This interview was originally published on Boardroom Insider’s blog, Sharon Gillenwater, Principal and Founder, kindly agreed to let me republish it here.
Whenever we can, we like to interview our customers and share their wisdom, best practices and success stories with our Boardroom Insiders community.
Recently we spoke with Dorothea Gosling, who leads CSC’s Account Based Marketing Center of Excellence, and is currently busy standing up a global strategic Pursuit Marketing practice. While one part of CSC’s ABM efforts is targeting their top 200 accounts, the key effort right now is focused on closely collaborating with sales around strategic pursuits. Through Pursuit Marketing, CSC aims to increase the target buying center’s propensity to buy from CSC, supporting the corporate goal of an increased win rate and shorter deal times.
To do so, they leverage combined marketing and sales insight to create highly targeted marketing plans. This joint focus is not only yielding the desired results, it also helped improve sales’ perception of marketing’s capabilities and value add.
SG: We’ve been hearing about ABM for a long time, and many tech vendors have jumped on the bandwagon. CSC has been a leader in ABM, but recently we’ve heard you talk about Pursuit Marketing. What is Pursuit Marketing and how is it different from ABM?
DG: If you think of ABM as a multi-layered pyramid, with each layer targeting a decreasing number of accounts with more specific marketing activities, Pursuit Marketing is at the very tip of that triangle. It focuses on a small number of strategically important accounts at a very specific point in their journey with CSC. It usually kicks in around the RFI stage or later, although the earlier in the deal cycle marketing is involved, the greater our ability to influence the buying center. The goal is to surround the buying center with messaging that is highly relevant, is 100% in line with the company’s goals and will thus resonate with the decision makers and influencers.
SG: So Pursuit Marketing is a hyper-targeted one-to-one type of activity—and it requires deeper intelligence on the company, the decision makers and influencers so that you can customize your message for them so that it resonates and it is aligned with whatever their objectives are.
DG: That is accurate. We need to really understand them not just as a Chief Procurement Officer, for example, but as an individual who happens to be a Chief Procurement Officer—but in his or her spare time is involved in some kind of charity work or has specific preferences around how they expect a business to be run. We want to gain this deeper understanding of the person and brief the sales team on what this individual might be like.
SG: It is nice to have this type of personal insight but not everyone is really sure what to do with it. How has CSC leveraged this type of personal information?
DG: It’s about being able to build a rapport, without being fake and at the same time avoiding pitfalls. This comes in handy, when e.g. briefing a CSC executive before a first meeting with a key decision maker, and to prepare them to not just talk business, but also for potential small talk, and how to steer clear of landmines, like congratulating a Manchester City fan on the great performance of Man United! Or it could identify common ground or interests, which allows building a much more personal relationship, beyond the deal, where that’s appropriate. Those little things can make a big difference. Even in these large deals, people buy from people. So by trying to understand the individual it helps our executives prepare to have the right type of meeting and conversation.
SG: Your Pursuit Marketing effort has been endorsed by CSC’s senior leadership, along with your CMO. How hard was it to get their buy in?
DG: I kicked off the ABM CoE at CSC with [Head of Global Brand & Digital Marketing] Nick Panayi’s sponsorship support nearly four years ago. We took a strategic approach, seeking input from many stakeholders. The incoming CMO at the time, was also a big supporter of ABM. But we also realized that we were unlikely to get large account ABM off the ground big time at CSC because the company was and would continue to be in flux for some time to come. We are continuing to transform and we are going to merge with the HP Enterprise Services part of HPE on April 3 . So we took a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, we continue to focus on Named Account Marketing, with around 200 accounts. On the other, there is a key area, strategic deals, where as a company we wanted to focus. So I suggested to Nick, ‘look we have built this armory around ABM…We should surround a deal with the marketing activities that are appropriate and completely focused on helping to close that deal.’ And sometimes, when you work hard, you have that streak of luck! The team working on a large engagement with an insurer came to us looking for marketing support. We collaborated and built a prototype model of what Pursuit Marketing could look like, where the pursuit marketer is like the hub into the wider marketing organization and our agency network. We built an agile marketing team and surrounded the field with a whole bunch of different activities…[Editor’s note: In June 2016 the team won the MetLife deal, which CEO Michael Lawrie has called out in earnings calls as a landmark deal for CSC]. We had great feedback from the sales leader, we got to pitch to the SVP who owns strategic growth deals, and pursuit marketing is now a firm component of large deal teams at CSC.
SG: At CSC you have designated the role of “Pursuit Marketer” and you embed these people within the teams pursuing these large deals. How do you identify a Pursuit Marketer? Do they go through special training? And how many of them are there?
DG: We have seven folks plus myself and occasionally we recruit others from other marketing teams. They have to be experienced and/or be very smart, because they need to engage at eye level with senior sales people and understand how to navigate these complex engagements. They also need to understand the business landscape and what’s at stake and be able to put together a meaningful plan that resonates with both the sales people and the audience—and then execute it. They need to be excellent communicators, too, as well as strategists with a broad skill set. You can train them but ideally you are looking for generalists with substance. Sometimes we recruit folks who are more junior but are really, really smart and we buddy them up with someone more experienced. That gives us scale and gives them a growth path. A Pursuit Marketer usually has three, sometimes four, active pursuits and assembles a team bespoke for each of those pursuits and then manages those teams.
SG: What is your criteria for taking on an opportunity—and does the level of sales engagement play into it?
DG: We say it is a privilege and not a right to have pursuit marketing support. We need to have access to all important information and a high level of engagement and collaboration. We sometimes agree to walk away when a deal team doesn’t engage. And there can be many reasons for that—it can be a tight timeline or they might be juggling too many things and we have to say ‘OK, it’s not going to work this time.’ At the same time, the deal teams can hold us absolutely accountable for delivering high quality marketing activities against agreed timelines and goals. One of the things that I am totally delighted about is that deal teams are starting to give our pursuit marketers a head’s up about new opportunities—like, “Hey I have something else coming and I hope you can work with me again.” That’s a nice endorsement.
SG: What else are you seeing at CSC in terms of feedback on and demand for Pursuit Marketing?
DG: So far, the sales team feedback is very positive but largely anecdotal. We launched a pilot where we send the sales teams a questionnaire and right now we have a 100% positive NPS [Net Promoter Score]—the first question we ask is whether they would recommend Pursuit Marketing. We also get requests for ABM-type engagements from the sales force. That’s clearly much better than having to keep trying to sell the concept!
SG: You’ve taken a careful, strategic approach to build something that can be replicated. But the question of scale always comes up. Do you worry about scale or have a scaling strategy?
DG: We do worry about scale of course, because budgets are finite no matter where you go. We have some more junior members who help add scale and at the same time are being trained up to lead Pursuit Marketing, that makes pursuit marketing an interesting career choice. We are also taking a Centre of Excellence approach, so we have our processes mapped, and we share best practices and assets with everyone in marketing at CSC. That adds scalability without stifling creativity. The methodologies we set up, the ideas we’ve gathered and the steps we have identified, for example, can also be replicated at the local level or for smaller deals. Just like local folks work with us on the ground during the big pursuits, they can also leverage our assets and skills to support their own, local initiatives. So we are also helping scale in the sense that others in marketing can leverage what we have done. This is further amplified by us using CSC’s core repository for marketing collateral, Kapost, flagging items as ‘pursuit’ related.
SG: Do you have any advice for your peers who would like to pursue Pursuit Marketing?
DG: You have to think it through to start with. Was it [Stephen] Covey who said, “Begin with the end in mind?” If you haven’t planned it out and thought it through, how do you know what success looks like? The fact that this one super-sized [MetLife] deal came along so early was such a happy coincidence—but we were ready to work it. We had the skills and we had done an awful lot of pre-work that could simply be applied to this specific deal. And that’s it.