Vishal Subharwal is the chief marketing officer and head of e-commerce and digital business at HDFC Life, one of India’s leading long-term insurance solutions providers. He shares how he successfully merged sales and marketing at HDFC Life to drive long-term growth for the business.
Everyone will agree that sales and marketing share the common aim of growing business, but in practice, they don’t always work as closely as they should. In my years of working in sales and marketing, I’ve often found that each team had separate goals, and as teams chased after different objectives, they’d miss what’s right under their noses: the opportunity to acquire, develop, and retain the most valuable customers for business growth. This is why we evolved the role of sales and marketing at HDFC Life to focus on long-term growth.
We unified the two teams, pulling down silos between functions to better align on goals and enable cross-functional collaboration. As we strengthened the connection between sales and marketing, we saw the impact on the bottom line. We had more effective results in our marketing experiments and were able to build an always-on, full-funnel marketing strategy, which increased our profits and positioned us for long-term growth.
Set common goals for long-term growth
To completely unify our business and marketing efforts, we reorganized ourselves into one unit, establishing common goals and shared accountability. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to broker meaningful, sustained collaboration by bringing the teams together regularly.
Instead of running ads for quick results, we focused on developing quality leads and long-term growth.
With marketing and sales on the same page, we readily moved away from short-term goals and focused on driving consistent, long-term revenue. In practice, this meant no longer running ads to generate quick leads and immediate outputs. Rather, we focused on developing quality leads to build customer lifetime value and long-term business growth.
Encourage a culture of testing and learning
To stay future-forward, our unified team also champions innovation, especially testing and learning within the company. Digitalization may be a powerful engine for marketing success, but testing and learning remains important for businesses. Through it, we learn to measure risk outcomes, which prepares us for future business challenges.
A team that dares to fail is a team that is driven to succeed.
We encourage team members to pitch sales and marketing experiments, and we set aside a budget to support such testing and learning. Team leaders in the unit provide guidance on the experiments and we create space for us to fail together. We believe that a team that dares to fail is a team that is driven to succeed.
In 2021, for instance, we needed to improve the quality of our leads because search queries for life insurance were declining. By experimenting with advanced bidding strategies such as outcome-based buying and custom bidding, we were able to achieve our objective. Compared with auto-bidding, which we used previously, custom bidding gave us a 28% improvement in cost per lead, while outcome-based bidding yielded a 38% improvement on the same.
Embrace always-on, full-funnel marketing
Through our testing and learning, we were able to identify efficient marketing strategies. This enabled us to embrace an always-on, full-funnel marketing strategy and engage customers at all times to drive constant brand awareness and consideration.
To successfully sustain an always-on, full-funnel marketing campaign, we’ve found that having the right partner is key. At HDFC Life, we lean on Google to help us plan and execute our consolidated media campaigns. Its end-to-end planning, buying, and measurement capabilities ensure our marketing is robust and always-on across the funnel. This ranges from driving awareness with YouTube ads to sustaining audience interest with Display ads, and remarketing to potential customers using Google Analytics and automated bidding on Display & Video 360.
Within six months of consolidating our sales and marketing strategy, we witnessed a 10X jump in incremental leads and at 60% lower cost per lead.
With the future of marketing so closely tied to business growth and profitability, businesses need to evolve marketing and sales to stay ahead of the curve. A good way is to establish common goals for long-term growth and to keep testing and learning. In business, that’s as close as you can get to a formula for success.