Marketing Maverick: Raja Ramachandran, Head of Marketing, Emerging StartUp #APACLeaders

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Raja Ramachandran, Head of Marketing said there is a fundamental shift in the consumers’ behavior in how they interact with a business thus opening up massive opportunities for businesses to create value from the messaging channels. Read the full interview for his insights on the role of social media in creating visibility for brands!

With innovative disruption changing the digital economy, customer expectations are on the rise. How should businesses approach digital marketing strategies to deal with rising customer expectations?

Great question, there is no one strategy that fits all, as several factors come into play such as your product/service, product/service category dynamics, customer segment, industry dynamics, the competition. So let me try to give a general approach by breaking down various aspects, which I believe one should consider while strategizing their marketing plan.

According to AMA an average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages per day. This means in a highly crowded place as a brand your message has to stand out, so stay highly relevant, differentiate and remember to leverage what your competition is missing out. For example in the game of SEO being 1st rank or on the 1st page isn’t sufficient anymore, aim for rank 0 and other rich snippets to get you greater visibility.  

Also, as quoted by attentionexperts, it takes 15-20 digital touch points for a brand to build some level of brand recognition on consumers’ mind, so as a brand you should understand your consumer’s online behavior as to where and how they spend their time online and strategize your marketing on all those relevant channels.

As quoted by Go-Gulf, on an average an online consumer has over 3 connected devices and 80% of the consumer bounce between devices, it means your marketing strategy shouldn’t view desktop, smartphone, and tablet in isolation but rather should orchestrate a holistic multi-platform digital marketing strategy that compliments each other.

According to ClickZ, 92% of people hesitate to buy a product if it does not have customer reviews. Make customer reviews, surveys, and testimonials part of your marketing strategy.

According to Kissmetrics, 40% abandon your site, if the site loads for more than 3 secs. And according to Marketo every additional field in your lead generation form could inflate your cost of acquisition as much as 25 %. So your marketing strategy must focus on ease of use for your customers to interact and engage with your brand.

Also according to Siriusdecisions in the last 5 years, the average sales cycle increased by 22% as more decision makers involved in the buying process. One study says there are approximately 6-7 stakeholders in a company that makes a buying decision. So if you are a B2B marketer you cannot shape your marketing strategy based on your main target persona alone, your marketing strategy should also address the need, expectation, challenges, and value proposition tailored to every involved function and engage respective stakeholders early on.

In summary, your marketing strategy with the data at the core should help you be relevant to your customers, takes a holistic approach: be where your customers are, go beyond digital if need be to be omnipresent, account cross-device patterns, address decision makers and influencers, that enables you to be timely: engage your customers at the right time be it being proactive outreach, in real-time or nurturing them over many weeks, and finally focus on the ease of use relevant to your marketing goal, example if the goal is to generate leads then simplify the form.

In general, how important is the social media strategy for the overall digital marketing strategy? How to maximize value from the social media strategy?

Social media is one of the key mediums that brands cannot overlook. According to wearesocial, there are over 3 billion social media users worldwide. The global number of people using social media has grown by 13 percent in the last 12 months, with Central and Southern Asia recording the fastest gains up to 90 percent and 33 percent respectively and a million first time users join social media every day. Firstly, this data simply means that most likely your prospects and customers are already there on the social channel, so as a marketing medium social media offers great potential to reach your target audience.

Secondly, consumers’ mindset and behavior are different on every social media channel. So as a business understanding these nuances and developing a specific strategy could amplify your result. For example, one study by Redweb found that 77% of a brands’ social media followers expect a promotion or a discount. And another study by HubSpot states that visual content is 40 times likely to be shared on social media than other forms of content.

Thirdly, social networking platforms offer a great set of advertising tools and features for businesses looking to build a brand or to generate leads or even to generate sales, for example, an eCommerce site could showcase hundreds of its products through Facebook’s product catalog ad, and in another example brands looking to boost top of the funnel leads can use their existing customers to match similar/lookalike audience on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google.

Finally, social signals. This factor is often less talked about and overlooked by most marketers. Search engines like Google are using social signals to determine the authority of a brand online, but keep in mind while social signals at this point don’t directly help in search ranking they indirectly influence it.

AR/VR, chatbots, hyper-personalized marketing are the growing trends of today. As a modern marketer, what is your view on the use of Martech in marketing strategy?

My general point of view on using Martech is, I do not think that every marketing technology available today is appropriate and highly relevant for every business. At the time of ideation, the business/brand must be able to answer: Who is my customer: are they innovators, early adopters or laggards? Is the choice of technology appropriate and relevant to my customers & my business? What I am looking to achieve: tangible business results or just to create a buzz? Can I justify the costs vs expected results?

Here is my point of view on each of these techs:

AR/VR: From what I have seen, presently brands leverage it as a tactic with a short-term objective than as a strategy. The only brand I know that uses AR at a strategic level is IKEA, they use this technology to amplify their in-store customer experience. And as far as VR is concerned it is still not a mainstream choice for marketing because of the limitation arising out of the hardware friction, the high cost of content production, the limitation of ad formats and lack of in-depth data tracking. I estimate we still have about 3-4 years before we could see the mainstream marketing application of VR.

Chatbots: In general, there is a fundamental shift in the consumers’ behavior in how they interact with a business. According to HubSpot, 56% of people prefer to message rather than making calls. This opens up massive opportunities for businesses to create value from the messaging channels. That’s where Chatbots come into play. Also, the conversations with chatbots are getting as real as conversations between humans as older rule-based chatbots getting replaced by the advanced AI-powered NLP (Natural Language Processing) chatbots, so naturally consumers find it more appealing. According to Ubisend 1 in 5 consumers prefer to buy a product or services from chatbots. As a result 8 in 10 businesses are already using or plan to use chatbots by 2020. If you are interested to see a chatbot in action, check out DBS virtual assistant.

Hyper-Personalization: We have come a long way from the days where we dynamically personalized customer’s name in the email that went out. Today we take personalization to a whole new level where every single element in an email such as images used, text content, template layout could be personalized. Marketing Automation tools like Marketo allows customization of the landing page, form page based on email interactions. Not only tha,t now we can have so many variations of a single website based on users’ past behavior, thus leading to a better customer experience, better engagement, and better conversion metrics. Even free tools like Google Optimize is certainly heating up the game for personalization. And as far as personalization in advertising is concerned, Google Ads and Facebook allow marketers to create dynamic remarketing ads that are created dynamically in the fly based on audience’s interaction on your website or elsewhere. According to new Epsilon research, 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer a personalized experience. So this space is definitely a must to watch out for.

Looking at the bigger picture of MarTech, in general, marketers need better strategies and training to get the most out of the available technologies today. And Marketers who get familiar with the technologies and earn technology as their skill-sets are set to gain and offer more value.

In what ways do you think AI, data and machine learning are transforming the way we are approaching marketing today?

AI, Data and ML have fundamentally transformed end to end marketing on how we Plan, Build & Execute and Optimize. One of the interesting applications of AI is the prediction, AI prediction helps the marketing team to better plan and run campaigns. For example, you could estimate with a better accuracy of the expected outcome of a specific audience segment, creative format, content, bid strategies, search terms, and ad extensions.

AI-powered tools could help you to create, several variations of ads in a fly, and even help marketers curate contents and auto-generate contents. According to one study by 2018, 20% of all business content will be authored by a machine. Besides these, AI allows precision targeting, for example, let the machine decide what creative to run to whom and when. In case of email campaign you do not need to schedule one fixed time for all your users, let the system decide the best time for every individual user and send the email based on individuals’ past behavior.

Another interesting area of AI application is dynamic pricing and personalized offers based on user profiles. And another important area of AI application is data & analytics. You can gather huge data sets from several online and offline marketing activities at one place and then easily visualize data and gather insights.

So on the last note the major benefit of AI, ML is it empowers the marketing team to carry out marketing with better speed, accuracy, and scale.

How do you define a modern marketer?

A modern marketer is one who is tech-savvy, analytical driven, business-centric at mind and customer-centric at heart.

Profile

Raja Ramachandran, Head of Marketing, Emerging StartUp

Raja has over 14 Years of Digital Marketing experience in the Asian Region. He has hands-on experience running hundreds of B2B & B2C Digital Marketing campaigns for several Fortune 100 companies and other brands.  He acts as a trusted marketing advisor for business owners and leadership teams in SMEs and MNCs. His core skill set lies in Digital Marketing Strategic Planning & Execution, Growth Hacking, Digital Media Channel Experience, Digital Marketing Technology, and Data & Analytics.

 

 

The views expressed here are personal of the author and not representative of the organization in any way.

 

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