2017 has been a challenging year for India's IT Services sector.
Growth pains, visa restrictions, backlash from job losses, lack of skills to take on digital changes, emergence of new offshoring countries in Eastern Europe (in addition to south east Asian tigers) and unavailability of skilled manpower, all have not dissuaded NASSCOM from maintaining its 2025 US$ 350 billion growth target.
No wonder why there continues to be a strong interest towards stronger customer acquisition strategies.
In this post, we take a high-level view of the current preparedness of Inbound Marketing for IT services sector in India. Because, our experience with IT Services has been only from a customer acquisition point of view. The post draws from our experience working directly with IT services companies. We present our findings, including those from secondary research, as well.
Inbound Marketing Intent Exists
Looking into our inbound leads over the last 4 years, SaaS companies clearly stand out. And these SaaS companies are not just from India, but across the globe. US, Singapore and Israel included. Wish IT services companies contributed second best to the inbound leads. But that is not the case. They show interest for the following.
Inbound Marketing for IT Services sector
- Three Customers - Of the 3 customers Inbound Mantra has serviced, only 1 has requested inbound marketing services on top of HubSpot. The client's decision to implement HubSpot was an independent one, and Inbound Mantra entered as an inbound marketer partner, only later.
- Patience - It has been challenging to convert initial contracts into long-term arrangements. Why? I would like to call it "A Quarter Syndrome". There is inbound marketing intent for sure, but a desire to sustain the intent is found wanting. While the larger and listed IT Services companies could be criticized for thinking 'just' quarter-to-quarter, it seems that has also percolated down to companies of all sizes.
Whenever businesses in India evaluate HubSpot, Inbound Mantra is the first to know. Thanks partly to being the top HubSpot Partner in India. Given HubSpot's stature as a sought after inbound marketing software, any IT Services company considering inbound marketing or marketing automation, naturally bumps into HubSpot. Inbound Mantra has seen (stable) increasing interest for HubSpot in the last few years. The HubSpot sales teams validated this pattern.
But, the moment they realize they cannot use HubSpot to mindlessly email their lists, they tend to become tentative. Nevertheless, HubSpot's intuitive software and continuous investment into product development, tends to work out in HubSpot's favor.
Sales and Marketing Automation Initiatives
Lately, we have been attempting an outbound go-to-market strategy to support this sector in its inbound marketing automation initiatives. In the process of identifying companies to do business with, we found the following.
- Sales Marketing Software present - Invariably, every company has invested into some kind of sales marketing automation in addition to Salesforce (of course). Builtwith analysis also reveals an attempt to bring in social and web analytics - heat maps, A/B testing, tag management. Perhaps there is interest to learn more about users and visitors.
- Budget earmarked - While talking to friends for referrals, it emerged that most companies have a budget earmarked to invest into marketing saes technology. Ironically, when technology already existed, the budget was for up-gradation, replacement and improvement.
- Well Structured teams - All companies were studied utilizing LinkedIn premium data. Of special interest were their marketing, sales and demand generation teams. All the teams were properly structured, with dedicated resources for each function - digital marketing, social media, demand generation, website and strategy. It seems surprising, but follows from an industry culture imbibed in world-class service delivery.
Inbound - a New Growth Channel
IT Services companies are scouting for growth - organic and inorganic. Inbound marketing has the potential to support and strengthen organic growth strategies. IT services companies recognize this. Materializing the potential needs a deeper understanding of the issues at play.
Commodity services going Inbound
IT services sector covers a wide spectrum of services ranging from commoditized services such as technical support and call center services, to very specialized ones in the area of artificial intelligence. Commoditized services are price sensitive. This encourages buyers to engage in higher internet research to find suppliers. Thus, a higher inbound marketing potential for commoditized services. The following framework reflects the situation.
IT Services >> Commoditised Specialised Inbound Marketing Potential
Therefore, IT Services companies should recognize that the potential of inbound marketing to support customer acquisition might be impacted by the above framework.
The current customer acquisition strategy of IT Services companies is primarily 'outbound'. Sales teams, account managers, demand generation experts, technology conferences, cold calling - all initiatives are primarily focused towards (outbound) relationship driven sales.
Building an 'inbound' mindset in this environment is tough.
Is the IT Services sector up for it?
We will know, soon.