One month ago I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Thoma, Vice President M&A, Marketing & Communication at DAHER. We discussed on what a B2B marketing strategy really looks like when working in the Aerospace Industry.
Tony Thoma started his carrier in 2001 at EY as a Strategic Consultant. In 2003, he joined the Airbus Group as a Marketing & Strategy Project Manager, and in 2006, in the context of an internal training program, he got involved in the big scale projects export side. Furthermore, he was appointed head of sales Eastern Europe for Airbus Military- based in Spain, then head of sales South America at Airbus Helicopters, also delegate office director at Airbus Chile and Business Development Manager for Airbus Group on the South American area. 2008, saw him integrate Arianespace and to become Sales & Marketing Director for Middle-East, South America, Spain and Caucasus. Tony Thoma joined DAHER in November 2015, as M&A, Marketing and Communication Director. Tony is 37 years old, married and a happy father to 2 children.
Tony, could you tell us a little bit about you and about DAHER?
DAHER is a family-owned group, handling business with large corporations in Aerospace and Advanced Technologies. Its revenue is over 1 Bn€ and counts for about 9000 employees.
DAHER is at the cornerstone of industry and services as the Group provides industrial systems (aerostructures, valves) and services (integrated logistics and manufacturing services) to its customers. In the Aerospace sector we call such a company a Tier 1 supplier, addressing OEMS such as Airbus, Dassault, Safran, Gulfstream, and many more.
DAHER is unique in its kind as it is also an Aircraft Manufacturer itself. The older aircraft manufacturer is still in operation, as DAHER manufactures aircraft since 1911!
Therefore, DAHER markets are B2B-oriented as a Tier 1 addressing other Aircraft OEM needs, and, B2B2C-oriented with its TBM aircraft family. TBM aircraft are bought by pilot-owners, i.e CEOs of corporations themselves piloting aircrafts for primarily business purposes .
I joined the company 15 months ago, after having worked about 15 years in Strategy, Marketing and Sales, mostly in the Aerospace industry. Additionally, I previously spent 8 years at Airbus, marketing aircraft and helicopters, and 7 years at Arianespace selling space launch services worldwide.
It is now a new challenge for me to build DAHER marketing strategy in BtoB as well as BtoBtoC markets.
What does a B2B marketing strategy look like when you work in the Aerospace industry? DAHER is also active in B2C, tell us if the duality between your B2B vs. B2C marketing activities is tough to handle, and how you face this challenge?
The Aerospace industry used to be a push-market, where technologies, materials and flight capability were driving product policy. But in the last decade, major OEMs turned to their customers to better understand their needs. This is the story of A350 and B787 launches for instance.
Today, as a Tier 1 supplier, DAHER, is now turning to the OEMs to better understand what can be offered and how to differentiate from competitors. Market analyses and customer’s feedbacks are leading the path of my Marketing Strategy. It looks obvious, but this requires a change of mindset within the aerospace industry supply chain.
- B2B: time has changed, and my job is now as a Tier 1, not only to package an offer or a service, but to build a partnership with my main customers to shape the product and services with them, the way they want them. For the last year, my main target has been to build bridges with DAHER stakeholders to get their wishes and keep continuous talk.
- B2B2C: as an aircraft manufacturer, it sounds more natural to start any strategy by wondering what customers really value. However, it is a continuous battle between marketing and engineering to drive product policy and time-to-market.
Thus, building a customer-centric organization is an everyday battle within a world of great engineers. There is always a good reason to do better than expected, or different than expected… My job is to make sure we give our customers value-for-money, based on what he/she wants or what he/she doesn’t know yet he/she wants.
What are your key B2B marketing challenges and pain points as a company?
The Aerospace as an industry is a long business cycle. I have many different challenges like anyone else in this position. However, mine are related to a peculiar prevailing feeling – Aerospace is different from any other industry. It is always a good point to not adapt neither adopt best practices coming from short-cycle industry like the automotive industry.
The most important point for me, as explained earlier, is to make sure that in all meetings taking place within my company people feel concerned about our customers. It is just like thinking a customer is permanently sitting in on our meetings.
The other challenges are to keep the pace with a fast-moving environment. Social trends, technological trends, business trends… all are evolving quickly. I need to make sure that our team knows our customers, our competitors, our changing regulations… and lastly to make sure that we will not see disruptive offers or companies pushing us out of the market.
Social trends, technological trends, business trends… all are evolving quickly. I need to make sure that our team knows our customers, our competitors, our changing regulations… and lastly to make sure that we will not see disruptive offers or companies pushing us out of the market.Tony Thoma, M&A, Marketing and Communication Director at DAHER
It is a strange feeling nowadays. All marketing people must be paranoiac, but this is a skill far from my natural behaviour!
Last but not least, my web and digital strategy is suffering from budget concern issues. We are able to strengthen our social networks presence but incapable of having a website capable of attracting new customers. When I joined the company, I first said we need to make a brand new website generating commercial leads. 14 months after, I still make best use from the same dummy website. It is one of my priorities of 2017!
Do you feel very concerned by B2B social selling problematics? Are your sales team using social media to influence the sales process? If not, can you explain?
Social media is above all used for a communicative purpose: improve DAHER visibility and recognition, promote DAHER’s innovation, and make sur our customers are aware of our activities… in a nutshell, keep the connection with stakeholders through a direct channel with little money spent. We try to make best use of social networks such as LinkedIn, as I believe we are able to have a qualified audience and easily address buyers with a content-driven approach.
In the Aerospace industry, it is also a revolution for everyone to relay company’s communications to his connections. My team and I have to run some change management in that respect too, in order to develop the ambassadors community.
Finally, the aircraft manufacturing activity of DAHER has structured a B2B social selling tool by developing years after years a huge owners and pilots association gathering hundreds of people. This is a proof that marketing people were smart enough to innovate before the digital era.
Is B2B digital marketing a cornerstone of your lead generation programs today? (if not, where do you get most of your leads today, and do you plan a breakthrough in this area for the next year)
The Aerospace industry remains very much focused around conferences, events and trade shows. It is still the best way to connect with potential customers and promote a company’s capabilities.
We tend to diversify our lead sources among which social media are showing positive feedbacks. Virtual trade shows tend also to develop new leads.
But, getting considered for a tender in the aerostructure business or selling a 4 million-dollar TBM aircraft are still made mainly through direct contact.
Any exciting news about DAHER to share with our audience?
Paris Air Show is a great platform for DAHER to promote new initiatives, service offerings and products. In June 2017, you are all invited to visit DAHER static display and booth to know more about us.
I can tell you that Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, as well as IoT are in the heart of our industrial strategy.
Thank you Tony for your time and for the straight talking!