An alumnus from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), Paresh Vankar enjoys the feeling that “no two days are ever the same” in marketing. He notes that, “as marketers, we talk to people from all walks of life to understand how they make decisions and what drives them in their everyday life. Marketing skills cross borders and, if you’re good, you can work from anywhere in the world; your skills are transferable.”
Asked about key mentors who helped shaped his thinking, he says there have been many, from IIMA professors to HCL Leaders. He said that Rahul Singh, President of HCL’s Financial Services division, has provided insight and leadership in “picking which campaigns and activities will make the most impact.” He said, “Rahul’s strong assessment of our business goals has led us to adopt ‘agile’ principles into our marketing system, and has changed our ways of working, leading us to focus on small, strategic and measurable vs. long-running campaigns.”Business-to-Individual Marketing allows for digital technologies & streamlined processes to aid in moving beyond a role-based approach with customers and encompass a personalized, individual customer journey.He highlighted some of the top books that have inspired him and impacted his thinking.
- Top of Mind by John Hall: Paresh said the book “explains succinctly how a company can establish outstanding brand recall, being ‘top-of-mind’ in their customers – recognizing the various touch-points and frequency needed to make a difference.”
- Employees First, Customers Second by Vineet Nayar: He said the book “encapsulates how, as managers and as marketers, we should empower individual employees to become self-propelled engines of change.”
- HBR’s 10 Must-Reads series, especially the one on Strategic Marketing: He said these are “enriching, lively, and most importantly, practical and can be easily tested.”
- Hit Refresh, by Satya Nadella: The Book, he said, “gives fascinating insights into the thinking behind massive changes at Microsoft.” He also said that being in the technology business, it is extremely interesting to read about “Microsoft’s investment in next-generation technologies like mixed-reality, AI and quantum computing, building a comprehensive picture of the industry and the world economy today.”
- Growth Hacking by Sean Ellis: Paresh said that “HCL has regularly adopted ‘agile’ sprint models for tactical purposes, and now, they’re looking to deploy growth hacking to gain additional value.”
Personalization and “B to I” Marketing
He described how digital technologies and streamlined processes have allowed his team to move beyond a role-based approach with customers and prospects to encompass a personalized and individual customer journey and relationship. Paresh terms this “Business-to-Individual Marketing,” and says that it has given the team greater understanding into the customer’s immediate and future needs and has strengthened relationships.
Paresh noted that his team differentiates customer relationships across three categories:
- Growth Accounts, which hold the promise of future growth
- Established Accounts, where business is relatively stable and which do not need significant marketing efforts to maintain ongoing projects,
- Recent accounts, which are companies with whom HCL has a nascent relationship that they are looking to foster.
“Mindshare before Marketshare”
When asked about his insights on reaching Net New customers, he said that “content is king in B2B marketing” and that you have to develop “mindshare before you can gain marketshare.” He outlined some interesting tactics regarding this:
- Analysts and third Party Influencers: HCL will continue to invest in mapping out and reaching third-party influencers as well as analysts, such as Gartner, Forrester, and IDC, to elevate business positioning.
- Interactive Content and Solution Videos: Paresh said that part of HCL’s strategy for engagement is to produce personalized, easily consumed interactive content or solution videos. These are used to give a CIO or other senior executive a compelling visual to engage them with HCL vs. sending a standard proposal.
- Customer Experience Labs: These experience or “innovation labs” allow HCL to provide a sandbox environment that allows customers to experiment with different technologies to determine the business value and the best processes for deployment or product development.
- Executive thought leadership and visibility: HCL’s financial services division president, Rahul Singh, is a frequent commentator on industry trends in the media and at high-level conferences, such as the World Economic Forum. This visibility program allows another channel through which HCL customers and prospects can experience HCL and its industry expertise. Paresh said his sales team noticed a “very distinct vibe” from their customers after seeing Rahul speak or reading one of his op-ed. columns.
Paresh noted that a key measure a marketer should pay attention to is the conversion ratio. While creating funnel activity is clearly important and should be tracked, the degree towards which these efforts have contributed to closing business is key. He emphasizes on closure of new business as being the ultimate measure of marketing success.
Paresh described how HCL’s marketing efforts have changed with marketing automation technology, which has speeded up and improved processes. In one initiative, the team used this technology to optimize their buying process and lead management system, which had a positive impact on the entire marketing value chain, from content selection and development to business processes and reporting.
One of the tools HCL used was the Oracle Eloqua (OptiMus) Tool for Campaign and Lead Management. Other platforms they have implemented include Kapost for content management, Salesforce CRM, Google Analytics, and Qlik. Paresh said this has eased HCL’s visibility across the organization for each lead and campaign stands. He said the improved efficiencies have allowed the sales teams can now to see the real time activity history of interactions, get a complete 360° view of each customer, and anticipate the customer’s needs.
HCL also engages heavily in ABM campaigns, which Paresh said HCL is “continuously optimizing and personalizing to cater to a diverse set of key influencers, helping them make informed decisions and keeping them abreast of current developments and changes in the technology and business landscape.”
On being asked about his thoughts on Artificial Intelligence, Paresh said that AI is and will continue to “make a significant difference to marketing functions worldwide.” He described how HCL has enabled an AI-based website personalization technology on their corporate website delivers content based on a user’s interest and browsing behavior.
Paresh said it is an exciting time to work in B2B marketing, particularly at a technology company such as HCL where they are able to develop and test MarTech solutions in-house in conjunction with third-party software and be right at the crossroads of marketing and technology. He said that “technology is changing the manner in which we live and interact, and marketing for a tech firm allows us a glimpse into what the future holds. As marketers, our aim has been to channel that excitement and leverage the knowledge to build more inclusive, precise and, ultimately, profitable marketing stories.”