Big and little data, building trust and B2B marketing – Interview with Charlie Peters of Emerson

Today’s interview is with Charlie Peters, who is Senior Executive Vice President of Emerson, a diversified global manufacturing and technology company that is working to solve the world’s most complex engineering challenges. Emerson has a market capitalisation of $45 billion, approximately 135,000 employees and 235 manufacturing locations worldwide.

Charlie is a 40+ year veteran of Emerson and his main responsibility is to develop innovative global business models that build the company’s capabilities and create added value for Emerson’s customers. Commonly known as Emerson’s “innovation guru”, this is the second time Charlie has joined me on the podcast. First time around, back in February earlier this year, he joined me to talk about: The changing world of B2B customer experience and what the future looks like. Today, Charlie joins me to talk about ‘B2B versus B2C marketing’ and ‘Big Data versus ‘little data’.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Business needs to be agile and customer centric if it is to avoid the coming customerpocalypse – Interview with Alan Trefler, CEO of Pegasystems – and is number 118 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Highlights of my interview with Charlie:

  • The transformation that was predicted for B2B, and in particular B2B marketing, back in 2000 has not happened as rapidly as predicted i.e. everything online, everything transformed and the disappearance of distribution channels.
  • There has been a lot of resistance and inertia that has slowed down the process.
  • However, change is still happening and B2B marketers would do well to look at the B2C world and learn the lessons from what they have done and have achieved and layer those onto the new business models that are emerging in B2B.
  • The slow pace of change has lulled some into complacency.
  • Charlie believes that we may be at an inflection point where in some businesses change is happening very rapidly and in others nothing, or not much, is happening at all.
  • There are two factors that are potentially driving this:
    • 1. The propensity of customers/decision-makers to buy digitally/online; and
    • 2. What is the value added structure and how amenable is that to shifting online or onto a digital platform.
  • Products that are very hard to apply, customise or configure are less likely to shift to the new online environment.
  • Charlie points out that some of the major challenges that are stopping many B2B marketers taking more advantage of digital technologies is that they, generally, deal with very complex products and services, multiple decision-makers, high risk decisions and protracted decision making cycles.
  • However, there are lessons that B2B manufacturers can learn from, for example, how some car manufacturers have used digital technologies to offer their customers online selection, configuration and order facilities, which has allowed them to move towards a model of on-demand manufacturing.
  • B2B companies have an opportunity to use technology to move to a more consultative selling model and help with their customers’ decision making challenges.
  • Charlie is convinced that trading on information has higher profit potential than just trading on hardware.
  • Competitive advantage will be built and maintained on a company’s ability to build trust.
  • So, the key question that every B2B marketer should be asking is: How does your firm create or build trust with your customers in this changing world? And, to what degree is that based on local and/or global representation?
  • Charlie believes that many B2B companies when they think big data, they are actually thinking about little data.
  • Little data has a very narrow focus and is based on internal, structured data whereas big data includes little data and all of the unstructured text, audio, numeric, video, sentiment etc data that is out in the world.
  • The value in big data is that it is unstructured and that insights are yet to be discovered.
  • Competitive advantage and insight will come from a business’ ability to utilise big data to better understand it’s market place and customers.
  • However, there is a real big data skills gaps and a real gap in the knowledge of big data tools.
  • Therefore, to grasp and understand the possibilities executives and professionals are going to have to just jump in and learn about this new discipline.
  • With the advent of big data and predictive modelling, there could be space for a return to popularity of scenario planning.
  • Big data will give companies the ability to increase the ‘fidelity’ on their simulations.
  • Emerson are increasingly seeing a demand from customers for complete solutions where customers want everything done for them and they are very willing to pay for a complete solution.
  • This is being driven largely by two things:
    • 1. The loss or lessening of skills in vertical industries through aging, retirement and competitive low-cost manufacturing from other countries that don’t traditional have the same deep skill base; and
    • 2. The generational shift between Baby Boomers and Millenials. The new generation tends to expect more from their suppliers when they encounter a problem or a need and, also, tend to trust their suppliers to come up with and deliver a solution.

About Charlie (taken from his Emerson bio)

Charlie PetersCharles A. Peters was appointed to senior executive vice president in 2000 and is responsible for helping Emerson and its business units develop innovative global business models and strategies that build the company’s capabilities to support and create value through its customer relationships. He also oversees Emerson’s information technology, marketing and customer support programs that provide a foundation for implementing these initiatives. Peters has served as a management member of Emerson’s Board of Directors since 2000.

Peters joined Emerson in 1975 as an engineering cooperative student at its Browning business in Maysville, Ky. He moved to corporate planning in 1978 and later served in strategic planning positions at several Emerson business units, including Skil power tools. In 1986, Peters was named president of the Harris Calorific welding equipment business.

Peters went on to hold several corporate positions at Emerson, including vice president of strategic planning, vice president of development and technology, and senior vice president of growth programs. In 1998, he assumed operating responsibility as the business leader of the industrial components and electronics business, and was promoted to executive vice president.

Peters received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University. Peters lives in St. Louis and is married with five children.

You can say Hi to Charlie on Twitter @Emerson_Charlie, keep up with Emerson’s new on Twitter @Emerson_News, find out more about the company on LinkedIn here and check out their website: www.emerson.com.

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