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A content writer who has worked for Infosys Technologies and other technology startups in India and abroad.
A freelance journalist with over 7 years of experience, she writes research-based analytical stories on technology and business.
Avanish is a Bangalore-based journalist who writes on business with a specific focus on technology companies.
Priyanka has covered every aspect of the IT industry as a tech journalist since its early days. She is now an independent writer, working on subjects like digital marketing, enterprise technology and high-performance computing, among others.
A freelance content writer, S. Sahu was the former editor of TCS's house magazine at Tata Consultancy Services. He developed tech marketing collateral for the company and helped compile and edit books and journal articles on TCS's technology innovations. He also ghostwrites print and online publications.
Prajwala is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist who writes on social issues, stories of human interest, and art and culture, among others.
Rajesh Nanarpuzha is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at IIM Udaipur. Previously, he has worked as a brand manager in Dabur, and as a business consultant in the retail and consumer goods domains at Cognizant and Tata Consultancy Services. Rajesh has an MBA from IIM Indore and a doctorate in marketing from IIM Ahmedabad.
Priyokumar Singh Naorem
He is a passionate UI & UX designer who thrives on creating engaging creative solutions.
A freelance illustrator, artist, graphic novelist and designer. She has designed and illustrated several book covers. Her personal illustrations so far have attempted to seize the fleeting absurdity and mood of places, things and people she encounters in a childlike, intuitive and expressive manner with closure, beauty and innocence – the things that she desires.
She is an artist and an educator who has taught and lectured at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Oxford University, the Victoria and Albert Museum among other institutions. Her installations, paintings, thread work and sculptures have been exhibited in Saatchi Gallery - London, C24 Gallery - New York, and Museum of Contemporary Art – Lyon, among other notable galleries and museums from around the world.
A commerce graduate from Delhi University, Parul pursued a masters in fine arts from Nottingham Trent University in the UK. As an artist, she is interested in line as a subject which has led her to follow architectural lines in built environments. She says she is also interested in how we perceive the environment that we inhabit and what happens when a subtle shift is made in things which we have been used to seeing in a certain way. We present six of her artworks here.
Shweta Malhotra is a graphic artist and designer from Mumbai, based in New Delhi.
After working with ad agencies and design studios for close to 8 years, she branched out on her own and currently works independently.s Her overall design aesthetic is minimal, bold and graphic, a response to the maximalist visual language prevalent in India.
Rithika Merchant (b.1986) received her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Parsons the New School for Design, New York in 2008. She has exhibited extensively since her graduation. Recent exhibitions include a duo show “Reliquaries: The Remembered Self” at TARQ, Mumbai; “Language of the Birds: Occult and Art” at 80WSE Gallery, New York; and group shows at Summerhall, Edinburgh and Artry Gallery, Kochi. Her work has been included in multiple group shows at Stephen Romano Gallery and The Morbid Anatomy Museum, New York. Born in Mumbai, she now divides her time between Mumbai and Barcelona.
Aniruddh Mehta is an artist based out of Mumbai, India. Trained in graphic design from the London College of Communications, Aniruddh is a self-taught illustrator and currently works as an independent freelance designer. He believes in finding the right balance between art and graphic design. He has worked closely in collaboration with Bhavishyavani Future Soundz, Qilla Records, Taxi Fabric, Adidas, Dell and United Colours of Benetton. He also goes by the moniker, ‘thebigfatminimalist’ and his style ranges from bold minimal forms to more intricate pieces exploring patterns and geometry.
Paramesh is an artist who enjoys working in both the realistic and abstract style of painting. He loves working with water color. Featured in this issue are a set of water color works that he has created exclusively for us on the subject of digital transformation.
Based in Mumbai, Chandrashekhar Thakur is a Senior Art Director and Illustrator at Truebil.com and the Founder of HAPPiNESS For You. He loves working with new styles of art and considers illustration to be his forte. Chandrashekhar has completed his BFA from DY Patil College of Applied Art.
Concept and Direction
Head of marketing at Regalix, Nimish drives research in emerging technologies and customer experience, and takes a keen interest in creative arts.
ABM has evolved over the years and is currently experiencing a resurgence and gaining momentum because of recent technology innovations in AI, Big Data and Predictive Analytics. We spoke with Sumit Srivastava, Head of Corporate Marketing Analytics and Operations at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, one of the largest provider of data, analytics, and technology solutions across industries and governments to assess, predict, and manage risk. Sumit has 17 plus years of experience in Strategy, Analytics, Operations & Technology across B2B & B2C industries. Prior to LexisNexis, he has held senior management roles at CNN, Luxottica Retail and FedEx in Marketing and Analytics, with a strong focus on digital. Sumit holds a Bachelor’s degree from IIT Roorkee and Masters from University of Texas at Austin.
Interviewed by Shubharthi Ghosh
/ / How has the ABM function evolved over the past few years?
ABM has been generating a lot of buzz lately in B2B Sales and Marketing. The ABM vendor space has already become crowded and continues to expand every year. ABM as a concept is not really new. ITSMA had pioneered the term back in 2004, and many companies are already practicing some flavour of ABM. What has changed recently, though, is the evolution of ABM technologies and their increased sophistication using big data, AI and Predictive Analytics.
/ / How should companies select their ABM accounts?
I think there is no one-size-fits-all approach to account selection in ABM. The accounts need to be selected based on the shared objectives of the ABM function in the company which is composed of stakeholders from Sales, Marketing and Operations, but could also include product and market planning. The goal should be measurable and its value quantifiable to the company, e.g., increase the average deal size from x to y, increase sales velocity, improve close rate by x %, increase upsell by a certain dollar amount. I think it is critical that there is clarity and alignment between the stakeholders on the objectives and their priority. The next step would be to identify your best accounts and look at the traits they share, such as company size, industry, technology footprint, geography and other characteristics specific to your business, and then build the total addressable market (TAM) based on those. The ABM accounts should be selected from TAM and should be a subset. The actual size of the list is driven by the capacity of sales and marketing. If the sales team is small or the sales cycle is long with large deal sizes, the sales rep will not have much time to work on a big list of accounts.
Similarly, marketing needs to consider its budget, and resources available to allocate to ABM. The other consideration is whether you are just getting started with ABM. If yes, it might be better to start with a smaller list as a pilot than to take a big bang approach. It is also important to layer a segmentation strategy on the list, which can better guide sales and marketing efforts. Finally, once you start with a target list, it should be reviewed and updated regularly by the ABM cross-functional team.
/ / What are the technologies/trends driving ABM today?
Some of the key trends, in my opinion, include:
1. Access to an unprecedented amount of data and insights that is available on customer accounts and their activities from third parties such as LinkedIn, D&B, Demandbase and the like. There are several very sophisticated data vendors and aggregators that can integrate seamlessly with the ABM technology stack.
2. Availability of engagement platforms across a wide range of channels, with some designed to service digital ads and targeting specifically for ABM.
3. Application of AI and Predictive Analytics to support ABM.
/ / Do you feel it is important to map the customer journey of all ABM accounts? Should companies also create individual personas of people within each of their ABM accounts?
ABM is akin to fishing with a spear instead of casting a wide net. Identifying the individual personas within the account and mapping their journey allows you to market to them and move them through the funnel simultaneously. Marketing can develop high quality, targeted content for a specific buyer persona and journey stage. Mapping enables improved coordination between sales and marketing, enhances customer experience, and helps build a better relationship with them.
/ / What is the importance of an account specific website experience?
It is common sense, and also backed by data, that customers crave personalization. Both B2C and B2B companies that are able to do it well see a significant lift in business results. Sales personalize their conversations with their customers. A website experience for those accounts should be no different. The availability of data (first party, third party, reverse IP lookup, intent signals) and technology is now making it possible to personalize the website experience not just at the account level but also by personas within each account. A website experience which is personalized based on account, persona and buyer journey stage will lead to a better buyer experience and will help achieve the company’s specific ABM goals.
/ / What are the channels of communication that companies should use in ABM? How much weightage should be given to mobile & social media?
I think selecting a set of channels for all communications made more sense in the traditional lead funnel, which was linear. ABM starts with choosing your best-fit customers and targeting them with relevant content on channels they are already using. Understanding individual buyer personas and their journey stages are critical to building the right content strategy and selecting appropriate channels for delivery. I will stress the importance of tracking, measuring and evaluating the ABM program so that you can change the marketing mix as needed, e.g., prioritizing a channel that is generating higher conversions and revenue over a non-performing channel. Data collection and measurement strategy should be part of the planning process and needs to be in place before executing the ABM program.
In my personal experience, while the share of mobile has been increasing gradually, it still constitutes a much smaller percentage of content consumption and other digital interactions, compared to desktop. Desktop still drives the majority of content downloads, lead form submissions and website visits. While this could be generally true, each company and their customers are different. Tracking and analyzing your web analytics data can provide insights into the role of mobile and how much weightage may be given to it. In social media, companies such as Adobe, Salesforce and Hubspot have done a great job of building and engaging a loyal fan base. I think it is important to understand your customers and which specific social media channel makes sense for communicating with them. Social media could be a great channel for branding strategy and building thought leadership.
/ / What are the common challenges that companies face in implementing ABM?
In my opinion, key considerations before embarking on the ABM journey should include:
Organizational readiness: ABM requires a buyer-centric approach to sales and marketing. While this may sound simple, this often means that sales and marketing will have to unlearn the ingrained traditional way of thinking of product-centric organizations. Implementing ABM also requires alignment and collaboration across the organization between sales, marketing, operations and technology. It can be challenging for companies where these functions are heavily siloed.
Sales and Marketing Alignment: To run successful ABM programs, marketing needs to be closely aligned with the accounts teams. If these functions are siloed, and marketing is not deeply involved with sales on a day to day basis, such as participating in meetings, reviews, etc., executing ABM will be challenging.
Lack of good customer data: Customer data is fundamental to identifying ABM accounts, developing personas and building customer journey maps. Many companies have old or outdated customer data, data is fragmented across functions and systems, and in general, lack proper data processes. Because ABM is about precision marketing, lack of good data can be an impediment to a successful ABM strategy.
Lack of full understanding of the customer journey: Companies that do not have a good understanding of the end-to-end journey of their customers will struggle with implementing ABM. Customer journey mapping needs to be owned by marketing, but the development of it requires collaboration between multiple functions, such as marketing, sales, product and customer service. Additionally, it requires interviews with customers and buying teams for their inputs. All of this can be a significant effort required before implementing ABM.
State of technology utilization: There are specific ABM tools and platforms available in the market. But companies need to assess their current utilization of existing CRM and Marketing Automation (MA) platforms. Companies which are using their existing CRM and MA platforms in a very sub-optimal way will struggle to integrate and use ABM technologies.
Analytics Maturity: ABM is a revenue-oriented strategy. Companies that are low on analytics maturity do not have the data and process foundation to measure, report and optimize revenue. They are most likely reporting activity metrics instead of revenue metrics. Such companies will struggle with implementing a successful ABM program.
/ / Do you think companies are investing enough in ABM?
Based on my experience at conferences, vendor events and one-on-one interactions with my peers, I think investment levels vary by company size. Here I am including investments in external ABM tools and technologies as well as in internal teams and processes. Companies that have been investing in ABM are larger companies (Revenue of $500 million +). Mid-size and smaller companies are still in the initial phases (planning or piloting) of the ABM journey. However, most plan to implement ABM in the next 12-24 months, which is a good thing.
/ / How is AI changing the ABM function? How well, in your opinion, are businesses coping with this change?
AI, in combination with other technologies, is making it possible for companies to make sense of large amounts of internal and external data and create a profile of their ideal customers, using the customer’s digital footprints and understanding their journey in intimate detail. This, in turn, powers one-to-one marketing at scale using automated messaging and dynamic content. Not only can businesses market to named and strategic accounts -- not to mention the long tail of target accounts -- they can also drive engagement with highly-personalized communication across channels and beyond-the-rules-based approaches. Companies can also use AI-driven tools to measure, learn and predict which programs and content drive the most engagement and conversion, and for this, they no longer have to rely on manual analysis.
/ / What are the trends/technologies that you think will drive ABM in the future? How should businesses gear up for this?
I think, AI, coupled with access to an unprecedented amount of customer data, will continue to fuel the current evolution of ABM in the foreseeable future. While vendors vouch for their ABM solutions, companies would need an ecosystem of marketing technologies working together to enable a full-blown ABM function. This can seem daunting and act as a barrier to adoption. However, companies should consider that ABM is not for everyone and most may not need to go all-out on ABM. ABM is a good fit for companies that sell to large- and mid-sized enterprises, have a long and complicated sales cycle, are selling to buying centers instead of individuals and have a good customer data foundation. Many companies will benefit from a hybrid approach of using both the traditional inbound demand funnel as well as an ABM funnel for target accounts. Partnering with a B2B advisory firm such as Sirius Decisions can be a good approach for companies considering implementing ABM but are without the internal expertise to do so.
ABM will help you deliver a real-world experience in the digital space
Abraham Alapatt, President & Group Head, Marketing, Service Quality, VAS & Innovation, Thomas Cook (India)
AI has huge potential to transform ABM meaningfully
Apurv Bhatnagar, Associate Vice President, Kore.ai
Investing in ABM should be a no-brainer for B2B enterprises
Virender Jeet, SVP, Sales & Marketing/Products, Newgen Software Technologies Limited
I would say ABM is a big cultural shift for companies, and AI is only a small part of that
Todd Berkowitz, Managing Vice President, Tech GTM Marketing, Product & Sales, Gartner Inc.
In ABM, personalization is not an afterthought – it is part of the strategy
Yashdeep Vaishnav, Director, Marketing Cloud, Salesforce
ABM is more cost-effective than traditional marketing
Jennifer Toton, Vice President, Marketing, RollWorks
Companies that have invested time into developing their account strategy are likely to benefit from ABM
Chandra Sekar, Vice President, Marketing, Avi Networks
ABM is a journey of understanding a prospect's business pains and challenges and addressing them
K. P. Unnikrishnan, Senior Director & Head, Marketing, APAC, Palo Alto Networks
The return on investment of ABM is far more than a generic broad-based marketing approach
Samik Roy, Country Head (Dynamics), Microsoft India