When Connie O’Brien became chief marketing officer at U.K.-based Tungsten Network in 2016, the company’s awareness was largely limited to Europe. Its marketing was pretty much confined to investor relations.
O’Brien was tasked with building a marketing machine from the ground up.
“I had to figure out how to create some resonance with our prospective customers as well as the suppliers who work with our current customers,” she says now. To meet the challenge, she turned to storytelling on the largest scale that her budget allowed.
Is there one idea behind your marketing efforts?
Yes. I really like the idea of brand storytelling, and I was confident we had a great story to share. For example, we get high marks from our customers for managing the process of bringing their suppliers on to our platform. It is one of our unique selling propositions, and its fundamental because this helps suppliers to get paid on time. From a story perspective, we wanted to make prospects aware of all of the friction in the payment process—like onboarding suppliers or getting paid on time—and how Tungsten Network is in the business of removing those issues. So we created a branded storytelling platform around “friction.”
How did the Friction campaign get rolled out?
We started with employees as advocates. We created various pieces of content around the Friction story and, given our relatively small budget, made sure each piece of content could be shared on social channels and have multiple impact. We also trained our sales team on social selling so they could become “friction fighters” and help use this content to create leads.
How do you bring the story to the broader audience?
We talked to our customers. We have a lot of data that’s at our fingertips based on various research companies, but we needed to hear more unfiltered data around what our customers were looking for. Fielding a survey online and at industry trade shows, we were able gather data on the biggest causes of friction in the procure-to-pay process, research that yielded the Friction Index. The Friction Index generated a lot of interesting press coverage, helping to raise awareness of Tungsten Network. It is also giving us real voice-of-the-customer data that can help inform our product roadmap.
What else have you done from a marketing standpoint?
In partnership with IOFM, an industry research company, we developed a diagnostic tool called FrictionFinder.com, a 20-question survey around the whole cycle of the e-invoicing process. This allows procurement professionals to measure where they are in the digitization journey and offers suggestions on how to make their electronic merchant systems more efficient. On this same microsite, visitors can also find Friction-related blog posts and highly entertaining videos.
How do you, as the CMO, manage a multiagency team effectively?
First, I have a great team internally, and each [person] has roles and responsibilities that are very specific to the parts of the journey — and we know that the journey isn’t necessarily a funnel or a straight path anymore. Sometimes it gets a little muddled. But for the most part, I would say everybody’s clear on his or her role and of the importance of collaboration. That’s a culture that I have put in place.
The second thing is that each partner is an expert and has ideas to share. I try and make it so that each partner has an opportunity to not only contribute but also to grow revenue. We have to drive qualified leads. We have to drive engagements and the conversion factors. We have to constantly optimize those things. Always making sure that we’re clear on how we’re spending our money wisely. It’s really important to bring everyone to the table, hearing the same message, being consistent around collaboration and rewarding good ideas.
How has all of this worked?
Really well! In addition to all of the press coverage, our content is being consumed at remarkably high rates and, most importantly, our pipeline of quality leads is chock full.
What do you think the biggest lessons are from your most recent experience?
The primary lesson throughout my whole career is to just listen, because not only is there great information with long-term resident knowledge that we’ve never captured in other places, but the storytellers are in our office — the people who are on the sales front line, the people who are talking to the customer on a regular basis. So really being sure to listen and make sure that those nuances are getting picked up.