Be relevant when it comes to your social and digital channels. Channels come down to your audience. Ask yourself, where does my target audience hang out?
MEDIA 7: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? What prompted/interested you to pursue a career in marketing?
SUDHIR KUMAR: I’ve always had a passion for business from a young age, I get that from my parents who have run their own businesses. My dad is now a retired baker but ran his own bakery for 40 years, the business and dad taught me a lot. Over time my creativity began to grow and I was happy to get my degree which was a BA Hons in Marketing (major) and Fine Art (minor), I think the balance has worked well and stayed consistent over the years.
I was fortunate as I landed my first two roles in the marketing field that were both in-house. In one of the positions we actually turned the marketing department into a marketing agency. That’s when I was exposed to the world of marketing agency and I’ve never looked back since. I have invested a lot of time in self-development which is really second nature now to me as I enjoy learning about what I love to do. I try to utilize my time so I can learn via audiobooks, podcasts, reading and even brainstorming with my CEO. I’ve enjoyed some great experiences and worked on some fantastic projects all over the world. I’m excited for the future and have more goals that I want to achieve.
M7: At Origin Growth, what strategies and tactics have you put in place to challenge the traditional marketing methods and offer something out of the box?
SK: At Origin, one of our philosophies is to always challenge the traditional. We have no off-the-shelf, one size fits all solution. We could operate like this, it would be easier but we don’t believe in it. Why? Well, because every business is unique, different in their own way and with it comes a set of needs and a culture that is true to them. To truly serve businesses you need to understand them, you need to rely on, get under the skin and become a part of them. Whenever we work with clients or prospects it’s always a collaborative session around a whiteboard with the key stakeholders. It’s by taking this approach you can map out a solution to a problem or plan to reach a goal. It’s a collaborative effort that requires understanding a business, their needs, where the gaps are and where we can step in to aid their processes and business performance. This is something we like to call service intelligence. As an eclectic mix of professionals who can provide this boutique service.
Examples would include going to Silicon Valley for Loqate, a provider of global address capture and verification software that offers the only complete solution on the market, needed an agency to help them launch and grow their partner program from their San Francisco base. After in-depth research into its product offering and value proposition, we discovered it had two key business focuses. We then embedded our team with theirs and visited its San Francisco team to collate all the information we needed to hit the ground running with a laser-focused ABM campaign.
We bridged the gap between its sales and marketing activities and identified its key accounts and the key personnel within them. Then, we produced a range of varied content including blogs, social media posts, vlogs, premium content and covered topics that resonated with its targets and pushed it on the channels that they used to position Loqate as a thought-leader and fill its sales pipeline. We embarked on a journey whereby taking a hand approach we managed to influence and shift a culture so that the business and more importantly sales and marketing teams aligned to approach sales and marketing in a new light.
Rimilia, (now Black Line) a software company that helps companies automate payments, was looking to grow and needed a marketing strategy to do just that. To understand its business, offering and audience, we conducted workshop sessions to map out its brand positioning, vision and core values. From there we revamped their whole identity from the ground up, delivering them a brand book that allowed the team to deliver their brand consistently.
We then reviewed their sales and marketing activity and became embedded in both teams to develop messaging that resonated with its target audience. We assembled a dedicated team to ensure its work aligned with our growth stack strategy – which combined account-based marketing (ABM) with inbound marketing. This resulted in an aligned sales and marketing team and real ROI for Rimilia as it increased its brand awareness and generated high-quality leads within its sales pipeline.
And one example that is timely and relevant right now is for our client Silver Cross, who we’ve been working with continually over the past ten years to improve every touchpoint of the customer’s journey to purchase. The important point to make is that since its latest overhaul in quarter four of 2019 – the site has tripled its turnover –impressive stuff – even before lockdown. We worked closely with the team and really focused our attention on the small details to make a far better overall shopping experience. This included adding the following tech:
- AI search to help customers find what they need quickly across the site.
- Photoslurp to take advantage of user-generated content.
- Loqate address and verify tools at checkout to remove any friction when it comes to inputting address data and making sure only the most accurate data is held which in return reduced the amount of failed deliveries.
We are proud to have supported them over the past twelve years and help to consistently build their online business channel. These are just a few examples of how we work and think outside the box. As I’ve mentioned, one size fits all approach doesn’t work for us. Everyone is unique and requires something truly tailored to them.
The buyer of today, the modern buyer now expects a seamless and frictionless journey that is personalized. Your user experience needs to be on point, your checkout process needs to be swift and safe, you need to reduce the chances of failed deliveries, you need to consider global commerce.
M7: What according to you should be an ideal balance of inbound and outbound within a company’s ABM strategy?
SK: Well the ideal balance would be to have both work in conjunction. Inbound marketing and ABM can work together, I know this because I’ve done it, what it really comes down to is how well you can utilize these approaches and the key insights you have. When it comes to Inbound there are so many platforms you can use, the one I've used the most over the years I HubSpot.
HubSpot is a fantastic platform that just keeps on getting better by the year. I’ve been using the platform since 2010 and I have to say it’s one of the best, why? Because of the whole philosophy they provide, the training, the resources and how they evolve over time.
HubSpot is a tool and if you truly want to get the best out of it you have to invest the time. This is where so many businesses and agencies fall down. If you aren’t willing to invest a minimum of 40 hours a month towards the platform and learning academy you might as well not bother. Implementing the use of an inbound tool such as HubSpot for ABM campaigns was a no-brainer for me because a lot of the elements needed for an ABM campaign are already in place from my inbound marketing program. Let me walk and talk you through them:
The target audience you want to get in front of, with the use of tailored and informative content to address their pain points, build trust and nurture them through their buying journey.
Contact Based Lifecycle Stages
Standard stages include leads, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, opportunities and customers to name a few.
These are defined lifecycle stages that the contact goes through, also known as the buyer’s journey.
Contact Based Lead Scoring
Positive and negative attributes are assigned to each contact based upon their engagement.
Offline or online, both sources need to be tracked. If you’re a good marketer you will be using both. Online examples include organic search, social media referral traffic and paid ads. Offline include events, networking, referrals and direct mail.
Have full visibility on the potential deals within your pipeline so you can predict future revenue and identify any hurdles in your selling process.
If your inbound marketing is set up correctly then you’re off to a great start with Account Based Marketing as you will naturally have alignment between your sales and marketing teams.
But what’s more, you can make your inbound marketing and overall funnel stronger by the insights you can. ABM is laser-focused whilst Inbound is learning as you go. Why not use the insights from ABM to make your inbound marketing stronger? Use the real-life buyer personas, use the content that’s getting the most engagement, use the laser-focused information and use it at scale, almost a 1 to many campaigns.
The two can work in conjunction and the balance depends on the business and its culture. Stacking a traditional funnel on top of an ABM funnel makes total sense and for me this is the growth stack.
Focus on what is your passion, put in the work, work on yourself, keep learning, grow, enjoy the process and at the end of the day if you have given it 100%, you all, you can’t ask more than that.
M7: What marketing channels do you use and which ones do you see as the most promising, given your target customers?
SK: Be relevant when it comes to your social and digital channels. Channels come down to your audience. Ask yourself, where does my target audience hang out? Once you figure this out that is where you need to be, you need to have a presence, you need to be front of mind. But remember, no one likes to be sold to and nor do any of us like disruptive marketing. We actually now have the option to stop ads on YouTube for a fee and people are happy to pay it. Invest the time to understand your audience, this includes the channels they are on, the type of content they are engaging with, the subject matters that are relevant to them, the medium they prefer, the tone of voice that resonates the most, you need to do your best to understand your audience on a human level.
Channels, for me LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram are my key channels and in that priority order. All channels have a massive part to play but it depends on what’s right for your audience, don’t rule out Facebook, Snap Chat, TikTok, WhatsApp, Reddit etc. Offline channels, well we really are missing that human to human interaction which is key. You can’t beat having an in-person conversation at a networking event or over a coffee. The challenge now is to replicate this online, so webinars and video calls have a huge part to play. Embrace the change and be as personable as possible.
And one of my favourite, channels or tactics is direct mail. With people being based at home and flexible working for some this channel may not be as effective at the moment. But, never underestimate the power of having some tangible in your hands. We don’t really receive much physical mail nowadays, if we do it's mainly bills, so it’s a great channel for you to really stand out and strike a chord with your audience. In the past, I’ve sent out video books, growth boxes and now copies of my book. All personalized with handwritten notes and gestures so that the receiver understands this is specifically for them. A great channel and tactic that shows you care and one that really hits an emotional trigger.
M7: What do you believe are the top three marketing challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
SK: Understand your audience
Getting to know your audience. The days of disruptive marketing are no longer going to be as effective. We now have the options to pay to stop ads on YouTube. We as human beings are very precious with our time, yes we are spending more of it online but we are spending it on channels and consuming content that is relevant to us. Now it’s time for us as marketers to connect with our audience on a human-to-human level. Invest the time to truly understand your audience. Let them know you understand them, serve them with content that they want and that is relevant to them. It’s a total shift in mindset and approach.
If you want to grow your business you need to realise it’s about relationships and establishing trust and not about selling first. You need to communicate with your audience and express the desire to fulfill their needs to help them overcome challenges they may be facing, or offer pathways to help solve their business problems. To do this should cover the four Es, educate, entertain, engage and emotion. I cover this in greater detail in the book.
The customer journey
It's changed massively, hasn’t it? We’ve seen so many high street retailers suffer badly. The customer journey has been accelerated with the adoption of digital and going digital-first. We as humans and as buyers have embraced this change, we now have even more convivence at our fingertips. And even though we are seeing big leaps when it comes to battling COVID-19, it will be hard for these changes in behaviors and buying habits to completely eradicate them. Online businesses now need to focus on how they can make that customer better because the customer's expectations are high, more than before.
The buyer of today, the modern buyer now expects a seamless and frictionless journey that is personalized. Your user experience needs to be on point, your checkout process needs to be swift and safe, you need to reduce the chances of failed deliveries, you need to consider global commerce. The digital shift has opened up new opportunities but with it come high expectations. For any online business, I would recommend an address validation tool and even a data partner such as GBG Loqate, the benefits to your customer experience and operations would be advantageous to say the least.
Whether it's B2B or B2C this is a challenge for everyone, some more than others. Marketers will really need to align with sales and adopt a new mindset, approach and strategy when it comes to generating new business during and post COVID-19. Traditional methods such as cold calling and email blasts will be less effective.
Let’s be honest: when was the last time you answered a cold call or responded to a cold email? We’re busy people, and with technology at our fingertips we are time-sensitive and we only want to focus on things that are of interest to us. I know there maybe some of you reading this who are happy to stick to your traditional methods of email blasts and cold calls. And you know what, if that works for you, carry on. But for me, these methods are becoming less effective. InsideView have reported that 90% of people never respond to cold calls. Calls and emails are good tactics, but they need to be used on warm prospects and sent at the right time. Enter the new sales process focused on gaining permission rather than being intrusive.
The diagram below shows the difference between old and new sales processes:
57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier (CEB), and 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally (SiriusDecisions).
Ultimately, you are looking to gain their permission to engage with them. To do this, you need to truly understand your audience and cater for their needs. This is where you need to take a customer-centric approach and adopt human-to-human marketing initiatives such as social selling and ABM. For me, these two will be key when it comes to your lead generation and business growth. Remember, every challenge is also an opportunity.
M7: You are also an author of Being Human. Could you please give us a brief about the book? How do you strike a balance between your work and such other productive commitments?
SK: Originally I decided to write the book on boxing day 2019. It was one of my goals on my vision board and the thinking behind it was to give something back. They do say when you find you calling, your purpose you should use it to give something back, this was my thinking behind the book.
Based on my experiences as a marketer I’m always learning, testing and practicing what I preach. I’m very fortunate, I love what I do and worked with some amazing clients and brands all over the world, from the UK to the USA, India and Europe. Based upon these experiences I’ve always been creating and sharing my content, be it blogs, vlogs, guides, etc. and I’ve always had a good response. So I thought why not create something heavyweight like a book which can help my audience at various levels and what’s more, why not give all the proceeds to charity, that’s a win-win. Each person is unique, with challenges and pain points they wish to overcome in their personal or professional life - or both.
As we move into a world which is becoming even more digital as the days go by, we’re finding that some traditional approaches to marketing are no longer fit for purpose.
From my experience as a marketer of 15 years, this book is designed to help you overcome the challenges that face us as human beings in the digital world we now live in.
Writing from my perspective, I will share my approach for human-to-human interaction in a professional setting; from social selling to account-based marketing, to crafting compelling content and navigating social media channels to optimize their output to benefit you and your business. Everything is based upon results - it’s all tried and tested, and has led to healthy pipelines and return on investment in the millions. This book isn’t just for fellow marketers and sales professionals. It’s for anyone who wants to cut through the noise and have a true relationship with their audience. I hope it brings value and insight into your world.
I’m very fortunate as I love what I do. When I’m not working, I’m reading or learning. I try to manage my time more efficiently, when in the car I’m listing to audiobooks or podcasts, any quiet time I will read or make notes in my journal. When it came to writing the book the flow and process was easy as I had a lot of the content or ideas in my journal. I would put daily reminders in my calendar to write and if my energy levels and flow was good then I would sit down and write. I think this helped me a lot as I didn’t want any part of the book to come across as flat or boring, so it was important to me that I write when I was feeling my best. Finding the time wasn’t hard I just gave the book more time and made it a priority so I probably read less books and spent less time in the gym, I just managed my time efficiently over that period as it was a priority, we all have the same 24 hours in a day, we just need to prioritize it.
M7: The best advice you have ever received?
SK: Believe in yourself. With the right mindset, approach and passion I believe anyone can achieve their goals in life. We now live in a world where we are all connected and there seems to be the perception or more social media perception of what life should be or look like. Don't fall into that trap. We are all different and have different dreams and ambitions. Focus on you. Focus on what is your passion, put in the work, work on yourself, keep learning, grow, enjoy the process and at the end of the day if you have given it 100%, you all, you can’t ask more than that. Keep punching!