IBM transforms marketing in international growth markets

Personalized e-nurture marketing and a central Competency Center fuel strong revenue growth across 147 countries on six continents

Published on 08-Oct-2013

"What we’re focusing on— and Unica is really helping us with this—is more personalized marketing to the individual and cultivatng client-driven conversations, where the client helps us determine what they want to know and in what delivery form they want that information. Now we can very quickly and easily understand how campaigns are working and continuously optimize to improve results." - Ritu Asthana Director, IBM WW Demand Programs



Deployment country:

EMM - Cross-channel Marketing Optimization, EMM - Digital Marketing Optimization, Smarter Commerce, Smarter Marketing


International growth markets represent a huge opportunity for IBM. From Beijing to Bangkok, from Mumbai to Moscow, from Singapore to Santiago and Jakarta to Johannesburg, companies and governments in emerging markets are rapidly increasing IT spending to build out the infrastructure and capabilities they need to deepen participation in the digital global economy.

Business need:
Covering 147 countries across six continents, marketers at IBM’s Growth Markets Unit (GMU) struggled with fragmentation, lack of skilled resources and poor measurability stemming from individual regional marketing teams running their own campaigns with disparate ad hoc tools.

GMU marketers embarked on an ambitious strategic initiative by deploying IBM Unica technology to support personalized e-nurture marketing, and created a central Unica Competency Center in India to develop and share best practices and ready-to-execute campaigns across individual markets.

Personalized, client-driven dialogues have significantly helped marketing-influenced validated lead revenue in software and hardware sales and services engagements, with double- and triple-digit increases in response rates, Unica tool adoption, productivity and other key metrics.

Case Study

International growth markets represent a huge opportunity for IBM. From Beijing to Bangkok, from Mumbai to Moscow, from Singapore to Santiago and Jakarta to Johannesburg, companies and governments in emerging markets are rapidly increasing IT spending to build out the infrastructure and capabilities they need to deepen participation in the digital global economy. With its Growth Markets Unit (GMU) established in 2008, IBM has made significant investments in 147 countries across six continents.

Effective marketing is critical to IBM’s strategy to deliver hardware, software and services to organizations in a range of industries, including financial services, manufacturing, government, telecommunications and more, across its GMU territory. In an era of rising expectations among connected customers, IBM recognizes that personalization and relevance are vital to capitalizing on marketing’s potential to drive sales and customer engagement.

To support corporate objectives, IBM GMU marketing leaders embarked on an ambitious strategic initiative to centralize and automate marketing across 30 of the fastest-growth countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand. With design getting under way in mid-2010, the GMU marketing team selected Unica technology as the foundation for its program.

Subsequently acquired by IBM in Fall 2010, Unica also provided the platform for an earlier large-scale transformation of IBM’s North American marketing operations that contributed to IBM’s decision to buy the company. GMU marketers were able to leverage best practices and lessons learned from the implementation of Unica (now part of the IBM Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) portfolio) in North America to help meet an aggressive six-month deployment schedule.

Centralization in a competency center
Key to the GMU marketing initiative was the 2011 creation of a Unica Competency Center in Bangalore, India. Staffed by about 100 IBMers— one-fifth of the GMU marketing team—the Unica Competency Center has driven improvements across the board by centralizing reusable best practices and standardizing processes that are shareable across marketing teams in the seven GMU regions. The competency center strategy was designed to take advantage of ample Unica resources available in India and provide a single nexus for swiftly training staff at the local level and accelerating time to value.

The Competency Center has served as a powerful engine to elevate marketing performance while eliminating issues with fragmentation, lack of skilled resources, unproductive manual work and limited measurability. These issues were inherent with the previous ad hoc approach of regional and country marketing teams running their own programs, and using disparate mass marketing tools with no standardization across the GMU.

“It’s a transformational change enabled by technology,” said Cheryl Lee, IBM GMU Database Marketing Strategy Leader in Beijing. “It’s a win-win because we have prompted a change in mindsets at the local level while empowering them with new skills through a centralized approach. One key was to get people thinking about what absolutely needs to be done at the local level and how we could improve by centralizing through the Competency Center.”

Outstanding results in sales and response rates
By abandoning old mass marketing techniques in favor of Unica capabilities for personalized, interactive cross-channel engagement, the GMU has achieved remarkable results. Validated lead revenue driven by marketing has increased significantly in software and hardware sales, as well as through IBM Global Business Services engagements. Other metrics include:

  • Over 100 percent increase in response rates (for instance, filling out a form, attending a webinar—not simply clickthrough on an email)
  • Over 100 percent improvement in email clickthrough rates
  • Over 50 percent increase in email open rates
  • Over 90 percent adoption rate of Unica technology across the GMU within two years of implementation

At the same time, the number of campaigns executed per year has increased significantly, for two reasons. One, the team is running more personalized and finely segmented campaigns tailored to specific audiences, and two, productivity and speed of execution has increased by tweaking reusable, ready-to-execute campaigns, rather than starting each campaign from scratch. The campaigns leverage best practices and lessons learned from past experience.

“Previously we might learn something in Paraguay but it would never get to Thailand,” said Nishan Weerasinghe, Director, GMU Demand Programs in Singapore. “Now the people supporting Paraguay and the people supporting Thailand are in one room at the Competency Center, so we have constant learning and knowledge among a critical mass of people. We can learn once and deploy in many places.”

A personalized approach to demand generation
With Unica and the Competency Center, GMU marketers are using personalized e-nurturing tactics to engage with the right lead at the right time over the right channel with the right offer, basing follow-ups on lead response or lack thereof in a coordinated progression through the buyer’s journey. With automation, GMU marketers can scale across thousands of campaigns and millions of prospects and customers faster and more effectively than was previously possible.

“What we’re focusing on—and Unica is really helping us with this— is more personalized marketing to the individual and cultivating client-driven conversations, where the client helps us determine what they want to know and in what delivery form they want that information,” said Ritu Asthana, Director, IBM WW Demand Programs in Bangalore. “Now we can very quickly and easily understand how campaigns are working and continuously optimize to improve results.”

Based on responses, qualified leads are automatically passed to sales representatives for a phone call. Standardized reporting gives GMU marketing managers new visibility into performance metrics across all regions to understand which campaigns and regions are performing well and which need improvement. The transparency also promotes collaboration and productive competition among regions to meet predefined goals and improve results.

Training and troubleshooting led by the Competency Center have streamlined processes at the regional level and pushed local marketers to achieve objectives. Meanwhile, ease of use in Unica technology has minimized learning curves and given marketers hands-on control over campaign design and execution, enabling greater focus on personalized e-nurturing.

“E-nurturing allows us to have a dialogue with our customers and prospects that is automated and variable based on their responses,” said Weerasinghe. “Prior to that, our approach would have been quite manual and segment-based one-size-fits-all marketing. This has allowed us to sequence the dialogue and tailor our messages based on what we know about people and organizations.”

Building on success with new capabilities
Core to the GMU program are the IBM Campaign management tool and IBM SPSS and Cognos technology for predictive modeling and analytics of lead data stored in an IBM DB2 marketing database. Predictive analytics supports identification of high propensity accounts; by focusing on those accounts, GMU marketers are driving six times more validated lead revenue compared to low propensity accounts.

With smart usage of HTML scripting and leveraging IBM eMessage technology, the GMU team is optimizing marketing emails for mobile devices, eliminating rendering problems that frequently occur across various iOS, Android and other mobile devices. By ensuring attractive display of an email regardless of the target device, the team has achieved impressive open rates of 25 percent and clickthrough of 7 percent.

Building on success, the GMU marketing team is piloting the IBM Interact solution to enhance inbound marketing by presenting dynamic offers and content on websites that are tailored to real-time customer interaction as well as historical customer activity. The IBM Leads solution is being rolled out to further the “science of nurturing” with advanced capabilities for lead creation, enrichment, scoring, assignment and tracking.

Meanwhile, IBM EMM digital analytics and marketing, search engine and display ad marketing, and behavioral targeting technology have been piloted in several GMU regions. Behavioral retargeting piloted in Australia generated strong results in clickthrough and conversion by presenting display ads to visitors after they had left an IBM website.

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

SPSS Modeler, IBM Interact, IBM AdTarget, IBM Leads, IBM eMessage, IBM Campaign

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013 IBM CorporationSoftware GroupRoute 100Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of AmericaAugust 2013 IBM, the IBM logo, and are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The performance data and client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.