How to leverage Marketing Technology with agencies

Molly Kapoor has been in financial services for over 18-19 years. She started her career in 1999 with Birla Sun life, then went on to work with ICICI prudential for 8 to 9 years. Molly came back and joined Birla Sun life in 2008. In these 18-19 years she has handled various profiles at various levels, right from handling the branch to a zonal office to a corporate office. Role within the verticals, front office, back office, middle office and now heading Marketing.

In this conversation with Research NXT, Molly explains how Birla Sun Life is leveraging marketing technology with the help of agencies. She talks about the challenges faced while working with these agencies and reveals the best practices to overcome the barriers.

Could you share your journey in the financial services industry and how has been your experience so far?

Molly: The journey so far have been very exciting, extremely challenging in terms of so many different environment has come in 18-19 years so it would have been an era where everything was manual and everything was data entry, everything was restricted to excel, word, etc and the software were just house grown software which were being tested internally, to an era where we are now talking about IoT in this about 18-19 years.

I feel very lucky to be a part of this huge transformation which has happened all across and specifically in financial services. So, one common thread that is, I was always been fascinated by the consumer understanding and consumer insights, that has been constant in my career, weather I am in that front, middle, back office. I have always dealt with consumers. So that’s been very exciting.

What kind of channel do you see attracting most of your customers? Is it the convectional channel like print and media or is it the digital channels like email or online?

Molly: If I look at consumer behaviour, earlier a person would look at mutual fund as a fifth or sixth investment option and hence we were only targeting people over the age of 35. However now we see that even the youngsters are very aspirational. They are earning well, they want smarter saving and investment options. They are willing to learn, understand and experiment new options to grow their money.  The range has really increased now, the range from 35 to 55 years has increased from 25 to 55-60 years and till the time people retire. The trend has changed completely. Now consumption journeys of these consumers are different. If let’s say a set of customers are online we have to deal with them online, if the set of customers are offline we have to deal with them offline. Younger population till the age of let’s say from 25 to 32-33 years, they are absolutely on digital, specifically in our category. If I look at journeys from consideration to conversion I think I have to insert all kind of media depending upon what is the journey that a particular segment wants to experience this category. So it’s from manual to digital, to manual back to digital.

Secondly by regulation the last mile which is the registration space in our category is manual mostly. So we need to have an offline presence so that people can come and register. In the last 2-3 years the industry has seen lot of shift towards digital platform so in our case for example we had what I would say 7 – 8% of our budget allocated to digital, however now we are moving to 30-35 % allocation. So that’s been the huge shift.

“There is an intrinsic discomfort I see in CMOs to actually work with CIOs. I feel this require cultural change for CIOs to make their relevance felt to the CMO.”

How are you tracking a prospect across various platforms to increase the conversion rate?

Molly: We are tracking the journey right from the time the prospect see us, even if it is not our platform. Even if they see us on a third party platform where we have published, let’s say, any communication from Birla Mutual Funds, they read that communication, do a search and land up on our website. We follow them which ever platform they visit. So re-marketing and tracking is all in place.

On our online portal you can discover your needs, you can register your needs right away, you can buy mutual fund invest 15-20 minutes time. So the journey is very, very seamless.

So we are obviously tracking all our visitors across multiple platform and multiple behaviours. We are tracking search behaviour, we are tracking your behaviour when you are on our website. We are tracking your behaviour when you are on social media. All of that is pretty much there.

To do this are you using Off-the-Shelf product or is it something which is built in-house?

Molly: We have agencies which are doing the job for us. Only the customer management system (CMS) is our own, otherwise most of it is out sourced.

Our core competence is not digital right. We are just digital marketers so we need not invest in huge technologies to do what we need as of now. The scale is not that much. We are happy out sourcing it. It is very convenient for us and we need not set up infrastructure either in terms of man power or hardware, software etc. Right now we are very comfortable with outsourcing and that’s doing our work.

You said you are working with agencies for most of the digital marketing aspect. Do these agencies only execute the strategy or they also help you in building the strategy as well?

Molly: Strategy is in house and it is executed by multiple partners. We have analytic partner, ATL partner and digital partner. So, we have various agencies that have to work in tandem with each other.

I think one challenge that you must be facing would be to make all of these agencies to perform smoothly to get the end results. How are you managing these agencies?

Molly: Yes, you are right. That’s quite a challenge. Specifically now there are so many new agencies which are mushrooming, so the challenge at our end definitely becomes really large. However what we do is we have made very streamlined processes for one evaluation of the agency before empanelment. We have very strict criteria in terms of not just cost, we are very, very focused on quality. Both have to be balanced.  The evaluation criteria itself is quit stringent and once the agency is emplaned, performance metric’s are again divided between your short term and long term contributions. We make sure its a fixed kind of retainer which is given to the agency and at the same time we also have a variable pay outs, depending upon the performance of the KRAs of the agencies. We treat our agencies as our own employees. Employees have certain KRAs and they have a variable component attached to their KRA, so does our agencies. We have a platform to keep them accessing on regular basis.

It would be great if you could share some best practices to handle these challenges?

Molly: We make sure before short listing any agency that we meet at least the best 6 or 7 in that field. So let’s say it’s an ATL agency, we meet at least 6 or 7 of the best one. Make sure they pitch with their full passion to us. We are conscious of the cost, but we are not just conscious of the cost, it’s very important for us to get a differential quality. We don’t like agencies that are just doing work which they have done for many other companies. We want people who are thought leaders along with us, they are true partners in true sense. And who can understand our philosophy and our minds set and execute our strategy. We start with a fairer evaluation and put strict valuation on certain parameters continuously. It’s a three round process, after which we narrow down on the agency which we want to get on board. Its a little longer process, but at end of the day we pretty much sure that together as a team we have shortlisted the best. It takes three rounds for short listing a larger agency, for smaller ones we do not take that much time.

What are your expectations from the B2C Marketing Automation Report, India 2017?

Molly: It will be very interesting to see if there are any different practices being followed. Not the best practices because best practices have become very common now. I would like to know is there any differential practice or way of thinking that is emerging in this space. It will be great if you can have a separate section for key observations from the report.