Digital transformation is a concept that has taken hold in all kinds of companies from Wall Street to Main Street. The promise of technologies is great: elastic cloud computing, AI/machine learning, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and Edge Computing enjoy great expectations from senior business leaders for their potential to transform the energy supply chain.
Advertas has just completed a white paper and e-guide for a major industrial automation company that has re-cast their offerings in terms of Digital Transformation and the benefit potential when applied to large operating facilities, such as offshore platforms, refineries, and petrochemical plants. Upstream from refining operations where hydrocarbons are discovered and developed, geoscientists and engineers cite applications of machine learning to large seismic data volumes, 4D reservoir simulation, drilling, and oilfield optimization.
Whatever the business or technology offering, we are advising clients to rethink their positioning strategies in terms of how their offerings fit on the landscape of this nascent I.T infrastructure, which is not a fad and will not fade with time. Specifically, some key questions to ask as you contemplate how to go to market:
In 2018, Advertas conducted a market survey of the“Millennial” age group, targeting ages 22 – 35(ish), to gauge how this demographic sought information on new technology, particularly machine learning applications. Perhaps not surprisingly, this demographic was found to use Social Media outlets early in their searches for suppliers, not as a source of technical information, but as a quick view of the vendor’s activities. There were a few other surprises from the market survey. The point, of course, is going to market knowing vs. not knowing, at least to the extent practical.
If you struggle with the last question, you’re not alone. Our clients have great technology, but some are challenged to demonstrate that their offerings provide a dramatic improvement over the status quo. In their book “Zero to One”, Peter Thiel and Blake Masters propose that “As a good rule of thumb, proprietary technology must be at least 10 times better than its closest substitute in some dimension to lead to a real monopolistic advantage”. We second that notion. Fortunately, in B2B applications, the business value of the offering can often be quantified using good financial analysis. However, the market is demanding and offering greater business value alone will not be sufficient if no one knows about your product or service.
The technologies referenced above, supported by the major cloud vendors, promise large step-changes in performance and usability, along with new capabilities to tackle difficult technical problems. Unfortunately, the wholesale expansion of capabilities are occurring so rapidly with cloud computing and applications of AI that product planning and marketing strategies are highly uncertain, but neither can they be ignored. Knowing your market while being ready to change remains sound marketing advice. And, most importantly, consider the application of Digital Transformation on your own marketing outreach.
Hal H. Green is a marketing executive and entrepreneur in the energy industry with more than 20 years of experience in starting and managing technology companies. His particular focus is business strategy, effective selling practices, and field marketing. He has a diverse portfolio of achievements, which span all areas of the hydrocarbon supply chain – from upstream exploration through downstream refining & petrochemical.
Mr. Green attended Texas A&M University, where he received a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. He later earned an MBA in Information Management from the University of Houston. As Director of Manufacturing Systems for Setpoint, an advanced process control firm in Houston, Mr. Green effectively managed the P&L of this consulting practice. After Aspen Technology acquired Setpoint in January 1996, he continued as Director of Business Development for the Information Management and Polymer Business Units. Throughout his career, Mr. Green has been a proven thought leader, publishing articles in major industry journals.
In 2004, Mr. Green founded Advertas, a full-service marketing and public relations firm serving clients in energy and technology across the energy supply chain – upstream, midstream, downstream and power. In 2009, Geophysical Insights retained Advertas to be their outsourced marketing and business development functions. Dr. Tom Smith, President/CEO of Geophysical Insights, appointed Mr. Green as Director of Marketing and Business Development, in which capacity he still serves today.
Marketing managers of growing companies look at their team, see the gaps and recognize what they need help doing. However, there’s a delicate balance as you grow — bringing the right people on board to grow the business without out-spending cash flow. Each HR decision must be carefully weighed against the revenue side of the equation. Making this transition is critical to growing from a small business to a market contender. Looking into an agency can have several advantages:
You cut the time required to locate, train, and manage dramatically.The right agency knows your industry, is well-steeped in the buying values of your customers, and can quickly understand your product and go-to-market strategy. Finding an individual who has the skills and expertise that you require, together with the industry experience, can be a rather daunting and time-consuming task. You will always be the subject matter expert, but the burden of hiring individuals and getting them up to speed is much less than when dealing with an agency who specializes in your industry. If a new skill is required, it’s the agency’s job to hire and train the new employee, so you can focus on the things you do best.
Access to a team of expertsThe marketing skills gap is very real. Addressed by Harvard Business Review and the New York Times: “A skill gap is the difference between the skills required to complete a task and the actual skills possessed by an employee.” Marketing covers a multitude of fronts, each facet with its own challenges, best practices, and required technical expertise. In order to have a fully-formed, optimal marketing program, it’s necessary to have a team of experts. Digital marketing / SEO, event execution, marketing automation, lead generation, creative content, social media, technical writing, graphic design, strategy, project management — the list can be extensive. Rather than keep each of these experts full-time in-house, an agency can be the answer to the biggest “bang for your buck”.
Scalability and Financial FlexibilityIf you experience fluctuations in sales at all, you will benefit from an “as needed” relationship with an agency. Perhaps there are busy seasons — trade shows or a product launch — for which you bring them in. No need to carry the overhead of a full staff 12 months out of the year. Scale up when you need to without the commitment of permanent growth, and scale back as needed. A good agency should be able to accommodate you at every stage of your business.
Stay ahead of the latest technology and trendsAcross the marketing landscape, both tools and best practices are ever-evolving. It takes commitment and time to stay abreast of these developments, but that investment is required to stay competitive. Your own employees can sink much productive time into investigation and education, but an agency shoulders this burden and presents to you the best fit for your business, saving your team time and energy for directly revenue-generating activities.
Get an outsiders perspective“Siloed” or “myopic” thinking plagues even the best teams. Corporate culture, even in small companies, can dictate a particular vision or approach. One of the benefits of an agency is a team of people from diverse backgrounds and skill sets, all applying a fresh perspective to address your business needs. Perhaps it is a new outreach plan or a new twist on a value proposition to more specifically speak to a customer’s challenge. A good agency is working for your best interest, is vested in your success, and provides creative solutions that could only come from an outside voice.
Conclusion Growing your team one full-time employee at a time can be an arduous task. Retaining a marketing agency can eliminate many of the hiring, training and managing burdens, as well as give you a ‘leg up’ when competing with the marketing departments of much larger firms.
Laura Cuttill Practice Lead
Laura A. Cuttill is a strategic and operational leader with a demonstrated ability to fuse business, financial, and technology interests into streamlined, profitable operations. Armed with a degree in marketing from Texas A&M University, Ms. Cuttill began her career in the Schlumberger Information Solutions department, working on identity management roll-out projects for Chevron and ExxonMobil.
In 2004 she joined Hal Green as a co-founder of Advertas, adding her organizational, analytical, and creative problem-solving skills to the team. In 2010 she left Advertas to co-found the identity management software company, 2FA, Inc. As COO / CMO for 2FA, she helped lead the company from concept to a 75% market share in target verticals for two factor authentication in four short years. After selling the business to Identity Automation in 2016, she returned to Advertas, continuing to support clients in the energy and process industries. She serves her clients with a unique vision of using cutting-edge software and marketing practices as a foundation to drive business growth.