Today, savvy brands are transforming themselves from product sellers to storytellers, and General Electric, led by the celebrated Beth Comstock, has lead the way.
What’s especially interesting is it’s a business within the mammoth enterprise we rarely hear about, GE Measurement & Control (GE M&C), that is blazing the trail. GE M&C, one of five businesses within GE Oil & Gas, is a $4 billion operation that serves the oil and gas, power-generation, and aerospace industries through process automation, instrumentation, and condition monitoring. Though far from sexy, GE M&C is, nevertheless, quite innovative in the way in which interacts with customers and tells its brand story.
The shift began in 2013, when GE M&C CMO Marcelo Prado decided it was time to take his business through a digital transformation. That meant rethinking the strategy for communicating with customers and the industry.
“We used to have an app that was purely a 3D catalog,” Prado told CMO.com in an exclusive interview. “But we felt we needed to change our communication. ... We wanted to approach our customers in a different way. We were typically very tactical and product-focused. We used to go to market talking about our products, how nice and sharp and shiny they are, and it was time to change that dialogue.”
So GE M&C created an interactive digital platform to arm its sales team. The experience focuses on eight stories--one for each of the customers GE M&C serves in the oil and gas industry--that talks about customers’ operations and major challenges via information gathered from them directly. The app is now the bedrock of how GE M&C talks to existing and potential customers and partners both from a sales and marketing capacity.
“I can use this new experience to talk to a maintenance manager in a plant, or to talk to the CFO, or even the CEO,” Prado explained. “Our sales and marketing teams can tailor the dialogue, depending on who they are talking to. One story, for example, talks about an oil refinery and the challenges that refineries are facing today. We present a storyline on how they’re minimizing or eliminating their big challenges, and oh, by the way, this is how our portfolio matches some of these challenges.”
The refinery story was GE M&C’s first, built as a test, and turned out to be a very powerful sales tool. At that point, GE M&C decided that a platform focused on the real stories of oil and gas constituents would help the business’ channel partners and customers, as well. Today, these stories are available via desktop on GE M&C’s Web site and through a dedicated mobile and tablet application.
A view of the GE M&C app.
GE M&C’s commercial sales team is already realizing the benefits of the digital platform. They can now go out and talk to companies, such as Shell, BP, or Chevron, and know exactly what type of conversation to initiate. The oil and gas industry is complex, so sales is able to use the platform as a tool to navigate, understand, and get smarter about customers and their operations before meeting with them.
The digital storytelling platform is now used within GE M&C’s 12 Technology Solution Centers around the world.
According to Prado, sales has canned the traditional PowerPoint and is using the digital platform within sales meetings to navigate through a client’s challenges and talk about GE M&C’s products.
In addition, channel partners are using the platform as a training tool. “There was a gap of us providing product screening to our channel partners, and we have 40% of our business flowing through channel partners, with more than 1,200 channel partners across the globe,” Prado said. “They love our new storytelling platform because they can very easily understand from a product perspective how we use our products and how they should be talking about our products, what are the benefits, where they position our products, and opportunities for cross-selling.”
Gavin Finn, CEO of Kaon Interactive, the company that built and powers the GE M&C storytelling platform, said that Prado, along with his team, thought through carefully how to not only help the sales and marketing teams within GE M&C, but also to bring customers around to understanding a suite of solutions that GE can help them with.
“This initiative is an enabler for a strategic transformation that Marcelo has brought about, which is both a challenge with respect to how to transform an entire company’s philosophy, but also a huge success story for him and his team because they’ve been very successful in making this transition,” Finn told CMO.com. “And I think the reason that they’ve been successful is they have thought about solutions from the perspective of what the customers’ problems are as opposed to just packaging up a bunch of products and saying, ‘Here is a solution.’”
According to Prado, GE M&C's initiative was the first of several others like it for a variety of GE businesses, such as GE Oil & Gas, GE Power & Water, GE Critical Power, and GE Healthcare.
"The success of GE M&C's initiative played a large role in these groups' motivation to proceed on this relatively new path, due to the similarity of their strategic challenges," Prado said.