Ojas Kulkarni is a senior Sales and Marketing professional with more than 15 years of experience in the outsourcing industry. He is currently working with a leading global Business Process Management company and drives demand generation programs globally. In this discussion, he shares his perspective on the role of technology in an ABM Strategy.
What is your understanding of ABM and how is it structured in your organization?
Ojas: My understanding of ABM is very simple. If you look at the overall marketing universe today, it consists of various strategies to approach the target market. There is noise in the market today about not just the information that goes out from every marketing executive in every company but simply the proliferation of information channels like social media, email, one on one marketing, etc. I think it is very cluttered with two things, one the reception of information by the prospective customer and two the channel from where they get this information.
ABM for me is cutting through that noise and filtering out the specific prospects that I want to reach out. That prospect could be an individual in an individual company, or they could be a limited number of organizations and use the information that they want to hear, or they want to listen to at the time they are receptive to it, in the channel they frequent or follow. ABM according to my strategy is when and where rather than what information you provide. My disposition of this strategy is such because what information you provide is an entirely different marketing philosophy which revolves around the theory of personalization or what people want to hear and what their interests are. I deliberately keep consumer behaviour out from ABM. ABM is when you send out the information and where. My marketing strategy is aligned with the same principle, and I would like to focus on company A, B or C I want to target and within these companies, I would choose three contacts for example. Then, I would want to understand when they are receptive to information and where. I would design my ABM strategy based on such segmentation.
How have you evaluated Marketing Technology platforms which are out there in the market and how have you built the ABM stack in your organization?
Ojas: Honestly, we are at the beginning of the journey. We are trying to evaluate various platforms which can help us and also be developing technology in-house to reach the objective. We are attempting to build the customer journey map. We have developed an application which can capture all the internal marketing activities like emails or newsletter campaigns, digital/social promotions etc and combine it with the existing stack of analytics tools to build a journey map for the prospective customer. Larger company or organization strategy already defines companies to target. I can use all the technology like the one which syncs with the sales CRM, combining let’s say with Google Analytics to access the right time and channel of messaging for the specific target accounts. That is how I am trying to use technology in marketing. I have seen content syndication platforms which syndicate company content, for e.g. if I have an article or a white paper; a content syndication platform can put that in the market and solicit a response from various companies and individuals to give the sense of when and where. I feel this will provide me with the flawed sense, as there are a lot of activities a company does internally which seldom gets tracked. Now, there are applications in the cloud, like in a sales cloud or a marketing cloud. It’s important to combine all of those to give sales or marketing professionals in the organization a single view of the customer journey. I am not only trying to take what is available in the market but also customize and built it to my advantage. It is very superficial right now, and I have already said that we are at the beginning of the journey and trying to put all these together.
You opted for the internal team to develop technology that caters to your need. Do you feel there is a lack of effective tool available in the market?
Ojas: I wouldn’t say that I was not able to find the right technology but for me, an ability that the product needs to have, is that they should be talking to each other. This is important for my end user, the marketing or sales professional, who is ultimately going to use the information to further the conversation from an influential level to a business level. I think I have not been able to find a tool that freely syncs or talks to other tools. Even if I get ten products from the market, I will have to do a lot of custom development so that all these products work with each other. To avoid this customization, we decided to build something from a drawing board.
What are the challenges that one could face while implementing ABM strategy?
Ojas: There is a big buzz in the market about ABM but I have seen a lot of senior management decision makers haven’t really bought into the concept of an ABM. For example, if you go to a CEO or a CMO and say that we’ll focus only on ten companies in the next one year for your target market, she/he is obviously going to throw you out of the door. The street and the board always expect a larger net to be cast. It is difficult for somebody to visualize the outcome by marketing only to ten companies. They would obviously want to market to at least 100-200 set of companies to be able to close one or two deals.
To prove their case these technology companies that are trying to market ABM products, should do a proof of concept for a duration which they can afford. Then make a make a solid case for the organization saying, for example, look for the last six months we focused only on these five companies and all of them have been converted to a potential revenue opportunity.
Another challenge is that if you want to run an ABM strategy, there is definitely the need of creating original content. If you remember, ten years ago there was a whole uprising about user-generated content (UGC). UGC was a big thing for consumers and business buyers. The focus has shifted from user-generated content to user accepted content. When you run an ABM strategy, it’s important to know what content goes out. It is essential for the team to have the ability to develop research-driven content.
For which type of organization is an ABM strategy relevant and at what stage a marketer should start evaluating it?
Ojas: While planning to implement ABM it doesn’t matter what size of the market you are targeting as long as your ABM objective is clear. Firstly, you want to prove to the management that it is effective, and it can work for the company. ABM requires a lot of investment, primarily in technology. Therefore, ABM should be done for large ticket deals irrespective of the size of your company. I would use ABM for the top 20 percent deals and for the rest, I would go for a traditional marketing strategy. Somebody should look at ABM when they have close to 60 percent of technology stack either developed or acquired or subscribed to because technology plays a significant role in an ABM strategy. You need technology, as you cannot acquire all data points manually. You need a lot of technology and analytics expertise. This expertise can be built in-house or acquired through multiple products or multiple subscriptions. I think once you are confident in the ability to gather data and analyze next steps on your customers’ journey then you should look at ABM as a more definitive strategy.
What are your expectations from the ABM Best Practices Report: India, 2018?
Ojas: With the report, I might learn a new perspective from other marketers. And, if in the report various technologies and aspects are included, then I think it will help to benchmark the whole technology space. This can give an ABM implementer like me a chance to look at various options available under one roof and then decide the best technology stack to use.