Confessions of a marketing technologist

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When Paul Gottsegen grabbed the CMO reins at Mindtree in 2013, he noticed a major deficiency in both himself and his team—there wasn't a single marketing technologist among them. Throwing down the gauntlet, Gottsegen shocked his team by mandating they all become more tech-centric since until that point, "everybody thought that was someone else's job." While Gottsegen admits there have been missteps along the way, he also believes that marketing has played a big role in the growth of the company, perhaps best reflected in the quadrupling of Mindtree's stock over the last 5 years.

There is an ironic lesson here. Indian-based Mindtree is a consulting company that competes with the likes of Accenture and PwC in the so called "digital transformation" space. That means they help others be more tech-centric and expand their "digital value chain." In essence, by focusing on marketing technology, Gottsegen was "taking his own medicine," prescribing a course of action that could systematically yield big results. And yet in the end, even Gottsegen admits, ultimately marketing is both art and science, "it's not a math equation."

Where did your martech process start?

We went heavy into marketing automation. I can tell you a whole story about how "marketing automation" is a little bit of a misnomer. It's not so automatic to deploy and learn about marketing automation. But we did that, and we drove leads and were able to track all the leads that we had. It took a while to get good with automation, I definitely made a few mistakes, but I've learned everything by making all the mistakes in the book. That's how you learn.

How do you make sure you get the right technology?

There are different types of personalization that have kind of come and gone. We have webinar platforms, we do little microsites for client-specific work and we have specific microsite platforms. There's a lot. One big thing I've learned is that you can hire and fire in the tech stack very easily. I have never signed more than a one-year contract because nobody likes to fire people, and it's even harder to disconnect with an agency. With your tech stack you should, by definition, be grooming, hiring and firing all the time because, as we talked about, there are thousands and thousands of choices out there. What are the odds that your tech stack is the best of breed? You've got to always keep trying new ones, even if they fail a little bit. I encourage my team to always come forward with new ideas for the tech stack.

How did you approach branding, especially considering the size of your competitors like Accenture?

We have great brand identity that actually came right before me at Mindtree, and it's a nice thing to have inherited. But the website didn't reflect the whole "Welcome to possible" promise. It didn't reflect that we do things differently and go the extra mile—that people who know Mindtree know that that's why they would hire us. So, we changed that.

Besides the website, what else needed updating?

We had very few followers on social media. Now we not only do the "followship" on social media but also, we use a lot of dark posts and things to drive very targeted awareness. We also focused on PR, working with our CEO and our leadership team on "Why Mindtree? What's the story? Why would you hire a firm that's smaller than the one you're comparing us to?" You've got to try a lot harder and have a very good storyline of why you can solve their problem, and this is where you drop back into the ancient art of positioning and value proposition development and try to get an edge that way.

Is there something you deployed that had surprising results?

Yes. We got involved in social-selling training for our sales team. This had a huge impact on us. It turns out that these great salespeople just had never been trained on how to use, primarily, LinkedIn to build their brand. And that's really the cold-calling of today and establishing thought leadership for a professional services firm like us.

When you get a big sale can you link it back to marketing?

Our CEO and chairman are company founders, I love them, and they both give me a hard time about this. They're both very analytical and they don't have extensive marketing backgrounds. So, they give me this budget and they want to know what I've done with it. And when we won this large consumer product deal here in New York recently, I went and looked back over three years at all the nurturing we had done with that client and it was amazing. There were more than 20 different interactions. They had attended a few webinars, I was with them at two of the three little dinners that we put on here in New York. They attended some of our events. They downloaded some of our white papers, and it worked out.

Did this resonate with your CEO?

After the sale, I went to the CEO and I said "OK, let me lay this out for you." This is a classic example of marketing today, where it's not so cookie cutter. If it was so easy, if you could put your finger on the one thing to do and just do more of that, everybody would do it. So, it's a certain amount of, trying different best practices. And when you get a win like this, look at all the different ways that you interacted with that client from a marketing standpoint. Know that you just have to keep pushing and syndicating good content and having different interactions, whether online or offline. And then you're going to win some deals, build your brand and build credibility.

So, there's no silver bullet?

There's never any one thing. People are always looking for the one silver bullet. It's just not that easy, and it's gotten even more complicated with all the different ways you can syndicate your message and the different ways people can interact with your brand.

That's what makes it so fun. It's a never-ending challenge, you're always learning and proving. Hopefully you're winning, growing market share, otherwise you're going to be in trouble. But at the same time, you're building tribal and institutional knowledge with your team, skills and experience. That's the heart of what marketing is all about. It's not really a math equation.

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