Episode 176: Sebastian Shimomichi on How a Curious Mindset Drives Marketing Innovation

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs. Today, I’m excited to have Sebastian from Accenture join us. Sebastian, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Sebastian Shimomichi: Definitely. Thank you for having me. I’m Sebastian Shimomichi and I am a management consultant at Accenture Singapore. I’m a consultant specialized in analytics and business development. I primarily focus on delivering marketing excellence for clients in Japan, Southeast Asia, and China, essentially as a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital cloud.

As a management consultant, I’m responsible for amplifying marketing effectiveness for our portfolio of clients in the Asia Pacific market. I essentially work closely with the clients’ sales and marketing teams and identify opportunities to implement solutions we could bring on board to accelerating pipelines.

ShS: Fantastic, Sebastian. I’m so glad that you’re able to join us today. Thank you for taking the time. We came across you on LinkedIn when you wrote an article around the importance of curiosity for business leaders today in order to solve problems. You mentioned in your introduction that you guys work specifically with marketing leaders and you yourself have been one. How do you embrace curiosity and how has this mindset helped you drive innovation?

SeS: Wow, that was my article in Japanese on the topic of curiosity. I believe being curious about how sales and marketing teams can tackle business challenges, this is essential to the success of an organization. With the current pandemic at hand, it is becoming increasingly crucial for leaders to question how to ensure efficiency in how sales and marketing collaborate. For the longest time, many organizations took baby steps in digitizing operations in sales and marketing. However, with the pandemic disrupting how teams such as sales and marketing collaborate to achieve KPIs, leaders are now required to reevaluate how to accelerate digitizing the workplace and skill up their employees to keep steady momentum in achieving all of the small to big wins.

It takes a curious mindset to observe what is not working and define how digitizing sales and marketing could succeed. By embracing a curious mindset, I believe sales and marketing leaders can evaluate exactly what data solutions and talent is needed to bring about success for an organization. All my years of being a consultant in the domain of marketing specialize in the Japanese market. I have witnessed Japanese clients from various industries scramble to digitize their marketing activities to maximize sales pipeline. The most commonly asked question from senior leaders at major Japanese corporations was how do we transform the way sales and marketing teams collaborate without impacting our sales performance? While it may be simple for an organization to implement automated solutions – CDPs, DMP, CRM, marketing automation, so on, it takes the right mindset to leverage digital transformation solutions and marketing to its full potential.

A leader who embraces curiosity can look at the intersection between digitization and employees’ state of mind from different perspectives. A true leader is often said to be someone who can make a judgment all while being empathetic. That’s true for a leader with a curious mindset. They would look to identify how employees could learn to relearn while gradually introducing digitized solutions within an organization to essentially keep that momentum and grow even further as an organism.

ShS: I think that’s absolutely spot on. I think you’re right. I think especially in the past year, there’s been this massive wave to digitize everything that we’re doing. I think remaining curious is extremely important, particularly in these changing times. As a marketing leader myself, I’d love your perspective on this. How can marketing leaders help to inspire curiosity across their teams? What would you say the potential impact of that type of culture on an organization is as a whole?

SeS: I briefly mentioned the notion of employees learning to relearn. As we attempt to make sense of changes brought about by the pandemic, we find ourselves learning how to work from home efficiently. In my current line of work, I lead a team of analysts and specialists to deploy skilled marketing programs to drive product awareness and adoption. When the pandemic came in at full force across the globe, we had to scrap a large portion of our 2020 growth strategy. We had to rethink the client experience as well, as the journey from awareness to conversion all was happening online. Instead of just having a small group of colleagues go back to the drawing board and build a strategy, we invited our extended team to brainstorm with us. We didn’t ask what should change, but rather, what are the types of experiences you miss in the process of deciding to purchase a product? From this exercise, we were able to identify that personalized experiences were the most missed.

This exercise we had was to adjust our strategy for 2020 and beyond. What we want to achieve is for our extended team to challenge the status quo constantly. What I mean by this is to have colleagues across the board, regardless of seniority, have a voice to share various perspectives. By fostering an environment where employees can voice their opinions on how marketing and sales achieve success, we can identify how to innovate the way we collaborate in a digitizing environment.

In fact, by empowering our colleagues to feel confident in voicing their opinions, we have optimized marketing attribution models for our clients. For example, before the pandemic, marketing teams would deploy one-off programs to drive awareness and readiness through white papers, playbooks, and webinars. That alone was sufficient to accelerate the sales funnel. However, it is becoming increasingly important to offer a consistent, personalized experience to prospects. What I mean by consistent is to put into place a sequential client experience whereby marketing can measure its influence on the sales pipeline efforts and effectively redefine how we assess readiness and our buyer segments – essentially CXOs all the way to end-users. All of this is possible in making sure our team is in an environment where they can be curious in their domain and ultimately provide different points of view, which would lead to innovation.

ShS: Absolutely. I think that’s fantastic. Marketing attribution is a very hard thing to get right, for those of you less familiar with marketing attribution analytics. I think that’s fantastic. Now, to shift gears a little bit I’d love to understand, I think from an audience perspective that is predominantly in sales enablement, this is one area within the organization, particularly on the revenue side of organizations, that marketing and sales enablement can very much relate. That’s with regard to collaboration. I’d love to understand from your experience, how can marketing best collaborate with cross-functional leaders across the business, such as sales enablement, to help solve problems and innovate for the business?

SeS: Great question. While I firmly believe being curious and challenging the status quo is essential to bring about innovation, so reducing the steps in sales and marketing operations to produce output, it is also essential to be technically strategic. As organizations move to digitally transform the way marketing teams work to produce engaging content, marketers need to learn how to become technically strategic in building value for the organization and its customers. At the core of every successful collaboration initiative with cross-functional leaders is communication. However, as marketers leverage data to produce data-driven marketing positions, it is then critical for marketers to communicate how technology will maximize marketing strategies. This essentially would mean understanding nuances in third-party data to zero-party data – how lead data is ingested across platforms and systems and how leads are scored across the marketing funnel. Why is this necessary? It simply boils down to marketing being able to highlight how their mar-tech stack can contribute the team’s efforts in achieving KPIs.

Let me walk you through an example. When I was based in Japan, I was a data and analytics manager at an advertising agency also responsible for the end-to-end development of an Asia Pacific-wide nurture campaign for a major high-tech firm that incorporated marketing automation, lead scoring, and web scraping to generate them graphic data insights for all incoming leads. The objective for the campaign was clear: increased sales readiness of incoming leads through personalized communications whereby each marketing communication would alter depending on user behavior on our client’s CMS or web forms. You can think of this as contact sales. Due to the scale of this, the budget required for this program was high for the marketing team on the client side.

This is where I partnered with the marketing team to advocate for the program to various teams at our client’s company through effective communication and defining the value behind the program, so essentially not only discussing the technicals but rather how does that translate to success, we were able to deliver the offering. In fact, I’m being told that it’s still being run to this very day. On top of having communication at the core of success, I see that being able to translate technical, so systems platforms, etc., to how different teams within an organization will use them is just as important because you have to think of different perspectives and align them so that you can achieve buy-in. That’s one thing I think is quite important.

ShS: I think that’s absolutely spot on, Sebastian, with cross-collaboration. One way that I’ve seen marketing and sales enablement often work together is to help to optimize the client experience. My last question for you has to do with another article that you recently wrote about the importance of omotenashi or hospitality in building long-lasting relationships with clients. What does that mean to display omotenashi in marketing today?

SeS: Before I go any further, I think it’s important to unpack what omotenashi means. The best way to translate it in English would be hospitality, but it is generally believed that omotenashi is much more than hospitality. It is a philosophy in customer service. To practice the philosophy of omotenashi is to be selfless when giving the best service or experience.

Let me paint you a picture of the Japanese corporate world. In Japan, marketing and sales teams at companies from various industries work tirelessly to gain the trust of their clients. In the west, it’s pretty common to have account-based marketing strategies whereby you attempt to have various buyer segments in an organization, engage with marketing content. In Japan, however, leaders carry a lot more authoritative power than their Western counterparts. The reason for that is that in a corporate culture in Japan, collectivism is preferred. This translates to Japanese companies attempting to narrow down their ABM strategies to key leaders within a specified division of a company, rather than the broader range of buyer segments. So, end-users, decision-makers, just straight to CXOs.

In earning the trust of your clients, marketing and sales enablement closely collaborate to develop customer experiences that resonate with their prospects with omotenashi. Even if sales are in contact with prospects, the clients still expect to have a consistent customer experience throughout the entire lifetime of the company-client relationship. This means for sales and marketing to always identify opportunities to show omotenashi to prospects.

Methodologies I have often seen these days are establishing private, VIP webinars hosted by marketing whereby sales enablement team members are on standby to participate in breakout sessions, which would often be broken out by a product function or particular solution for a given industry. In activities like this, it’s not expected for sales to immediately land on a contract deal. Instead, through consistent customer experiences, the marketing and sales expectation is that prospects will trust the organizations’ capabilities and vision. If a company can win trust from its prospects, those prospects, which will then be clients, will likely one day become loyal clients whereby they would not hesitate to spread the love by promoting the company.

I have seen success in this domain whereby by implementing omotenashi in marketing and sales enablement, I’ve seen companies have 10-plus year relationships with their clients all due to that particular notion that in the customer experience journey, having omotenashi is very important. Now, a lot of the clients I’ve worked with in the past were in the cloud industry, especially in Japan. If I were to give a very rough estimate of the dollar value of such relationships in the cloud industry, I would say they contributed $2-4 billion a year. While I cannot comment on whether such an approach would work in the west, it does in Japan. It is often regarded as marketing excellence by key figures in the Japanese marketing industry as well.

ShS: I love that concept. I absolutely agree. I think if it were applied in the west it could have significant business impact. Thank you for sharing that philosophy with our audience today, Sebastian, and thank you for joining us.

SeS: Thank you.

ShS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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