On April 5, 2012, the board of directors of oil giant ConocoPhillips voted to split the company, and Jack Whalen’s world changed yet again.
He’d been with the nation’s third-largest integrated oil company for 11 years, working on the marketing and sales side of its downstream refining operations. While his division was huge, with sales that placed it sixth among the Fortune 500—the profitability of the exploration and production business often overshadowed it in the eyes of the Wall Street investment community.
Now, Phillips 66, the spun-off, Houston-based energy manufacturing and logistics company, would have its own investors to report to, at a time when gasoline brands of integrated oil were watching high-volume retailers and private-label distributors gobble up 20 percent of their collective market share. After 30 years in the business, Whalen knew marketing efforts were going to have to get a lot more innovative and efficient if they were to help keep the new company growing and profitable.
“We had a lot of longtime customers wondering what their life was going to be like now that they weren’t affiliated with an integrated oil company, and we had an immediate need to generate more leads and business,” Whalen recalls. “We needed a sustainable model to move forward with.”
Whalen, a Sales Manager at the time of the split, became the Manager of Brand Value at Phillips 66. With this move into marketing, facing a market and consumer who had drastically changed, he and his team took over a focused effort on evolving the customer offering and renovating the brands. Over the past two years they kicked off a series of marketing campaigns that reconfigured the way the company communicated with its customer base, digitized lead generation and the rollout of a consumer-focused brand revitalization effort.
The Phillips 66 branded business in the U.S. is supplied through three gasoline brands—the 76® brand in the western U.S. and the Phillips 66® and Conoco® brands in the central part of the country. The company, with over 14,000 employees, also markets gasoline under the name JET® and Coop in Europe.
In the U.S., most of the company’s branded fuel is sold through service station dealers, who either own and operate or own and lease stores. The majority of these contracts function through third-party marketers, making the task of talking directly to the retailer more of a challenge. There are close to 7,000 service stations that are branded Phillips 66, 76 or Conoco.
A Better Conversation with Customers:
The first area of focus for Whalen was setting up a direct communication line to both these current customers and potential customers via a newly established demand generation team.
“We knew there were two key things we needed to focus on,” Whalen said, “The first of those was getting marketing more involved in the customer conversation, especially because we knew that a lot of customers do not engage the sales rep until they are pretty far along in a buying cycle.”
To accomplish this, the team launched a B-to-B website in June 2014, designed to help new retailers better understand the reality of owning convenience store/gas station operations. “It’s an integral element in Phillips 66’s efforts to reach newto-brand customers and prospects,” Whalen says.
“The site is not a traditional marketing site for Phillips 66 products. Instead, it highlights relevant articles from industry and business resources and other thought leadership content. We focus on material that speaks to problems common to gasoline retailers and areas in which Phillips 66 felt effective execution was critical if a business wanted to remain profitable,” Whalen says.
The site addresses users agnostically, providing useful information whether it leads to new business or not. The content generates inquiries for more information, and Phillips 66 has a Lead Development Representative in place to help provide what answers or information users need.
Whalen explains that when ready, information gathered by the demand generation team is handed over to the sales team with all the specifics about the problems the customer or potential customer needs to solve; what their convenience store looks like; and the details of their business relationship with Phillips 66. When marketing and sales staff open up these conversations, they are able to talk to prospects about actual needs, based on their inquiries.
“It isn’t a sales call,” he says. “We’re calling with information that would help the customer. These are conversations prospects want to have.”
Every visitor to the website becomes a potential customer, and every interaction garners a little more data about the needs of that retailer. In the first five months of operation, the site produced 125 qualified marketing leads and close to 50 sales leads, according to Whalen.
“Not only were we hearing from the retail gasoline business,” Whalen says, “we got inquiries from people in the aviation world about fuel and from companies that did not sell gasoline retail but wanted to buy gasoline for fleets of trucks. The website helped us open up dialogue with people we might never have stumbled across through cold calling.”
The website represents a rich repository of data that once was controlled solely by individual sales reps. With the information that Whalen and his team are collecting, they are better able to anticipate needs and provide customers marketing campaigns at the point they are most likely to be interested—when they would help customers the most.
“We’re just starting, but I see this as potentially a major advantage in the future,” he adds. While this is just a beginning according to Whalen, the work is excelling by trade standards. The campaign work and B-to-B website Whalen and his team put together recently won not only the 2014 Best of Energy category at this year’s American Marketing Association Houston Awards, but also 2014 Marketer of the Year, recognizing the best of marketing work across all industries.
Besides gathering information that helps marketing and sales, Whalen and his team are also investigating whether there are metrics that they could make accessible on mobile devices to help customers. He and his department also are starting to think about ways they can use longtime customers to act as ambassadors for Phillips 66.
“We’ve just scratched the surface on data and analytics,” Whalen says. Marketing is working hard right now to refine the metrics to help make a convincing business case for the effort.
A Better Experience for Customers:
“The second area of focus for us was to revitalize the brands and improve the site experience for consumers,” Whalen said.
The marketing team has labeled this initiative the brand revitalization effort — which focuses on putting a brighter, more modern image in the market, but also elevating brand standards across the network of sites. “Details of the effort are being introduced to customers in the first quarter of this year,” Whalen says.
This is where the Lead Generation effort has paid off. In support of the brand revitalization initiative, the Lead Generation team is developing a multipart campaign to help with adoption and change management during the go-to-market phase of this effort.
Additionally, they are working on a special campaign targeting new customers along the California coast, highlighting the new image Phillips 66 is taking into the market. Although Whalen’s demand-generation team is busy juggling multiple campaigns, it only consists of four full-time staff members.
Besides having limited resources, Whalen and his department also remain mindful about not overwhelming customers with messaging and making sure he has proven the effectiveness of each tactic before he jumps into the next.
“I try to make sure the communication is business-critical,” Whalen says, sharing that he and his team apply rigor around prioritizing what gets sent out. “If we lose focus on that and overwhelm the communication channel we’ve created, we lose the conversation with the customer.”
“It will take time, but we’re getting to a place where we will have the data and means to deliver campaigns efficiently and effectively every time,” Whalen concludes.
The New Buyer's DNA Decoded
In this edition, we present practical advice from CEOs, heads of sales, marketing, finance and HR. We take a look at how to adjust the hiring profile, demand generation programs, forecast and pipeline management process, sales management coaching cadence, sales methodology and the big deal inspection process.