Magnus Bach considers himself a lucky marketer. At the beginning of the year he became head of global marketing for Danish wind energy firm Vestas, where he has worked in marketing and commercial roles in numerous territories for the past decade.
The technology and innovation driving the business give Bach and his team what he describes as “a truly epic product-offering to work with” in an industry—renewable energy—which is tackling climate change head-on. But with bright, young competitors emerging from new markets, the onus is on Vestas to reaffirm its market-leading position for its B2B customers.
A focus on the intangibles of the value proposition and aligning new and old channels alike are key to its approach. In conversation with CMO.com recently, Bach began by explaining Vestas’ position and what that means for its marketing function.
Bach: Vestas is both a pioneer and a market leader in wind energy after deciding to focus just on this sector in 1979. In most major markets, we are among the top three providers and have installed and commissioned more than 60,000 wind turbines across 75 countries, securing orders in 33 markets last year alone.
As such, we need to operate in a wide range of markets, from green field and frontier markets, such as those in Africa and areas of Asia-Pacific, to mature markets, sometimes best defined as saturated aftersales markets. At the same time, we target a variety of customer segments, from state-owned utilities and grid operators at one end of the scale to independent power producers and developers, some of which can be relatively small. We also have newer types of customers, sometimes referred to as “carbon-conscious corporations,” which invest or divest into wind because wind energy is a great form of hedging—it ensures stable electricity costs for energy-intensive companies and is demanded by customers.
The point is that, from a marketing perspective, Vestas’ range of customer segments and markets means we need an extremely agile marketing proposition, coming across as being highly competitive in all these settings.
CMO.com: In what ways have you adapted the marketing strategy to meet these challenges since becoming global head of marketing at the beginning of the year?
Bach: In the B2B space, it’s not enough to just talk about product specifications, it’s just not effective in terms of getting the proposition across to key decision makers and strengthening the brand overall. Instead, in regards to content generation, we work hard on supplementing product marketing by focusing on the intangibles of the value proposition, whether derived from people, processes, or systems. These don’t necessarily carry a price tag, but they have the potential to truly differentiate the business to our customers.
Customer-centricity may be clichéd, but it does really come down to this and understanding what’s valuable to our customers. For example, when working with prospects new to wind energy—sometimes in markets that are yet to install their first wind park—it makes sense to focus on positioning wind overall as an alternative to other electricity-generating sources. Likewise, we might focus on things like grid integration or introducing them to the concept of a “social licence” to operate—how wind energy can bring value to a community and society not just during the construction period but also for 20-30 years ahead. Aspects such as these are anchored in the very early stages of the value chain and are best defined as intangible organisational capabilities that don’t carry a price tag, but they do potentially represent great value for our customers.
At the end of the day, it’s all about configuring our proposition to resonate with a given set of customer needs. For the marketing function, the implication is that, at all times, we need to maintain the narratives, proof points, and collaterals for that configuration to take place—across all channels, spanning 1:1 to social media.
CMO.com: What role do digitalisation and data play in your marketing strategy?
Bach: A key area of focus this year is how digital platforms and big data drive value for our customers. Vestas operates in a market defined by technological advances and innovation, where a lot of players talk about technology leadership. As one of the more mature players, we have the substance—the accumulated data and the processing capabilities—to deliver against our claim of being a leader in technology.
Out of the 83,000 megawatts installed, we service 73,000 megawatts, which generates tons of data available for further processing. This is used systematically across the value chain to lower the cost of energy but also to increase business case certainty for our customers.
But if we’re going to position our innovations and our data-enabled capabilities, we have to make sure the vehicle through which we communicate matches the message—it doesn’t make sense otherwise. Our next step will, therefore, be to develop and deploy digital channels that in themselves convey our message, and so tell our story through engaging and possibly interactive digital experiences, whether it’s VR, AR, or cloud-based sales applications. Whichever we use, they will need to be scalable. Branding and building a strong reputation is about enabling consistent messaging across all channels over time—together with messaging that resonates with the end-user group—that’s the key objective of our marketing strategy at this stage.
It’s a potential rabbit hole and could take a lot of resources from the organisation, but it’s an important transition to ensure our value is coming across as effectively as it could. The move to digitalise the marketing proposition is not the tricky part though, that’s defining the key value drivers. And then we shouldn’t forget the positive outcomes of marketing effectively through digital channels, from social media to ecommerce, which will generate valuable intelligence that can feed right back into your digital channel strategy as well as real-time dashboards. That data will thus be a driver for change and behaviour, also beyond the marcomms community.
CMO.com: How does this align with your approach to traditional marketing?
Bach: As I mentioned, from a marketing perspective, you need to walk the talk in terms of the channels you use. There needs to be consistency between the messages deployed and the means through which you deploy them.
We also have to remember that we are a B2B company with a few hundred very large customers, most of which have a very limited number of key decision makers. So we still consider the business environment we operate in, for instance, by enabling customer intimacy through traditional marketing and hospitality platforms—such as our sponsorship of a sailing team in the Volvo Ocean Race—in parallel with our digital initiatives. Sailing is a good strategic fit for us for obvious reasons as both sailing and wind turbines excel in harvesting wind effectively, deduced by data and insights.
Major branding and positioning platforms, such as that of Volvo Ocean Race, also allow us to communicate more effectively on another area that is increasingly important to us, namely that of sustainability. As touched upon earlier, we—and the industry at large—have the technology to help solve the problem of climate change. And that’s a message we like to get through to a wider audience, also beyond B2B.