Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Freehand Circle is both a consultancy and a think tank.
As part of our think tank’s content efforts we are gathering perspectives from innovative trailblazers across all spaces. Freehand Circle asks industry leaders three key questions about the past, present and future. The questions are kept standard regardless of one's position or area of expertise.
Dr. Mahima Hada is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Director of Marketing Analytics Programs at Baruch College. Her research focuses on marketing strategies that impact both B2B and B2C markets. Her published research abounds in premier journals like the Journal of Marketing and International Journal of Research in Marketing. In 2014 Mahima was named a Lang Fellow. Her paper on Referral Equity won the 2016 Naresh K Malhotra Long-Term Impact award and she was a Paul H. Root Award finalist in 2015. Prior to academia she worked for several years in sales and marketing at Dassault Systemes.
Question 1: What is the most important trend happening in marketing right now?
Dr. Mahima Hada:
It should be noted that my research focuses on B2B, and increasingly the subscription B2C domain, so my point of view is influenced accordingly. I think B2B sales are going to continue switching from B2B to B2C2B. Right now B2C2B sales are very low. Yet B2B firms have to start looking at how to sell in a distributed manner to their users because a shift is occurring largely in the tech, services and solution sectors (as opposed to OEMs where little change will occur). With the advent of API's and cloud services and solutions, B2B decision making is shifting from the C-Suite to the end user in an organization. So sales is not going to be one large license anymore. Companies will have defined vetting processes that vendors need to go through, but the valuation and purchasing decisions are going to be done by the experts within a company who will use a specific product or service. Subscription models delivered over the cloud lower commitment and risk. The cost and risks of switching between vendors are so low now that corporate procurement is becoming antiquated. That is the shift — away from corporate sales to consumers within organizations: from B2B to B2C2B.
For B2B organizations that will dramatically change their sales and route-to-market models. People are just not sitting over a glass of wine with a client anymore for some “big sale.” I used to work in robotic design software and it was always a very well structured B2B process. But as soon as you start moving to a subscription model, it is possible for the end user — say one engineer sitting in one place at Toyota or General Motors — to decide whether she wants to use AutoCAD, Adobe or IBM. Everything was accelerated by COVID, but these changes have been happening for years. And it will drive a permanent transformation to B2B sales processes.
Question 2: Building on that, over the next decade what do you think is the most vital development in marketing and communications?
Dr. Mahima Hada:
I think pharma and healthcare are going to lead the way forward. Healthcare is a huge industry that has always been a very B2B domain — selling to conglomerates, health insurance companies and hospitals.
The advent of Electronic Health Records (EHR is the uniform digital code Obamacare put into place for the transfer of medical data) laid the groundwork for big improvements in the exchange of data. Apple and Google entering the healthcare space is going to disrupt the current model, and how consumers consume healthcare (and the current B2B healthcare model). Apple and Google are now running medical studies and diagnosing people over the phone with their own variables. For example, Google trained a machine learning model (ARDA: Automated Retinal Disease Assessment) to diagnose diabetes with eye scans more accurately than traditional diabetes tests. Advancements like these will once again disrupt the traditional B2B space.
The problem is consumers don't know enough. So, they are handing over their own life fitness data from wearables (Fitbit, Apple Watch, etc) to various private vendors. Consumers are trusting an app to give them medical advice as opposed – as opposed to the healthcare provider seeing that objective data and giving medical advice. So the entire marketing strategy has to switch back to the consumer but for relevant domains (lifestyle vs prescription drugs).
Changes in consumer behavior and the health device marketplace are driving how marketers use technology. The benefits in healthcare can be so huge that consumers may sign away all their privacy to improve their health. So, in marketing we have to really consider how much data do we actually need? What is okay and what crosses the line?
Question 3: Finally, what should be the most vital development that happens over the next decade?
Dr. Mahima Hada:
It's not going to happen, but I wish marketers would look at marginalized people — develop products for them, give them the right information and help them make the right choices. Instead of just trying to sell more to the same type of person over and over. We’ve seen this shift slightly. For example Unilever has done some really great things in India. Their laundry products are really expensive and it is not possible for the large majority of the Indian consumers to purchase them. So they shifted their product line to address the needs of the community. Rather than shipping large containers, Unilever started selling small sachets of laundry detergent — which are literally one rupee at the corner store. Now people can buy those every three days to wash laundry.
Everyone needs good products so why is access not more widespread? Why are we not doing more? Developing countries are one side of the story, but there are unfulfilled needs right here in the US as well. Marketing is not doing enough. I just wish we would.