Mani Dasgupta, CMO of IBM Consulting, talks to The Ortus Club’s Austen Clark about the value of mutual gain in marketing, today’s marketing technology, and how to face constant change in the marketing field.
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I recently moved on to manage our advisory partnerships for IBM. Marketers get a bad rap for using a lot of the corporate spend on market-building and campaign-making. So I’m actually going to move on to the other side and try to make some money for IBM. So moving into a P&L role. My team actually helped launch IBM Consulting. I am the CMO for Global Business Services, now known as IBM Consulting. That’s 30% of IBM’s business. I’m very happy to be here.
What words would best describe your role currently? And why would you use those particular words to describe them?
I am the Managing Partner for our Global Advisory Partnerships. I’d hone in on the word ‘partnerships’ because of the importance of an ecosystem in the market right now. Everywhere, you’ll see new relationships being forged. The market is forcing people to look at things in a very different way. Different industries want to learn from each other about the recent pandemic. These kinds of things force you to look at your supply chain differently and look at how you source talent in the market in a different way to say, ‘Hey, people are no longer working from the same office. They’re everywhere, working from home. How do we create employee engagement?’ Everything is being redone. And in such a scenario, being able to reach across the borders and just shake hands and have that ecosystem approach to what you do is extremely important. I believe in open ecosystems. I believe that there is always a win-win-win—a win for our client, a win for IBM, and a win for our partners. So we’ve got to do this together with our partners. I think the market is big enough for everybody to be able to grow. But I also believe that we can be stronger if we go together. So the partnership piece of my designation, I would put a double underline underneath that with a very strong focus on open ecosystems and being able to make value for all the parties involved.
Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?
This could be one of those because I’m drinking from the firehose right now. For all those creative campaigns that we put forward in the market in our career in marketing, we always want to make sure that it has an impact on an actual client scenario, to move a deal from just consideration to closure. To be able to do that yourself, I would recommend every marketer to go for a role in the business and to make sure that they get their hands really dirty because this kind of experience makes it possible for marketers to move from just being in the marketing realm to aiming for C-suite roles and possibly become a CEO someday. So having that kind of an experience, it’s not an easy decision to make because you’re going for something that you know and love with your teams and things that you’ve built. IBM Consulting is my baby. So going from there, handing it over to somebody, and then getting to market, making new business happen, and learning on the job—I think that was a risk. But so far, so good. It’s been great. I am loving the experience. I get to talk to clients all over the world and meet them, and it’s really fulfilling to take marketing and really implement it now face-to-face with clients.
How do you see your role evolving in the near future?
It’s an ongoing evolution, right? The only true constant is change. From a career standpoint, in terms of being able to develop oneself, is there something that you don’t feel that you know today that you want to do more about? Go for it, take a leap, and make it happen. I think anything that adds to the overall persona and your capabilities is good, and the time to experiment is now. People often have hesitancy around, ‘Should I take the step or not?’ My advice to everybody is to grow and change. If you are able to take the first step, growth will come because you will learn new things and you open yourself up to change and growth. So if you ask me about what’s next for me, I have spent a number of years in marketing, and I have been fortunate enough to spend a number of years in the development of technology, and I was one of the original Girls Who Code. My software’s running in some pharmaceutical companies even now. It’s fun to have done that. And now, to be in front of a client and to be able to capture their requirements, stitch the solutions together, go with our partners and a multitude of clients, build joint solutions together, that’s what’s next for me. I’d really be truly happy to be able to keep doing this for a little bit more and grow our business. We’ve already been having stellar growth and IBM consulting. And it just gives me so much pride to be able to contribute to that growth in the future.
“The only true constant is change. From a career standpoint, in terms of being able to develop oneself, is there something that you don’t feel that you know today that you want to do more about? Go for it, take a leap, and make it happen. I think anything that adds to the overall persona and your capabilities is good, and the time to experiment is now.”
What trends are you taking advantage of right now?
What’s most exciting is how technology has shaped every decision that we make. Just a week ago, I was with a client and my partner I manage, and we were having a conversation. This is a giant retailer. They were talking about the fact that they consider themselves to be a technology company first. And so it’s really exciting to see—being in the technology domain, myself, for two decades or more—how everybody has embraced it to really advance business outcomes. So from a marketing standpoint, I would say that that trend is towards the use of technology to reach and segment your consumers, know what kind of content they would like to consume, and know what could have a true impact to be able to target and build solutions that are necessary for our clients. So that’s everything from the consumer experience to actual value delivered to add value is tracked and how you report it back. One of the big things around marketing has always been how to show ROI. And today, with technology, it’s very simple. You have all the tools that you need. It’s the proliferation of tools. There are just too many tools. Which one do you use? At IBM, we have a very strong data science team, actually, in marketing, and they put together really comprehensive reporting that helps us make day-to-day decisions around where to invest our last dollar when it comes to marketing. And we take the same approach when we talk to clients and how and where they should be investing their dollars.
When it comes to marketing, that’s the beauty of it. What you don’t want to let go of is the true creative intent in the truth in the connections that you make with the person across the table or who’s consuming your content over a mobile device. At the end of the day, it’s also about that human connection. Technology is what brings it to you. It makes it easy to consume. It brings it to you. It makes it easy to count it up and measure ROI and all of that. But marketing has always been and will always be a bit of an art and a science, and people who can master both sides of the story are really going to make a strong impact in the market.