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Lenovo’s Poul Bastrup on working like a small start up within the structure of a large, global company

Innovation can be a challenge for any growing business as the need for process and structure can limit spontaneity. Working within the Infrastructure Solutions Group of the global technology giant Lenovo, Poul Bastrup is responsible for keeping their marketing approach on the cutting edge using data-driven engagement strategies. As the Head of Customer Engagement Marketing for EMEA, Poul leads a small team to find the most effective ways to connect with new and existing customers in the right place at the right time for a seamless experience. Here, he explains how they’re using customer insights to get a new perspective on customer needs.

The “startup” within the giant

Everyone knows Lenovo for our PCs and Laptops, but I work in the Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG). This division was an acquisition from IBM, and today we are a fully integrated part of Lenovo and an important pillar in the company’s strategy, future growth and vision to deliver smarter technology for all. ISG focuses on the datacenter, providing high performance servers, storage and solutions to customers on a global basis, ensuring that the vast amount of data generated by today’s technology is secure and easily accessible whether its on-site or in the cloud. We’re a relatively small but new division in a company that’s been operating for four decades, so sometimes we’re a bit like a smaller company within a bigger organization

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Our goal is to connect the data across all our interactions with our customers to create better experiences for them and to then use these stories to increase our brand awareness. We have a cross-functional marketing team consisting of a PR and comms manager, a campaign manager, an events manager, a web manager, and an outbound marketing manager who all work together to start connecting the dots. My team often feels like the challenger as we go after some of the bigger brands in our industry. That’s where we really see the impact we’re making and the results of our efforts. It’s still very early days but we’re already seeing quite strong and steady growth from our hard work. When I joined five years ago, we primarily communicated with customers through our partners. Today, we are working to combine this with finding and using more direct ways to talk with them and get closer to them.

The journey to Lenovo

My profile is based around being a B2B marketer. I originally studied languages and international relations, thinking I would focus on intercultural communications, but now I am more of a marketing generalist trying to touch all aspects of a project. My journey as a marketing professional really started when I joined a small US-based company doing gas detection where I built out the marketing function for Europe in a small team, doing everything on our own. It was a very entrepreneurial role and we had to figure out a lot of things on our own. I then joined HPE where my journey in technology began. I started as a country manager and stayed there for around 7 years, moving into different regional roles. Later, some of my former HPE colleagues had joined Lenovo and they convinced me to get back into IT. By then I had been away from the industry for just one year, but so many things changed in such a short period of time! It never stops which is one of the great things about working in tech.

The core of customer engagement

Today, I am responsible for customer engagement marketing. We’ve focused on three key elements, which we seek to combine, when we take an account-based approach.

  1. Customer centricity

    We just launched a new campaign called ‘The Data-Centered’. We took a different approach, focusing on the people who work with data first and foremost, how technology can transform their business and ultimately the power that the data itself can provide their business.
  2. Research

    We have done extensive research with EMEA IT decision makers to see how much they are considering the users – their employees – when rolling out new technologies, captured in our study “Think Human” . We wanted to understand how the humans behind the technology are impacted when implementing new solutions and applications. If you are an IT manager, the efficiency gain is obvious, but when you are on the business side, the benefits are a little less clear. At the end of the day, it’s people that make IT work.
  3. The human factor

    About 90% of our business runs through business partners, IT resellers, consultants, system integrators. This means we don’t necessarily own the direct contact with the end customers. But if you want to engage with your customers, you need to get involved and get closer to them.

Optimising for Account-Based Marketing

When it comes to ABM, we wanted to turn the funnel upside down. There are some major accounts that we want to get closer to and understand better. I started looking at Account Based Marketing a while back because every marketer has the same challenge – we don’t have unlimited resources. Our approach was designed to maximise ROI from ABM.

  1. Understand why you are doing it

    If you are an enterprise salesperson, you will need to convince 5 to 30 people to close your deal. How many of those can you cover alone? ABM really helps grow your brand and message for your customers.
  2. Start with the goal and the accounts

    We wanted to focus on our most important accounts, so instead of “fishing with nets”, we started “fishing with spears”. We started looking at who would be our top 20 accounts and targeted them specifically. We started putting together the list of people within those accounts that we wanted to reach and putting together the messages that we wanted to reach them with.
  3. Target and generate leads

    We then started targeting those leads with ads and monitored them closely. Once we got our first results, we turned off what wasn’t working and increased what was working. Very quickly, we started seeing an increase in our numbers. 
  4. Set KPIs and Measure results

    When you start out, you are going to an anonymous base and you may not receive a lot of contacts. So, lead tracking should not be the only way of measuring the impact. A lot of the audience saw the message but didn’t give out their details. Therefore, it was important for us to be clear on how we would measure success.
  5. Learn and Repeat

    We see these campaigns getting better and better over time. Essentially, repetition is key. For example, one of the big learnings from last time was that we needed to manage the handover with sales more efficiently.  Like any system, it’s about constant refinement and improvement, but as a small team we have that agility and flexibility to keep experimenting and updating before rolling things out to the wider business.

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