Starting his career as a software engineer, Arya Barirani realized he enjoyed talking to customers more so than spending the entire day coding. So he made an effort to be on the business and engineering side of the equation simultaneously. After working for well-established names in the B2B IT products space, Arya Barirani joined engineering services provider, GlobalLogic, as CMO.
With 25 years of experience in the B2B technology space, Arya Barirani brings a unique perspective. Brick and mortar companies, and traditional product companies, are transforming themselves and Arya Barirani is passionate about assisting these companies with their transformations. For a passionate marketer to be able to build the products that help companies transform their own brand, he enjoys using creative thinking and technological know-how as part of his CMO role.
How should marketing leaders approach positioning and market segmentation?
If you’re coming in as the CMO, you’re going to look at the whole business and ask, “How am I going to position this business so that it’s most relevant to our buying audiences?”
I try to transcend the individual products and services and evaluate the category that the company is playing in. We ask some fundamental questions at the very beginning. It sounds silly, but you have to ask very, very simple questions. Somewhere along the line everybody knows this stuff but no one has documented it, or maybe it hasn’t been surfaced at the leadership level. The questions are: What category are we playing in? Is it a high value category? Is the category growing or is it diminishing? Where is our offering as a whole relative to the other kinds of services and products that play in that space?
Helping answer these questions puts the CMO in a strategic position to influence the direction of the business. CMOs can have the most profound impact on the business and find a seat as strategic player at the executive table if they look beyond the individual [critical] marketing elements, like brand, PR and demand generation. So first, you have to look at where the business is playing and have an honest conversation on whether the business is positioned well in its category.
A great example is if your product strategy is to make amazing hamburgers but you’re playing in the market where everyone’s becoming a vegetarian, you should probably rethink your strategy. Your product guys may build you the best hamburger, but if you’re in a diminishing category, then you’re out of sync with the needs of the buyer.
The other thing is to evaluate the other players in the category. Is it crowded? Is there an incumbent leader that you have to topple? Is the category growing?
Then, the second set of questions I usually ask is, how relevant are we? How vital are we to the buyers’ need? Those are big questions.
Markets don’t happen because we innovate cool products, markets are created because there’s a problem to be solved. Sometimes the customers know that problem, sometimes they don’t. But fundamentally if you are solving a significant problem, you’re going to create a much bigger market opportunity.
Once you understand your category, the ecosystem of players, then the third question is: Does the business have the ability to differentiate and dominate this space? If you can’t differentiate, if you’re just a “me-too” in a very crowded field, then you should probably rethink your strategy. The ideal positioning takes all of this into consideration.
Once all this work is done, I create a positioning statement, writing it down. You document your target high value category, showcase where you play in this category, and create a clearly differentiated value proposition for that space. If your category has legs, then you’re going to see the benefits of the position. People will understand what problem you solve and how you’re differentiated from other players.
How does positioning and product marketing play into how you segment the market?
It starts with having a single shared vision with your sales department around who the buyer is and how you’re going to approach them. Your go-to-market strategy really defines your segmentation. The first segmentation that we do is really horizontal size-wise segmentation. It’s not by industry vertical, it’s the ideal customer based on company size.
Our business thesis is that we grow our client relationships. We get 80 percent of our revenue from existing clients, so we need to be working with clients that can grow with us.
So for our businesses, if the segmentation strategy first eliminates all the small businesses or start-ups. If anyone in marketing or the sales team is approaching customers inside of those segments, we’ve got a problem.
And this is where sales alignment really comes in, because what you want to do is train the sales team to really identify the world of viable targets, and only focus on them. They need to say “no” to clients that might be interested today but don’t fit the profile we’re looking for. And that’s actually really hard to do because it’s hard to turn away business, especially when we’re working towards a quarterly number.
The next layer of segmentation is by vertical industries that are most relevant to us. As an example, we selected retail, healthcare, automotive (to name a few) which are transforming because of technology. Our vertical industry segmentation helps us focus on the areas that have the biggest need and are most in need of our solutions. After that, we go into typical buyer segmentation like department and job function, and it keeps going from there.
How do you think about competitive advantage?
I’ve been very fortunate to work for companies that have same wonderful growth stages in their lifetime and, hopefully, I contributed to that growth. My worldview has always been if you’re too concerned about what the competition is doing and where they are placed, you’re looking in the rearview mirror. And you’re basically reacting to their forces.
To me the best approach is to forge your own path, you have to have a clear vision of where you’re headed and be dogged about going after that. Now, you might run into some accounts where there are incumbents, and you and the sales organization can evaluate or walk away. But if you are focused and you blaze the path, when you don’t look left and right, and square up your shoulders and run to the end zone, it’s pretty amazing when you look back, you’ll see a lot of competitors end up following your lead.
Ultimately, the company that’s really focused on the buyer is the one that’s closer to the problem. So we focus on the buyer and their needs and we try to align with that. As a result, we’re not generally concerned about competition when formulating our strategy.
Tell me about your brand promise
The interesting thing about GlobalLogic’s space is that we do software engineering services and the buyer need is actually less about the technology engineering. It’s an interesting dichotomy because typically engineering is the means to an end. A retail company at the end of the day is trying to get into people’s homes and increase online purchases. The differentiator for retail brands is actually not the technology, it’s the experience.
And so the approach that we created, in terms of marketing our value proposition to the digital buyer, is that the experience that matters and the tech follows. We position our company as taking a design-led approach to engineering. All the successful digital solutions today are the ones that “Wow” the customer in terms of experience, ease-of-use, intuitiveness, and connections to the ecosystem. It has little to do with the actual technology underneath.
And so we bring that capability to our customers, we use a design-led approach, and we really focus on the user experience, not just the user interface. We have a whole design arm which we acquired back in 2011, we were one of the first engineering companies to do that, and it’s really paid off in terms of shaping our thinking and our offerings.
What are your thoughts on the growth of marketing technologies available to CMOs today?
It’s hard for CMOs or marketing leaders or marketing professionals to really distinguish what’s the core stack that is really critical. And what are the norms? And I know there are a lot of marketers that are either trying to justify the investment in marketing or they’re looking for silver bullets, even though those are rare. They’re looking for the technology that will really solve that closed-loop problem they’ve always had, or something that will finally give them the perfect attribution data.
Right now, there are thousands of marketing technology solutions out there. There is no way for CMOs to understand or evaluate options in such a crowded space. What’s the baseline minimum and where does it get interesting? This is one of the good discussions we could engage in. I think the industry needs honest dialogue among leaders on where this is going, and what is really the relevant stack.