I recently caught up with Jack Whalen, VP of Marketing at Phillips 66. P66, as they are known, is the 6th largest company in the country with annual revenue of $171 billion.
The topic of the conversation was marketing strategy development.
You can listen to the interview here.
By listening to this 30 minute interview, you will learn about:
- Campaign planning – how to attract buyers to your solutions.
- Content planning – creating and distributing compelling content.
- Data planning – how to collect data to make intelligent marketing decisions.
- Demand generation process.
- Lead management process.
If you are a marketing leader inside of a very large company, I think you will benefit by listening to this interview.
Marketing Strategy Development
Speaker: Welcome to the SBI podcast, offering CEOs, sales and marketing leaders ideas to make the number.
Greg Alexander: Welcome everybody, this is Greg Alexander, CEO of Sales Benchmark Index. This is our SBI podcast. Today I’m joined by Jack Whalen who is the vice president of marketing at Phillips 66. P 66 as they are known is an oil and gas refining and marketing company, and they are one big company, sixth largest company in the United States with $171 billion in annual revenue. There’s only 5 companies in this country that are bigger than them and they are Walmart, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Berkshire Hathaway and Apple. Needless to say, Jack and his role of marketing leader has got his hands full. Jack, please introduce yourself to the group.
Jack Whalen: Thanks Greg. My name is Jack Whalen. I am the vice president of marketing for Phillips 66. We focus in my group on US fuels marketing. I’ve been in the oil and gas business for about 30 years now. I started my career at Mobil oil and spent several years with Mobil, and through mergers and acquisitions have transitioned over and ended up back at Phillips 66 when the company split off from Conoco Phillips back in May 2012. During the course of that time, I have had various roles in both marketing and sales, so have spent some time in the field as well as in the office.
Greg Alexander: Jack, there are several things in your history and what you’re working on right now that make you uniquely qualified to answer some questions for the audience that I have here in front of me. The first is that you have both B2B and B2C marketing, which is very rare. If you could, share with the audience from your perspective how those two are different.
Jack Whalen: Sure. I think at the highest level, Greg, when I think about it, B2B marketing has been around for quite some time. What is a little bit unique in our world around B2B is our customer base is typically a smaller organization than ourselves. A lot of B2B companies that market to each other are dealing with their peers. There’s parts of our organization to deal with our peers, but from our perspective, we typically deal with a little bit of a smaller company. The B2B relationship takes on a little bit of a different twist from time to time. That’s really historically, again over my 30 years, that’s historically been the relationships that we are focused on.
What has been evolving over the past several years is more a focus on B2C, and it really started probably maybe 10 or 12 years ago when the oil company started to focus a little bit more on the convenience products that were attached to their stations, and really had folks starting to do consumer segmentation and trying to get a better understanding of what it is that the consumer was looking for. I think what is new in my mind today and what presents us with some challenges that I see over the next several years is, how do we now link those efforts? How do I take what I learned about my consumer and pass that knowledge on to my customer via the B2B marketing? It really has become almost a necessity that we can facilitate a pass-through of that knowledge for our customers.
Greg Alexander: Interesting. Is this what caused you to invest in a lead generation program?
Jack Whalen: Absolutely. That was probably the second or third phase of our evolution. We started out taking a look with the help of your team around our sales process and our buyer process. Really took a step back to me the basics of selling, and through the course of doing that, really started to see some avenues where we were missing the boat because we weren’t able to link up the information that the buyer was really looking for and expecting that we were bringing that expertise to them. As I said, the world is shifting a little bit in the service station, business, and what the winners in that marketplace look like today is certainly drastically different than it was when I started 30 years ago but is even different than it was even 10 years ago.
What we started to learn was there is an opportunity to reach out to folks before they get too far along in the buying process that you’ve missed the boat on helping shape what they really need to be successful, and then ideally what you can offer them to help them with that success. That’s where we went from looking at our buying process to doing some realignment of our field sales force to now the evolution of a lead gen group with a B2B website. We’ve been fortunate enough over the last 7 or 8 months to launch our first 2 campaigns around lead generation. We’ve seen some great success with it.
Greg Alexander: Yes, let’s talk about that. That was an area I was going to go to. Everything went in the proper sequence there, so you understood your buyer and how your buyer is behaving. Then you work backwards from that and said what’s the role of sales and what’s the role of marketing to help facilitate that buying process, which is great. That’s led you to launching campaigns, which you’ve been working on here last 7 months or so. The campaigns have produced, which is fantastic. When you were planning those campaigns, how were they designed, specifically around going after the buyers that you now have studied and know?
Jack Whalen: What’s interesting Greg, we probably took some baby steps first with our first campaign. It was all around a program that we had just implemented and had in place, but was only targeted at our existing customer base. We took a step back, worked with the company that was offering the program, and really talked about what were really the highlights that we wanted people to understand about the program, what benefits that it bring their business.
What we found really helpful was that our lead development rep as she was having conversations with our customers that were calling in the early part of our campaign when we started to send some preliminary emails and some introductory information. Very early on she got a lot of feedback saying, hey, we need a specific tool in place here to really help us do the analysis that you are telling us will show us all the benefits. We were able to take a step back and work with the company that had to program and actually developed what we called a calculator that we were then able to send out via the campaign. Customers can literally go in and input their own data and it would generate an estimated savings if they joined our program. That was really the tipping point for us where we then got a flood of requests for joining the program because they had actually seen the value in it.
In my past experiences, without that link of the lead development rep and without the flexibility to utilize the work we had done in our lead generation group, we would have never been able to respond that quickly and salvage that campaign. It would have been, we would have gotten a token number of customers to join up and we would have been frustrated. With the tools we had put in place, we were really able to respond quickly and not only salvage the campaign but clearly exceed what we had expected for our efforts.
Greg Alexander: That’s a great success story. There’s something that I want to call out for the audience, is Jack talked about the creation of a calculator. In our nomenclature that would be content marketing. They developed an interactive piece of content. That was the fuel of the campaign. They sent that piece of content out to the target buyers, and it was so compelling that they interacted with it which then gave the lead development rep something to do, people to follow up on in genuine interest.
So often sometimes marketers they design their campaigns, they hire lead development reps, they install marking automation software, and they forget about how critical content is. You have to have a compelling piece of content to get people to respond. How did you determine that you wanted to create a calculator and how did you actually create it?
Jack Whalen: It was interesting Greg, the particular program that we were running is a buying group. We have about, a little over 7000 service stations. Some of our customers own and operate one service station while others have an organization that may run several hundred. What we were trying to do is just allow our customers to share a little bit of our buying power and leverage the size of our network. Even though we don’t own and operate any of our stores we still have a cohesive unit of sites that represents a fairly large population where we think there’s some opportunities to take advantage of that scale.
As we were introducing the potential savings by becoming part of this buying coalition if you will, we had some very specific things around C-store items that our customers could use. Based on our experience, we realized that this was a very very competitive price that they should have been taking advantage of. While we had developed some content for the campaign that tried to articulate that using some graphs and some examples and some, if your store looks like this then you can expect that. It was all very well done. We were all very excited about the launch when we got there.
Then as I said, when we launched the campaign, the focus from every customer that reached our lead development rep was around, hey, you really got to give me the opportunity to do my own math and to really get to the specifics of my station before I agree to buy it. We simply went back to our partner and said, “Look, how do you do this on the back of a napkin?” If you were sitting down in my office and I was a potential customer, I’m sure you’d have the capability to do the math in front of me. We talked through it that way. Like everything Greg, it seems simple when you’ve had the answer. We obviously didn’t think about it before we went out with the first part of the campaign. Once we got the specifics of what the customer needed, it was fairly easy to put together.
Greg Alexander: Interesting.
Jack Whalen: Then as you said, the software allows you to quickly get it out and communicate to everybody that it’s out there and available now. Again, having the tool in place really was a saving factor.
Greg Alexander: We are going to take a break here to make you wear something that I think will be helpful. We’ll be right back.
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Greg Alexander: Hope you found that useful, let’s dive back into the dialogue. The tools here are really two things. It’s the lead development rep which I want to talk about any moment, and then it’s the software that allows you to get it out there and attract the results. Let’s talk about the lead development team. This is a new thing for your company, lead development teams. It was an experiment that you invested in. Tell us what was your hypothesis, why did you invest in it the first place and what have the early results been?
Jack Whalen: As I said, we had spent a lot of time in taking a step back and really trying to get to the basics of sales again. As I’m sure you’re aware and many of your listeners are, when you look at the demand in our world from gasoline retailing, demand has been flat to declining over the last several years. The influx of what I’ll call high-volume retailers, the Murphys, the Walmarts, the Fred Myers of the world. The introduction and growth of some of the private label folks that are competing in our space now has really caused us to take a step back and say, hey, if we’re going to be around here long-term and were going to continue to have a viable network of stores, we’re going to need to and do some things differently. I think a big part of that was around getting a little bit more targeted with our marketing efforts and starting to embrace technology versus run from it.
We really thought as we had rolled out our sales process across our whole network of sales organizations that really the next step was to look a little bit more proactively at how we could then help them fill the top of that funnel more quickly than we could with each of them acting as an independent business development lead for themselves or for their geography, or for waiting for that random call of somebody who would call an 800 number and simply say hey, I’m interested in forming a service station. We realized that in order to be competitive and to put ourselves in a position to compete for new business, and not only new business but new business that was in key markets for us and were with potential customers who were building networks of stores to compete in the long-term, that we had to be a little bit more proactive. We thought one of the ways to definitely do that was to bring a specific team of lead generation and lead development folks in house here in Houston and help facilitate that.
Greg Alexander: Did you consider outsourcing that function? The lead development team?
Jack Whalen: Yeah, we did. We talked a little bit about the insource versus outsource. We also talked about the size of it. We probably have a fairly small organization of the lead development team. We will look starting next year based on our success to expand that by 2 people. Let me back up if you will, I have a 4 person team today. I have a lead, I have an analyst, I have an actually development rep who does all the interaction with the customers who call. Then I have an operational analyst who helps us do the data analytics on that. It started out as a four person team.
As I said, we took some baby steps. Our goals this year were to run 2 campaigns which we have done, and then also to introduce a specific B2B website which we had never had as a company. We had a corporate website but we had never had a specific B2B marketing website which we launched back in the early part of September and have had some great success with. We certainly had the discussion about should we take it in-house, because we did not have a lead development team. Certainly had some skill sets that we had to identify to see if we could find folks who fit that bill. We’ve been very fortunate that we were able to find some internal resources to do that. With the approach of taking some baby steps first and a smaller team, that helped us swing the decision to, we’d like it bring it in-house because if it is successful it is then a core competency that we would like to make sure we develop internally.
Greg Alexander: Something that you mentioned there, which I’m glad you took a step back and told us the state of your team. People think of your company and being such a big company that you must have a very mature demand generation process. Marketing animation tools, lead development reps, campaign planning process, et cetera. That wasn’t the case, you’re very much pioneering this work inside of your company. What I want the listeners to take from that is, this is hard. Even the most successful companies in the world like Phillips 66 are experimenting with this. Taking a methodical approach like Jack, design a couple of campaigns. Hire a team of 4. Track the results and get some successes before you push the gas pedal, if you will, and try to do something large. Okay, we’re going to take a quick break here to make our audience aware of a new offer.
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Greg Alexander: Welcome back everybody, let’s continue our conversation. One thing you mentioned when you were describing your team which I thought was interesting was it that you have an analyst that is tracking the data and doing the analytics. What type of data are you tracking, what does this analyst do?
Jack Whalen: Greg, a big focus both on our B2B side and demand gen and lead gen as well as on our B2C side, as I said, we’ve made a conscious decision to be a little bit more proactive in embracing technology. A lot of that technology is around data capture, whether it’s on the social side or now on the demand gen side. As you mentioned, we do use a marketing automation tool which gives you very very specific data around what your potential customers or what your customers are interacting with among on your site.
What we thought was important from at least a startup standpoint was to be able to have an analyst in place to be able to bridge that gap of, what should our expectations be when we launch campaigns? What are best in class results of campaign launches? Then allowing us to collect that data from our marketing automation tools and then use that as a learning for what we’re doing well and what we’re not doing well. As you mentioned, is the sales collateral that you’re putting into your campaigns resonating with your customers or potential customers? How do you tell that? The data from the automation software is telling our analysts that.
He can sit us down as a management team and say these types of things are hitting the mark, these types of things are missing the mark. We need to make adjustments here. Then like all companies, we as a marketing group have to go to our senior management and say we want additional resources to expand this group. When we do that, our analyst has prepared us with, here are the results and this is what it means to our bottom line and therefore justifies additional investments. As I mentioned, we think we’ve had a very successful year and we’ll expand the group next year by 2 people.
Greg Alexander: Which is great, and you have the confidence to do that because you have the data.
Jack Whalen: Yeah, absolutely. That’s been critical for us is, typically what we have done in the past again is introduced some programs into the marketplace what I’ll call the old-fashioned way, where we did it through our sales organization and relied on anecdotal feedback of how things were going, et cetera et cetera. You post audited the efforts and you said, geez, this state is telling us that this didn’t work very well or this was successful. We couldn’t point to anything that said here’s why one work and one didn’t. We really thought it was important to have the analytical resource available upfront before we got too far down the road with trying some campaigns and some other efforts and just not really being able to tell whether we were heading in the right direction on this new endeavor or not.
Greg Alexander: We’re talking with Jack Whalen, vice president of marketing and Phillips 66 about marketing strategy. Specifically campaign planning, content planning, data analytics, demand generation process and lead development teams. One area that I wanted to explore with you Jack, you mentioned briefly, which was social. What are your plans for social?
Jack Whalen: We have started this year with what we’re calling a digital roadmap. it’s really taking a look at several different programs and efforts that we have going on in the company. We have a consumer-based loyalty program that we offer to our customers that they can execute at their service station. We have launched a social app for all 3 of our gasoline brands where we are now active on Facebook and Twitter. We have purchased some software that enables us to listen as well as to communicate in the social channels. We’ve again started a small organization of 3 individuals who are doing that work for us and monitoring our performance and what our consumers are saying about us in the social field.
We really thought that it was something that is coming. The competition that is winning in the marketplace today are very active in the social fields, whether it be e-couponing or whether it’s through communication and interaction with loyalty that is drawing consumers to their business. We thought it was an opportunity for us to get more proactive. Again, the challenge for us is while we feel very good about where we have gotten in a pretty short time in our social life I’ll call it or our social life cycle, again, we have that added complexity of having to link that in to my B2B world. I can attract as many consumers as I want.
My challenge is, without my B2B world, I don’t have a product to sell them. You can’t buy gasoline on the Internet, I can’t ship it to the house. I need to direct them to a customer of ours. What I need to do as the sales process and all the learnings we’ve had up to this point are telling us, not only do I need to be able to do that successfully, I need to be able to articulate it over and over to my existing customers as well as potential customers that this is the value that Phillips 66 brings to your business because I have these tools. The data analysis and the introduction and the exploration into the social world and the demand gen world, that’s what it’s all about for me is really arming our salespeople with more and more tools that demonstrate the value that we bring to customers, or potential customers.
Greg Alexander: Give me an example of one of the apps. What do they do?
Jack Whalen: Right now we have 3 different gasoline brands. The apps just launched in October of this year. Right now it’s kind of baby step. You can go out and you can locate all of our service stations with and among that brand. It will tell you what attributes that service station has. For example, does it have a car wash, can you get an ATM machine there, does it have fresh food or continuance items, does it have restrooms, et cetera. As I said, we have a partnership with a loyalty program. You can link your loyalty information to that app. Then there are some other gamification of some things that we’ll do that are consumer-based promotions that we’ve done in the past. A website or something like that will now direct through our app to and hopefully tie the consumer into the use of our apps.
We think one of the avenues that technology will bring to our industry over the next several months very quickly is mobile payment. We’ve coordinate through our digital roadmap that the apps will be able to facilitate a mobile payment method for our consumers moving forward. Again, just looking for that stickiness to tie that consumer to that app by continuing to drive them to value-based offers.
Greg Alexander: You’re being too hard on yourself, you said it’s baby steps. You just listed off about a dozen features that are included in an app that are pretty impressive. You guys should be proud of yourself. That’s quite a bit of marketing innovation. I think sometimes we think of gas stations, service stations as non-innovative things, but when you work with your company and you realize all the things that go behind the scenes to make it all happen, it’s pretty remarkable what y’all do.
Jack Whalen: Thank you.
Greg Alexander: We need to take a quick break, so we’ll be right back.
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Greg Alexander: Welcome back everybody, we’re now going to dive back into our conversation. Of course, while you were doing all this, the company Conoco Phillips split in two. Phillips 66 needed a new brand which was no small feat. Tell us a little bit about the branding project and your role in that and how you managed to do that while you were doing all these other things.
Jack Whalen: It was quite interesting. As I said, I’ve been doing this now for 30 years and I guess technically as the HR world adds up time and counts, I’ve never changed companies. I have 30 years of service and all that is really great, but as you guys are aware, the merger and acquisition world among gasoline stations and integrated oil companies has been fairly dynamic, especially back in the late 90s and early 2000’s. Very quickly I went from a college graduate to 15 year career at Mobil oil. Over the span of the next 3 years, Exxon and Mobil announced that they were merged, or they were merging. I was sold as part of the assets based on the FTC consent decree to allow Exxon and Mobil to merge. I was purchased by a company called Tosco. Tosco refining and marketing within the next year was purchased by Phillips 66. Within the next year after that, Conoco and Phillips announced that they were in fact merging. Spent the last 10 or 12 years of my career at Conoco Phillips.
Then in May 2012, Conoco and Phillips decided to split back out. Conoco Phillips retained the upstream company as well as the name of the company Conoco Phillips. Phillips 66 split out as the downstream portion of the business. We have the refining, marketing, chemicals in midstream businesses under Phillips 66. What that did at the highest level was it took a marketing organization that was quite honestly a cash generator for an integrated upstream based oil company, Conoco Phillips, and became or made it an integral part of the earning power of a downstream company.
Secondly, it really highlighted our gasoline brand as the same name as our corporation. Very quickly our chairman and executive management made it pretty clear that the expectations were being raised and they were being raised quickly that our gasoline brand and the stations that use those brands are representative of our corporation. As you said, we’re the six largest company in the United States. That comes with some responsibilities to portray that image every day. As I said, you always want the chairman to be proud when he goes to one of our service stations.
Part of our efforts in doing that, which were really enabled by two things, one is not only did the chairman express his clear understanding that we would elevate the standards of our brands, he was willing to invest funds in order to help us do that. For the last 10 or 12 years for a chairman to come to a marketing organization and say I’m willing to invest in you guys doing things differently, it just didn’t happen, quite honestly. As I said, we were always viewed as a cash generator for the upstream world.
With that being said, he committed to spend some funds we needed to do it. We embarked on a project over the last couple of years to really look at our service station network in two lights. One was around what is the operational excellence that we think our operators need to be successful in the marketing marketplace long-term. Secondly, what is the asset quality that the consumer is really telling us is necessary to be successful long-term?
We’ve embarked on developing new image standards, new trade dress for Phillips 66 and Union 76, our 76 brand on the West Coast. We’re in the process now of rolling out some pilot stores where we will test that trade dress with consumers along with some additional offerings at the service station that we think will help our customers be able to attract consumers at a greater rate. The project has been probably the culmination of the about 18 months of work. There’s been an internal team that was commissioned to lead that challenge. We’ve done everything from consumer research to customer focus groups to web-based surveys to really help us hone in on what consumers are looking for from a service station experience and how we can help our customers deliver that.
Greg Alexander: I don’t know how you get it all done, I really don’t. That project just by itself is a massive amount of work. Congrats on pulling that off.
Jack Whalen: Yeah, thank you. We’re looking forward to, we’re finally getting to the analysis page and we’re really looking forward to what we can learn.
Greg Alexander: We’re at our time limit here. Just a quick recap, we spent some time today with Jack Whalen from Phillips 66. We talked about marketing strategy. It was a wide ranging conversation that covered everything from a branding effort to campaign planning, analytics, interactive content, the role of the lead development rep, launching campaigns, standing up B2B websites. It was a very interesting conversation. What I hope the listeners get from this is that, here we are in one of our country’ greatest countries, they are dealing with and are challenged with the same things the rest of us are challenged with. They’re going about it in a very methodical way and using data to make informed decisions and allocating resources accordingly. Jack, on behalf of SBI and all the listeners of the show, thank you for giving us your time today and sharing your wisdom with us, it was very much appreciated.
Jack Whalen: Thank you Greg, it was my pleasure.
Greg Alexander: Okay, take care.
Jack Whalen: Take care.
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