How to adopt and use different MarTech tools in tandem?

HDFC Life, one of India’s leading private life insurance companies, offers a range of individual and group insurance solutions.  Santosh Abraham, Founder & Lead Analyst at Research NXT got talking with Prasad Pimple, who as the AVP – Marketing at HDFC Standard Life Insurance, drives the company’s business objectives through impactful marketing initiatives.

As someone who is managing usage and retention marketing, Prasad shares his company’s marketing strategy and the extent to which marketing automation has been successfully implemented there.

Let’s start with your role at HDFC Life, what are the key initiatives you are working on?

Prasad: I manage Usage and Retention Marketing function, which is all about managing existing customers. This includes how do we engage & retain them and nurture the relationship.

To summarize it in a single sentence Usage and Retention marketing team in HDFC Life focuses on engagement of existing customers through direct marketing to build customer loyalty, which is used to get better impact on repurchase, renewal, revival and referral.

That’s a really good analogy that you mentioned. So, how do you then create opportunities for tracking your customers or prospects since the interaction rates are low?

Prasad: When it comes to life insurance or general insurance company, customers feel that companies are not interacting with them enough. Whatever interaction they are having with the company is only when they have a problem, concern or complaint. Many a times customers don’t even get in touch with company, instead they get in touch with the agents through whom they would have bought the policy.

As per Ernst & Young global consumer insurance survey 2014, in addition to policy updates, more than 50% of customers expect general information from insurance companies. The customers want insurance company to interact with them directly, they want company to educate them about how should they go about financial planning, how do they cover the risk, and company should continuously engage with them. So, we developed the entire plan which ensures policy lifecycle and customer lifecycle based engagement through various opportunities.

“All your service systems, social media and marketing campaigns should be connected to one single system to get Unified Customer View.”

That is a good way to interact with customers, what is the size of your target market in terms of number of prospects / customers?

Prasad:  We have large customer database and that itself is a huge opportunity for us. Traffic to the website usually gets converted into prospects and for prospects you try to identify their needs and insurance products. From data size perspective, we are talking about more than 6 – 7 million database.

Okay, So that’s a huge database that you are also dealing with. So how does the data flow in your organization and where does this reside in terms of central repository? Is it your CRM, Marketing Automation or you have a separate data management warehouse?

Prasad: We have a central data repository, which acts as the source for all the database management activities. Based on need we use it for customer segmentation perspective and campaign planning.

CRM is an ever evolving system. You keep connecting multiple systems to it and enriching customer level insights. You connect your sales system to CRM then you connect your service system to CRM then you go ahead and connect something like your social media, marketing campaigns etc into CRM. So it’s a never ending process. You just need to ensure that more and more systems are connected to one single system to get Unified Customer View. That becomes very important for you to talk to the customers so that you don’t have too many different communications with same customer at same point of time. So currently if you ask me, our one customer view process is getting evolved and getting better.

If we talk about telecom, most of the telecom companies have well-evolved CRM systems, where all the sources of the data will connect with data warehouse and it will be connected to CRM on a real-time basis. So, there will be lot of real-time data available in the CRM. For example, if a customer’s prepaid balance has gone low and we want to remind him about his recharge and promote relevant offers, we connect to the customer via sms, USSD push notification, OBD or social media channels like Facebook etc. The CRM was well integrated with multiple communication channels through automated direct marketing campaign management tool and all the data flows into it. We could also do geo-tagging in terms of where exactly the customer is, which particular tower location he is currently attached to and for that tower location we can provide him a specific offer.

The CRM that you are talking about for the telecom companies. Is it an off the shelf product? It’s very interesting to know that something has these kinds of features.

Prasad: No, so what most of the companies in telecom do is develop their solutions as per their needs. Here lot of your customer data is getting added to the CRM and it becomes very important in this case to have a strong in-house IT team supporting and developing it. IT team will use multiple tools to achieve the kind of data integration and level of segmentation & targeting you desi

For Marketing Automation, did you require any expert’s help in terms of implementing it or was it off the shelf product that you could drag and drop and use from day one?

Prasad: If I talk about Marketing Automation for direct marketing, there are many solutions available in the market. For example, in telecom sector, many companies have used SAS as marketing campaign automation tool. It’s a flow chart based drag and drop solution, can connect with other systems and bring database in between. You can plan your campaigns and communication via this solution. Adobe solution is also available, which is more integrated in terms of number of channels, but requires some expertise & concentrated efforts to implement.

At HDFC Life, for direct marketing campaigns to existing customers, we are now using Netcore Smartech platform for Email, SMS, and Voice modes of communication. Before implementing marketing automation solution, the usage and retention team was executing campaigns across communication modes by putting lot of manual efforts. We needed an Integrated, Multi-channel Automated platform which could seamlessly integrate all the direct marketing communication modes & automate response sharing like leads. We also wanted to reduce manual efforts involved in campaign execution. We shared this requirement with Netcore and they worked on it, developed a solution for direct marketing campaign automation and I think we are one of the first adopters of the Smartech solution. The Single and workflow based automation platform helped us in consolidating all our campaigns under one roof and saved the efforts executing the same campaign multiple times across multiple communication modes. It provided a unified view of all our campaigns, enhanced campaign performance monitoring and automated lead scoring and sharing.

So, you’ve gone through this whole journey of identifying the right product and implementing it. As someone who has invested time in the whole process, what’s your advice on the typical mistakes that people make while evaluating Marketing Automation for their organization

Prasad: People should start with their own objectives first. There are solutions available in the market but as a company, we may not go for the best and most comprehensive solution, for example if your objective is basic and small, you may not go for a very comprehensive solution because comprehensive solution takes lot of efforts to develop and integrate with your systems whereas small solution could be easier to implement, easier to customize, easier to tweak around to meet your objectives. That’s the number one thing that one should set the objectives for a year or two years and accordingly look for solution which can best help you meet your objective.

Number two, is basically don’t look for multiple solutions for your automation. It is time consuming to explore all products and identify best for a specific type of automation and difficult to integrate these products. So, if you have the objectives defined, look for the product, which can meet all or a major part of your objectives.

Third aspect to consider is, when you are implementing a solution, you need to understand that this is going to bring a change in your existing processes and systems. Take the solution, start using it without relying on it hundred percent. Start implementing it part by part, not everything at one go. Don’t stop all your current activities and try to manage everything via the new solution. The solution also needs to evolve and adapt to your objectives. So have some patience, and slowly and steadily migrate it to the new solution, that’s what I would say.

Thanks for sharing the common mistakes and the best practices with it and thanks for joining us in this discussion. I am sure our subscribers would benefit greatly from this discussion.

Prasad: It was great to discuss these points with you. Thanks for having me on this discussion.

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Netcore is India’s leading Marketing Technology company offering a full-stack, omni-channel, marketing automation solution consisting of engagement platform (customer journey builder, unified view, cross-channel automation, analytics), channels of communications (email, sms, voice, social, web, app) and consultative services to enable marketers deliver exceptional 1:1 customer experiences. To know more, visit