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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.
Santa Clara, California-based Avi Networks, an application delivery platform, which raised $60 million from Cisco Investments and other investors in a Series D funding in June 2018, bringing its total funding to $115 million, has achieved 300% year-over-year growth. Along with significant adoption by Global 2000 companies, Avi Networks serves 20% of the Fortune 50 and over 60 firms of the Fortune 500. For a company that offers software applications as complex as software load balancers, intelligent web application firewalls and elastic service meshes, targeting potential buyers and getting them to deploy its applications becomes crucial to sustaining growth rate. It uses an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy to do just that. In an interview for Digital CMO, Chandra Sekar, Vice President, Marketing, at Avi Networks, talked about how the company has been able to implement ABM successfully.
Interviewed by Moulishree Srivastava
/ / How has the ABM function evolved in your company over the past few years?
Avi Networks targets the enterprise segment. Our customers tend to be large financial services, technology companies, service providers and e-commerce and retail giants. Our strategy for ABM evolved by whom we wanted to do business with. Since we offer software-only application services solutions, which is much differentiated from the rest of the market that still relies on hardware appliances, we wanted to sell it to companies that had the appetite, the know-how and the resources to be able to adopt a technology like ours for automating their network.
That's the preamble to how account-based marketing took hold in our organization. I believe that technologies and problems evolve hand-in-hand. In our case, ABM strategy evolved by wanting to target what I call the Avi2000, a loose proxy for Global 2000 enterprises that fit our profile of target companies. Within that, we have a solid definition of who our ideal targets are: companies that have many online properties that require network coordination and are looking to provide self-service to their customers. The first step in ABM, of course, is that we need to have a really good understanding of who these ABM accounts are. Something as simple as generating a list of key contacts in your target accounts, by region, and reaching out to them, could be considered an ABM practice. That is an age-old marketing approach. But now we need a lot of automation, a lot of on-the-fly decision making, and that is where ABM tools have come into play. So it starts with things like account targeting and then you have your tools with which you can manage individual accounts.
/ / What are the tools you use in ABM?
Pertaining to ABM, there are tools like Engagio, Terminus, Demandbase, and Uberflip that offer solutions. I have looked at various solutions and found that I don't really need a stack of tools to pull off my ABM strategy. For me, it is more than sufficient to invest in a few tools that provide me intent signals.
The challenge that I have is in identifying my target prospects in a vast IT landscape and in certain niche areas of IT. While ABM tools may help in automating the process, I am concerned about how I need to qualify that process of identification. I believe we still need human intelligence to make the right call before we are able to skip over and trust the tools entirely. I would rather rely on an ABM tool which gives me some intent signals to identify buyers who may be searching for a specific category of solution, or visiting certain sites to consume information. That, to me, is valuable data that I can then use to target the potential buyer in a variety of ways. And ultimately, these tools can help in running advertising campaigns or creating web personalization for that particular account.
/ / What are the technologies/trends driving ABM today?
I think today CRM and marketing automation tools have become indispensable. I don't think there is any marketing organization that can afford to run their marketing operations without a fully-implemented automation tool or a CRM tool. When it comes to ABM, the trend is clear. The marketing automation engine and CRM tools will start to consolidate around ABM capabilities and slowly build those capabilities into the marketing platform. You see marketing automation companies like Marketo investing in ABM technologies and partnering with companies providing ABM tools.
/ / How is AI changing the ABM function? How well, in your opinion, are businesses coping with this change?
AI and ML are used by a lot of ABM vendors as mechanisms to say that they are able to bring a view into accounts that you knew were not traditionally possible. But it has yet to have a significant impact.
There are places where AI and ML can be impactful. Say, somebody visited Network World, then searched for a networking term in Google, and later visited a particular blog. I can analyze this information with an ABM tool, enabled by AI, to say that this buyer is exhibiting an intent signal. So we would know they are willing to consider a solution of a particular nature. And using that intelligence we can then provide a specific set of display ads to this prospective buyer. These are the mechanisms that I think a lot of players are now starting to use. But this kind of tooling and capabilities are still developing.
/ / Have you implemented AI in your ABM practice?
We have used vendors that offer intent signals which help us in targeting accounts, so we have not added a tool stack in our own marketing technology stack for AI-based tools in ABM. We use external vendors that offer these capabilities.
/ / What are the challenges you have faced in implementing ABM?
A lot of time CRM and marketing automation tools have a lead-level view, but they don't really have an account-level mapping. We may generate a ton of leads, but we want to make sure that we have a good mapping of these leads to the current accounts to know that these are indeed accounts that we want to go after. That in itself is a challenge because you are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with your existing marketing automation. This has forced marketers to look for tools that provide an account to lead mapping and to make sure that you live in the world that is defined by your target accounts as opposed to leads.
The second challenge is sales and marketing alignment. In this, one of the things marketers struggle with is marketing attribution capability. For example, how does marketing get the right credit for having contributed to winning that account? This is the reason marketing attribution tools like Bizible are being invested in.
And the third challenge is the ABM tooling itself. The tools are only the means to an end, and I think marketers sometimes acquire the tools even before they have decided on their ABM strategy.
Another challenge would be industry regulations. If you look at Europe, for example, and their implementation of GDPR and privacy laws, it becomes very difficult for marketers to reach out to buyers since people have to opt-in to get your information. It is good for consumers, but it presents a challenge to marketers.
/ / How has your company benefited from ABM?
For us, the most significant benefit is the focus. There is always a limited bandwidth that you have as a company to be able to target customers. The more you are able to have your sales team focus on a challenge, the more efficient you are in your go-to-market process. The companies that have invested time into developing their strategy for account targeting are the ones that are likely to benefit from ABM.
/ / Do you have a separate ABM team? Do they function under the sales or marketing function?
We do not have a separate ABM team. The reason for that is we believe that ABM is a strategy that should permeate through all of the functions within the company.
/ / Do you provide account-specific website experience?
We have looked at that and depending upon the stage in the buyers' journey, we do it. At the top of the funnel, when we are still targeting leads in our ABM accounts, we don't necessarily personalize the experience. At times, we target the buyer through a direct mail program. But farther down the funnel, we increase our targeting and sort of personalize the URL and content.
As we go deeper into the funnel, we offer even more personalization, including creating a particular deliverable that they can consume, be it a COO (Cost of Ownership) calculation or a view of the business value that they would be able to achieve, specifically with our technology in their environment.
/ / What are the channels of communication you use in ABM? How much weight is given to mobile & social media?
I would consider social media as a top-of-the-funnel activity. I may not rank social media high, but engagement in social media is a key determinant. There are many different social media channels, including Twitter, LinkedIn and FB. LinkedIn tends to be the place where people engage with B2B technologies more so I would weigh that more than other social media channels. But again it depends on where we get our intent signals from. It could sometimes be a search engine. We have not really been able to identify or rank the different communication channels, but I would say certain channels tend to weigh higher based simply on their level of engagement with customers.
/ / What are the trends/technologies that you think will drive ABM in the future?
AI will play a significant part. At the same time, I don’t think it is going to eliminate the need for a foundational strategy that marketers have to lay in order to use these solutions effectively.
/ / Do you think companies are investing enough in ABM? How should businesses gear up for the changes that are happening in ABM?
I think it really depends on individual companies as to whether they should invest in an ABM tool or not. I think companies should first invest in understanding their market dynamics and its unique characteristics in order to understand the need for ABM. And if ABM is right for them, they should look at the entire buyer's journey and all the customer touchpoints, and then map that to the capabilities that different ABM tools offer so they can invest in the right solution at any point. I do not think that picking an ABM solution that seems to be popular in the industry and then trying to map it to your requirements is the right approach.
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
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
ABM is akin to fishing with a spear instead of casting a wide net
Sumit Srivastava, Head, Corporate Marketing Analytics & Operations, LexisNexis Risk Solutions
The return on investment of ABM is far more than a generic broad-based marketing approach
Samik Roy, Country Head (Dynamics), Microsoft India