Talking B2B Tech: Alexandre Blumenthal
Alexandre Blumenthal is building a brand that can speak to every tech user – and every ‘critical unknown’.
06 Minute Read
- Joined Lenovo as Senior Marketing Manager for Germany and Austria and is now EMEA Director Marketing and Communications for Lenovo’s Infrastructure Solutions Group
- Has gained broad experience in Consumer, Commercial and Digital Marketing, spending over 20 years in IT
- Worked on integrating marketing of three major Lenovo’s acquisitions Medion, IBM X86 and Motorola
- Is a member of the CMO council and an avid speaker about the role of Marketing and Communication at Universities and Schools
Making B2B tech buying decisions isn’t a game. Decisions on data centre infrastructure or software solutions don’t involve the same experiences as navigating virtual worlds or immersing yourself in spy missions. However, as Lenovo ISG’s Marketing and Communications Director Alexandre Blumenthal points out, dig deep enough, and you’ll find many of the same emotions in play.
“As a gamer, you want to be the quickest and the fastest – you want to be winning,” he says. “Fundamentally similar things are true when you’re a business. You want to be more productive; you want to have better security. We take a different angle when we talk to these customers but, at the bottom of it, there are certain emotions and needs that they all have. You can use different ingredients – a little more sugar on the consumer side, a little more salt on the B2B side – but there’s the same human-to-human approach, and the same need to resonate.”
It’s a valuable and empowering insight for a brand that’s grown to touch every aspect of people’s lives over the last 15 years. Lenovo first emerged from an acquisition of IBM’s ThinkPad business back in 2005. Organic growth and further acquisitions have meant that Lenovo marketers like Blumenthal now cover a wide range of flavours between them. His Infrastructure and Services Group (ISG) covers major B2B investments like servers and digital infrastructure. The recently formed Software and Solutions Group (SSG) handles cloud-based ‘as a service’ solutions, while the Intelligent Devices Group (IDG) covers everything from the ThinkPad product line to mobile phones and specialist gaming laptops like the newly launched Legion 17.
“Lenovo’s brand purpose is smarter technology for all and that speaks to gamers as much as it does to commercial customers,” says Blumenthal. “It’s important to have a brand that means something relevant to all our audiences. We keep reminding ourselves that none of this internal structure really exists for people outside our business. You don’t talk to Lenovo ISG – you talk to Lenovo. Each of our business lines has to represent the brand.”
Celebrating B2B tech’s ‘critical unknowns’
Building that brand is the driving force behind Lenovo’s investment in one of its highest-profile B2B campaigns to date. It’s a series of stories that elevate the importance of “critical unknowns”, the unsung heroes within every business that work tirelessly in the background to ensure technology delivers.“In every company, there’s someone who’s a ‘critical unknown’, who’s busy managing the infrastructure, making video chats, and everything else happen,” says Blumenthal. “A big mistake that a lot of B2B companies make is just to talk product. We are forcefully and deliberately talking about the end-user and how we enable them to be more productive or make their company more secure.”
That determination to see beyond the product doesn’t mean that product benefits aren’t a vital part of the Lenovo marketing strategy, however. “We’re talking to business and IT decision-makers – and while we can draw them into our brand world by making bold statements, we also need to root those statements in USPs and proof points for them to make sense,” argues Blumenthal. “They want reports; they want statements from third parties that they can trust, they want the details of how something will make them more effective or more secure.”
Like many B2B tech businesses, Lenovo ISG has reinvented its tactics for delivering this type of demand generation content. “Our activity was heavily skewed towards events, and suddenly that pillar of your lead sourcing is gone,” says Blumenthal. “We were also targeting business people through out-of-home activity in train stations and airport lounges, and we’ve had to rethink how we can move that to a virtual environment while delivering the same kind of results. That’s not easy.”
Meeting the digital demand gen challenge
Meeting the challenge hasn’t just been a case of migrating the same tactics to new channels. As Blumenthal explains, a changing digital environment demands a marketing team that’s ready to revisit and reinvent its core skills.
“A classic events marketer may not be the first person you turn to for digital marketing,” he says. “But then again, digital marketers who were previously running programmatic campaigns also need to expand their skills to help events marketers build a digital customer journey. Only the scale of technology enables us to connect to our customers in the way that we need to. We’ve invested in upgrading our digital customer journey and using data to understand how people navigate it – but you still need the right people in your team to enable that technology. And if you don’t have them, you need to hire them.”
Upgrading digital marketing expertise isn’t just a response to the pandemic. It’s also vital for delivering a marketing strategy that fits the nature of today’s tech buying committees – and can complement the sales team rather than replicating its efforts.
“Our research shows that one salesperson alone can’t hope to reach the entire buying committee at all of their accounts,” says Blumenthal. “If you’re talking to a large corporation with more than 10,000 employees, we estimate that around 21 people are likely to be part of the decision-making process, and if that’s just one of 50 accounts you’re covering, you’re not going to be able to engage them all. That’s where marketing comes in, scaling to the broader decision-making audience. Being able to target those buying committees through Account-Based Marketing on LinkedIn has enabled us to reach everyone involved in a purchase – and it’s really enhanced our sales approach. Our new customer acquisition timeline was reduced by 30%.”
Secrets of the IKEA Edge server
Blumenthal sees innovation as key to maintaining engagement with B2B audiences – and that innovation doesn’t just take place on digital platforms. Earlier this year, potential buying committee members for Lenovo’s rugged, secure yet simple-to-install Edge server received an unusual mailing: a flat-packed cardboard representation of the hardware, complete with IKEA-style instructions for assembling it. The do-it-yourself server cleverly brought to life the product’s USP of simplicity while hugely amplifying awareness across different platforms.
“It was very much a 360-degree campaign,” says Blumenthal. “Besides the physical mailing, there was an online component that people could register for – and interacting with the audience on social media played an enormously important role in the impact of the campaign. You have to keep testing these types of new ideas, or eventually, you’ll find your old tactics failing.”
Of course, the pandemic and work-from-home orders meant the Lenovo ISG team took a risk, considering they were not sure that packages could reach the customer. The results show the gamble was worth the uncertainty – the value of revenue pipeline created was a staggering 30 times the campaign investment.
Smarter technology for all, delivered by everyone
Cultivating an environment where fresh ideas can thrive is a key concern of any tech business. Blumenthal is adamant that diversity is an essential characteristic of such an environment. “It should be part of a company’s DNA,” he says. “I think there’s a certain amount of danger when diversity becomes a marketing topic and something you’re primarily talking about externally. For us, it’s a super-important, internal topic. We need to practice what we preach, live up to our standards, and then good news will travel. I’ve seen so much success coming from diversity, and I know that the more diverse your team is, the better the results will be.”
It’s not just through innovative creative ideas that a diverse, engaged workforce helps to build brands. Blumenthal is a passionate advocate of marketers looking beyond their own department when creating the customer journey.
“When people say, ‘but I don’t have direct customer interaction’, my response is, ‘well, where do you work?’,” he says. “If you’re in finance, can you make purchasing or paying the bill a little easier? If you’re on the switchboard talking to a customer, can you be proactive and share your name and number before you transfer them, so they can call you back if they struggle to access the support they need? If you work in engineering, how can you keep the customer value in mind?”
Delivering smarter technology for all isn’t just a game for Lenovo’s marketers. It’s a game for everyone. And in B2B tech, that’s the kind of tactic that wins.
Interested in hearing from other tech marketing leaders, including Adobe, Salesforce, NTT Ltd. and more? Check out the Tech CMO Corner from LinkedIn.
10 Minute Read
New Research 20/21: The Age of Agility
Now in its seventh year, LinkedIn's largest survey of technology buyers and decision-makers provides technology marketers with insights to grow their business and navigate the road ahead.
04 minute read
Explore our booklet: Revealing the Future of Tech Marketing
We reveal how to take the guesswork out of modern B2B tech marketing – and adjust your approach to thrive in the era of the Anonymous Buyer.