The 18th episode of the Mad Over Videos podcast features Abhishek GP, Head of Global Demand Gen at Freshworks. Adopted by more than 100,000 companies in 145 countries, FreshWorks’ mission is to help companies better engage and communicate with their customers and employees with refreshing business software that is easy-to-use, feature-packed, and accessible to businesses of all sizes.
Abhishek is an award-winning marketer with experience across demand generation, brand marketing, digital marketing, analytics, and sales.
His experience straddles across Startups to Fortune 100 organisations with a concentration in areas including Acquisition & Growth strategy, Content marketing, Brand marketing, Consumer research, Digital marketing – SEM, SEO, Programmatic, Direct response marketing, Digital PR, Campaign management, Account-based marketing, Mobile app marketing, E-commerce marketing, Affiliates & Database Marketing, Marketing Analytics, Sales enablement.
He has been a speaker at The LinkedIn Masterclasses (3 city tour, Paid sessions) and at The Indian School of Business. Get to know more about his approach to marketing here
Here’s Pranav, Co-founder at guch speaking to Abhishek.
Pranav Chimulkar: Hey guys, welcome to the Mad over videos podcast. This is Episode 18. It’s been an eventful journey for the last 18 episodes, we’ve got people from different backgrounds speaking about different areas of marketing, how to use videos to create value for their business in different areas, and drive business outcomes. But I think one of the bigger roles or objectives of a marketer, has and will always be demand generation. So, I knew I had to talk about demand generation. And if I were to select any brand that does it really well, in India, again, one of our favorite b2b brands that have come out of India very proudly, they say that they are based in India, and are made for the world, but made in India is Freshworks. Everybody knows Freshworks I hope, I think it was Episode 16, where we had Scindia from Freshworks, again, who was heading partner marketing for Freshworks. And today I have, again, another guest from the same company. But, they’re colleagues but they work on different things. And as Scindia mentioned in that episode, there are lots that we could discuss the video in specific, because this guy uses video very often in his role. So without much ado, I think I’ll add to the podcast guest please welcome Abhishek GP.
Abhishek GP: Hey, hello, everyone. Hey, thanks for having me.
Pranav Chimulkar: Hi. I would say, first of all, thank you for making time and joining us on the podcast. Abhishek, as you guys might be able to read on the screen, heads the global demand generation for Freshworks. And I think I’ll let him tell us a little more about the role. So Abhishek, what does a day in your life look like? What does your role entail? What are your primary roles and responsibilities?
Abhishek GP: Sure. So I’ll look at three things just to simplify this for the audience. One would be content development, the second leg would be creatives and the third leg would be running campaigns based on those. All of those put together to drive global demand generation, across two enterprises to market segments. One would be small business and other, large enterprises. So, that’s in some idle.
Pranav Chimulkar: Awesome, so I think we will have a more holistic sort of perspective from you, because you know, how to target small businesses as well as large enterprises. And, and these are very different in terms of how you approach the customer and the messaging. So I think it’s going to be an interesting chat. But then one thing I would like to start off is with a line that I found on your LinkedIn profile, and that stays with me is that- Selling soap is not too different from selling software. Please, elaborate.
Abhishek GP: Okay, yeah, it’s interesting. You pick this up from my bio, but I truly believe in it. And I can tell you this because I have worked with CPG companies and also organizations like Philips and Amex that have both b2b and b2c businesses. So that sort of, you know, a comparison I hear about b2c and b2b I found find it a little frivolous for many reasons. I believe the core role of a marketer is to create a hook that sort of tugs away at the core emotion, which makes the buyer take the next design action or purchase a product. You know, that’s the heart of marketing. At the end of the day. The only difference I see between b2c and b2b is that in b2b, you’re working with someone else’s money, you’re just managing that money. In b2c, it’s mostly your own money. And when you have that difference, the range of emotions that you experience is slightly different, but not extremely different. So a good marketer in b2b is someone who understands they’re different but still plays the same emotions that work for anyone, you and I included.
Pranav Chimulkar: Very nicely put Abhishek. I will hold on to this topic. I’m going to bring this up slightly later in our chat because I really want to go deep into how one could approach b2b in a slightly more engaging manner, where they could, possibly drive better outcomes and not be boring, like most b2b campaigns typically are. So before that, I’d like to jump in to the point that most traditional b2b campaigns are safe, right? They talk about their product, they talk about the features and things like that. But when on the other side, when you see a b2c campaign, if you see a TV commercial, if you see your digital ad, you have people experimenting, pushing the boundaries, doing bold stuff, right? Why do you think it’s not so common in b2b? And what could be done better?
Abhishek GP: And it’s a great question. There are two possible reasons why this is the case with b2b. And I can tell you that there are some amazing marketers in b2b, but there could be both, right? So the first reason I believe, is that amongst the b2b marketers, there is a mistaken belief that as soon as you’re donning a suit, you become a different human. You become a human who hates emotion, loves crunching data and is devoid of the base human emotions that everyone has really, right? So that’s a mistaken belief, number one. And we all know, and there are fields around it, like behavioral psychology, that is behavioral economics, which tells you that people make decisions based on emotions first, and then they rationalize it later. So there is a clear sequence of how people make decisions. The second reason, I believe, is that b2b has a problem of abundance. What I mean is that you got a ton of features to talk about right? Now, compare that to the world of cosmetics, where you don’t have a lot of differentiation, and therefore you’re compelled, as a marketer to talk about and to tug away at those core emotions that drive you to that behavior. With b2b, you’ve got so many features and capabilities to talk about that you almost get overwhelmed by talking about them. And at the cost of missing out on talking about emotions and insight, really. That I believe, would be the two big guns.
Pranav Chimulkar: Yeah. And I think truly put, we were just talking about this, while we were discussing, or picking the topics that we should be talking- How it’s important to challenge conventional wisdom? It’s has been taught to us that, this is how things have to be done in b2b and things like that or say, when you’re in B school, you are taught that this is how marketing is done. But then, marketing is always ever-evolving. You cannot go back and update your curriculum. And typically, if you go by the book, you are not going to succeed as a marketeer, right? How have you personally made efforts in challenging conventional wisdom? And if you also have seen things like these around you, that inspire you, tell me more about that as well.
Abhishek GP: I think it’s important for a marketer to be an observer in general, right about about humans, the society and the culture. And I might sound cliche here, but it’s a fact. Because ultimately, you’re talking to a fellow human. And if you don’t understand their world, inside out, you cannot persuade them well, and marketing at the end of the day is all about persuasion, but persuasion at scale. So you need to understand influencing really well, and emotions is the route to influencing as we all know, right? So I believe that, you need to be a student of multiple things. And that makes the job a little difficult, which is a bit of psychology, a bit of evolutionary biology, a lot more data today. And of course, the creatives communication and the persuasion so I believe it’s almost like an amalgamation of so many things that you need to get together and bring together to actually arrive at that same insight for a campaign or even to really understand the audience that you have, that you want to talk about.
Pranav Chimulkar: Right, glad you brought out the word ‘Influencing. I think it’s such a commonly used keyword today, amongst marketers, whether b2b or b2c, you’re now seeing the rise of influencers, even in b2b because of the personal branding that people are doing on LinkedIn which is great to see. And also for b2c products, you see all these Instagram Tic Tok influencers but I want to talk a little bit about influences. What exactly is influencing? Is it about the number of views that you could drive? Or attaining a few likes, comments, and those kinds of numbers? Or is it something more than that?
Abhishek GP: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I’m sure it’s helpful to you know, most marketers here. I believe different kinds of influences have different roles to play and different gaps to fill in your portfolio. So let’s say as an example, I am a brand that’s not as well known in the market. What I did badly is credibility, right? So I bought the Association. And if there are influences were happy to associate with me, I can borrow their credibility, and you know, you know, sort of market my product. So, if credibility is a problem, which is usually low brand awareness, or product awareness, then you know, certain kinds of influences will do a better job. If reach is a problem, you might want to look at a different set of influencers. Influencers that are slightly more massy that is even more bordering on controversial, who have a point of view. And who, because they have a point of view, they have a ton of followers following them. So in that case, you’re fulfilling an almost filling up a different gap. So in your question, it depends on the objective that you as a marketer have in mind that depends on the stage of the product that you have and that you are manager, and based on that you fill-up the gap by having that influencer.
Pranav Chimulkar: Correct. Okay. But then I think if you look at the definition of influencing, if I’m influencing you, for example, It’s about me having an impact on you, right? It’s about me giving you an impression, right? I’m creating an impression on you. I’m touching an emotion. So I think, we tend to forget the definition of what influencing is, and we just talk about saying that it’s about these many views or like you said, all those are important, but these quantifiable metrics are typically there for the sake of it. I mean, you need to show or try.
Abhishek GP: Yeah
Pranav Chimulkar: But then you cannot measure an emotion, right? I mean, what is the best way to figure out if your campaign has worked? Or if your message has reached the relevant audience, and have really in terms, influenced them?
Abhishek GP: It’s been an age old problem, right? ROI of influencers, I think hasn’t been solved for. It’s a very difficult attribution problem to also solve for. The most successful form of influencers that we have today is the ones that are working on an affiliate model, which is, you know, if they help you purchase a product, they get a commission from the brand. But I’m sure there is a wide range of influence that you’re also talking about. It’s not just about purchasing, but what happens even before that, but it’s a problem that’s still unsolved. And, and therefore, marketers, especially in b2b, are also fairly skeptical of what kind of influences do you do you use a sales expert? Do you use an analyst as an influencer? Do you use a mini celebrity in that field? And what would you gain from any of those interactions versus dishing out a very useful, helpful content piece that is guaranteed to be helpful to your entire audience? So that’s almost like a dichotomy that we have in our minds.
Pranav Chimulkar: Okay. I think it’s great that you’ve been able to break it down in a way that most marketers can understand. Right? But I think typical marketers out there don’t understand this since they happen to stick to vanity metrics and they say, they need to know what dollar amount can they seek out of every dollar spent, but typically in marketing, you don’t have to measure everything in marketing, right? It’s also about this influence, or all the brand equity that you could build in the long term, which can possibly, give you a lot more in return rather than just that at one scene that you’re in through all these influencers. So I want to know your opinion on this and this might be borderline controversial, I want to know why b2b today needs a lot of good marketers as we’ve seen amazing marketers in b2c who’ve done wonderful campaigns for Indian brands and brands abroad. But then we haven’t like seen star marketers when it comes to b2b. Why is now the time where there has to be, things have to change?
Abhishek GP: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this. And I think two reasons. One is the market space within b2b has become extremely crowded. And it’s not very different from b2c where you have, 1000 cosmetic brands, for example, you know, there are about 400 500 players in the CRM space, which is the most popular software category. There is X number of players in the ITSM space and whatnot. So the market is, extremely crowded, and the only thing that can pull you out from that market is differentiation. And it’s almost like a dream for a marketer to see how one can differentiate and create the differentiating variables in the brand. So as to pull that brand away from the pack. So today, there is so much more, that is required for a marketer to do to pull that brand away from the crowded pack and create a perception around it and what better than a marketer to do that job. So, I think that’s problem number one. And that’s almost like a macro event that is happening around us. The second is more contextual, which is around COVID. Now, if you think about it, our workspaces have gotten blurred, right? So we don’t really have a difference between home and work now. This means that earlier, when you used to use your b2b software in your office, versus a b2c product at home, there was a change in context. And therefore, marketers would think that people understand that context, appreciate it, and therefore are okay with the shitty product at work, but not anymore, right? I’m on Facebook, and I’m on my b2b software, I’m expecting the same experience. Right? Now, this gives marketers so many more levers to think about the experience more broadly than day today, which is a brand experience in product experience. And of course, marketing in general, were creative and communication, all that is about delivering an experience. So I believe those two macro events are changing the way people have started looking at b2b software. And that’s why you need a lot more creativity, a lot more boldness, and a lot more interesting work.
Pranav Chimulkar: Interesting, I really want to pull this message out. And because I was reading about this, just today. Such a brilliant fact that you brought out where today consumers are possibly at their homes for most of their time, and you’re going to be competing with b2c products for their attention. This is something that most people don’t realize that this is something that has changed. And you have to navigate this change, you have to fight this and you have to fight the attention capturing abilities of a b2c market here to get yourself and your business noticed today. And interestingly, I was reading this report by Salesforce. This was shared by Tim Clark, who’s the Senior Director of Product Marketing, in Salesforce, CQ, and Billings, and one of the points that say, like 79% of marketers today are focusing on customer experience initiatives, in order to figure out how to connect better with their customers, deliver what they need and where they need. Right? Because today, all the needs are from your home. So it’s like, you have to pay attention. As much as it is important to have an ABM program or whether it is to try and achieve personalization, it’s very important to understand how you can position yourself and get their attention in the space that they are today. And I’m glad that you brought it up but this is brilliant. I think lovely that I could connect these two things today. And another insight that really came out of that same report was that this is the state of marketing report that Salesforce put out. And there were four ways mentioned about how you could rethink your approach in marketing in today’s social world. And the number one insight again, from that was to adapt to new expectations. I will quote another statistic that, 84% of customers say that an experience that a company would provide would be as important as their product or service. Right? So that’s huge.
Abhishek GP: Yeah, absolutely. So I think even in the future, and it’s also happening with a lot of organizations that the function of customer experience is getting subsumed under marketing because as a marketer, you are in a unique position to look at every single touchpoint that your prospect or customer, experiences and create that value to enable them to get the best experience out of them. So there is a lot of value to be unlocked around experience. And it’s been a slightly dirty word, we’ve used it to mean so many more things. But you know, you need something more concrete, especially in today’s time, as the report suggests, so completely agree.
Pranav Chimulkar: Right. So again, I think if you backtrack this, try and look back at how you would achieve this, is first, I think you need to define your objectives properly. For every campaign, for every message that you put out. And a lot of marketers face this problem in order to, define their objectives correctly. Like, we had guch, work with a bunch of brands, and today work with a lot of large enterprises, and surprisingly even marketers at large enterprises also have the same problem in terms of defining their objective. They want to kill multiple birds with the same stone. So they don’t realize that the same piece of communication cannot do more than say, a couple of things. Right? You cannot also talk about awareness, you cannot do positioning at the same time and also expect people to download your product or app or whatever, right? You have to be crystal clear in terms of what is your primary, at least, and secondary objective and treat it that way. So when you measure the output, based on the results that you achieve with that, you need to be very clear, in terms of the expectations that you’re setting, with the piece. So, how do you sort of define the objective? It could be lead, it could be a lead generation, could be awareness, it could be, downloads or whatnot. I want to know, what’s your process. And a little bit more about this?
Abhishek GP: The way I think about this is, there are some micro-goals that you need to achieve to ultimately hit the macro goal, which is usually someone agreeing to buy the product or if the eventual product purchase, right? That’s the main goal. But there are routes to it, especially in the b2b world, compared to a b2c where there is an ad, banner, and an e-commerce site, and you’re done. So understanding the buying cycle, and the buyer journey is super critical when it comes to b2b. And I need to explain what those micro-goals mean. The micro goals could mean as you said, could be an asset that I want to get downloaded. It could be a series of videos that I want my buyers to watch. It could be a quiz that I want them to take. It could be an ROI calculator that I want them to use and get influenced. So there are multiple lead magnets that you might want to use to hook your buyer. And that is very sequential, you can’t expect one prospect to sort of consuming all of it, you know, every person is different. But it depends on the marketer on how they create that experience with three or four different assets. For people at different buying stages, you know, someone is just aware of your product. And that’s about it. They’re not even looking at the product. There are some other people who are who have a problem in mind, and they’re looking for a solution. Then there are others who want a product right now. And they’re happy to sort of click on a demo and buy your product tomorrow. Right? So there are different stages of buyers as well. So for a marketer, you need to understand what are those lead magnets that work for different stages of those buyers, and eventually how those collectively come together to give a great experience. Now, let’s say you get some leads from some of the consumption of those assets, then how do you sort of nurture those leads to eventually get them to say yes, right? Which could mean using email using videos. Just surprising them even delighting them sometimes right? And they sometimes respond back to you saying, ‘Hey, I love this email of yours and our sales team gets a lot of them’. Thankfully, there are prospects responding, ‘I love this video or the GIF that you shared’, ‘It made my day’, ‘Let me come back to you next week’. Now that’s a yes. In this world, where there is so much interruption, where there is so much noise, someone taking notice of your creativeness and then responding back saying, ‘Hey, yes, I like this and that’s why I’m going to come back to you next week’. I think that itself is a victory of sorts.
So, how do you have those micro-goals defined, based on the buyer stage’s awareness levels? How do you eventually, sequentially, and slowly convert those into ‘yes’s? The small, small ‘yes’s leading to the big Yes, which could be someone agreeing to purchase your product or eventually buying your product? That’s how I would look at the entire buyer journey when you’re running a campaign?
Pranav Chimulkar: Absolutely. I think this is the basis, I think what you’ve told is fantastic and you’ve defined what the buyer journey is like, how you can trackback and define your goals. And typically, this is the basis of how we have come up with a brief form. When a brand wants to work with Guch and produce videos on it. The first step is they click on a button called ‘Start a project’ and they are taken to a form or a sequence of fields that they need to fill. Maybe it might not be as a form, but they are trying to work on different ways of how to improve that experience as people don’t want to fill long forms. But then, I think that forms the basis of the brief, trying to understand if the marketer, first of all, has an understanding of how aware customers are about their brand. Also, in terms of what is that eventual outcome that you need to drive? And based on that, also try and narrow it down. Like, narrow down the messaging the format or things like that of the video, to align to those objectives. But I want to know, again, it’s a very interesting problem, because you and Freshworks as a marketer, have to market to other marketers. Right? And, the person on the other side knows that ‘Okay, there is an ad coming. Or this is some kind of a funnel that I’m getting into’. How do you navigate this problem?
Abhishek GP: Yeah. And ideally, the bigger challenge than talking to marketers is talking to sales, because they have their guards on. And I say that both sales and marketing have personas. So it’s slightly more difficult to sell to sales because they have their guards on and they’re evaluating, every piece like you said, every micro KPI, they can see through what those micro KPIs are like. For marketers, I believe the challenge is slightly different. And I keep telling this to my team, which is marketers would start grading you on how that creative looks, right, they would start grading you. They’re almost evaluating your creativity before they decide to sign off on whatever that micro KPI is. So, the threshold is fairly high, when you’re talking to a marketer. The language, the copy, all of those tend to matter a lot more for many different reasons beyond just selling. And, you know, good brands do a great job of doing that really well.
Pranav Chimulkar: Right? And I’m very happy that Freshworks does it so well and the proof is in the pudding as you have seen the adoption of the product. I know that there are a lot of products out there in terms of CRM, helpdesk, and things like that and one of the most commonly adopted products is Freshworks. So, kudos to you and your team there, but since, you brought up the evaluation of creativity, as a creative director for me too, this was a major problem. Trying to understand and also make the client understand how to attain the final output. How to come to a point where we could define that, this is how the creative is going to look like. And typically what happens is, when a marketeer say it could be a founder, or a marketeer, or a sales guy, could be a product guy too who’s coming to you with a brief, ‘I want to create a video’ and when I ask that person, ‘how do you want that creative to look like? Do you have an idea?’ For most people, that’s a difficult thing. It is highly biased on something that they have seen or possibly a brand that they really like has done something similar and they want to recreate that. Often, they get caught up in, what camera are we shooting on? What is the set going to look like? What is their color palette and all that? I mean, yeah, that those are very important things but they complement your message right? The creative has to be rooted deeply into the customer insight, ‘What are you trying to say? And how to achieve?’ Tell me, what’s your process like? I know, a lot of people are not able to do this properly. I hope I get the right answer from you. So, this is a lesson to a lot of other marketers who might be listening to this to this podcast.
Abhishek GP: Yeah, and this is an everyday problem. Of course, how do you even get to the right insight? And the reason that the right insight is important is that it lays a common set of assumptions between the agency partner and the brand. A lot of the problems at the end of the road start only because there weren’t a predefined set of assumptions in the first place. And I have a visual that I’ve left with you if you could just pull that up for the audience. Might be helpful.
Pranav Chimulkar: Yes, let me do that.
Abhishek GP: Awesome. Thank you. Now, this is how I think about creating a campaign inside and this is no rocket science really. So, most companies start with a product value proposition. And we all know what our products are about, and what is the value that they provide to the audience. So that’s something that’s fairly sorted, 9 out of 10. The next step is about understanding the audience. And that’s where a lot of qualitative and some bit of quantitative research is required to really understand the pulse of the audience. ‘What do they think about? What do they feel? What do they do?’, the cliche again, but I think this is where a lot of marketers don’t do well. So, you have a product value proposition, you have audience needs, most good campaigns that you see would combine those two, and create a nice insight out of it. And it could be about 70% of those good campaigns that we’re talking about. The really top quality campaigns, bring in a third element, which I call the ‘context’ or ‘occasion’ here. An example of a context is, let’s say, Valentine’s Day, it could be Thanksgiving, but could be even an election. Right? So there are so many ways you could define what context is. The context could even mean a moment rooted in the cultural history of a country, it could even mean that. So what context does is that it gives you significant leverage, that almost becomes a sort of positive shot in the arm, around product value proposition and audience needs. So when you add that third element in the mix, your campaign gets supercharged. And what you ultimately arrive at, is what I call the ‘AHA insight’. And I can tell you that this doesn’t happen every day. And this can’t happen every day. There are a few campaigns that you see from the top of really good brands, there are some that you end up doing in your lifetime, but there’s one or two or three that really sort of hit that intersection really well. And that’s where the core insight really is about. And that is the common platform of assumptions, that drive the great relationship between the agency partner and the brand at the end of the day.
Pranav Chimulkar: Right. I think this also leads me to the next question. Because we’ve spoken about trying to understand user psychology and you spoke about behavioral studies, that could help you gain those insights. Of course, there is data around how people behave now that every move of every single person who uses the internet is tracked, you could get those insights as well. But when you broadly, look at different kinds of users, you can sort of categorizing them into three different parts. And here, I have three of those, one of which is an economic buyer, one is a functional buyer, and one is a technical buyer. If you could walk me through each of them, each persona, how they react, and how could you engage with them, I think that’s going to be a very good insight for people to understand- what kind of audience are they working with? What are their buyers? How are they reacting to their products?
Abhishek GP: Sure. And let me start with a b2c example. Just to draw an analogy between b2c and b2b. Like we always believe that those are not different animals. So in b2c, when you need to purchase a box of cereals, the kid might not go to the store, it’s usually the mom or the dad who does that, right? So the buyer and the consumer are different. Now, b2b has a very similar analogy. Now, in b2b, you have what I call a functional buyer, folks who use the product, the end-users of your product, right. It’s the equivalent of the kid in the cereal case. Then there are economic buyers, people who approve the purchase economics, they are the ones who hold the budgets here. The CFOs, for example, the procurement officers in companies. And then finally, you have the technical buyer, IT folks, and because it’s a software that you’re talking about, IT needs to be important. And IT is in almost all cases that technical buyers really. So you need to as a marketer, appease all three buyers types. You need to appease the functional buyer because they are the ones who are going to use your product. And they do have a say in the decision making. You need to talk to the economic buyer because if the economic buyer doesn’t know you and doesn’t know the fact that you offer faster payback, higher ROI, and all those things, you will not be there in the consideration set at all. And then finally, if you don’t, if the technical buyer doesn’t feel comfortable using you, and hasn’t heard of you before, it’s not easy to get into that account. So it’s important to appease all three segments. And there are more segments that you can find out about. There are what we call champions, right. So those folks in the in a business or in an account, that do not have a direct say, but who will probably champion a product internally. So they will start that discussion and hand it off to a functional buyer or an economic buyer and then move off. But does that mean that they’re not important? No, they’re also important. So there are different flavors of buyers that we’ll find in the b2b world, which makes it even more interesting because the segmentation is already been created. You don’t have to worry about creating them yourself.
Pranav Chimulkar: Correct. So technically, you’re not selling to one person. You’re sending it to a buying committee. And you have multiple decision makers there in terms of the end-user, like you said, the approving authority when it comes to like finances, and, of course, the IT side, because you’re talking about SaaS products here. Also, because you’re trying to, appease a lot of different user personas, you have to create content. And I would like to talk more about videos, in particular, in different silos, they’re in different buckets themselves, right? You can be creating useful content, you have to be creating inspiring content. And you have to also be creating content that helps you make a decision, right? Tell me how, as as a content guy at Fresh works, and I’m sure your other team is also listening because we had a lot of people react and engage on the post when you had posted that I’m going to be on the Mad over videos podcast and a bunch of them were from your own team. And if they are listening to this again, how do you and your team sort of approach this and create content in these different categories?
Abhishek GP: Sure. So, as I said, we have two market segments one is SnB and one would be large enterprises. Beyond the kind of content that they might like, I think there are broad similarities across segments. I will just narrate how we look at it together. Now the first thing we will do is identify the audience. So I’ll give you an example. Let’s say we talk about the functional buyer, the functional buyer could be across different titles, you have the VP of sales, who is the Signing Authority. Then you have the sales rep on the ground, who is the end-user. Now you need to make a choice on what kind of content and therefore what kind of channel might hit them differently, right? The needs are different. The perception of the usefulness of content is different. The quality of content and the expectations around it are also different. So even within the function buyer, you need to think about the titles that you’re talking to their environment, which is the number of people, the kind of people, that you put into them. The thoughts in their mind so what does the sales leader worry about? Worries about forecasting, worries about hitting this month’s goal? Right? What are they frustrated about? They’re frustrated about the team not possibly hitting their goals. They are worried about the team, not being able to hit the next quarter’s pipeline. They’re not having the right set of technology to even give them the right visibility. So you need to really get deep into understanding even that one title that we talk about. Then you have sales reps. A very different one, no one reporting into them, but lots of pressure in terms of hitting quota, dumping data into their legacy CRM if they use any. Not finding the time to actually sell because they are immersed in administrative tasks. So understanding that frustration, and then morphing that into communication that leads to demand. That’s the functional buyer. And then the next choices are- Do you want to make them consume a Lean-in asset or a Lean-back asset? By that I mean, we want to make them consume, let’s say, a webinar, which is all about information. And you’re hoping that they are even taking notes if that webinar is interesting enough? Or is it about some nice, let’s say 10-minute video, it’s something we did earlier, which is called the happy sales culture campaign where it was 10 minutes of wisdom by sales leaders across the globe? You know, that’s more like a lean-back format. And you might want to decide what is that format those different titles might even like. A VP of sales is time-pressed, extremely busy, doesn’t have time for a 10-page ebook. So don’t give him or her that, right. Try an alternative format. A sales rep, has might have some time, but it needs to be super useful to them. And I keep telling my team this and they do a great job at it, which is, ‘can we give that sales rep, something that they’re able to use tomorrow?’ So, as a sales rep, I need to go back to my desk tomorrow and start using some of that. Is this possible? Right. So that’s the Northstar that we’ve set for ourselves. And this is just the functional buyer. And you can do the same thing for the economic buyer, and for the technical buyer. But the logic and the rationale remains the same in terms of how you approach creating that asset in the format.
Pranav Chimulkar: I’m super impressed by the clarity of thought that you have and the way you conduct your team to create content. Again, this goes back to the thought of every company, not just needing a marketing team, but they have to build a media house within themselves, of creating various kinds of content. And at scale, because you have to do personalization towards your content in sync with your consumers because they’re possibly from different geographies. They’re personally at different hierarchies, like you said, and different categories. So, you’re doing different formats, you’re doing different messaging, you’re doing different language adaptations of that because say Freshworks also targets multiple geographies across the globe. So, even the kind of people that you have, and the help that you get from your internal team is most often not enough, right? So you have to depend on external help, whether it is a freelancer, whether it’s an agency, or a market network, like guch, possibly, who can help you create these videos at scale, right. And at speed, a lot of times it also is about speed, because like, at times you realize that, you need something very quickly, and you do not have the resources or the time to pull that off. And you have to rush into it. But then you also need, you cannot be looking at somebody who doesn’t understand what you’re trying to achieve with that. And then often not, it comes down to choosing the right partner, or just the cheapest option available to you, which is possibly someone like a freelancer who’s possibly at the bottom of the food chain, might not be able to communicate exactly what you want.
Abhishek GP: True. Yeah, absolutely. You know, at every stage a marketer needs to think about it. In a way, where, ‘Hey, does this impact my brand positively or negatively?’ And if there is a risk, I don’t think any marketer would be willing to take that risk. Like you said, if it’s a freelancer, and who’s primarily positioning himself or herself based on price, that’s not the criteria that you might want to use to evaluate how good the working relationship is going to be and how good that creative output is going to be. So it’s a much larger and deeper engagement. I think brands should look at agency partners as a strategic partner. I think that’s been said for several years now. But you know, it doesn’t happen as often as we talk about.
Pranav Chimulkar: True. Since you also mentioned your campaign, I’d like to break down a couple of your campaigns and since you just mentioned happy sales culture, I like to play the video first, and then let’s talk about why you did something like this, how did you pull it off and the kind of results that you were able to achieve out of it? So I would rather line up the video first.
Pranav Chimulkar: First of all, before you start such a beautiful insight, people perform at their best when they’re happy. Kindness is often undervalued in today’s world. And today I think we realize, especially because we are distant due to the pandemic, we realized that a lot of things which take a lower priority in your general, day to day routine, otherwise, are now coming up as things that you are spending more time with. Your loved ones, following the passion that might have been missing, and things like that. So I think, first of all, congratulations on getting it right with the site. And please tell me, how did you set out for this? What went into doing something like this? Because you’ve seen so many amazing leaders, the names that flashed on the screen, during the video? And also what did it get you in return?
Abhishek GP: Sure. So I’ll first start with the structure, perhaps on how we thought about this campaign if it’s useful to the audience. So we started with the audience’s needs, right. And this is interesting. Now, if you’ve worked in sales, you will realize that there is a lot of emphasis on developing a sales culture. You don’t talk a lot about marketing culture. You don’t hear finance culture, right? But sales culture is a phrase you hear often. And leaders are very particular about creating a certain kind of culture, which is based on who they are essentially, and what they think has worked best. Is there a model for it? Perhaps no. You know, people have just worked and been part of teams which have been led a certain way, and they believe that’s the best way to get results. So that’s the honest audience need that we really hopped on. The second piece is around the product value proposition. Now here, instead of selling our product, we really wanted to question this, which is ‘a happy sales team is multiple things’, right? It’s a function of the right culture in the team, which is- Are you heavily dependent on your team members? or are they ultra-competitive? Does the leadership’s style resonate with how you are as an individual and so many things, say the softer aspects of culture. Then there is, for example, the human-machine interaction. So a sales rep’s day is consumed with administrative tasks. And also using a lot of technology, right? On average sales rep uses about six to seven tools on a daily basis, and that’s quite a bit in the UK, it’s about two to three. You don’t use Facebook, and seven such tools to input your information and get entertained, right? So that’s not done. So the open question that we wanted to ask was- Does the right kind of technology impact sales culture positively or negatively? We really wanted to go all out with this study. The third is, again, the context. Now, I don’t have to talk about context here, because happiness is such a universal emotion. I didn’t have to think about whether this appeals to the US, Australia, India, or the EU. Like it’s a human emotion at play. So what happened, from a context perspective is because COVID hit, we needed a lot more good news than we were hearing at that time. So there was an automatic undercurrent to this campaign, which ideally made people feel better. And inspired, of course. So the team came up with this nice, amazing campaign. In terms of operations, it was very difficult and challenging in a very good way. So one, you had to reach out to the senior leaders, extremely busy. Had to get excited about the campaign and the theme. They don’t need any promotion, you know, they’ve been there done that. So how do you make them excited about the theme? How do you make them excited about the concept? How do you make them understand the value that they will be providing to their peers as sales leaders? So there’s a lot of selling that one needed to do, to get this idea across. And thankfully, you know, those amazing people really lifted up and took out the time to actually shoot. All of this happened during the pandemic. So there was a videographer who visited their homes, actually shot them. You’ll also see a lot of personal touches there. It’s not just them working on the laptops, but doing a lot of things which show them the complete them, rather than the uni-dimensional leader that you always see every single day. So a lot of operational, heavy-lifting, lifting in terms of talking to them, selling the theme, getting the storyline together, because every single video, every single video spoke about a unique insight and this is just a trailer. So we spoke about happy sales and the impact on productivity. We spoke about happy sales and the right technology. We spoke about happy sales and sales performance. We spoke about happy sales and strategic priorities. So there was an interview guide that we had to create for every single interview. And therefore the preparation around that. And eventually, we had to then roll out all of this in the form of a nice grand campaign. And like we spoke before, which is how do you then design those micro KPIs which is- the report, the quiz, the videos, and create a holistic journey around it. So that’s, really the campaign. In terms of outcomes, to be honest, it really surprised us. And the single biggest metric that we are proud of from this campaign is that in a world where you are heavily reliant on paid media, it reduced our cps by more than 80%. Number one, so great creative execution can transform how you think about your budgets. I think that’s the number one learning. The second learning is if you do a good job of arriving at that aha insight, which is the intersection of the product value prop, the audience, and the context, there is a huge benefit in terms of the kind of audience that you get. So one out of every four leads that we got was from a non paid source. We didn’t have to pay for that. And think about it this way. In a world of large enterprises, which is famous for spending a lot of money to acquire a lead, we are talking about one out of every four leads coming not paid. You know, that has to be just word of mouth. Just the quality of content, the nature of the topic, and all of it coming together at some level. I think those two would be the biggest insights for me when we talk about how to create videos. They impact so many other metrics that you don’t think they might and they could impact.
Pranav Chimulkar: Right. Absolutely. That also brings me to the next campaign that we want to talk about something that you did for Valentine’s Day.
Abhishek GP: Yeah. That’s an interesting man. So yeah, I think it’s best if you play this and then would be interesting to chat.
Pranav Chimulkar: Yeah, so I want to talk about the next campaign that y’all pulled out for Valentine’s Day. So before ee get into that and play the video. It’s a quick 15 seconders. I think you used this as a GIF on social media. We will play it first and then tell me how you used the campaign.
Valentine’s Day campaign
Abhishek GP: Awesome. Now, this was an interesting and a very different one. And we had to be different because at that point, our product awareness was in design. And we were, of course, working in a very cluttered market. As I said, you know, 500 600 CRM players. So how do you differentiate yourself? I think was an important question that we were all thinking about. And what we did was this. I use the same framework that I keep using, in my mind, it’s more subconscious now. But we will start with the audience here. The audience is the sales reps, right? Now, the average age of a sales rep is about 25, 28, 32. Not beyond that. Which means that most of them are on Tinder, right? So why not use a format that they love and use every single day? And make it a little more consumers-ish. And not because it’s Valentine’s day, but that day cannot be about, you know, boring things. So that’s really the audience inside we wanted to grab on. The context, of course, is very clear, which is in how do you marry the Valentine’s Day with the platform that they love, which is Tinder, and with software, they don’t necessarily like today, because of what they’re using. So how can you marry all of these together to come up with that one aha insight, hopefully? And then also talk about your product proposition which is, ‘Hey, this is competition A’, and we sort of marked their name and this is competition B and we had a nice bio created for them as well. And that’s all based on perceptions, on review sites. That’s not defined by us, right? The competition that’s based on what they get spoken about, on the review sites. We use some of those real reviews, just made it a little more funny and witty. And then finally, sort of introduced ourselves as that, one other software that will eventually rescue you from the dullness that you face every single day. So that’s what the core idea of the Valentine Day campaign was. It is more about buzz, creating awareness, being part of a moment, where you don’t expect b2b brands to participate.
Pranav Chimulkar: Correct. I think goes back to the same discussion that we did that b2b doesn’t have to be boring and you can be creative when it comes to different formats and the kinds of messaging that you do. It comes down to the risk-taking abilities of the brand and the brand managers or marketers, where most of them are very conscious, and their guards are up to when it comes to trying out new things. A lot of times I have personally faced, where I’ve pitched a lot of ideas to brands when I and my team wanted to push the limits of how typical b2b brands or any brand for that matter, is defined to certainly behave. But then for us, it’s interesting, because we do not think, as the product owners, but we think on behalf of the audience because it’s more a neutral perspective. I don’t have any bias towards the product. And that I think the amalgamation of these two parties is very important when it comes to creating the final product. So that being said, I want to move on to the next question. Again, this is a question that I have asked every guest. So if you’ve seen any of our previous episodes, this is bound to be coming towards you. Because as marketers, we have to keep looking around us what’s happening, and observing, like you said, you already mentioned that great marketers have to keep observing what’s happening around them. How are audiences behaving? How are other marketers behaving? I think we’ve spoken a lot about the audience, but we haven’t spoken about observing other marketers. And I want to ask you, who do you think outside of your company is doing amazing at their jobs and you are in awe of what they’re doing? We could do shoutouts in this section right now, this the type.
Abhishek GP: Yeah, so, not necessarily appeared, but a marketer, a CMO that I really loved is, is Tom Klein of MailChimp. And the reason I say this is because in one sense, once Tom sort of took over MailChimp, they’ve almost become a media house, and we were talking about this earlier, right? They are not necessarily another software in the market, they are a media house, as we speak today. They have changed, they’ve almost pushed the boundaries of storytelling in the world of b2b. I would say they do it incredibly well, consistently well. The look and feel, the tonality, and the scale at which they operate. And to sort of manage all of that, it takes a lot of attention and guts, and importantly, setting a process, within the team. So I believe that is a marketer, I’m really impressed with in terms of how he pushed the boundaries of storytelling. The other marketer would be hoody at Gong. And that’s a company that listens to your sales calls and gives you intelligence back. It’s a complex technology made super easy by the marketing team at Gong. I think that’s another one. The third one is not a necessary marketer. But I would say I would recommend a book. It’s a book called behave by a Stanford professor called Robert Sapolsky. And I think most marketers should read it. This book is all about evolutionary psychology, evolutionary biology. It talks about the good and the bad of humans from an emotional perspective. So I’ve loved this book. There is a lot of science in the book, apart from the fact that we hear about emotions around this. So when we talk about how emotions run the world and not data and nationality, this book proves that to be true. So I highly recommend that.
Pranav Chimulkar: Awesome. And that brings me to the last question. Again, as I said earlier, because of the kind of situation that we are in, we have also found a lot of time for ourselves, right? We save a lot of time traveling to work. And a lot of other inefficiencies have been taken away from the way we work now. And we get to focus on things that should be a priority, in addition, right, which often take a backseat otherwise. And I was talking to you when I happened to get introduced to you by my colleague Rahul and, and the first thing that we bonded over is music, right? You are a musician. And you play I think the Mridangam, you also sing. And I also am a percussionist. So I think it’s great to bond, but how are you utilizing this? Have you come out as a better person? What have you done to work upon yourself to make yourself better than you what you were before the pandemic?
Abhishek GP: Yeah, great question. So a couple of things. One is, I’m a man of routine. I love that predictability that gets my day started. So you know, there are a couple of hours that I spent early in the morning, just for myself. So there is a definite focus on the me-time because you know that the lines between work and home have blurred, and you need to think of yourself as a corporate athlete at the end of the day, right? So you need that time to charge yourself and there’s no time better than mornings to do that. So a couple of hours I spent on myself just reading everything from like I said, philosophy. I’m a big fan of philosophy, Western philosophy, especially Greek philosophy. I read a bit of psychology and sociology. So I think that covers some of my time. What I do also, apart from that is I focused a lot on my fitness. So I’ve lost about 12 kilos in the last three months, which is, something I’m really proud of. And in a read in a study today, which really appealed to me. It said that the habits that you have started off during COVID there is a very high chance that you will continue with it. So even if that’s not true, I just loved the report just because it said that.
Pranav Chimulkar: Brilliant! I think that brings me to the end of the conversation. We’ve had a power-packed one hour of conversation with you obviously. First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking out time and joining us on this. There have been plenty of points that you’ve made, that I could learn from, and I hope the audience can as well. But what it has also given me is a new way of thinking and looking at campaigns, especially for b2b which I would hopefully be able to implement in my own day to day work. And the thing that I hope to do is stay in touch with you because I think this is one brand that people would really like to work with. So, if at all, we can find ways of working together, that’s the other thing that I would love to do. And again, thank you so much for taking the time out and joining us. Is there a closing thing that you would like to say to the audience?
Abhishek GP: Just be bold, be interesting and be creative. I’ll keep repeating that. Forever. Thank you for having me doing this.
Pranav Chimulkar: Thank you so much. Thank you so much. And for the rest of the audience. We’ll be back with a new guest very soon on. This has been a great 18 episode journey for us. So hopefully, we’ll have the 19th episode soon. Till then, see you guys.