Using Data to Shape Conversations at IBM

November 7, 2013

Michele Grieshaber serves as VP-demand programs at IBM North America, where she leverages Big Data and marketing automation capabilities to feed a $20 billion sales pipeline. She will share her experience with SoCal BMA members at the November 12 B2B Rising conference.

BMA Buzz: How has data helped you better understand your audiences?

Michele Grieshaber: We use data obtained through primary and secondary research to create personas. By developing personas, we put the audience at the forefront of our efforts. 

The goal of personas is twofold: To create messaging and marketing tactics that use the same language that clients use when describing pain points, hurdles or barriers to purchase and their relationship with IBM. And, second, to identify the preferred channels and formats that clients use when researching vendors or solutions. 

The use of personas helps us understand our audience and map the messages we want to communicate and the types of interactions we need to have.

Once we have those interactions, our marketing automation platform, UNICA, allows us to have richer, real-time data access through a campaign dashboard. We are able to see each touch and interaction that we have with a client.

This system allows marketing to better understand our clients, and it is shared with sales. Sales can see the journey that each client takes.

BMA Buzz: How do you and your team filter actionable data?

Grieshaber: Our nurturing process relies heavily on data and advanced analytics. We look at clients’ needs, their behavior and their interaction with us. We have a method of assigning a points value to each response or interaction.

Inputs used in scoring are collected from explicit or implied interactions. Explicit interaction is information captured from a response. Implied interaction is information we gather from content codes, clicks and other interactions that do not require sign-in.

Implied inputs tell us how the client is gathering information to develop a point of view and make a decision. We know where individual clients goes online, the information or type of offer that they want, whether they have attended a conference, watched a video or downloaded a white paper.

We weigh these interactions based on analysis of historical data and assign a score. The higher the score, the further along the client is in the buyer journey.

Once they reach a certain threshold, they are to be ready to be passed to a lead development representative. We know through analysis of past activity that this process increases our success rate.

The representatives have a client who is ready to speak to them and they have a view into the history of that client. They can see their interactions and the offers they've been given. They can identify the next step in the conversation.

BMA Buzz: What are conversation-based frameworks, and how do you put such architecture in place?

Grieshaber: The foundation of our framework is the development of a conversation map. This map is a blueprint for a specific client engagement. It is constructed from the client’s point of view, in their voice.

The conversation map is aligned to a specific persona so we can illustrate a buyers' journey. We leverage market insights, sales interviews and third party information to create the map.

From the conversation map, we create a distribution map that can be used by marketing to create campaigns and identify asset gaps and requirements. The conversation map can take on different flavors—for example, by solution or by product. The client determines where they come into the conversation.

As we develop the maps, the messaging and the offers we constantly test to ensure that these are the right topics, the right content and the right format for our audience.

Once we’ve developed the conversation maps and the distribution strategy, our next goal is to ensure that sales is on the same page as marketing.

We enable sales with the same conversation maps and distribution plans. Sales has a precise picture of marketing’s conversation with clients. They can pick up the conversation where marketing left off.

BMA Buzz: How has data helped to shape your content strategy?

Grieshaber: The data analysis that leads to the development of the conversation maps also tells us the messages that align to our audience’s pain points. We map out the existing assets that align to those messages.

This process provides a complete view of the type of content we need across the stages of the buyer’s journey.

We also know how our clients consume content. Depending on the stage of the journey, they may want to consume it in different formats. So we take content and re-purpose it into different formats.

This way we have different formats to use and are providing consumable pieces of information. We’ve had great results. Recently we had a white paper that we turned into an infographic for Twitter. We drove an 18.5% increase in Twitter followers, month over month.


"Using Data to Shape Conversations at IBM." BMA Buzz. 11/7/13.