Marketing & IT come together to transform Capgemini’s customer engagement during COVID-19

by Stephanie Overby

posted 08-27-2020

When Shade Vaughn joined Capgemini North America as CMO three years ago, one of the first key stakeholders he met was Charlie Li, executive vice president of application and cloud technologies.

The executives, who share a similar vision for the evolution of marketing and technology, hit it off immediately.

“We knew that if we wanted to drive this business forward, we needed to take bold steps in the technology we invest in and the way we set our culture going forward,” Vaughn said.

Li, who leads the largest horizontal practice within Capgemini – with 8,000 people working on digital transformation efforts for hundreds of clients – had been at the professional services firm for more than a decade when Vaughn was hired. He offered the new CMO valuable insight about the marketing function.

“Right off the bat, he explained that today’s CIOs need messaging and content that is relevant to them and their business strategies,” says Vaughn, whose team markets Capgemini’s expertise to business decision makers. “And we talked about where we might need to invest and how we might bring more technology into the overall strategy.”

Vaughn sits in Austin and Li in Atlanta, yet together they have worked closely to transform the way Capgemini connects with its clients. Their latest challenge? Navigating the business through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Beyond slideware

Like most professional services firms, much of Capgemini’s marketing investment and strategy centered around events — with more than 100 a year in North America alone.

“For me, the priority is targeted outreach to our customers,” says Li.

But those events all came to a halt with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year. “Some of our events went virtual, but for the most part we’re just not doing them,” Vaughn says. Rather, Vaughn has taken that investment and put it into stronger content, digital media like paid search, and a tenfold investment in LinkedIn to reach business customers in new ways.

The slideware that may have sufficed as supplemental in the past is no longer enough.

Pull Quote

“We can’t throw generic content up and hope someone looks at it. We need to provide relevant content at the right time to the right people.”

Shade Vaughn, CMO, Capgemini North America

That means live, demonstratable content in the cloud. In addition, Vaughn and Li worked to create LinkedIn conversational ads, based on an underlying set of data and analytics, that leads business buyers to information tailored to their specific needs. For example, Capgemini used an advertisement listing different pain points related to cloud strategy that allowed viewers to click on the specific pain point that was relevant to their company to see solutions Capgemini recommended.

“Then Charlie can have a much different conversation with them based on their digital trail,” Vaughn says, “which is five times more critical now.”

Due to the pandemic, Vaughn and Li have also prioritized the creation of live virtual demos and workshops. For example, Capgemini has offered customized cloud workshops and assessments to executives that have attended its “Navigating Disruption” thought leadership content series.

“We’re in a show-me world, not a tell-me world,” Li says. “We’re converting a lot of our marketing and go-to-market approaches, whether content or process-based, for the curated show-me world.”

Client outreach

In addition to rethinking Capgemini’s business, Li and Vaughn spent the first few weeks of the pandemic figuring out how Capgemini could best help its clients navigate the crisis – “not to take advantage of the situation but to provide the value that clients need,” Vaughn said. “It’s a great example of how the CIO and CMO function can work hand in hand.”

Li saw the pandemic as a chance to be more proactive about digital transformation.

Pull Quote

“We went to our clients and said, ‘Look, in crisis situations and disruptions, you can play offense or you can play defense. You can cut costs and cut people and bury your head in the sand. Or you can make the most of the situation.’”

Charlie Li, EVP of application and cloud technologies, Capgemini North America

“You might as well make the investments and take this one-time opportunity to transform,” he adds.

As the shutdown took hold and business travel screeched to a halt, Capgemini rapidly pulled together 100 crisis offers specific to the changed landscape, which included solutions in data, cybersecurity, cost transformation, supply chain, intelligent process automation, digital workplace and others to help clients adapt to a significantly evolved business landscape.

“As we were providing those,” Vaughn said, “Charlie and I spent a lot of time equipping our own internal teams to do the same.”

Energy and ambition for the future

With all that remains ambiguous about the future, one thing is clear: “Everyone is stressed,” Vaughn said. “They’re going through the same motions every day.”

And they certainly don’t want to receive the same old marketing messages, such as mass emails and cold calls that are a nuisance. “That doesn’t resonate,” he added. Indeed, neither Vaughn nor Li anticipates returning to the way they did things before.

“We don’t want to go back to a scenario where we do 100 events. We’ll invest much more heavily in creating value from high-quality client experiences at small events with the best thought leaders. We’ll look to our client advisory councils for feedback on what they need,” Vaughn says. “Our marketing spend will shift in that direction and away from trade show booths.”

Li has also created an approach to cloud-based transformation that will enable companies to invest in digital transformation and innovation at a lower up-front cost.

“Cloud transformation will continue to accelerate, if anything, at a faster rate because of COVID,” Li much more heavily in creating value from high-quality client experiences at small events with the best thought leaders. We’ll look to our client advisory councils for feedback on what they need,” Vaughn says.

In the end, a shared vision and vocabulary have helped Vaughn and Li continue to move the company forward. “It certainly it helps that Charlie and I speak the same language. But the interesting thing is we would have gravitated to one another, regardless of role,” Vaughn says.

Vaughn and Li are both analytical thinkers focused on connecting the dots from what’s happening in the world to what they need to do within the company.

“At end of the day, we’re both helping business decision makers impact their organizations and their communities,” Vaughn says. “To do that, you need to think outside the box and have that sense of energy and ambition.”

Topics: Customer Stories, Digital Transformation