Matt Preschern is the CMO and head of demand generation for NTT. We spoke with Matt to find out more about his day-to-day role, plus his thoughts on customer-centricity, data, and demand generation.
Tell me about your role – what does a typical day look like for you?
I’m the global CMO and head of demand generation for NTT, a $10bn+ networking and IT services company, so we’re in the networking, data center and cloud business. We operate in many different countries across the globe.
Not only do we support a diverse portfolio that makes my job incredibly interesting, but I can jump from one aspect of marketing to another, hour to hour on some days. The job requires driving pipeline to support that portfolio, the latest digital campaign, how we show up on social media, driving media coverage in top-tier publications, building an account-based marketing program and, of course, thinking about development programs for our teams. And we do this across the world, so no two days are the same!
I prefer to refer to ABM as Account-Based Management rather than Account-Based Marketing as it really is a joint approach between sales and marketing
Every CMO needs to be aligned to their company’s business objectives and growth agenda. Our actions need to be tied to customer needs. So, you have to be very tightly aligned with the sales teams on behalf of your customers. There are no customers at corporate level, they’re all in the regions.
One aspect of marketing that has become increasingly important in aligning ourselves with sales and our customers is the role of ABM. ABM is playing a growing role in enabling sales and marketing to do things differently and disrupt the value proposition. ABM is enabling us to think about individual customers as a market, with multiple decision makers, multiple business units and multiple areas for investment for each customer. I prefer to refer to ABM as Account-Based Management rather than Account-Based Marketing as it really is a joint approach between sales and marketing, rather than just a marketing initiative.
Increasingly – and particularly during economically challenging times – there’s an interesting debate about whether your growth comes from existing customers with a cross-sell / upsell approach, or whether it comes from net new acquisitions. Economically challenging times, whilst difficult, also lend themselves to enormous opportunities for disruption, and I feel marketing plays a huge role in developing a disruptive value proposition, but it requires being close enough to customers and prospects to make it work.
So, my days are spent working in close partnership with sales to ensure they have the latest ideas and new insights to help them get closer to customers and prospects and treat them all on a personalised basis. And this really matters, in my view.
What has been the biggest highlight from your time at NTT so far?
I think the answer to that is two-fold. Firstly, I’d like to think we – in marketing – have a seat at the table as a function and are part of our CEO’s growth agenda.
This may sound simple, even obvious. However, NTT Ltd is in essence a relatively ‘young company inside the bigger NTT that has been around for 150 years! NTT Ltd was formed from approximately 30 companies coming together just a few years ago.
[M]arketing has a seat at the table as a function and [is] part of our CEO’s growth agenda.
My mission coming in here two years ago was to create a world-class marketing / communications function. To do that, we need to build a globally integrated model with centralized ‘Centers of Excellence’ and then highly dispersed, regionally empowered, marketing organisations across the multiple regions within NTT. So, my approach has been to standardise our messaging and approach centrally, but then distribute at speed, globally, with minimum adaptation. Yes, of course we have language and other localisation requirements, but 80-85% of what we do can be set centrally and is then distributed everywhere consistently.
Secondly, since implementing this global Center of Excellence, with a regional execution, approach, I can tell you that our metrics have significantly improved from a productivity perspective, as well as our contribution to pipeline, bookings, and engagement with our social media content, top-tier media coverage – all promoting our vast NTT capabilities. It’s more about capabilities awareness than brand awareness.
I have been at NTT for two years and I’d say in that time we’ve probably done the work of three to four years. I’m proud of the work that we have done as a global team.
What does customer-centricity mean in the context of today’s consumer landscape? How can brands become more customer-centric?
I’ve always felt that, particularly in the B2B space, this word ‘customer’ gets overused to the point it becomes a tick box activity, or part of someone’s to do list. There’s not enough EQ attached to the word. To me, a customer is a person. A buyer. Just because you’re a CIO or CTO, you’re still a human being and I think customer-centricity for a marketeer means a deep understanding of who your buyer, or buying groups, is/are. A CIO, for example, has a different set of needs to a CISO, or to someone who runs a network, or a CTO.
At our last leadership meeting, we spent two hours of the agenda questioning whether our organisational structure was allowing us to be customer centric enough.
In the B2B space, buyer journeys are not transactional. They’re six, nine, or 12 months long, so the buying cycle will take 16, 18 or 20 different interactions over time, and having a pretty good sense of what that buying cycle looks like across marketing, sales and procurement, and really understanding that becomes the underlying driver for specific value propositions – very specific articulation of ‘what can we do differently as a company, compared to someone else’ Then, and only then, can the tactical execution follow.
At our last leadership meeting, we spent two hours of the agenda questioning whether our organisational structure was allowing us to be customer centric enough. Was our customer’s experience negatively impacted because of organisational boundaries? It shouldn’t be about marketing or sales departments; to be customer centric it needs to be product, marketing, sales, and the actual service notion coming together in an environment where customers and prospects can experience service excellence. They want to have a great experience.
How will data strategies evolve in 2023?
Data, by itself, is a bit like the word ‘customer.’ It’s overused and has lost its true meaning. We all know the famous quote about 90% of the world’s data being created in the last two years, but the question is, are we able to zero in on the valuable customer and market data from different sources – structured and unstructured – that provides us with a level of insight that can offer competitive advantage.
Words such as ‘customer’ and ‘data’ need to mean something tangible.
I would challenge everyone working in marketing to go, what I call, ‘back to the future.’ Don’t overcomplicate it. Do you know who your buyer is? Do you know what their budgets are? Have there been any acquisitions? Do you know the CEO? Do you know where the CEO sits and who influences them? Have they had a change of CEO? It’s those personal insights that matter in a B2B environment as much as the B2C environment. This is the kind of information that used to be gleaned over a dinner or on the golf course and despite, all the tools available to offer instant access to more and more data, in the end, people do business with people they like. And that’s not going to change.
So, to me, ‘data’ in isolation is borderline meaningless. Insights and tangible information about what you intend to do with that insight to create a personalised relationship is what’s important. Words such as ‘customer’ and ‘data’ need to mean something tangible.
How does NTT take an account-centric approach to demand generation? What are the benefits?
We have deployed a world class ABM methodology at NTT Ltd. We apply a 1:1 and 1:few approach, we select our target accounts in partnership with our sales colleagues and then we create – together – a client specific value proposition, content and an account plan which then pivots into an account marketing plan that is specifically customised.
We’ve taken this approach of treating an account as a market of one, or a market of few, for the last 12 months, and it’s working well. We’re seeing enormous uptake on both our 1:1 and 1:few programs and, if anything, we’re going to double down on it. We partnered with Agent3 on the value proposition and positioning work, we used Inflexion for the Methodology, and Terminus for the ABM platform. We take this super seriously: we certified over 25 people and interlocked our work with the regional sales leaders and CEOs and the feedback so far has been superb.
What other trends or innovations do you think will come to the forefront of your industry in the next 12 months?
I hate to admit this, but I have lived through the crises of 2001 and 2008, as well as others and, right now, we have a major conflict in the world, we have inflationary pressures and so forth. So, this may be boring, but experience tells me that, when economic situations become difficult, you have to go back to some very specific basics: Who are your customers? Where does your growth come from? What’s your value proposition? Why is what you offer significantly different?
This is not the time to start selling ‘shiny objects.’
During times of restricted expenditure, you disrupt existing paradigms and everything else gets put aside. Right now, the ‘everything else’ is not a priority. Keep it very simple. So, for everyone who talks about the metaverse, yes, it will be very interesting, but is that the no.1 thing about how we define our marketing efforts? Absolutely not. Again, I call it ‘back to the future.’ This is not the time to start selling ‘shiny objects.’ Get back to basics, get close to your customers and prospects, and then be thought provoking about the value that a company can offer.
Having said that, we’re not a start-up, we’re NTT – a company that has an innovation agenda at its core, that is socially responsible, that is one of the largest IT providers in the world, so we bring a level of innovation stability and consistency to the market that, in times like this really matters. And what we want to do is build a relationship that is long lasting and so that’s where my customer obsession comes from.