Learn about Sales and Marketing Alignment
The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Pancho Dizon, this chapter is titled “Marketing is Aligning to Shine.” In it, Karen Gagnani, the Country Marketing Manager for both the Philippines and Guam site of Kimberly Clark Professional, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in market re-alignment.
Adapting through External Business Factors
It’s Karen Gagnani’s job to ensure things go smoothly and efficiently on the B2B aspect, being the Country Marketing Manager for both the Philippines and Guam site of Kimberly Clark Professional, the business-to-business side of personal care brand Kimberly-Clark. The job keeps her busy, she explained, as it’s her responsibility to see to it that the sales and marketing teams reach the annual financial objectives set by the company. She does this duty by deciding what strategies these teams will take, such as what products to focus on marketing and which specific demographics to go after.
“Of course, this had to be modified when the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” she said. “Just like many other businesses, we had to temper our expectations for the year and realize that we probably weren’t going to hit the financial objectives we initially set. We also had to get creative because face-to-face sales calls are such a big aspect of B2B and that was no longer possible for the time being.”
As a result, Gagnani suddenly found herself with the massive task of steering the company through an unprecedented crisis.
“What helped me through it was reminding myself of the importance of aligning with the teams I work with―whether it’s the sales team, supply team, or finance,” Gagnani said. “So although we all have different ways of working, I encourage it, as long as we all have the company’s growth in mind.”
Gagnani noted that this is especially paramount in the B2B world, where she said that sales and marketing should not be thought of as separate entities. “The job of sales is to go out there and sell as much as they can,” she said. “But when it comes to marketing, the responsibility becomes to make sure every move they do out there in the field is the most efficient one, that the focus is in the right place.”
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, this challenge meant giving Kimberly Clark another way to reach out to their clients that didn’t put their sales team at risk. Thus, the company resorted to using online platforms such as Shopee to keep the business going while still making sure their company profiles were consistent with their brand image and vision.
“This was important, not just for us, but also for clients who wanted to buy from us in bulk and know it was a credible source. More so, a lot of what we make is considered essential goods,” Gagnani said, referring to their hand hygiene products and PPEs. “Some local government units (LGUs) such as barangays (smallest local government unit in the Philippines) and hospitals purchased items through our Shopee online store. Even though it was new to us, I’m proud to say we managed to gain pretty good traction within the first 10 to 11 weeks of being present online.
Here, Gagnani managed to align the goals of their customers and their sales team while ensuring the safety of everyone involved.
Yet Gagnani pointed out that the concept of alignment also extends to identifying customer needs and making sure Kimberly Clark is able to deliver. According to her, a good marketing campaign needs to be anchored on thorough market research to really connect with people.
She recalled past experiences where the company would simply import popular products from the American market to the Philippines, expecting that they would instantly be met with the same success. In contrast to this sort of “top-down” approach to product launching, Gagnani emphasized that when a marketing campaign or product is strongly hinged on a market need or based on a strong market feedback, then success is “almost 100% guaranteed.”
“It also helps us plan exactly what to promise,” she said. “A common marketing mistake is to overpromise and underdeliver. When we know exactly what people are looking for, we can underpromise and overdeliver instead, which always delights them.”
This emphasis on being aligned with the customer is also why Kimberly Clark invests heavily in training their sales and marketing teams. Not only are they trained to answer inquiries swiftly and effectively, they take to heart Kimberly Clark’s brand promise of being an indispensable business partner. This way, customers can get a consistently fulfilling experience each time they deal with the company.
Finally, one of the ways Gagnani measures the success of her initiatives is through feedback from Kimberly Clark Professional’s channel partners. She offers up the example of their Annual Distributor Conference, wherein members of the sales team participate in team building with channel partners and make sure everyone possesses the same mission and vision.
According to Gagnani, “After events like these, I always look for feedback and I’m happy to say an overwhelming majority are positive. Many share that they leave the conference energized and with a renewed sense of purpose.”
Thus, whether the Kimberly Clark team is talking to a key decision maker, an organization or even a distributor, what comes first is aligning and understanding each party’s goals. While this idea forms the heart of Gagnani’s marketing philosophy, the odds are it’ll work for just about anyone.
“It’s easy to chase numbers and targets in marketing,” she said. “But if you forget to take the time to try and understand your market, as well as taking care of your team, success becomes difficult.”
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Karen Gagnani, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
The Evangelists - and other business books about the Philippines and Asia Pacific - will soon be streaming on Audiophile, our platform for exclusive Filipino audiobooks.