Inviting all marketers who want to do something about their company’s marketing, our Bigbeat ‘Live Okyaku’ seminar was held offering immediately applicable insight for tomorrow. This time we invited business producer Masahiro Tokumoto to be moderator to the live “PR x Marketing In Depth” discussion between Naotake Hibiya of Sansan Co. and Bigbeat CEO Yutaka Hamaguchi. (Coverage/Writing by Fumihira Iwasaki)
In a company, there are various business departments with their own roles, such as Sales, Accounting. But activities of Marketing and Public Relations may be a bit confusing to those not involved.
“Sales has a clear goal of selling to customers, but I don’t really know what Marketing does.”
“If the product is good in the first place, people will buy. Marketing doesn’t need to do advertising.”
“Public Relations work just involves writing press releases and drinking with the media people right?”
And so forth…
Even in worst cases, opinions of extremity like, “We don’t need Public Relations and Marketing.”
As a business producer who serves as director for multiple companies, Mr. Tokumoto once worked as an adman in an advertising agency (the same agency where Hamaguchi once worked, joining a year later after Tokumoto). On the other end, Mr. Hibiya helped business card-based contact management solution Sansan Co. to build their marketing and PR business during the startup. The two have business activities in the media and they are well known throughout the marketing industry.
They both say the same thing, “PR and Marketing is absolutely essential in a company.”
Because no matter how wonderful of a product you develop, if your surroundings don’t know about it, it doesn’t really exist. If nobody knows about it, it cannot reap its value.
So what are the roles unique to public relations and to marketing? On this subject, we first went deep with Mr. Hibiya’s current role as “Connector”, its mission and activities.
What kind of work does your job as "connector" entail?
I regard it as part of Public Relations activity. In short, I interact with many people outside the company and get lots of business cards. And when Sansan has an internal issue or challenge, I am a liaison that connects someone that could provide insight to the matter. And it’s not just deriving random sets of advice. I’m planning steps ahead into Sansan’s future business path and making contact with and introducing essential people. For example, interchange between key players in BtoB marketing and people planning big events the following year, or people who want to meet the top level people who have already expanded overseas for advice before expanding themselves.
You share business strategy with the management and move things forward.
That’s right. I think people in PR understand, but Public Relations is the relations between company and the general society. There are many stakeholders for a company, its customers, partners, advertising agency, media. To have a good relationship with said stakeholders is 〇〇 Relations. If you build good relationships with your customers it’s called Customer Relations. So, in order to make good relations with stakeholders in the general society, building acquaintances on an individual basis is best. But, it’s not possible to be acquainted with everyone, so we hold seminars and distribute pamphlets and advertisements. Sometimes using media to spread information is considered cost effective and the techniques involved in doing this are called Media Relations.
PR isn’t just about drinking with media people. The essence of the work is to hone in on who the target base is and build good relationships. In my case, I work with media but I also grind one by one to make connections.
At Sansan, you were in Marketing first and later on Public Relations right?
That’s correct. I started up the marketing department and was in charge of it exclusively for about two years, but in the process I began to do interviews with IT-related media. As I did interviews several times, I realized that as new articles were released, we got more leads and people contacting us. We got decision-makers who heard about us, and order rates in sales went up. So, as a strategy to advance deals, we would once or twice a year post case study articles through mass media. This is how our PR activities unfolded which did overlap with marketing objectives.
As I got into Public Relations, I saw how it contributes to Sales.
Mr. Tokumoto said, “I became media as I posted my own blogs, and it became my own personal marketing.”
So the next topic was the theme, ‘What is marketing?’ On this, Hamaguchi remarked, “There’s an opinion that asking what Marketing is in order to define it is the wrong approach.” He then went on to speak on what recently sparked his interest.
When Adobe bought marketing automation tool vendor Marketo, Nikkei News reported that Adobe acquired a sales support software company. When reading that I thought, “Oh, Nikkei defines marketing as ‘sales support’.” In the funnel, the marketing mission is accomplished once the sale has been made. What do you think about this?
I don’t think that’s necessarily the goal. In a customer journey, the process is unknown, known, interest, consideration, purchase, customer success, royal customer, up/cross-sell. To fulfill the customer journey, companies should have functional roles that handle each of these steps, and it really depends on the company how they assign those roles.
In some situations, “Sales” handle the whole process, and in others they have designated subdivisions. Some have marketing departments who handle the process leading to the close and the Sales handles the rest. It all depends, but to be honest, the naming and labeling should come last. Because the labeling and compartmentalization comes first, you have people saying, “You are in PR, so work with the media. You are in Marketing so work on our visibility.” It’s the wrong approach.
I too think a strong description of customer journey is important. But, while this is subjective, a lot of Japanese companies focus too much on new customer acquisition. So they emphasize the steps in customer journey before the purchase but don’t consider the rest.
Especially in BtoB marketing, preventing business withdrawal is the name of the game. I refer to experiences leading to business withdrawal as “reverse scales experience” and conversely, impressive experience as “chord line experience”. Marketing should reduce the reverse scales experience and increase the chord line experience. Then, customers will become fans of the company.
Through providing an impressive customer experience, you will get customer loyalty. To then transmit those stories—you could say marketing and PR are united in this process.
So what do we need when shaping these success stories into an actual form? Earlier Mr. Tokumoto pointed out the problem in that the focus is on customer acquisition and there is a lack of follow up. Mr. Hibiya was in product development and sales during the start of Sansan and saw the importance of marketing a year later when cancellation rates began to rise. Thus he has experienced the process of structuring a ground up marketing plan. A lot of startups today are aware and set up their marketing respectively.
On this, Hamaguchi says that as an advertising agency interacting with business owners from various corporations, he hears many cases where while they treat existing customers well, the marketing for some reason isn’t going too well. Even companies with history that have been in business for generations are under this issue.
I’m thinking that if a company has good customer relations but the marketing isn’t going well, it’s important to convey this fact. That’s where an advertising agency can come in to give guidance in many ways.
Actually I have a friend who was my classmate back in the day who’s now the third generation business owner of a certain manufacturer. He has an MBA and understands marketing and PR, but that level of thinking isn’t existing in his existing employees. There’s hesitation with thoughts like, ‘It’s good the way it is.’ or ‘We should try something new but what?’.
In order for a company to survive, the management itself has to change its ways. But when put in that position, it can be very annoying.
Marketing should be part of the corporate culture and DNA, but honestly from the business owner’s perspective, incorporating ‘culture’ into it all can be demanding.
So where to begin then? Change behavior. For example, a business owner who makes a Facebook or blog post once a day about work for the employees to read. Or having employees share or tweet more about what they are doing. Little changes like these can have an effect. If this lasts a year, the company culture is bound to change. You (Mr. Tokumoto) do write a blog yourself so I want to hear what you think regarding this.
About blogging, in the past I was told, ‘Nobody is reading your blog so you have to just keep writing. If you don’t keep writing, it doesn’t exist.’ So every day I kept on writing and made about a thousand posts. I kept on writing and as expected, things began to change.
I kept urging a customer service team at a startup company that I did consulting with to write a blog. They have some wonderful stories to be heard just from usual work in customer success.
If you keep on it, you create a place for yourself on the internet. Reporters and customers could find you. They’ll surely find something good there and see points of value in your company.
To help create an emotional story to tell the outside world. I believe that’s the work of our advertising company. Thank you for your time today.
※ "Okyaku" is local reference to the gathering place for drinking in Kochi, the hometown of Hamaguchi.
We manage the Facebook community "Okaku" as a "place" to discuss challenges and struggles of BtoB marketing, to create a better future. People who are struggling with marketing practice, business people who want to change management with marketing, please have a look.
(Related article: LIVE Report Vol.4 - Summary and BtoB Marketer's Okyaku)