On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the BtoB Summit, BtoB Leaders had the pleasure to interview Aurélien Gohier, Digital Manager Western Europe at Dassault Systèmes and founder of the newsletter and podcast #Industry4Good. This industry marketing expert looks back with great lucidity on the 2010 decade of the CMO and marketing practice in B2B and gives us his insights on the next challenges.
Pour commencer, pouvez-vous revenir sur votre parcours professionnel en quelques mots ?
I fell into B2B in 2009, with a common thread: I have always worked in computational sciences for publishers who have the particularity of serving industry. I started out in the world of software for the construction sector, before moving on to the world of virtual reality, where I was in charge of integrating the marketing of the German company IC.IDO, which had been acquired by ESI Group, a French prototyping company specializing in the physics of materials (1,200 employees). I created the digital department at ESI Group from scratch.
My encounter with the world of Dassault Systèmes took place in 2017. Today, I hold the position of Digital Manager for Western Europe.
You have launched a number of projects around the industry. Can you tell us about them?
In 2015, I developed a "CMO On Demand" business for two reasons. First, small and medium-sized industrial companies do not necessarily have the resources to hire CMOs. These structures could also have difficulty attracting these profiles, especially when we know that their sites are often located more than an hour from Paris. At the time, there was no such craze for the new rural exodus that emerged with the pandemic. I used to follow up to six companies a year in parallel with my work.
This activity allowed me to give conferences around the themes of brand attractiveness in B2B. The idea was to bring pop culture and modern web codes into the more corporate world of B2B... a world that I found exciting and instructive on the human, technological, technical and scientific levels but whose cosmetics could sometimes seem austere. I tried to bring this approach to Dassault Systèmes at my small level.
Having a great appetite for audiovisual, I created a podcast in 2016 on B2B marketing where I interviewed mainly American authors, as they are often ahead of what is done in Europe. Finally, I launched a newsletter and podcast called Industry4Good to bring a "candid look at the industry". I also had the opportunity to interview Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Secretary of State to the Minister of Economy and Finance, in the 4th episode of the podcast on the topic of investment in industrial startups. I also had the chance to exchange with incredible personalities like Anaïs Voy-Gillis or Luc Julia.
What do you think is the major difference between the CMO of the early 2010s and the CMO of today?
My answer will probably not be original, but I sincerely believe that digital technology has changed everything, both in the process and in the communication.
#1 Be able to measure the ROI of marketing actions (finally)
I was one of those who implemented the first Cloud CRM more than 10 years ago. We put a lot of energy into it for a simple reason: we were finally going to be able to determine the ROI of marketing actions. With these tools, we could finally demonstrate to the Comexes that marketing did much more than kakemonos, events and sporadic content.
#2 The new generation of CMOs
We've gone from marketing that sends emails to marketing that reaches an unexpected audience on social networks. Digitalization has shaken up the teams insofar as it has impacted the type of profiles recruited and the range of skills expected. About ten years ago, in my sector, CMOs and CCOs in B2B were often former engineers. Then came a second wave of CMOs who were not digital natives per se but who were more comfortable with digital.
#3 The eternal challenge of Sales - Marketing alignment
Digital is a means, not a solution. Sales - Marketing alignment in B2B is still a major challenge today. We have realized that there is no magic formula. It is not enough to implement a powerful CRM and to set up common KPIs for sales and marketing in order to break the silos. This reasoning is anti-anthropological. I think this challenge is first and foremost human and managerial.
#4 Virtuous business models and customer centricity.
I would also mention the shift in managerial style towards transversality and participation. I think that the companies that will win the war for talent are those that will have transformed themselves with virtuous, sustainable and responsible business models and that will play the game of flexibility at work. Finally, I think that B2B has not succeeded in its transformation towards customer centricity (nor B2C for that matter...), a subject that will remain on the agenda for the next ten years at least.
A HubSpot study explains that more than half of B2B buyers don't view salespeople as trusted partners, leading them to self-serve and complete much of the journey before contacting a provider. Would you say that salespeople have lost their place in the buying journey over the past decade?
I have always worked in niche sectors with complex offers and very high average business volumes. In this type of business, I think that sales people have nothing to worry about. They bring empathy, analysis and expertise.
To broaden the subject a bit, I think that salespeople are only motivated by short or medium term financial ROI. As long as this paradigm remains, the sales person will be confined to this image of a conversion machine. At the same time, how can we ask a sales person to be a trusted advisor when their bonus structures are almost exclusively sales-related? I think the era of the salesperson who only sells will quickly disappear.
On the marketing side, B2B has spent an inordinate amount of time doing lead generation and growth hacking at the expense of employer branding and branding. I feel like this trend is being reversed. B2B is trying to get cool again... except we're not getting cool again. We either are or we aren't. Marketing is expected to play the role of transformer or cultural broker, to use Jezewski's terminology. It will have to pass on its knowledge of responsible models, the semantics used, the customer experience, etc.
How do you see the CMO position evolving in the next decade?
Today, the dichotomy between marketing and communication functions leads to complex, matrixed external communications with different levels of discourse. Corporate communication is about "beauty" and employer branding with large budgets and no real ROI constraints, while local marketing often has to make do with a smaller budget to do LeadGen. I think this is a critical mistake.
B2B decision-makers can receive a polished communication from a company, then a poor quality LeadGen emailing from the same structure. The communicator has a better artistic and visual culture, a mastery of the brand concept itself. On the other hand, the marketer is more field-oriented, with a more advanced business and programmatic culture. So I think we're heading towards a merger between the marketer and the communicator. The fact that these two functions are differentiated is a nonsense. It's the only way to avoid having a multi-speed company.
Companies are also called upon to show more responsibility in their communication, especially with regard to the environment. The motto "less is more" will probably prevail. I don't think we'll be able to let content languish online for years, nor will we be able to continue sending emailings to contacts who haven't interacted with the company for a very long time. The content era will have to start its environmental transition.