so let’s talk about that a bit. How have you needed to change in terms of how you measure success?

Penny: We have had to make sure we get alignment on metrics that are most valuable in measuring success and which ones point to business success. Vanity metrics, like number of visitors to our website or page views, can tell you something about how a campaign is doing, but it doesn’t give the full picture and can distract from numbers that do, like assessing what are high-value-added activities. We strive to understand the total value of each touchpoint to create a full picture of ROI.

Caroline: Has this changed the way your teams work together? Has it changed the way you need to advocate for marketing’s leadership role?

Penny: Yes, absolutely. Our marketing teams consist of more specialists than generalists now. We collaborate more frequently and intensely because there is more sharing required when looking through the lens of the customer versus each product. The advocacy for a modern marketing approach has been consistent over the years; however, as marketing has evolved, we have changed what metrics and tools we’ve used to explain the need.

Caroline: How has aligning around the needs of the process engineer changed 3M’s relationships with its OEM, distribution, and converter sales partners? Did it change the baton pass from marketing to sales?

Penny: Our focus on the end user is helping build even stronger partnerships with our channel partners. Our channel partners help us serve end users. We’re connecting end-user opportunities to our channel partners and working together to deliver the customer experience.

Caroline: Your persona orientation makes me think to ask how involved your team is in customer experience across the Abrasive Systems Division? Any tips or experiences about that you’d like to share with our audience?

Penny: My tips? Be ruthless in prioritizing the target persona to avoid having too many and being ineffective. Use data to drive the key persona selection. We’ve become pretty good at identifying and meeting the needs of key personas, but we continue to build our sophistication in our experience work and improve how we identify the subtle differences and requirements in the other secondary stakeholders who influence decision making.

Thanks so much to Penny for sharing her time with us at our Forum and for continuing to share her perspectives in this blog!

We hope to see you again at next year’s B2B Marketing & Sales Forum, November 5–6 in the great city of Austin!