executive engagement

C-Suite Marketing: IBM’s Mani Dasgupta on Virtualizing Executive Engagement

Momentum ITSMA Staff

April 21, 2021

Mani Dasgupta of IBM describes three principles to collaborative executive engagement at scale: Cohorts, context, and customization

C-Suite Marketing: IBM’s Mani Dasgupta on Virtualizing Executive Engagement

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For large B2B organizations, one of the toughest challenges with executive engagement is creating intimate, relevant, and collaborative experiences for C-suite customers and prospects … at scale. We know that highly personal and personalized experiences are generally the most effective, but we need to reach a great many executives to have a significant impact on the business.

In our latest episode of the C-Suite Marketing Podcast, Mani Dasgupta, CMO of IBM Global Business Services, describes three core principles that IBM relies on to create high-touch, collaborative executive experiences at scale: Cohorts, context, and customization. (Note: the episode is excerpted from a longer ITSMA webcast on Virtualizing Executive Engagement.)

Think Circles is a platform for engaging and one of the design principles is to create an environment where we are not selling to these individuals; instead, we are helping them on the biggest issues they face every single day at strategic levels and also at tactical levels. The first thing to realize is that you need to organize people by cohorts of interest, not necessarily industry, if you want executives to engage. We ask, “How do we create a more programmatic approach to be more customer centric? To be sustainable? To create a positive engine in the environment and in our companies?” If you want the senior-most executives to truly collaborate – whether the platform is digital, hybrid, or face-to-face – they have to care about the topic. That’s the only way they’ll come together, brainstorm, and help each other solve issues.

The second thing is, we know it’s important to be relevant, but we also need to be contextual. This means allowing for geographical variations. People care about what’s going around them, the political landscape. Often, things that matter in a particular country or region may be very different from what we’re experiencing here in the U.S. To be highly contextual, we created a “follow the sun” kind of programming and we made sure that it’s not just a translation of what we’re saying here in the U.S., so executives engage with peers who are facing the same problems that they face.

The third consideration, which is both a challenge and an opportunity, is to keep people on a platform for a longer period of time. This was our going-in position; however, we realized at the end of last year that we don’t need to model digital Think Circles the same way we do our physical events. We don’t need to have somebody coming in at eight or nine in the morning, listening to the CEO’s speech, and staying on all day in the same place until five in the afternoon. Instead, we are packaging modular blocks of content and creating a customized journey, giving cues such as, “Hey! It’s your lunch break, listen to this!” The ability to interact with technology gives us a lot of options.

In the rest of the podcast, Mani and I discuss how to engage with executives during a pandemic, the value of cross-industry collaboration, and the growing prominence of social commitment and innovation at the executive level. It’s only 18 minutes, give it a listen!

And if you have a full hour, I recommend that you watch the entire Virtualizing Executive Engagement webcast, where Mani and I are joined by Michael Rander, Head of Operations and Lead Analyst for SAP Insights, and Liz Lathan, CEO, Haute Dokimazo, and we get a full picture of the lessons learned on executive engagement from the 2020 pivot; new approaches to building virtual collaboration and connections at the executive level (e.g., virtual shark diving!); and new opportunities to tap into the growing C-suite focus on brand and social mission and purpose.