It was once again that time of the year when I found myself attending the reputed Paul Writer Great Indian IT Marketing Summit & Awards at The Ritz Carlton, Bangalore. I had fond memories of last year’s event where we won an award too. This time too the panel discussion topics and the eminent speakers list truly motivated me to attend the event. Like always, I love summarizing the learning I had from the event in the interest of the people who couldn’t attend the event for various reasons. Let’s see what were the key points discussed, thought-provoking questions asked by the eminent speakers and how IT Marketing take a leap forward. The key attraction of this year’s event was that most of the speakers spoke candid, unlike other conferences where speakers seem to be speaking from books and not from their heart!
Panel Discussion 1: The iBuyer: How has the buyer journey transformed? – Sunder Sarangan, Lavanya Jayaram, Manideepa Dasgupta, Sumit Virmani
Straightaway this session took everyone by surprise with comments by speakers like – “buying is not always well-researched”, “we buy easily available and what is familiar to us”, “most of our buying is tactical”. Now, these are very bold statements by such senior level marketing experts, while the other marketing folks would argue that buying is a well-researched process with these 8/10 steps. Another key discussion that occurred was about relevance of Sales and how can marketing equip sales in this technology dominated era. Some of the key learning were – a) Sales definitely is relevant and they need to have more intellectual conversations with the prospects, b) Sales should be able to engage with the prospective buyer community online, c) Marketing should enables Sales regularly with right content at right place and at right time, d) Content should highlight simple business benefits, e) Employees should be encouraged and leveraged to evangelize about the organization, f) Key skills preferred in marketers include storytelling, automation tool expertise, analytics, and g) Human connect doesn’t go away. So, no matter how much technology may dominate marketing, at the end of the day, human-to-human connect is very much required for positive results.
ITSMA Research Presentation by Julie Schwartz
Julie presented the research findings from the research that ITSMA conducted amongst 426 respondents from mid to large size organizations from seven countries (US, UK, France, India, Australia etc.). 50% of respondents were IT buyers, while the rest were functional buyers. The key findings were:
- More than 50% of buying happens offline
- Top sources of information in IT Marketing are consultants, advisors, peers, subject matter experts
- While human interaction dominates in the initial stages of buying process, social media dominates in the later stages of buying process
- More number of marketing channels are referred to today in a buying process than they were a decade ago
- It’s an era of Omnichannel marketing
- Centralized marketing is needed
This was a very interesting panel discussion and very lively right from the beginning with all three speakers playing videos of their sports engagements. The panel discussion mainly hovered around the necessity, importance, pros for a brand to consider sports marketing as a key element of their marketing strategy. Some of the key learning from this session were:
- 70% sport engagements happens on social media
- TCS Marathon initiatives are mainly focused around employees in case of India. Employee engagement is the core objective
- Brands can leverage sports to address C-suite, engage employees, influence top funnel, create business impact
- It’s buyers market in sports domain, as every element of sports is available for sale – be it sports kits, apparels etc.
- Sports followers generally have a positive tendency for brands that endorse their favourite sports teams
- The focus of sports marketing should be on larger story and a brand should carefully distance itself from a particular team’s performance
- Sponsoring an individual players is very risky
- A brand could derisk by associating with a sports team that has rich cultural heritage as HCL has with Manchester United
Panel Discussion 3: Customer Communities: Creating and Engaging a Powerful Group – Jyotsna Makkar, Pratap TP, Anand Narayanan, Adarsh Pete
Building and nurturing communities has been a focus for both B2C and B2B brands. This panel discussed on the challenges of setting up a community, nurturing it and ensuring continuous engagement. All panelists agreed to the successful mantra of running a community to be Recruit, Rewards and Recognize. Some of the other key learning from the session were:
- Communities could be of three types. The ones build around – a) shared values, b) individual interests or c) charismatic figures
- Content and engagement strategy are the key aspects of a successful community
- Communities are fluid today because of digital platforms
- It is imperative that people seek recognition in the community
- Community managers should try to learn from one community and apply the learning to other
- It is helpful if brands have a full-time community manager
- Regular investments to promote community are required
- Communities don’t necessarily stay connected on digital platforms, but the members also love to stay connected in offline world
- Some of the key success metrics of running a community are – a) Revenues/Leads/Sales (Primary objective), b) Less number of opt-outs
Panel 4: How can Marketers increase Business Value – Indraneel Ganguli, Srihari Palangala, Sunder MadakShira
This was my favourite panel and all the panelists were really candid. Marketing is always questioned in the organization for the budgets they ask. Marketers are always under pressure to justify the ROI and to earn a face in the organization. The panelists clearly called out few issues and few areas of improvement for the marketers:
- Marketers should shift their focus from conversations to conversions in IT Marketing and all other sorts of marketing
- Marketers have to talk the language of accountability
- Marketers should possess an ability to build next 30% business
- Marketing needs to promise and deliver
Panel 5: Marketing in the Age of Digitisation – Suresh Thomas, Sarang Panchal
Each of the eminent panelists of this sessions had decades of experience in marketing research. They discussed on how technological developments are affecting the marketing research practices. They highlighted that the current young generation would not appreciate responding to lengthy questionnaires. Hence, it was essential for brands to identify engaging, fun-oriented research techniques to understand the consumer psyche. They suggested brands to go for implicit research techniques that leveraged technology.
My key three takeaways from the entire day were:
- Not only IT Marketing but any kind of marketing, needs to work closely with Sales and Product Development teams. Marketing should take more ownership to build their relevance in the organization, rather than just focus on campaigns and engagement
- Leverage technology to understand customer psyche through implicit research techniques
- It’s time for brands to focus on omnichannel marketing
So, it was a great day of learning from the veterans.
It was also a great day for HCL Technologies (my organization) from two aspects:
- Apurva Chamaria, Global Head for Branding and Digital along with Gaurav Kakkar launched their book titled, ‘You Are The Key”. Social Selling is a key phenomenon which is emerging especially in the field of IT Marketing. The book promises to equip marketers with Social Selling skills.
2. We won three awards at the event in these categories – Customer Acquisition (#UnitedByHCL), Digital Media (#HCLShortCutsToSuccess) and Sustainability and CSR (#AMileForHer). It was a proud moment to receive awards for the work we did throughout the year.
Thank you Paul Writer team for organizing this fabulous event which was very well organized and well conducted in the end. I am already looking forward for the next edition!