Randy Byrne is the CEO of Transformational Scientific Marketing, a highly focused, B2B marketing consultancy specialising in scientific products and services. Below is the adapted transcript from the Marketing Science Podcast recording.
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How is the mood currently in the US? Is it business as usual, or are we still getting over the shock of social isolation?
Many people are still in a state of shock given the current circumstances. We are sticking it out and persevering through the difficult times – however, we are starting to see more encouraging and uplifting stories.
How would you compare this current pandemic to any previous crises that you have worked through?
I joined the workforce in the middle of a rather bad recession. I didn't really understand it - for me it was normal. 2008-2009 was very difficult for the scientific industry; however this recession is different because it just came on much more suddenly.
People were more prepared in 2008, the company I was working for at the time was budgeting under the assumption that there would be hard times ahead.
This year’s recession has been a lot more dramatic and quite disruptive in many ways, with everybody having to work from home and businesses closing down (which didn't happen in the last major recession). Furthermore, workers have been affected, the price of oil has dropped, and stock markets have plummeted not to mention the desire to stay healthy along with your loved ones.
What advice would you give right now to a company faced with the challenges that lie ahead?
It's a matter of planning for the future and having a long-term horizon. The same is true on the marketing side; we need to continue planning for when we come out of this so that we stay top of mind for potential customers when they are eventually ready to continue their buying journey.
It’s not like they won’t be using the internet on lockdown!
Where do you see the future or the importance of online content especially during such testing times?
Online content is incredibly important. Back when the last recession happened, although we had marketing budget cuts, we were fortunate enough to have a robust webinar program in place. We tripled down and did ninety English language webinars as well non-English language ones which had a very important unintended benefit.
We came out of that year having done a crushing webinar workload - but all of this valuable scientific information was recorded for use for years to come. The unintended consequence was we came through it with many potential customers looking at us as a pro-active thought leader.
Fast forward to today, I see podcasts being an incredibly valuable content format and the next area where it's just becoming so convenient to take in new information that I see it exploding in in popularity in many different industries.
How resistant to change are sales and marketing leaders within Science companies?
Long-tenured leaders in Science companies (particularly SMEs) tend to have come from the scientific, engineering or a product development background – Success in these types of companies was often based on product innovation but these days it's much harder as there's a lot more competition; the same products are more often, in the minds of customers, separated by inches not miles anymore.
Marketing has changed more in the last five years than it has in the previous fifty and I think it's accelerating even more.
Marketing of scientific Instruments and applications has just progressed so fast for leaders to keep up with. I feel the pace of such a dynamic marketing landscape in conjunction with a fear of failure or a lack of licence to try things, holds a lot of companies back.
In 2020 just how do companies differentiate themselves and how have scientific manufacturers evolved over time given such a competitive landscape?
Over time companies have moved through an emphasis on customer satisfaction to customer support phase and applications.
Companies that are addressing and solving customer problems will be successful in the mid to long-term.
Marketing in this industry used to be all about features and benefits and talking about our product but these days, it’s now moving in the direction of customer experience; specifically looking at how is the customer using the products and services and interacting with our business as a whole.
Which skills do you look for when recruiting your new marketing department in 2020?
Before looking for candidates, it’s important to ask yourself “what are the company challenges and how are they best solved?
Identify the department’s skills gap - From there, draft out a persona of what the ideal candidate may look like. Do we need more competence in terms of email marketing, content marketing, social media, paid search etc.
Particularly for businesses selling an established technology, the inbound marketing approach is ideal: search engine optimization, website optimization and lead generation is so important nowadays.
It's about understanding the balance between looking for a generalist and a specialist, do we recruit someone with a broad skill set but with few specialties, or the other way around. We see too many companies make the mistake of just hiring somebody but not really understanding the need to match the skill set to the needs of the business.
What do you look for when hiring a modern-day sales professional?
I read a quote recently from Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, which put things in perspective. He said it's about looking for someone that has a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.
The simplest way to explain it would be ambitious people that are learn-it-alls versus the arrogance of know-it-alls. Basically, no matter what stage of your career you are at, the most successful people are intellectually curious and constantly strive to learn, which in sales nowadays is critical too.
How important is outsourcing for the modern marketing department?
In a world changing this fast there's just no way that a typically resourced marketing department can stay up to date with taking care of the short-term performance needs of the business as well as keeping up with all of the advances going on in the marketing landscape.
Whether it’s SEO, marketing automation or social media – The intricacies of each are advancing too fast for small companies to be experts in all of these different areas. The really successful marketers need to work with companies that are strong and have depth of knowledge in many of these different areas.
What is your favourite piece of Martech software?
Webex is great for web conferencing and even remote demos of equipment. The technology is just getting better and better and I think it will become even more popular in a lasting way after current circumstances.
Brain Shark is a sales enablement tool which drastically helps communication around the world. When the CEO wants to send out a message, a tool like brain shark can help do that but it can be used in many functions within the company.
Finally, Survey Monkey is incredibly important as we move more and more into a customer experience focused world – It gives you the ability to discover what customers are thinking as opposed to just guessing which is invaluable.
What do we mean by the alignment between sales and marketing?
It’s about as marketers being much more data driven and using KPI metrics which are in line with driving the success of sales.
I find this synergy and understanding between sales and marketing is often missing in organisations; they haven't done the basic groundwork or planning for what sales and marketing really means.
It’s a shame we still have two groups at odds with each other. It’s shocking that companies are still sending ALL of their leads to field salespeople as qualified because the cost of sales in this business is quite high - it takes four telephone calls to actually reach somebody so whilst your sales team is busy trying to contact every lead regardless of quality, there’s an opportunity cost to not spending sufficient time on the higher quality leads.
In reality, what's happening is that sales organizations are calling people once at most and not chasing after the rest - You will never solve that without having measurements in place and there’s still a surprising amount of companies that are still doing it what I would change is in a very out of date way.
How will the role of the trade show evolve over the next five years?
There’s going to be a rebalancing – Parts of the sales process will be conducted remotely and perhaps more companies will give a shot to trying remote product demos or training.
It's clear that there will be more of a transition to digital types of activities but it's not going to go completely digital - people buy from people. You still need the human interaction and until a day where this is no longer the case, there is still an important role for sales - let’s see how it all plays out!
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