In an exclusive interview with Thinking Aloud, Apurva Chamaria, Head – W.W. Brand and Digital Marketing, HCL Technologies Ltd,

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In the next 5 years there will only be 2 kinds of marketers left – digital marketers or extinct marketers” – Apurva Chamaria

TA: How are you ensuring that you have an integrated marketing effort?

Apurva: Our global marketing messaging stems from HCL’s core belief of Employees First, Customers Second (EFCS), which creates a value zone for our employees (Ideapreneurs) and positions HCL as an Ideapreneurship (Ideas driven intrapreneurship). This cultural construct empowers and encourages employees to come up with every day ideas to address customer challenges, which delivers a ‘Relationship beyond the Contract (RBTC)’. The RBTC global positioning is operationalized through brand guidelines and frequent trainings which ensure that RBTC is the fulcrum for all our propositions and campaigns, which in turn unifies and integrates our marketing efforts across 32 countries, 30 industry segments and 5 service lines.

We also use sales and marketing automation tools and interlocking targets to drive goal congruency and ensure we have an integrated campaign management approach. In a large matrixed organization like ours, effective collaboration is the ultimate key to running successful programs across strategic marketing and multiple field marketing units.

TA: How are you leveraging the digital medium to acquire customers or create an amazing customer experiences?

Apurva: At HCL, digital disruption is reshaping the value proposition to our customers. Our digital plans focus not only on creating brand salience but also on acquiring and delighting new customers with a differentiated experience which brings the brand promise ALIVE . With an aim to tap into newer geographies, hcltech.com was launched into German and Japanese languages. With an extensive paid promotion campaign on search and display, the new sites received more than 80% new visitors. We also enabled a mobile responsive website to tap into the mindshare of mobile audience, which resulted in an increase in marketing qualified leads by 333%. We have also invested in Lead generation services of various technology publishers enabling long tail niche targeting.

Another great example of putting customers at the epicenter of a seamless experience, we have personalized our corporate website resulting in more than 1000 on-the-fly rendered variants which has increased the average time spent on the business sections by 42%. Amazon and Netflix are prime examples of a successful application of personalized content. HCL has also been actively investing in business specific remarketing campaigns utilizing remarketing tools such as Adroll, LinkedIn Lead Accelerator (previously known as Bizo) and Google remarketing to nurture our audience and keep them gainfully engaged with our brand.

TA: Social Media Marketing and ROI are often discussed and dissected. What are your views on Social Media marketing and how do you gauge the ROI

Apurva: The brand awareness created by social media in terms of likes, comments, retweets and shares is valuable, but is it enough? It is critical to connect social media ROI back to your business goals and outcomes such as reach, site traffic, Leads generated, sign-ups and conversions. This is extremely challenging for marketers in the B2B space, where the purchase cycles are longer and engagement is short term. At HCL, we have arrived at a very diligent process where business oriented metrics are tracked across channels. The funnel contribution/number of leads and metrics like Cost per Application / Download/ Hire etc. are tracked across channels. In terms of engagement, we have daily, weekly and monthly tracking for each type of content across channels. While calculating ROI, most organizations still take a very conservative view to just the dollar spend on media vehicles. However, social media ecosystem requires enormous amount of human capital, which often goes un-accounted. Sometimes, an unrelated activity results into brand awareness or a business lead for the brand. We are piloting using open source programming to create multi-channel attribution models to more accurately report ROI.
TA: As a marketer, what according to you are the key challenges for any CMO, especially for digital marketing?
Apurva: With all the hype around digital, organizations recognize the need to transform operations for digital employees and customers. However, the path to reach that end is rarely cemented. Organizations are looking to the CMO to help shape a new digital enterprise and become the change agent for digital transformation. With digital opportunities leading the charge, I see three key areas where all marketers need to focus on to stay relevant:
– Build Yourself on Digital: It is essential for marketers to understand the basics of digital to lead the change and make informed buying decision regarding digital advances such as analytics, mobility, social media and smart devices.
– Set up a Strong Digital Force: With digital taking the center stage, from mobile marketing to data mining, having a strong team that understands and delivers on digital is paramount.
– Align Leadership to Digital: Leveraging digital is not just the responsibility of the marketing function. It requires the entire leadership team including internal and external stakeholders to collaborate on the digital playing field.

TA: What can be done to address the challenges?

Apurva: The single biggest initiative you take is staffing the digital team will millennials and spending lots of time with them to understand what’s new. This becomes important as the digital landscape changes very rapidly and contextualizing the change and being “first in class” and/or “best in class” is only possible if as a martech leader you can skip the red queen effect and achieve escape velocity in your digital initiatives.

TA: Most marketers believe that harnessing data analytics is one of the most important challenges they face. Are you also one of them and if yes, how are you dealing with the problem? Do you have in-house skills to harness data?

Apurva: Yes, harnessing data analytics is indeed a challenge for marketers. We too have been encountering various challenges to extract the relevant information, making predictions at corporate and account levels. Major challenges we have been grappling with, and successfully resolved to certain extent, are unavailability of real-time centralized data repository, building a team of right skill-set, measuring ROMI (return of marketing spend) for digital campaigns, content scoring for web-content, and deal level predictions etc. Real time central data repository is of utmost importance to create a single view of data, hence tracking customers, competitors, prospects and partners from various dimensions. We have created an exhaustive eco-system data dashboard which converges data from finance, digital, pipeline and it is being leveraged to extract business triggers to draw actionable insights. We have also set up a team of specialists with complimenting skill sets – statistical champions, programmers, domain (business) experts and experts in data visualization etc. We use open source tools like R for statistical modelling and visualization. This analytics team has created a probabilistic attribution model which is leveraged to measure how different touch points before a visitor enters into the website attribute to conversion. It is all about creating set of rules that determine how credit for sales/conversion is assigned to touch points in conversion paths. It will potentially impact in justifying digital spending, building an understanding of customer journey, optimizing the media mix and understanding correct mix of content pieces.

TA: Has big data completely altered the landscape for marketers?
Apurva: With advanced analytics driving all the decisions across industries and for all the important functions; marketing can’t be untouched. According to Forbes, “72% of marketing over performers believe that Big Data will have a high level of impact on their business, while 45% of over performers say that they have the right data and analytics available to measure marketing effectiveness.” The ever increasing volume, velocity and variety of data generates enormous challenge, but also provides significant business opportunities if processed well. Marketing spend is increasingly becoming significantly more precise by leveraging insights from big data to accurately target prospects and deploy account-based marketing strategies. Data-driven methodologies are being adopted to target high-value prospects, keep existing customers on board, and expand existing opportunities. Sales forecasting accuracy has improved dramatically because of availability of more granular information and sophisticated algorithms.

TA: Is it true that the emergence of the digital medium has put enormous pressure on CMOs to realign their strategy? How critical it is to be on the same page with your CEO and CTO?

Apurva: “In the next 5 years there will only be 2 kinds of marketers left – digital marketers or extinct marketers”. As CMOs realize this they are embracing digital channels and realigning their strategy to harness digital innovation. They understand the need of transforming the business to operate successfully in a digital ecosystem. At HCL, our digital marketers lead the change with online display advertising, search engine optimization, social media campaigns and customized mobile apps to drive greater ROI with real-time response and deeper engagement. Our team of marketers last year devised a strategy to run a paid search campaign that involved bidding on proposition and business keywords. As a result, number of qualified business leads increased by 200%. Digital pushes marketers to be more agile by using new-age channels and technologies to improve marketing impact and be a real game changer.

Today, when the key reason to leverage technology is shifting from cost saving to revenue generation, it has become even more critical for the CMO to work in tandem with the CTO and CEO. Your organization culture if tuned well, led by the CEO, can drive the digital channel for your organization.

TA: What are your marketing plans going forward?

Apurva: HCL this year entered the list of top 500 global brands released by Brand Finance at 497. The plan is to steadily work towards taking it to amongst the Top 100 brands in the world.

TA: What is your digital advertising spends? Can you give a number to it? Has it risen over the past year and if so, by how much?

Apurva: HCL digital marketing efforts are mostly “pull based” rather than “push based”. As a B2B marketer, our focus is to generate quality Leads both online and offline, such as through social media, events and strong branding initiatives. A major component of our is spent on developing and supporting our state of the art website and leveraging SEO which has delivered us $1.5 Billion of sales accepted funnel from the website. Our digital budgets every year are increasing at double digits growth.

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