Virtual event courtesy of Panasonic.
As more B2B marketing teams adopt B2C strategies to engage and convert business customers, electronics giant Panasonic has successfully focused on keeping customers where they are. And during the COVID-19 era, that includes virtual events.
“We had to adapt, think as entrepreneurs, and examine as a company how some of the other big brands have chosen to transform,” said Brian Rowley, VP of Marketing at Panasonic. “The ability to be agile is the way we approach business and our marketing.”
Rowley is the director of marketing for Panasonic’s systems solutions company in North America. This includes four businesses: the mobility product line (Toughbooks and associated durable mobile devices); professional video and business systems (for amusement parks, exhibitions and other organizations); Business process innovation for manufacturing and food; and robotics and large factories.
“When the pandemic started, we were only a few weeks away from one of the most important trade shows in our space, the NAB Show,” said Rowley. “When the pandemic broke out, this show was affected. We changed our approach and used a virtual format. ”
Panasonic has partnered with DisruptAR virtual production company to create a virtual augmented reality event using the Panasonic AW-HE42 video camera and green screen technology. The event took place on Microsoft Teams.
Panasonic hosted 33 virtual events in 2020, and with some uncertainty about the near-term return of live events, they are taking a hybrid approach.
“We have ours [existing events] Team and actually switched to a virtual production team, ”said Rowley. “A part of the team that is more vertical in the company has shifted their skills to support this event team.”
Read more about how virtual events stay.
Panasonic did not have to downsize its marketing team or hire new members. To support the new hybrid events, they determined the virtual assets that would replace the print materials, Rowley said.
His team keeps a close eye on visitor numbers and realizes that virtual events lead to more qualified leads in many cases.
“One of the things we all agree on is the days we meet a customer or prospect at a trade show or face to face, there has been a postponement. We saw this change over the course of the year. “
Solve customer problems
Under Rowley, Panasonic’s approach to B2B marketing has shifted to a customer-centric strategy in terms of the types of news, channels, and content his team uses to promote products and broader industry topics.
“The big change for us was moving from hardware-centric to solution-based,” said Rowley. “I would say we’re seeing a change in the way we interact with customers and the conversations we have. I am no longer coming to sell X. Instead, tell us what obstacles you have and we can resolve that pain point. Instead of thinking ahead, we really want to understand where you are in the process, what efficiency you want to achieve, and work on solutions for that. Technology can answer all of these questions. “
Panasonic used technology to help its client Brooklyn Dumplings adapt its operations to become contactless amid the pandemic. Their location in Manhattan’s East Village has introduced new food lockers that open with a barcode that customers scan with their phone. The food is prepared and then heated or chilled in the grocery cabinet at a fixed temperature until the customer comes to the store and picks it up without having to interact with any staff. The transaction, including ordering and payment, is digital.
“That agility and fearlessness embodies the approaches we use,” said Rowley. “Everyone wanted to be on the move without contact. At Brooklyn Dumplings, a customer simply opens the locker, and that takes dumplings to a new level and offers a whole new experience. “
He added: “Am I sacrificing freshness? No. Remember what this has to do with the whole concept of pickup and delivery services. During the pandemic there was a tremendous focus on takeaway. When we return to more [in-person] Interaction, there will still be people who want to do that. “
Food locker technology could even open the door to upscale restaurants, which have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, he said.
Read an interview with Denzil Rankine, co-author of Reinventing Live
Listen and measure
In order to find out more about the new problems faced by customers, Panasonic had to listen more. And as more and more customer interactions take place through digital channels, analytics tools are critical.
“In fairness, we (before the pandemic) started some discussions with vendors about analytics,” Rowley said. “We carried out a migration within our overall leads module, from which we work. We pushed this process forward and put it in a much higher gear. We knew the value. “
Changes had to be made on the fly in order to optimize campaigns in 2020 and in the future.
“We couldn’t wait for a campaign to end and needed to get as close to real time as possible,” he said. “We used more A / B testing to find out how best to respond to customers.”
With better analytics, Panasonic will be able to gain more insight into the customers they interact with and provide tailored communications and targeted messages, Rowley said.
“From a sales point of view, much of it is used to evaluate the effectiveness of the contact at the actual touchpoints,” he said. “From a marketing perspective, we are all responsible for the customer experience. Sales are much more focused on once the contact is made in order to make the most of that relationship in the future. The first impressions that show who we are are even more important for marketing. “
What does a tech stack for virtual events look like? Read more here.
He points out that customer interactions have evolved to the point where potential customers have already spent significant amounts of time on the company’s website before taking any action like calling a representative. For this reason, message delivery must be consistent.
“From then on,” said Rowley, “how do you develop the conversation? We also balance that with what we see from the industry and listen a lot to the conversations in the market. “
To encourage social listening, Panasonic turned to NetBase Quid’s Quid line of products. They also rely on Google Analytics and recently made the move from Marketo to Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
Looking for BETAs
Panasonic can take pride in many things about the products they have in the market, from new solutions for food technology to projectors that create amusement park entertainment experiences. But bragging about their technology isn’t the best way to start a conversation with customers.
“It’s about focusing on values and beliefs, and understanding your audience is more important today than it was in the past,” said Rowley. “We can rest on the fact that we are a 100-year-old brand, but we have to listen to customers, create engaging experiences and start something with the feedback and accept it, not just collect it. Then use the experience to create a better customer experience. “
Who are the audience Panasonic is trying to reach? Rowley has embraced a new psychographic group from younger professionals within the B2B landscape known as BETAs. They keep the boundaries between work and personal life blurred (that’s what the “B” stands for) while they embrace evolution (“E”) and technology (“T”) and also act as activists (the “A”) with their colleagues and for major social problems.
“In this BETA group, 86% believe thought leadership is the way to get more traffic to the company,” said Rowley. “Over the past year and a half, we’ve been very focused on not promoting who we are, but giving people an open view of our market activities. The behavioral trends that we are seeing suggest that this is really important and worth educating existing and potential customers about. “
The Panasonic marketing team added two series of podcasts to their content production to cover bigger topics in the industry and internally within the company. They also spent four months checking and updating their website during the pandemic, minimizing click points to get the information customers were looking for and use analytics to understand where they are spending the most time with the Gathering information spent.
“We built this information into the user experience because we understood that our property has value,” said Rowley. The focus now is on lower bounce rates and higher engagement on their web properties, which suggests interest and a likely sale.
About the author
Chris Wood has over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he was Associate Editor, providing original analysis of the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed technology and political leaders from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins to former Cisco CEO John Chambers to Vivek Kundra, who was named the country’s first federal CIO by Barack Obama. He is particularly interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are changing the world of marketing as we know it. In 2019 he moderated a panel on “Innovation Theater” at the Fintech Inn in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused coverage in industries like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age, and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS and contributes fiction, criticism, and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.