The CIM North East board recently held its first webinar. ‘Shifting Perceptions in B2B Marketing’ was presented by board member, Nicola Irving, head of strategic marketing and communications at Pearson Engineering.

Located in Newcastle, Pearson Engineering is recognised globally for its contribution to armoured vehicle programmes and designs products which help combat forces to defend, move, fight and to adapt quickly to maintain their battlefield advantage.

Nicola’s subject area drew on her role at Pearson Engineering, examining how the company places a focus on people.

We discovered that in high value, complex markets, the sales cycle may be very long and marketers need to be able to support a funnel which lasts multiple years. Relationship marketing or ‘being in a relationship’ with your customer is, therefore, of huge importance.

Nicola discussed B2B marketing, believing that it could be misunderstood, with the assumption being that it is transactional and data driven and detailed the need for skills which focus on creating dialogue, listening and sharing.

As such, the combination and need for both sales and marketing in this type of environment was explored with a focus on the bigger picture and the alignment of the two.

Nicola detailed the 4 key skills necessary in this type of approach:

Being an investigator –Thoroughly understand your markets and be able to reflect that back within the business using models such as PESTEL analysis, taught in marketing academia to understand the forces which might affect customers over a long period of time.

Being a behaviourist – Examining how customers may change their course of action or be influenced over a long period of time. Understanding, preparing and mitigating for circumstances which may not be in a marketer’s favour.

Being a strategist – It is a ‘long game’ and there are few quick wins. Customers do research and involve broad stakeholders at different points in time. Marketers need to know that and work accordingly.

Being a reporter – The champion for internal communications, ensuring that all of the above is easily shared so that everyone can progress together.

Nicola also identified that these skills are all easier to apply when meeting face-to-face and shared the emphasis typically placed on events, exhibitions, networking, direct sales and explored how you can do this when you can’t physically localise your marketing presence.

This has all resulted in the desire to have a deeper focus on people and the need to invest in educating stakeholders and those with closer contact to key audiences. Nicola referred to her role at Pearson Engineering and how the company had invested time in its international advisors and other parties such as the Department for International Trade, to enable them to help the company.

During the pandemic Pearson Engineering’s first move was to look inwardly to understand its values – why it existed, what it delivered for customers and why it was essential to keep a core focus and not be distracted.

The presentation examined how Pearson Engineering assessed its value in the market and readdressed its segmentation, so as to understand what might have changed for different stakeholders and how the company could help them. It re-branded to create a better focus on innovation, future thinking and being solution providers, rather than product providers. Pearson Engineering also considered re-creating experiences for customers, citing that it would be easy to fill a week of time when there should have been an exhibition with meetings and therefore looked at different ways to replicate this.

The final part of the presentation explored what measures the company will take forward and undoubtedly new technologies will play a huge role, but Nicola believed that, for Pearson Engineering, the focus will continue to be on people.