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Susan Jain

VP Marketing | 22 Feb 2011

Most IT marketing is not about selling just technology, because what you’re actually selling is a business decision; you’re selling technology for transformative purposes. So it’s not just about capturing eyeballs…Instead of selling a box of software and walking away, you first need to sell a vision, like the smarter planet initiative, and then find a way to fit the vertical, and then actually demonstrate the value that you are providing to your partners.

Susan Jain is Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Corporate Citizenship for IBM India/South Asia, where she leads all aspects of these activities across the IBM product and services portfolio. She is also the diversity ambassador and executive sponsor for our domestic business unit and has championed the cause of gender diversity through various initiatives.

Before coming to India, Susan was based in Shanghai for 3 years where she served as Director of Strategy and Marketing for the GTS business in Asia Pacific. Prior to that, she has held a variety of global and geo marketing positions in IBM GBS, with marketing responsibilities ranging from GBS Americas to global GBS Service Lines, BTO (MBPS), General Business, PwCC integration, and rollouts of the global CEO, CFO and CHRO studies.

Since joining IBM in 1998, she has served in a variety of global and geo marketing positions in IBM, most recently being based in Shanghai for 3 years as Director of Strategy and Marketing for IBM GTS in Asia Pacific.

In conversation with e4m’s Gopal Sathe, Jain talks about B2B marketing and the power of demonstrating value.

Q. IBM has been in India since the 1970s. What have the last 40 years in India shown the company?

India is an emerging market and a lot of the problems and opportunities that it offers are the same as in other such countries. What we have seen is that there is a tremendous opportunity for growth and also a lot of opportunities for innovation. There is scope for doing things differently and for being able to build things from the ground up.

At the same time, this also brings its own set of problems. In more developed markets, we have so much more data available, which makes planning and strategy a lot simpler. In India, the data is there, but it’s very fragmented and not very well understood. So in other markets, the challenge might be that we have the data but so does everybody else, so how do we do things differently? In a country like India, you’re going to do things differently, but first you need to make sure you have all the data.

Q. As a company which mostly deals with other businesses and even governments, how does your marketing differ from customer facing companies?

B2B marketing is growing and it is a very important tool for growth. Most IT marketing is not about selling just technology, because what you’re actually selling is a business decision; you’re selling technology for transformative purposes. So it’s not just about capturing eyeballs.

Instead of selling a box of software and walking away, you first need to sell a vision. Like the smarter planet initiative and then find a way to fit the vertical and then actually demonstrate the value that you are providing to your partners. The way to do this is to reach out to the very top level of a company and bring an integrated solution which will make a visible improvement.

Q. What are the different ways by which IBM does this?

We use a number of different paths to reach out to people. For example, our smarter planet messages on television. But the understanding of the brand identity out there. That will provoke the curiosity, which leads to building new relationships. We make use of traditional methods of advertising, but at the same time, we also keep looking at new ways to do things.

So for example, our CFO Robert Parker is on LinkedIn. There are 2,500 Indian CFOs on LinkedIn and over 400 are connected to Robert. That’s important because a lot of B2B marketing is not just about marketing. It’s about building a relationship. What we’ve seen is that social media is extremely effective, and allows very specific targeting, and we can learn about people, discover their needs and present the best solutions to them in this way.

Q. How significant a market is India?

India is one of the fastest growing economies today and the growth rate of the IT industry is greater than that of the country’s GDP. India might not be up there right now, but is very quickly catching. What I have personally seen is that people are very forward thinking. There is a good understanding of the needs for technology and how it can change lives and a high degree of awareness of the capabilities of technology.

What IBM brings to the picture is our global infrastructure and the best global practices, which can help Indian industries to match up to the global scenario. By doing this, they are significant both in India and also around the world, which today, is increasingly relevant.

Q. Do you see technology leapfrogging in emerging markets?

Absolutely. It’s one of the things which are helping the fast growth of the market in India at this point. There are no legacy systems to remove before you can implement newer, more efficient solutions and technology. Skipping ahead to what is the latest technology in the world has been made possible by two things. Global companies bring a lot of value and bring technology and practices, but at the same time, what we are also seeing is a lot of development here, at the ground level, a lot of very driven and innovative people doing good work.

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