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Notes from the Keynote Session with Kathy Button Bell, VP & CMO at Emerson

Notes from the Keynote Session with Kathy Button Bell, VP & CMO at Emerson

Steve Archibald, President of the Philadelphia BMA addressed the hungry crowd of marketers at the BMA Philadelphia annual meeting at the Urban Saloon this September. While attendees might have come for the “best Tots in Philly”, they left inspired by Keynote speaker Kathy Button Bell, VP & CMO at Emerson.

Initially, Kathy made this marketer’s head spin by showcasing the massive challenges marketers are facing today. She put a spotlight on the scope of marketing and the broad array of tasks marketers are expected to accomplish; which all need our immediate attention. Additionally, marketers must keep pace with the constant change, yet still be successful; on a limited budget. UGH!

On a more positive note, Kathy said, “as B2B marketers we get to be creative every day. What we are doing in B2B is more complicated and harder.” Take that B2C marketers! POW! Kathy challenged us to embrace social media with open arms and if you don’t have the skills, hire a millennial to tackle social media. As B2B marketers, our roles are ever expanding from R&D to sales, to technology to HR. “Marketers are getting asked questions from all fronts.” Kathy encouraged us to be “transparent, break down silos and to be flexible.”

No longer are we creating a marketing plan at the beginning of the year and checking off each item upon completion. Social Media and all things digital = feedback is immediate. Marketers have to be prepared to course correct or speed ahead. But you have to be listening. Now more than ever, business is about relationships and not about transactions.

As marketing changes, so should the tenants. Kathy encouraged us to look at the traditional 4ps of marketing and suggested how this should evolve to fit todays’ business environment.

Old 4ps   New 4ps
 Product  →  Solution
 Place  →  Access
 Price  →  Value
 Promotion  →  Education

Solution – define offering by the needs they meet, not by their features, functions, or technical superiority.

Access – develop an integrated cross-channel presence that considers customers’ entire purchase journey instead of emphasizing individual purchase locations and channels.

Value – articulate the benefits relative to price, rather than stressing how price relates to production costs, profit margins, or competitors’ prices.

Education – provide information relevant to customers’ specific needs at each point in the purchase cycle, rather than relying on advertising, PR, and personal selling that covers the waterfront.

As the “Chief Complexity officer” at Emerson, in charge of a multitude of independent brands, Kathy found a way to create efficiency and save money. Her philosophy, “It all starts with the products: simple, clean design and easy to use.” Kathy believes marketers need to be the driver of change at a company. As the CMO, she spends the bulk of her time on IT, but still finds time to keep the R&D folks in check and keep them from just creating more “great stuff.” Gartner reports that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than the CIO at most companies.

Kathy spends a lot of her marketing time on voice of the customer; just listening. Because what a customer wants is not a product. They want a promise, a solution and perhaps a bundle of products. She urged B2B marketers to “define the pain.” Innovate, but ask market research before creating the product. And continue innovating to create new business rather than protecting market share just by lowering costs. The risk goes up, but so does the reward!

Continue “destroying silos”, Kathy whispered and become friends with sales. Learn to tell stories about your products and brand, so that customers can relate and see themselves in the story. She also suggested letting someone at the company become the mouthpiece, including the CEO, to humanize the company. The CMO needs to find someone at the company to tweet and use other digital media to stay relevant. Connecting with potential hires via social media is the new norm. In fact, Kathy is a huge fan of LinkedIn. She claimed she saved $550,000 in recruiter fees alone this past year.

On a final note, Kathy encouraged this B2B marketer to be bold, be different, create beauty and not be afraid of “China Red” (pink). The sky really is the limit when it comes to B2B marketing. Don’t be afraid to push some boundaries.

As for this marketer, I’ll definitely be back next year for more inspiration and of course, for the TOTS!

Erika Schell-Rompré




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