Three business lessons from IBM to transform your marketing

From the outside, IBM and its marketing machinery may seem large and resourceful; however, from inside, our teams really act more like small businesses and startups. We are scrappy in our sales and marketing motions, critical of the effectiveness of our investments, and eager to experiment with new methods and tools. Here are three lessons for success we have learned on this journey:

Stay Agile at the core. Agile is the underlying foundation of how we organize, execute and improve. IBM Marketing is now among the largest implementations of Agile of any B2B marketing organization in the world. For our Partner Ecosystem marketers, we are embedded with non-Partner teams that share an understanding of their marketing mission. These squads are physically colocated in major marketing centers and have rituals such as iterations, standups and showcases. While we’ve achieved strong strides in our Agile practice, we’re on a journey of continuous learning and improvement. You can do the same for your company. To learn more, here’s an informative article from McKinsey and a blog post from IBM on how to set up Agile for your team.

Be client-centric. The world’s most successful companies, large and small, have one common thread: they listen to their customers and react quickly. Examples of this include Zara’s (Inditix’s) quick response to customer feedback with weekly store replenishments or product change, and Southwest Airlines’ continual service improvement based on passenger feedback. For the IBM Partner Ecosystem business, we’ve received over 1,500 year-to-date Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey inputs from Business Partners that have helped inform changes to our software incentive processing backlog, creation of a SaaS deal registration incentive and improvements to the lead passing SCORE system. Available to all North America Business Partners, you can instrument your end clients on any IBM business transaction. With 73 partners participating, this program is ideal for high-volume resale partners that want feedback for themselves and IBM. Click here for information on the IBM NPS program for Partners and how it can satisfy Gold and Platinum client satisfaction requirements.

Lead with digital, social and events. A marketing strategy is only as strong as the clarity of its audience and goals. We use IBM Design Thinking principles to define our audience personas, identify how we can differentiate and prioritize our goals. With a defined goal, our marketers can find which combination of digital tactics across search, websites, paid media, email marketing and mobile apps best align to help achieve that goal. Your team can follow a similar process with IBM Digital Marketing Foundations for Business Partners training.

Our teams use editorial calendars and recruit key voices with domain eminence through social media channels (particularly Twitter/LinkedIn) to create social engagement that’s measured for later assessment. Social media success takes a village, so IBM Marketing has cultivated transparent social guidelines that set up a culture of trust, responsibility and self-direction that can include blitz days and virtual rallies with key voices and external stakeholders.

Events—both physical and virtual—are one of our most productive tactics for generating new leads and progressing existing deals. For IBM North America, we often host regional events that promote a specific technology or industry area and then break those events into smaller, more specific webcasts that can be target-matched with the best-performing and relevant audiences.

These marketing principles have helped IBM harness digital disruption, and I’d recommend them to all businesses—small, large or medium—on the brink of a marketing transformation.

Tim Tsao
CMO, North America Business Partners, IBM