Over 600 people participated in Bigbeat LIVE, which is an event focused on BtoB marketing. For the second session, we heard the “challenges” of our three speakers: Mr. Jun Kawakami from ARTERIA Networks Corp, Mr. Takashi Sumitani from ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corp, and Mr. Motoki Sakano from Studist Corp. We also heard “the importance of action” from our host: Atsushi Iimuro from B2Bhack.com. This article is a report on those speeches from the second session.
The second session of Bigbeat LIVE had the theme of “breakdown yourself through challenges.” Our host and the supervisor of B2Bhack.com, Mr. Atsushi Iimuro explained the meaning of this theme.
“Now, we are seeing business go through a change like it never has before. Our past experiences, knowledge, and successes can’t be used anymore. “Kaizen” (the Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement to working practices), which Japanese companies have specialized in has become too slow to keep up with the speed of improvements in the current era. It is in this environment that our speakers will not talk about “improving,” but instead about challenging yourself to “breakdown the old mechanisms and build new ones.” (Mr. Atsushi Iimuro)
Our first speaker is from a 700-employee large company that is trying to integrate marketing into its DNA: ARTERIA Networks Corp, CEO, Mr. Jun Kawakami. Our second speaker is from a large corporation which is trying to fully use its marketing capabilities: ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corp, Manager of the IT Service group planning division and the marketing division, Mr. Takashi Sumitani. Our third speaker is from a venture company and has recently taken over the marketing division. He is challenging himself to take on the next generation through a trial and era mentality: Studist Corp. Sales Division, Mr. Motoki Sakano.
Mr Iimuro told the audience “I don’t want you to just listen to the speakers and learn. I want it to cause changes and action. I want you to also share the knowledge you have with the speakers.”
“Our three speakers will of course talk to the audience, but I don’t want them just to be teaching everyone. I want them to also learn from the audience’s experience and knowledge. I want this session to go forward with a Hangaku-Hankyou (half teaching-half learning) mentality.
Our first speaker, Mr. Kawakami, CEO of telecommunications company ARTERIA Networks, has a variety of experience from working in a foreign-owned consulting company to GE. Due to this, he has a global marketing view.
ARTERIA Networks, like NTT, KDDI, and Softbank, has its own telecommunications network. But ARTERIA Networks has three features that separates itself from those three companies. Those three features are a specialization in BtoB telecommunication services, a strength in wired connections, and a focus in only large cities.
“Because of our size, it is not possible to compete with big companies. So, it is our strategy to differ our services and focuses and be the only company in that focus.” (Mr. Jun Kawakami)
You would think a company with this mentality would have a very strong marketing. But according to Mr. Kawakami “in the infrastructure field there is a big sense of communal property. Because of this, there was not a culture of segmenting customers and marketing.” This does not only apply to ARTERIA Networks but other telecommunications companies in Japan as well.
On top of this, telemarketing companies tend to focus on getting business through technology. “If you have the best technology, the customers will come” Mr. Kawakami explained is the mindset of most telecommunications companies. The ones who would come into to contact with the customers were only members of the sales division, those in charge of development and the product would not go out into the marketplace.
In order to change this, Mr. Kawakami started a restructuring the layout of the organization. Along with implementing several marketing tools, he also appointed an “evangelist” to help enlighten the marketing team and help them actively learn about marketing. In order to strategize, Mr. Kawakami gathered all the department heads and began having meetings with them. The purpose of these meetings was to make sure all 700 employees understood their marketing strategy. In August 2018, the position of CMO was also established, which is rare for a telecommunications company. Along with this, it was established that sales would focus on the customer, marketing on the product, and development on the techniques. This system would be their way of approaching marketing.
“For example, the accountant team and general affairs departments which don’t come into direct contact with the customers, should still think about how their work effects the customer. People who think “my work has no relation to the customer” will of course exist, but every department should be thinking about what their value to the customer is. This is necessary to create a marketing mentality within the company.” (Mr. Jun Kawakami)
Mr. Kawakami explained while ARTERIA Networks is working on implementing these structural changes, if you were to measure how much of the company has gained a marketing intention, “we are about half way through the process.” It is not rare for shareholders to ask, “how is this affecting sales?” Mr. Kawakami explained “there is a small change where the departments have become more customer focused and think more about marketing strategies. I want to continue to add on to and strengthen this change.
Our next speaker to take the stage is the director of marketing at ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corp. (CTC), Mr. Takashi Sumitani. CTC was established in 1972 and road the IT wave of the 1990s that began with Sun Microsystems (now Oracle) and Oracle Database. During this wave they saw accelerated growth and are now partnered with 250 companies and are known for their SIer multivendor solutions.
Mr. Sumitani became in involved with the marketing team when in 2008 he was appointed to the business planning and development team. They made it their mission to break into new and rising markets that differed from their own field. It was because of this mission that in 2010 Mr. Sumitani started breaking into the cloud server market.
“But there was one problem. The goal of the marketing division was to break into new markets while the goal of the account team was to focus on the solutions customers needed, selling those solutions, and raising sales. A possible new business opportunity that has not yet sprouted wil not become the focus of the account department.” (Mr. Takashi Sumitani)
For example, in 2010, cloud servers were not yet an establish product that many businesses used. At that time, Mr Sumitani was trying to establish a cloud service for CTC, but they could not see how it connected to their business. So, they shifted towards IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) around 2013-2014. Even then, the sales department was hesitant to move on their IaaS. Due to this, companies that had been solid customers started switching to a different company’s cloud service.
Mr. Sumitani responded by making yearly goals starting in 2014. These goals included “awareness acquisition,” “awareness + inquiry,” “excellent inquiries.” CTC began a strategy of advertising and running seminars about “The Cloud Service of CTC” to appeal to customers. At the same time, Mr. Sumitani began working with members of the sales department with knowledge of exploring new markets. Using MA tools, they shared the work from establishment to the leadership.
“From 2018, we opened up the leadership to the entire company” explained Mr. Sumitani. “Now the sales department is actively taking the lead, but at first there were only 2 people who did so. But over time, as the information needed to build the market we had grew, so did the number of people taking the lead.” The number of visitors to their in-house lead website reached 6,800 in July of 2018. Despite having 300 in-house websites, the 5th largest group to access the site was the sales department. It appears as if the sales department is beginning to see increased interest in the project.
In 2018, the goal was to increase the number of quotas given to customers. In this large company, Mr. Sumitani is still challenging himself and the company into enter in new fields of business.
Our third speaker was Mr. Motoki Sakano from Studist Corp. As a graduated, Mr. Sakano started his first job as an IT engineer. He then changed jobs, currently running his own online media that he started in college and working in the marketing department at Studist.
Studist has the mission to “explain things more simply.” From this mission they started making their procedures and methods easier to understand, created a BtoB manual and “Teachme Biz” an online media site. Mr. Sakano explained “Our goal is to decrease the loss of meaning of the original message you want to convey and increase the knowledge and ability of the company” through a solution developed by someone with a background in consultation.
But the problem at the time of their establishment was even with a good product, they didn’t have a marketing specialist. It doesn’t matter how good your service is if nobody knows the existence of it. Your results will still be 0 in this case. So their first goal was to go from 0 to 1. In order to succeed in this goal, Mr. Yusuke Mameda, an executive officer at Studist, became heavily involved. At first they couldn’t get the results they were hoping for. But they were introduced to an “evangelist” working in the marketing department of another venture company. He introduced them to a book with 75 ways to strengthen your web marketing. Mr Sakano explained, “Honestly we focused on implementing those 75 methods.” It was very successful and the number of inquires about their product rapidly increased and they started using MA tools.
However, once they reached that point, several problems became apparent. Even if they gather sale leads, they were too busy to handle all of them. The sales department had their hands full with possible customers inquiring about their product, and it was also hard to identify hot leads. Even with-in these hot leads, some are hotter than others. In order to focus on these hot leads and pass them on to the sales department they built an inside sales system. During this, Mr. Mameda who had heavily been promoting marketing became in charge of the global division and went to Bangkok. The person who took over for him in marketing was Mr. Sakano.
Mr. Sakano had started from the beginning of building the marketing mechanisms. Like Mr. Mameda, he started with reading books written by marketing specialists and gaining the know-how and practice. From segmenting customer groups, regulating and measuring the inflow channels, cleaning up the sales process, the organization of the marketing and sales process, to seeing the connections between successes, Mr. Sakano was trying to make them all visible.
“We tried our best at exhibitions. We would participate in these exhibitions with the goal of “how many leads can we get.” In addition, because the closing rate of free trial events is very high, it is not in the awareness phase but the back processing phrase. In other words, registering leads to nurturing those leads is the processing phase. We followed the closing rates of business discussions as the clear KPI.
Right now, the current challenge of Mr. Sakano is increasing the number of customers that are large corporations. And in order to better scale internal sales, he must strengthen and improve the flow of online product inquiries as well.
In his last remarks Mr. Sakano told the audience, “I am still an amateur and still in the middle of my “challenge.” Therefore, I am currently emphasizing the try mentality. But this does not mean fighting through dark storm clouds all the time. It means logically thinking and starting from the beginning when someone must take the first action. In order to take this action, the books I read really played a role and helped. Surprisingly, I don’t think I like doing exactly as the books say I should. I don’t think many people do exactly what these books say. If everyone here reads these books thinking they are trying to trick you and try for your own goal, I think you will see unexpected results.”
After our speakers finished, Mr. Iimuro once again took the stage. He walked around the audience looking for their impressions, feelings, and advice to the speakers.
We heard from the audience opinions such “it’s the same at my company,” “at first I thought that there wouldn’t be results, but I realized its important to keep moving forward,” and “things like the number of inquiries and projects are of course important for the quantification of marketing ROI, but it is also important for marketing itself.”
Mr. Iimuro finished out the day by telling the audience, “It’s important for everyone to have a common understanding of these ideas and this knowledge, and then to act on them. If you don’t act on them then nothing will change. In order to change tomorrow, you need to challenge yourself and move forward one step at a time.” As long as you take action, even if it is a small step forward, it is still a step towards the future. As the audience began to heat up, we moved forwards to the next 3rd session.