Monu Kalsi is a marketing leader in a highly regulated industry. When it comes to regulated medical waste and sharps management and disposal, an entire system of governance is at work to ensure the general public is safe and that rules and regulations are followed. When your target customer is the Chief Budget Officer at a large hospital, Monu Kalsi deals with a very common problem among marketing leaders: Accessing the limited bandwidth of C-suite prospects. Getting time with target customers requires the right communication and sales enablement strategies.
Monu Kalsi talks to us about solving that problem through building the backbone needed to run advanced analyses of the buyer journey and market segments.
What do marketing leaders need in order to be successful when it comes to analyzing the market and the customer?
I think it all starts with understanding your customer. I can’t emphasize that more. I’ve been at many organizations in different capacities, either as a part of the organization or on the other side as a part of the agency. And I see a lot of marketing organizations spending time throwing stuff out and seeing if it sticks. Or, continuing to do things because it’s what they’ve been doing in the past.
For example, you might hear, “We’ve always sent these emails out every month to our customers, we get a decent open rate, so we’ll continue doing it.”
And when it comes to actually understanding your customer, sure companies have NPS surveys, and a lot of marketers use that information as gospel. But this is information that doesn’t ever change and is a dynamic space where customer needs are changing every day.
The way customers behaved a year back, or two years back, is totally different than today. The customer today demands more. They’re mobile-inclined, tech savvy, and they have much more information at their fingertips today than they did even two years back.
So making any business decisions based on information that is even a year old could lead to bad results or even disastrous results. It’s very important for us to keep that pulse on customers. You have to continue to understand your customers using the available tools. It could be surveys. It could be one-on-one feedback from your sales team, or it could be surveys that you serve up through your website. There are many, many different tactics and ways to get that and piece it together.
When it comes to actually mining that information, because some of this is structured and some is unstructured data, a lot of companies can fail at that. You can get a lot of unstructured data from social media, but you must have that analytics backbone. You must have people who can derive actions from those insights. Marketers get so much information, but either don’t mine it properly or take actions on it.
We really need to build a backbone in these kinds of expertise, whether in house or externally, where we can actually take all that information and make sense out of it, and make better decisions based on that information. That, to me, is a very important piece, and it should be the backbone, because marketing is completely data-driven and technology-driven today. It’s not an art anymore, in my mind. The customers on a daily basis are communicating with you, leaving a lot of bread crumbs along the way, all giving you feedback, and if you don’t take action on it, you’re going to lose.
B2B companies have generally been very slow to adopt and actually make these investments.
Everybody agrees that being data driven is important. But how many companies are actually making real investments to actually build a team, a process, and a platform?
It doesn’t stop at just data churning, actions must come after that. Otherwise, all those reports and dashboards are useless. So it’s important to create a culture that enables decision making based on data.
How do you make sure what you’re doing around data analysis stays relevant?
Marketers need to do research on the customer journey and better understand their market segments. Behavioral segmentation helps brands understand who their customers are, what they want from them, how they buy certain services, and how it makes a difference for them.
We focus on digital. We want to understand their behaviors on certain devices, and attitude towards different content types.
Journey mapping is a very important exercise because needs are different depending on the stage of the journey. Every segment has a different non-linear online and offline customer journey.
For example, when I was at a global insurance company, there were certain customers segments that really, really wanted support during initial stages of the journey. There were segments that were “high-touch” and they wanted somebody to call them. On the other hand, some customers were digitally-savvy and didn’t want to talk to anyone, instead wanted to do everything digitally. So, we saw completely different needs which demanded custom and differentiated experiences.
If you’re going to use the one-size-fits-all approach, from a marketing standpoint, it’s going to fail. You have to make those kind of investments in understanding your customers needs, their behaviors, the non-linear journey that they take on a daily basis.
Stericycle is competing in a B2B services based industry. So we want to get bandwidth from our clients, and so do our competitors.
Imagine a hospital’s Chief Operating or Administrative Officer. They manage numerous providers that are fighting for the same bandwidth. So how can we get that bandwidth? It could be a few seconds, right? What is the kind of content that moves these folks? What is the kind of communication that will make us stand out from other competitors, or even other providers of services? This is the question Marketing is grappling with everyday. Once we crack that nut, we will give our sales team the information that helps them have the right conversation with the right people at the right time.
How do you execute on this?
We start with really understanding our needs. What do we want to understand? What are those dimensions that will help us communicate with our customers?
There are demographic and firmographic buckets we place our customers in. It could be revenue, it could be size of the business, it could be the volume of patients, or it could be the kind of services they offer to their customers. Those are the basic parameters.
Then there are different factors that influence these clusters. For example, how technologically advanced are they? Where do they see themselves in the next five years? What kind of investments are they making in digital? How do they buy services from their existing partners?
We went through a very extensive exercise, coming up with about 60 or 70 dimensions, and for each of these questions there were a spectrum of answers. We came up with these dimensions, and there was a lot of intel and collaboration from many different leaders, from the sales organization to operations.
What’s the impact of successful research and segmentation?
A general segmentation effort done well at an enterprise level company can inform the entire business strategy. It can enable focus on the right set of customers, and you can stop going after every lead out there. You can be more focused on the industry segments, or certain types of customers. Segmentation defines our focus, and our go-to-market strategy for marketing and sales.
Right now we’re trying to go after everybody. And that’s not a great use of our resources. That’s definitely going to be key game changer for us in that sense. We’re in the middle of this process and will soon define our digital personas and profiles. This is where the rubber meets the road in digital.
Segmentation research will define our digital personas. This will inform how our website is structured, and the strategies around digital go-to-market campaigns, social media, and email.
It’s going to change our value propositions, it’s going to impact the content we write and the journey stages.