“Define the company objectives, and those need to be aligned with sales and marketing initiatives. I think this is the key.”
A fascinating insight into the art of unifying sales and marketing with an entire life-cycle model. Seasoned B2B marketing professional, Shikha Pakhide, chats with us about her global marketing experience, her work with software development company Bentley Systems, and how writing helps her find clarity.
Nathan Anibaba: This is ClientSide from Fox Agency. (singing).
Shikha Pakhide is a seasoned B2B marketing professional with over 15 years of experience tackling the challenges of marketing. Be it defining strategy for a region, brand-building, extending the reach with the help of public relations, managing and organizing events, participating in trade shows, managing the budget, and of course creating demand generation goals and keeping a hawk-eye on all of the revenue generating opportunity pipelines. Shikha Pakhide welcome to ClientSide.
Shikha Pakhide: Thank you. Thank you Nathan. It’s really great to have the conversation with you today and happy New Year to everyone who is listening to us.
Nathan Anibaba: Happy New Year to you as well, even though we’re in lockdowns here in the UK. But I’m sure we’ll get out of it soon. You get your masters in international business in 2003. What first attracted you to marketing?
Shikha Pakhide: So during my initial years of sales and business development, I had the opportunity to meet clients from across the globe, different cultures, understand the needs and recommend improvements in the products, back to my product team. So, my on the ground experience working directly with clients, led my mind racing on, how and what will be the ways to market the products to them? How we can equip them with the information even before the first conversations happened with sales.
So here I’m talking actually about the times 18 years back. So of course, at that time we did not have those very robust email marketing. Forget about social media. So those were the things which really attracted me because I was on the ground talking about my product and then making them aware that what the product is all about. So that was the time which led me in this interesting field.
Nathan Anibaba: Really interesting. You spent the early part of your career traveling and dealing with different cultures across Asia, Australia, the UK and New Zealand as well. What perspective does that give you on the way that marketing has done around the world?
Shikha Pakhide: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You know, it’s very interesting though. Though at the center of the circle, we need to market to humans and the need is same across the globe, wherein need to be made aware, what are the solutions which can solve their current challenges? But still everybody has their own prejudices and conceptions. So hence each region brings its own idiosyncrasies and the way we need to design the marketing campaigns for them. Unless one is open to experiment and does not float away with that concept, one size fits all, success is not guaranteed in this regional marketing space.
Nathan Anibaba: Couldn’t agree with you more. You joined Bentley Systems in 2008. For those that don’t know, what does the company do? What problems does it solve and who are some its customers?
Shikha Pakhide: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So at it’s core, Bentley Systems is a software development company that supports the professional needs of those responsible for creating and managing the world’s infrastructure, including roadways, bridges, airports, skyscrapers, and industrial, and power plants as well as utility networks. So Bentley delivers solutions for the entire life cycle of the infrastructure as said, tailored to the needs of the various professions. Be it engineers, architects, geospatial professionals, planners, contractors, fabricators, IT managers, operators and maintenance engineers who will work on and work with that asset over its lifetime. So comprised of integrated application and services built on an open platform, each solution is designed to ensure that information flows between workflow processes and project team members to enable interoperability and collaboration.
Nathan Anibaba: Let’s talk a little bit about B2B sales and marketing in more detail because that’s your background and that’s what you’ve been doing for Bentley Systems for quite some time now. In the pre-interview we discussed the fact that sales and marketing are still struggling to get on the same page. It’s a perennial problem with sales and marketing teams across the globe and across many different industries. What can be done to improve the way sales and marketing works together?
Shikha Pakhide: Yep. And this objective is very close to my heart, how sales and marketing can work together. So the most important aspect is that, what the teams need to have is regular conversations. I think this is at the crux, this is the core of the entire gamut, which can actually solve all the challenges which work around this particular topic. This is a key to have a seamless workflow and improve the coordination between both the teams. Define the SLAs, so that all are clear of the expectations. Define the company objective, and those need to be aligned with sales and marketing initiatives. I think this is the key.
Nathan Anibaba: Mm. And then talk a little bit about the B2B sales cycle. Depending on the size of the deal sales cycles can be very, very long, often many years, they involve multiple stakeholders. How should marketing really be thinking about supporting sales over the length of a sales cycle that can last two, three, sometimes even four or five years.
Shikha Pakhide: Yep. So actually, marketing’s job doesn’t finish when leaders hand it over to the sales. And yes, sales is not the only stakeholder with whom marketing works, which we all know about that. So the conversation cycle with the prospect can not stop once the lead moves to the sales bucket. Instead, after the hand-over it becomes more important that the prospect receives relevant information and the learning journey continues. Similarly, when the prospect turns into a customer, then the post acquisition message comes, which should be worked along with the customer support team. After this entire cycle, organization would want that the customer is acquired for a lifetime and also becomes our advocate. Hence, the messaging needs to be divided for the pre-buying stage, during the buying stage and post-buying stage, completing the entire life cycle model.
Nathan Anibaba: So let’s talk a little bit about brand building. We know that it takes a long time to build a brand. Brands are not built overnight. But a lot of marketers really can’t afford the time that it takes to build a brand because the C-suite generally have very short time horizons and they really want to focus on short term sales activation, but at the expense of that longer term brand building. What should the balance be between building a brand versus demand generation?
Shikha Pakhide: To be honest, it should go hand-in-hand. It doesn’t matter if this function is handled by two different teams or by one team. Building a brand is a continuous activity. You cannot presume that you’re engaged in a brand building exercise and for the next 12 months nothing needs to be done. But at the same time, your sales team is clamoring for leads. So, I believe brand building is intricately linked to your demand generation initiatives.
Nathan Anibaba: Mm. Your background and history is really fascinating as well. You’re a published author. You’ve self-published three books and short stories so far. I think you’re still working on others, fiction or nonfiction. And talk about what the process has been like to write a book.
Shikha Pakhide: To be honest, I really feel that writing is and was, is a meditation exercise for me. So coming back to that, all my self-published books are in fiction right now. And then it was not something that I was thinking that, okay, this is the day and I’m going to write a book, or probably, this is a time when I’m going to be publishing my book. So when I was, I think 35 or 36, that was one of my lowest ebb or you can say one of my lowest period in my professional and my personal life. And that time I did not know how to handle my stress. And then of course I went to a lot of meditation exercises, a lot of yoga, et cetera.
But then, right from my childhood and when I was doing a bachelor’s I was exposed to books, writing and reading, all of that. So it actually came on naturally, that I was writing down all my thoughts and I was also putting everything which was going into my mind into words. So I think it was subconsciously that my first book, which came into being. And I published my first book when I was 36. That divide 36, which is equal into, twice of 18. And it’s a compilation of short stories.
And then that time, of course, I didn’t want to go through the, you could say, painful process to go to a publisher and then wait for that longer cycle. Probably that time I had that itch that, okay, I have this work done and then I want to share it with [inaudible] or like-minded people or just hit the publish button.
So I was exploring a lot of options, what it could be. So then Kindle, a draft publishing platform, which is through Amazon, so that was which I came across. And then the process was so simple that all I just had to do, upload the material which I had created. The editing. And then I know whatever correction happens in the background, so the tool itself is going to do that. And then everything was like, click, click, click, you choose the color, you choose the layout, you choose which will be the print medium when buyers, they buy that kind of product. So it was very simple. So my first book, which came out, you can say, the situation which I was in, actually led to my other two books as well.
So, so far all my three books are all self-published. So the first one I did it through KDP, that is Kindle. So, draft publishing platform. Second one, I thought that, why not try GitHub? So if everyone is not aware about GitHub, so it is one of the platform wherein you go and write, and it’s not like that, that you have to upload or write the entire piece. You can keep on writing and then you can keep on developing your story. And it’s a free tool. So nobody has to go and buy that book. So GitHub was the second one, which I experimented. And third was, so because … All this happened during my, you can say motherhood period. So therein, I was also of course, talking to a lot of my friends who were also in a similar journey. And then now, the project collaboration kind of thing came into my mind, that like my story, my other fellow friends, they also have their story.
So, Gang of Insomniacs, because I’m sure all mothers are insomniacs and I’m sure fathers are as well. But then Gang of Insomniacs came into being. So it’s a story of 10 mothers who come together and then they share the story. And then … It’s very funny thing of when I started this project, from start till end, it took nine months to complete. So it was so funny that we were talking about it, it takes nine months to deliver a baby so it’s nine months to publish this kind of project. So we launched that book on Woman’s Day on 8th of March. And then, so these three books.
So the third one, of course, I also did it through KDP. And then my books, which are done through KDP, they’re available on Amazon. Now, another one, of course, I didn’t want to limit myself to fiction. So out of [inaudible] in fact through the entire conversation, you all will come to know that lead management and demand generation is very close to my heart. So in the non-fiction category this year I’m working on this concept. And fingers crossed, I hope to publish my first non-fiction in this subject, which is very close to my heart, this year.
Nathan Anibaba: And finally, have you enjoyed the process of writing books?
Shikha Pakhide: Yes, yes. I think writing comes very naturally to me. It may sound cliche, but that’s the reality. Writing … And I was saying that it’s very meditative. And then of course it’s not like that, whatever you’re writing, you’re going to share it with the entire world. But it really helps you out too, in your thinking process. What exactly you’re thinking? Does it really make sense? It helps you put your thoughts into words. And I think not writing fiction, non-fiction, doesn’t matter which subject, but it gives you a lot of clarity in your both profession and in your personal life. Because of course, in a way it’s communication, right? You are trying to communicate either with yourself or with the external world. So your, I think in the end, your communication abilities do improve.
Nathan Anibaba: Really interesting. Let’s let’s talk a little bit about working with agencies. I know that you’ve worked with several agencies over your career. How do you make sure that everyone’s expectations are aligned when you’re working with a new agency?
Shikha Pakhide: Therein as well, I think when we are talking with the expectations, so then I think during the initial process, when we are, you could say, hiring an agency or probably we are getting the contract done, et cetera. So the objectives and the end results really need to be very clear and it has to be defined properly. And it has to be made sure that the both the parties understand. And then they come to an agreement, that yes, this association will be leading towards this one. Understanding from both the parties is very crucial. Because herein we are having an external team, if we call it like that, external team participate in the common objectives, which the organization is trying to achieve. So again, the communication, the initial handling and then again the expectation has to be really clearly laid out on the table in black and white.
Nathan Anibaba: Really, really fascinating. And so from the point of view of how both clients and agencies get more value from the partnership, do you have any advice as to how clients and agencies can better work together so that they’re both getting mutually beneficial value from the relationship?
Shikha Pakhide: Again, I think when we’re talking about the mutual benefits … So one is, so when the objectives are really laid out properly, so then it has to be a win-win situation for both. So because of course it also involves the incentives and then of course whatever compensation we are talking about here. So it has to be again, mutually agreed so that it leads to a beneficial situation for both the parties. Because it’s very similar when we are hiring a person internally, right?
So herein we … One person is handling an agency or probably, or there is a very particular set of campaign, on which the agency is helping out. And then when the things are not very clearly laid out and then the objectives are not met. So in the end, we don’t want that the relationship should get sour. And then, this is going to be the first and the last project with that. So that’s, I think again, things have to be laid out properly and again, the training, and then what we call that, in the layman’s language, the induction has to be properly done for the agency or for the team, from the agency who will be involved in that particular campaign.
Nathan Anibaba: And as much as agencies obviously would love to hold on to their clients forever. The reality is that clients replace agencies with increasing regularity. What are some of the most common reasons why clients leave their agencies and what can agencies do to avoid that?
Shikha Pakhide: I think the most common reasons which I can cite is performance. So with respect to the goals defined, how involved is the agency’s team for the feedback provided? And how are they improvising and what are the new ideas the agencies bringing to help their clients succeed? So by working on the other points, I think agencies can drastically reduce the turnover of the clients and maintain repeat business.
Nathan Anibaba: And then when it comes to briefs and planning, it’s something that a lot of agencies are frustrated by when it comes to clients, because a good brief really increases the agency’s ability to do fantastic work. The client sets a start and end point for the projects and gives the agency a really solid foundation for the strategy or the development of the creative work. Some have really likened that process to briefing a surgeon. It’s really important that you have very clear instructions before you go into surgery. With that being the case, what makes a great brief?
Shikha Pakhide: So while preparing the brief a client should keep themselves in the agency shoes and accept the fact that they do not know anything about the business. So it should be treated as a stepping stone. So the more detail the brief is, better outcomes can be expected. Because if we are going to, or probably if a client is going to think about that, okay, we have given the business to the agency now it’s their responsibility to go and search it out. No, it doesn’t work like that. The way any organization or a client spends time with an internal hire, I think more amount of time should be spent when we are working with an agency. So herein, the first steps, the more solid the first steps are, the better the results should be. So I totally agree that it has to be something related to your own briefing of [inaudible].
Nathan Anibaba: Shikha, I’ve really enjoyed speaking to you. Final question, before we get into our speed round that we ask everybody. You’ve had a really successful career in B2B demand generation and marketing. What are some of your early influences that you can share with us today, and what experiences affected the way that you approach marketing, the way you approach your own career development?
Shikha Pakhide: So I have failed a lot. During my earliest [inaudible] I clearly remember one senior person who had mentioned that this girl can never do marketing and does not have the aptitude to travel and handle international business.
Nathan Anibaba: Really. Amazing.
Shikha Pakhide: Yes. So not only I learned marketing practically, but I also excelled in handling the clients from across the globe. I proved myself by handling marketing virtually for different regions. You know, the itch to learn, give me confidence until today and I’m sure in the future as well, learning the unknown is my greatest asset. And I value all my failures. They are very close to the heart and I give lot of respect to all my critics.
Nathan Anibaba: I’m sure the person seeing you now will be shocked to see the way that your career has grown and developed over the years. That’s really fascinating to hear. Shikha, let’s get into our speed round now. I’m going to fire some questions at you. If you can fire some short, sharp answers back, that will be fantastic.
Shikha Pakhide: Sure.
Nathan Anibaba: At times, we all hit low points. How do you motivate yourself?
Shikha Pakhide: By looking at the sky and accepting the fact that we are limited by our own mind.
Nathan Anibaba: Great answer. How do you best harmonize your work and personal life for a healthy balance? What are some of the biggest challenges that you have around that?
Shikha Pakhide: Technology is the biggest challenge where you can be available 24 by seven. But jokes apart, if I have understood that the fact that if I’m not going to take care of myself, I will never be able to do justice to my work and my family.
Nathan Anibaba: Love that. What excites you most about your current role and position?
Shikha Pakhide: The freedom? So the freedom, which I get to experiment new ways to improve business, and my team members of course.
Nathan Anibaba: If you weren’t doing your current job in B2B marketing, what else would you be doing?
Shikha Pakhide: Writing.
Nathan Anibaba: Of course, I should have known that. I should have known that. What vision or goal are you working towards mostly now in your career?
Shikha Pakhide: So when I wrap up my professional career, I’ll be able to confidently define what is a lead and understand the new senses of lead management on demand generation.
Nathan Anibaba: And my final question Shikha, what advice would you give to a recent college graduate who wants to start their own career in marketing?
Shikha Pakhide: Marketing does not happen in [inaudible] and you cannot learn it in a classroom.
Nathan Anibaba: That’s great advice. What advice would you have given to yourself, a younger Shikha, getting into marketing from the beginning? What advice, knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given to yourself?
Shikha Pakhide: Speak up more and learn how to negotiate for yourself.
Nathan Anibaba: Hm. Great answer. Shikha, thank you so much for doing this.
Shikha Pakhide: Yeah. I really loved the entire process Nathan.
Nathan Anibaba: Wonderful.
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