I had the opportunity to speak with Julie Knight-Ludvigson, CMO of Unit4, as part of a study series sponsored by InsideUp on the impact of buying committees in acquiring cloud technology solutions. Julie has an impressive background both as a CMO as well as in previous senior marketing positions with SAP and Zendesk. Her career features a long list of awards and achievements.
Unit4 is in the people business. While they are in the business to provide cloud-based enterprise ERP, HCM, and FP&A solutions, they take a unique approach to how they position themselves. The value they provide is to give management the means to help employees focus on what matters, so that the people they lead will benefit.
Target Markets & Differentiation
Unit4 has taken a strategic approach to differentiation and it presents itself on two levels. The first is the concept of being in business to enhance the people experience. The second is a focus on the mid-market. They are not seeking to fight it out with SAP or Oracle in the enterprise market.
Unit4 also doesn’t see itself as a horizontal player. In defining their ICP, they specifically seek out people-based services businesses. These are sectors such as professional services (PSO), nonprofits, public sector and higher education. Within public sector, for example, they stay focused by not targeting federal departments at the national level but rather engage public sector organizations at the local level. They tailor their business to the needs of those companies and institutions and how they seek to serve their own customers.
In summary, Julie continued, Unit4 targets industries where the economic unit of value is the human being. Employee engagement is directly tied to customer engagement and customer experience. Unit4 tailors their products and their implementation & support services to reflect this reality. Between their ecosystem and professional services organizations, they achieve an in-depth understanding of their audience’s requirements and develop strong domain expertise in the targeted verticals.
One of the key challenges they are dealing with is the economic uncertainty of the pandemic pushing out the timeline of many projects. As a result, buying committees are taking longer to evaluate and decide and there is also pressure to start smaller and slowly grow implementations over time. Creating success for themselves and their clients in this climate requires even deeper commitments to understanding what success looks like for their customers.
Unit4 approaches the market with an ABM model. It starts with an in-depth analysis and understanding of their target accounts. They look at technographic information, develop account maturity profiles and combine that with the type and volume of engagement through either their website, marketing partners or other touch points to come up with a score for each account. For example, some prospects may be engaging with the Unit4 website, but do not fit their vertical or other market profiles and are likely eliminated as a potential prospect.
Julie began this part of the discussion with an acknowledgment that the design and development of personas are constantly being adjusted. The people they interact with, the market, and even business conditions keep on changing. For example, in the face of COVID, finance departments have new challenges as they address not only how to help businesses survive, but facilitate their recovery. HR departments need to address remote work issues including the health and the welfare of all their employees. Not that these goals weren’t always important, but now it’s sometimes a major part of their day just to deal with those situations. The personas that you settled on two years ago are now different and have different challenges.
Julie described a broad cross section of target personas representing Finance, HR and IT and at a variety of levels from the C suite on down. Their real challenge, however, is to understand what the buying center and buying committees look like for ERP, FP&A & HCM and then communicate to each persona on those committees using terminology that they understand. Her team’s goals are not only to create awareness but to convert and turn these contacts into advocates. Once you overlay industry and sub-industry domain expertise and various use cases on top of this, then you have a complex marketing challenge. Better understanding these cross sections and overlays offers Unit4 some real opportunities to differentiate themselves.
Another challenge in talking to buying committees is that there are many people that may play a very critical role in researching and influencing that decision that you may never even know about. The role of marketing is so much more critical in reaching critical mass with these influencers and that’s why a fine-tuning of the personas is so important. Who is that other stake-holder? What are their affinities? What do they care about? How do they go about researching a solution? Unit4’s messaging has to target these folks as well.
Building a compelling success story really comes out of continuing to have conversations with customers. It also comes from understanding what’s going on in the competitive market.
Having a steady supply of customer stories is key to properly feeding the marketing content stream. Unit4 has invested heavily in building out the value propositions to ensure consistency of message across all its various touch points. It’s a process of ongoing learning and research.
Unit4 spends a lot of time helping prospective clients build their use cases and create business justifications to ensure their implementations will be successful. Managing the customer life cycle is critical.
While leveraging traditional ABM strategies, Unit4 has clearly taken their customer segmentation and analysis to a new level. They have managed to create a highly differentiated go-to-market strategy & supporting ecosystem by aligning their own business functions (marketing, sales, customer success) around creating unique commercial insights at the industry, sub-industry and persona / departmental level.
Company growth has come, in large part, by closely studying and understanding their customers and prospects, they are able to more closely align with them.
InsideUp, a leading demand generation agency, has over a decade of experience assisting technology clients, that target mid-market and enterprise businesses, by meeting and exceeding their key marketing campaign metrics. Our clients augment their in-house demand generation campaigns (including ABM) by partnering with us to build large sales pipelines. Please contact us to learn more.