Back to basics: Canon Australia’s B2B makeover
Canon Business Services has applied some old-school principles to build customer trust.
Blame it on social media, customer review sites or internet search engines – or all three – but B2B buyers have become increasingly “consumerised”.
“An explosion of communication vehicles and interaction channels has ratcheted up the expectations of business purchasers,” write McKinsey experts Oskar Lingqvist, Candace Lun Plotkin and Jennifer Stanley. “Many more influencers and decision makers are now involved in the purchasing process, and business buyers, too, have been shaped by their consumer shopping experience.”
As B2B buyers continue to behave more like B2C consumers, business vendors need to adapt to this new sales environment. For Canon Business Services (CBS) – the Australian B2B arm of the large imaging equipment company – this has meant adopting a new corporate mindset and rethinking its marketing and sales strategies.
Canon’s B2C operations inspired this fresh approach. CBS even appropriated and tweaked Canon’s long-running consumer catchphrase, turning “no one sees it like you” into “no one does it like you”.
A catalyst for change was the appointment of a new marketing leadership team in early 2018, with Gavin Gomes as Group Executive Director and Simon Russell as General Manager Marketing. Russell was previously Canon Australia’s Head of Product and Customer Marketing, Consumer Imaging.
“We reset internal perceptions of what ‘customer service’ meant and how we were approaching the market,” Russell says. “How do we make our business more personal? We needed to first seek to understand our customers and understand the challenges they face day to day.”
“It’s that face-to-face contact with our customers that’s critical.”
CBS’s typical clients are small and medium-sized enterprises who require imaging and printing products, cloud and IT services and technical support from local mobile technicians. Its clients are typically busy, with limited expertise in the technology Canon specialises in. They expect things to just work.
Russell says the team asked themselves: “How do we truly partner with our customers and let them get back to doing what they do best – running their businesses?”
To find out, CBS embarked on extensive customer research. It also to rebuild its sales and marketing proposition from the inside out. “We reset every single piece of documentation, as well as the sales process and training, and found key success stories that permeate through the business.”
Russell says CBS first ensured it put greater emphasis on giving customers a good service experience.
“In a world where there’s a lot of great brands and a lot of great products, the differences between them are measured in millimetres,” he says. “Everyone’s selling great products. It’s really the service that you wrap in and around that and the services from local people that make a difference for us.”
Getting local staff on board was important, Russell says. By understanding and investing in its staff, CBS knew customers would be offered solutions that served them best.
“Product centricity is dead, arguably,” Russell says. “If you don’t understand your customer, it makes it very difficult to do business these days. We spent a lot of time talking to existing and potential customers about the challenges they face.”
CBS also spent a lot of time refining its marketing/sales hand-off. “Our lead process is down to about three hours,” Russell says. “We can get someone to call a prospective customer quickly, or they will be on the road to see them – if that’s what they want – on the same day or the next day.”
Russell says modern marketers have to be careful they don’t rely on their technology. “Sure, we can get very clever and scientific with our marketing automation, but that’s only one piece of the jigsaw,” he says. “If we don’t have a sales force that’s out there on the road getting face to face and getting personal with our customers, then really it’s not going to be successful. We can’t win by sending emails to people’s inboxes.”
“We’ve had some strategic wins with key customers and none have been on price, which is exciting.”
His team only uses marketing automation to refer client details to salespeople – not to pester customers.
Russell says CBS’s sales and marketing teams spend a lot of time on the road – especially in regional Australia. It’s vital they understand the hyper-local issues clients face, he says.
“It’s that face-to-face contact with our customers that’s critical,” he says. “It’s getting back to good old-fashioned ways of having a proper conversation and building trust with your customers.
“It’s a lot of hard work and requires a lot of focus, but we’re definitely reaping the dividends.”
CBS has also spent a lot of time thinking about which industries it can offer value. One of these is education.
“There’s a great synergy there with our consumer business through photography and imaging in education, arts and the classroom – how learning is changing into the future,” Russell says. “We sponsored a 15,000-word report into the future of education and joined the conversation in this space, which has enabled us to go out and have conversations with schools and tertiary education providers like we’ve never had before.”
Another business vertical the team is looking at is health, which dovetails with Canon Inc’s acquisition of Toshiba Medical.
Russell says the business is growing market share and the number of “machines in-field” is growing “at a significant rate”.
“We’ve got tangible growth in the business in an environment where businesses are consolidating their fleets and a lot of our competitors are seeing year-on-year declines in machines in-field,” Russell says. “We’ve had some strategic wins with key customers and none have been on price, which is exciting. We’ve won on innovation in the business solutions we’ve provided them, and we’ve won on the back of the people who are going to manage their account into the future.
“Every day we get comments that Canon feels like and looks like a very different business compared with what they dealt with in the past. There’s no question, just from feedback, that we’re heading in the right direction.”
B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC events will be held in Sydney, Singapore and Melbourne in 2019. See here for more information.
Further reading: Clear winners in the customer service race