ABM is good, but CBM -- courage-based marketing -- is better

Shail Khiyara, CXO of UIPath writes of something that is different and interesting and important for marketers and pretty much everyone to understand in the 21st Century: Taking chances, innovating, showing some courage in how you address the marketplace.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

Shail Khiyara, our guest poster, is the chief experience officer (CXO) of UiPath, a leader in Robotic Process Automation. It would be easy enough to be impressed by his history: A C-level executive at SPIGIT, Model N, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, and now, UiPath, but that is not what is most impressive. Shail is a thinker and someone who in fact can think in ways others don't, but at the same time, is able to help others think in new ways, which is precisely why I am asking him to write about something I found really interesting -- something he calls "courage-based marketing." As distinguished from account-based marketing -- also interesting and wildly popular, even de rigueur but different.

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Shail, throughout his history and on his way to becoming a thought leader -- not just a business leader -- in the RPA space, took chances, which is why I think you need to hear him on why taking what I call "intelligent risk" at scale and speedily is one of the best ways to attack a heavily competitive market.

Your stage, Shail.


Bravery/Courage -- Chinese, Japanese Kanji Portrait

The marketing landscape has changed at lightning speed in the past three years. So, too, has the definition and skill set of the marketer. Beyond "just" marketing, a marketer must now possess the technical know-how to drive adoption of technologies that improve customer interactions, increase revenue, optimize pricing, build brands, and expand awareness.

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In short, marketing should now be defined as a verb rather than a noun since marketing needs to be ambidextrous. 

In the past few years a new customer has appeared on the scene who was born or raised digital, is highly social, loves to measure everything, and expects things instantly. Serving this customer with legacy marketing programs, processes, technologies is not a recipe for success and requires transformation and courage with customer centricity at the core.

The landscape changes also bring with it new chromosomes that package up the DNA of a marketer today. Gone are the days of impetuous execution and 'activity lists.' Instead courage with a key set of skills -- packaged to deliver maximum growth velocity to an organization -- are in demand. In addition to the core marketing skills, marketeers have to be instigators, innovators, integrators, and implementers.  For more details on these skills see Marketing Team Vitals.


So, where are these skills most prevalent and needed? Hypergrowth markets and unicorns often contribute to the notion of 'speed' and introduce interesting marketing complexities and challenges. I say speed is important, but more important is 'speed at scale.' In the ever changing hypergrowth environment, you are striving to build an organization, while keeping the trains running on time, while ensuring stability and introducing new programs, while delivering Vitamin R (revenue) to the organization -- all in a short window. Hiring alone, as one example, can be a full-time job for several months.

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Delivering this requires a servant leadership mindset with continuous testing and iteration instead of a comfortable "stay the course" strategy.  It's a combination of the creativity, consistency, crowdsourcing and collaboration rather than building a team that is on a definable career path. Leading a marketing function today takes a wholly different skills than it did five years ago. Chief among them, courage.

Why? In my career, I have been doing marketing for HR SaaS, storage, security, crowd sourcing software, RPA and AI, and the large growing BIM (Building Information Modeling) market. Along the way, I ran some P&Ls as well, and if you take a look at the change in various company functions (HR, finance, IT, etc) vs marketing, you will see a dramatic shift in marketing in the past five years, or less.  

Marketing as a function is not the same. It would be unrecognizable to the people who wrote the text books on marketing, years ago. Today, its less instinct and more math, its crowdsourcing and collaboration. And, as Brian Fetherstonhaugh of Ogilvy One has spoken and written about, it is no longer about the four Ps (product, place, price, and promotion) but about experience, everyplace, exchange, and evangelism.  Time to rewrite the text books?  I think so.

Adapting and adopting these changes in marketing in an environment of virulent passion that fondly clings to 4Ps or GMOOT (see below) requires humble courage. 

Empowering Courage

You empower courage by having a strong foundation that encourages ideas to start with fact based strategic insight. 

What is strategic insight?  Simply put its the understanding, wisdom, and intuition you bring to a situation. It is the result of your experience, your ability and willingness to consider alternative ways of viewing the world, and looking at the issue from all angles. 

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A few years ago, when I had engaged Colin Powell as a key note speaker for a major conference, in our prep work leading to the conference, Mr. Powell shared a key lesson with me.  He said, he tells his team, "Tell me what you know, tell me what you don't know, and only then, tell me what you think. For if you tell me what you know and think, and I make a wrong decision, it's your fault. But if you tell me what you know, tell me what you don't know, and then tell me what you think, and I make a wrong decision, it is my fault." 

Strategic insight is the discipline of looking at the issue at hand, from all angles.

And most certainly beware of the envious pursuit of GMOOT.  "GMOOT" syndrome, short for "Get me one of those," is the basic command from CEOs to CMOs or CMOs to their agencies. It sounds over simplistic, but it's an existential reality where someone read something in Ad Age or saw that a rival company was doing it or was told by another executive the he/she had to get into the game, etc. GMOOT puts the best laid marketing plans in awry. I am a strong proponent of experimentation in marketing, but when GMOOT takes the form of Gollum (or Sméagol) it can hurt your marketing spend, team dynamics and your brand. Experimentation is good, envious pursuit of GMOOT is what you want to stay away from.

A strong bias for the truth, having the environment where it is OK to have to the courage to tell it like it is. The Dove campaign illustrates the courage to step out beyond the traditional and expected work that was so typical in the health and beauty segment. Moving beyond perfect, beautiful models was risky, but it was also courageous and focused on this strategic vision: "To make women feel comfortable in the skin they are in, to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety.  The recent Nike ad 'believe in something' highlights taking a stance on social issues, with courage.

An environment for creative courage, striving for strategic disruption. Creative courage is the ability to step out of your comfort zone and truly make an impact. It the ability create new symbols, new patterns, new forms to often make a new world. Ideas over Ego and a fearless work environment give rise to creative courage.

Two really good examples of creative courage that I have come across are Apple's Start the Revolution Ad and Levi's Inspire with Empathy - Go Forth and Work Ad.  The Apple ad introducing the Macintosh personal computer is legendary because of certain believed truths and began Apple's meteoric rise to consumer product superstardom, and it only aired once.  The Levi's advertisement showcases the impoverished town of Braddock, Pa., in a dignified manner and has had a positive effect on the community.

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Some of the most useful lessons learnt when it comes to building and scaling marketing teams quickly are:  

  • Always over communicate.
  • Never underestimate the need for education within the broader organization of which marketing programs are deployed and why
  • Don't fill gaps, hire for growth, and hire swiftly. 
  • Avoid, 'Oh yes we did it this way there, so it should work here' approach. Marketing, in my opinion, is not a cookie cutter exercise and often a tailored suit for the business and its objectives.
  • Safe is risky, be bold. On the graph of think there are two axes, big and different. So be free and think bold and think different.
  • Drive Vitamin R -- not 'sales,' not just bookings, not just leads, not just MQLs or SQLs, but revenue which includes renewals, upsells, cross sells, through delightful customer experience. 

Most importantly, in hypergrowth markets, executive teams should recognize the phases and evolving styles of leadership. Leadership evolves and requires support and courage from the organization to take it from current state (be it hypergrowth or building up or turnaround, etc.,) to customer centricity and repeatable, scalable and measurable growth stage, having set appropriate strategic foundations in place.  

Courage cannot be taught in a classroom. It can only be gained through multiple experiences and it comes from the heart. As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said, "The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart."

Thank you Shail. We'll be bringing you back.


  • My book, The Commonwealth of Self-Interest: Business Success through Customer Engagement, will be launching late in March or early in April. The book will have a hardcover and ebook. Watch for them both to launch simultaneously. Due to a Facebook and LinkedIn crowdsourcing effort, the price for the hardcover will be $34.95. The ebook is still TBD on price. 
  • My website will be launching simultaneously with it. The website will have a second blog ("The Science of Business, The Art of Life, and Live from NY...), a podcast ("The Commonwealth"), a library of all my writing, videos etc (and others down the road), a community, a mentoring program that will be free for chosen mentees, a marketplace for my (and other) services and products, an e-learning capability, a webinar area, a repository for CRM Playaz episodes, and finally, a place for the Watchlist archives including the winners collateral and thought leadership material should they wish to put it there. Finally, you will be able to schedule time on the whatever channel with me from the site.

More on both of these to follow soon...

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