In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Drew Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Beth Comstock, click here.
While "exciting" may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think about industrial technology, it's the field of expertise at General Electric, one that the company's marketing team has managed to turn completely on its head. As I learned from my conversation with CMO Beth Comstock, the science behind jet engines, refrigeration and telecommunications (to name just a few of the company's product categories) is much more than a niche interest for nerds.
The fact that GE is almost exclusively a business-to-business operation presented Comstock and her department with a unique challenge. How to use its own "machinery," so to speak, to generate interest and engagement without just pushing product on existing customers? The answer they found on a page written by GE itself. By focusing on science, innovating from within and putting imaginations to work, Comstock and her team have connected with consumers' innate sense of curiosity and have given the rest of us a shining example of B2B engagement done right. "Since when does B2B have to be boring to boring?" she says. "Business people are people too."
Become Interested, Be Interesting
First, GE's marketing department is helping the company grow closer to consumers through what Comstock calls "micro targeting." Given that purchasers of GE products have very particular and very disparate needs, knowing the various targets well (and as you can imagine, there are many) and speaking directly to their unique interests is a necessity. Luckily, there's no shortage of content to deliver. While daunting to marketers on the outside, the vast product catalogue at GE in fact offers Comstock's team a gold mine of interesting material to engage with customers and help nurture them into brand advocates.
"The marvels of science, engineering and manufacturing offer good fodder for content," she says. "We're constantly seeking out storytellers who get as excited about this as we do." By championing the nuts and bolts of industrial technology, GE has been able to start unique conversations and prove itself an authority on topics that most brands can't touch.
Experiment and Innovate
As GE continues to reach new frontiers in technology, the marketing space has also evolved to be increasingly complex, Comstock says. Communicating with consumers is more complicated than ever, but she and her team have found continued success through maintaining "good partners, room for experimentation and a good dose of curiosity."
That entrepreneurial spirit permeates Comstock's department and is perhaps best summed up by GE's own slogan, "Imagination at work." Taking this to heart, she oversees a corps of dedicated media staff who constantly explore the digital space, looking for new tools and practices to keep their efforts right on the cusp of innovation. "I'm a big believer in carving out a percentage of your budget to develop new models," she says.
Cultivate Curiosity to Inspire Engagement
Take #SixSecondScience, for example - a virtual science fair that lives on Tumblr, with Vine videos as the media of choice. The videos, created first by GE itself and then mingled with user submissions, each showcase one of science's mini marvels, like the weight of a balloon post-inflation to demonstrate air mass, or how to make a magnet using common household items. The campaign was a success, garnering hundreds of public contributions and putting GE at the forefront of both digital engagement and scientific know-how. #SixSecondScience, Comstock says, "shows how science can be fun," with the added bonus of connecting GE with a new audience of "tech enthusiasts."
We can expect even more original thinking from GE as long as Comstock holds the reins. When asked about the future of marketing, she believes that a more holistic customer experience is on the horizon. "We haven't cracked it yet," she says, "but I'm looking forward to seeing how we can - and I think digital technology is taking us there very fast."
CMO of the Week is an exclusive Social Media Today column published every Thursday