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An Interview With Afzal Khan – Regional Head Asia Pacific (Digital Marketing), StarOfService

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Afzal Khan_Digital MarketerAfzal Khan has worked with companies including SEO Valley Solutions, HExaware Technologies, SIFY Technlogies, US Digital Media Inc. and so on during his corporate career. He also started working as Independent SEO consultant by promoting his personal website AfzalKhan.Org where he used to get his client’s and has been into Digital Marketing space from last 10-12 years. In year 2011, his interview was aired by WIOX [a non profit, public community radio station in USA] WIOX 91.3 FM program called MONEY TRAIN.

All of his past experience helped him turn into a Entrepreneur, Digital Marketing Consultant: Certified SEO where he is helping small, medium & large corporate by offering SEO, SEM, Social Media, E-commerce SEO, Branding & Online Reputation Management services. Along with this, he was keen into helping start-ups and currently he has been working full-time as Regional Manager [Asia Pacific] for StarofServices, who is revolutionizing the way people buy online services close to them. StarofService is the marketplace for services with a presence in close to 80 countries and especially getting a lot of traction in INDIA.

How did you get into Digital Marketing? What interested you in learning Digital Marketing?

Afzal:  Well being from engineering background I started my career working with telecom industry and also got opportunity to work in banking sector later, during those early days of my career I realized this is not something that I want to work for life. I was missing the zeal so I turned into marketing during this time I got an opportunity to get into Events & Brand Promotion industry and so on by luck got into Digital Marketing Industry from where it all started.

I started learning more about Digital Marketing industry as being a Techno Marketing person I felt the kick on what I was looking around. Luckily one of my friend was working as web developer in one of the SEO Company and he arranged my interview and that’s how it’s all started when I get into Digital Marketing industry full time. I devoted most of my time learning various aspects and techniques of this industry including SEO, Adwords, Blogging, Content marketing, Social Media etc. Since I was working with specialized Digital Marketing Agency I was fortunate enough to work with many Client’s from various industry and from across the Globe. During this time I also started blogging at toprankseoblog.com and even at present I run and manage many blogs.

As I was very much passionate about blogging, that taught me a lot about this whole Digital Marketing concept in practical along with handling multiple clients working with agencies. From that period onwards I live, breath and eat digital marketing only. To sharpen my digital marketing & SEO skills I attended Bruce Clay Inc. Advanced SEO Certification in 2010 too along with self-learning on subject matter.

According to you, what are the advantages of conventional marketing over Digital Marketing? Do you think that Digital Marketing is a threat to the future of conventional marketing?

Afzal:  It’s a topic of debate if we look around for the advantages of Conventional or Traditional Marketing over Digital Marketing. From my personal and based on my past and current experience as I had worked in both space [conventional marketing and digital  marketing] I believe both has their essence and hugely depends on your end goals which you trying to achieve by implementing marketing. But in sole both traditional and digital marketing share similar goals for most of it like attracting qualified customers, building brand awareness in your target market, and at same point Traditional & Digital marketing are two completely different processes that need to understand and implement separately by Businesses.

You’ll find nowadays, most of marketing practices are shifting towards Digital Marketing for a variety of reasons. There are numerous advantages using digital marketing over traditional marketing, yet conventional marketing has a few merits as well but in a limited space.

With Digital Marketing the biggest advantage I see is it’s very economical and fast way to promote your service/products/brand compared to Conventional marketing. Another advantage of Digital Marketing strategy is if it’s well executed, for very reasonable marketing budgets it can help even small business level the playing field and compete against larger competitors and provide you with global exposure online within smaller budgets. Digital marketing is a paradigm shift in worldview rather than simply a new set of marketing tactics

I don’t think Digital marketing is a threat to the future of Conventional marketing instead I feel Businesses needs to realize and implement the right mixes of both digital & conventional marketing. Some business think of digital and traditional marketing as being at odds with each other, but in fact they complement each other to meet your end goals in order to get the best possible results if done right.

Share about your 3 favorite Digital Marketing case studies. What did you like most about them?

Afzal:  

  1. Flipkart: Right mix of implementing Digital Marketing & Conventional Marketing to become India’s #1 Ecommerce store in such a short span of time.
  2. Airbnb: Leveraging Digital marketing techniques Airbnb turned into one of the biggest community for traveler’s by providing better alternative to hotels.
  3. Hubspot: Best education resource utilizing Social Media by offering best advice and knowledge by giving away guidebooks for FREE.
According to you, what are the top 3 mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging Digital Marketing?

Afzal:  

  • Diving into Digital Marketing with No Clear Goals, Planning, Vision & Commitment: Business/Brand are bound to spend money going to waste without seeing any results and realize their message not been seen by their target audience. It’s very important to identify correct sources where your target audience/customers are spending more time. Selecting the right platform, channel and implementing strategy accordingly is needed to see results and outcomes from Digital Marketing efforts.
  • Content creation and pushing it for the sake of having Content: Brand’s loose great opportunity by creating content without giving thought about end user interest by producing quantity of content. It’s very important to create engaging content and bring in user engagement by offering them with quality content. Quality wins over quantity when it comes to content for your loyal customers.
  • Not Testing or Tweaking new things in-line with Digital Marketing action plan: Going without testing can result in continuing wrong strategies and being it less effective. With Digital Marketing it’s all about testing, measuring, tweaking and implementing new plan to get it worked. As a matter of fact testing in Digital marketing is on going.
Between Agencies and In-house, which approach would you recommend for maximum value of Digital Marketing? Why?

Afzal:  As shared I’ve experienced working both with an Agency and also as an In- house and I feel question of going with Agency or In-house depends hugely on Business/Brand requirements, end goals and results which a Business/Brand looking for by implementing Digital Marketing plan.

In some situations, businesses having clear visions with their end goals will find hiring a specialized digital marketing agency best over in-house team while in some case in-house can bring more value going over Agency. In short it all depends on Business requirement and ROI that they are counting on from Digital Marketing activities.

Which are your 3 favorite Digital Marketing Tools?

Afzal:  There has been numerous Digital Marketing tools which I use depending on strategies including Organic & Paid Social Media, Email Marketing, Display, Video, Content Creation & Curation, Analytics, Search Engine Optimization [SEO] etc. out of these strategies my 3 favorite tools are as below:

  •  MOZ Tools for Inbound Marketing.
  • Google Free Tools [Analytics, Webmaster Tool, Local Business Tools by Google]
  • AgencyAnalytics.com for SEO, PPC & Social Reports
Why do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs, marketing professionals and students to learn Digital Marketing today?

Afzal:

  • For Entrepreneurs: It’s very important for Entrepreneurs in current global marketing scenario to understand or at-least have a basic knowledge by making themselves informed about Digital Marketing strategies to mine competitive intelligence that can help inform and propel Entrepreneurs in making better decision to market/promote their product/service/brand OR hire right Digital Marketing service providers [Agency/Independent Consultants/Experts] to help them grow their business online.
  • For Professionals: As we know marketing has changed a lot, day-by-day conventional marketing is getting replaced with digital marketing and it’s changing all the time. For professionals having background in marketing and seeking career in the Digital Marketing industry, needs to learn & acquire knowledge on all aspects of digital marketing to make them armed with specialized Digital Marketing skills that are in serious demand in every industry nowadays.
  • For Students: Majority of College/Universities programs in INDIA are behind the curve in offering their students with digital marketing skills required in today’s marketplace. Even in some College/Universities they’ve included Digital marketing topics as part of course, but the most serious problem lies in the topics for Students that aren’t cover in detail or at least in deeper length to educate students about all the techniques. It’s increasingly clear that students haven’t caught up with the rapid pace of digital transformation due to which it becomes essentially vital for Students to learn all aspects of Digital Marketing to make them more capable and skillful when they look for career and job opportunity.
What are the top 3-5 skills you look for when hiring a candidate for Digital Marketing profile?

Afzal:  It varies depending on the position, as some of Digital Marketing profile requires technical background along with marketing. For example for a position of SEO Inbound expert the requirement may vary for a position of Content Writer or a Social Media candidate profile.

Overall the key 3-5 skills that I look from a candidate in general are strong analytical skill, creativity, excitement & passion about learning exploring new things, go getter, basic writing skills, and someone with strong logics.

What is your advice for newbies, who are looking at building a career in Digital Marketing industry?

Afzal:  For all newbies my advice would be to start their Digital Marketing career working with a reputable company/agency those who are involved in all form of Digital Marketing strategies, as this will provide them with an opportunity to understand and learn about all the key strategies and various forms of Digital Marketing [SEO, Paid Marketing, Organic & Paid Social Media, Email Marketing, Display (Contextual & Banner), Website Testing & Analytics, Video Hosting, Content Creation & Curation, Affiliate Marketing etc] and depending on their further interest they can master particular skills by diving deep into respective skills. As in all other jobs involved subject expertise matter’s most, similarly in Digital Marketing your grasp and expertise to particular digital marketing skills can land you see success in your career growth.

Apart from this,

the most important advice to Newbies will be to have habit of self-learning as in Digital marketing there are no set guidelines and for this to see results working from any activity you need learn a lot, test a lot and experiment a lot with your learning’s and findings. It keep’s on going due to nature of ever changing new techniques coming each day.

How do you stay updated on the latest trends in Digital Marketing? Which are the Digital Marketing resources (i.e. blogs/websites/apps) you visit regularly?

Afzal:   As advised above to Newbies, the learning in Digital Marketing industry never ends and the same holds to me even after being in industry from last 10-12 years. I keep myself updated with latest trends by reading and following many of industry leaders, digital marketing blogs, journals and being active on dedicated industry forums etc.

I’ve subscribed to hundreds of authoritative blogs/websites from industry and make sure to devote few hours daily reading them. Out of these below are the one’s which I religiously visit and ready daily are The Moz Blog (https://moz.com/blog), Search Engine Land (http://searchengineland.com/), Bruce Clay Blog (http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/), Seth Godin (http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/), Quicksprout Blog (https://www.quicksprout.com/blog/), Social Media Examiner (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/) & Hubspot Blog (http://blog.hubspot.com/).

Share the names of 3 people you respect when it comes to Digital Marketing.

Afzal:  

  1. Rand Fishkin (Founder of Moz, TAGFEE Evangelist, Inbound Marketer, Nocturnal Writer.)
  2. Bruce Clay (Owner of Bruce Clay, Inc., an Internet Marketing Optimization company)
  3. Danny Sullivan (Co-founder of Search Engine Land)
How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2016?

Afzal:  The future is in world of constant connectivity where majority of people will be spending their maximum time being online or will be always connected via their gadgets/devices using mobile, tablets, smart TV’s etc. It’s all allowing future generations hanging around Digital Media by consuming information from more sources, future formats that will be embracing our life or larger spectrum.

Although in INDIA, digital is still in early growing stage but it’s going to grow exponentially quicker and shift is going to be more towards Mobile. Like in late 90’s telecommunication revolution took place in India, similarly the penetration of Internet infrastructure is going to bring huge growth for Digital Media with the initiatives and active interest of Govt. of India by launching Digital India program.

Top 3 trends that I foresee raging in 2016 will be:

  1. Content Marketing
  2. Mobile Marketing
  3. More of Data Driven Marketing
Would you like to share few words about the work we are doing at Digital Vidya?

Afzal:  As I shared with you that I’ve known and got a chance to meet Digital Vidya’s Co-founders Pradeep Chopra & Kapil Nakra in person during various events in past. I believe I don’t need to say both of Digital Vidya founder’s are well-renowned names and leader of Digital Marketing industry in India.

Founded by such strong domain experts, “Digital Vidya” is certainly a pioneer and one of the premium institute for anyone looking for Digital Marketing Courses in India, also backed by such huge list of trainers who has proven their excellence already is surely doing a great work of producing next generation Digital Marketer’s. I wish you guy’s good luck and say with confidence that “Digital Vidya” is one of the institute who will be credited for creating skilled, knowledgeable and ethical Digital Marketer brigade for future which industry will be proud of.

Last but not least thanks to Jasleen for giving me an opportunity to share with my experience with all your readers and everyone. It’s been a sheer pleasure. 🙂

Interactions post Webinar on ‘Learn How To Integrate Social Media Into Business Practices: Boost Your Brand On Social Media’: 

You led the webinar ‘Learn How To Integrate Social Media Into Business Practices : Boost Your Brand On Social Media’. How was your experience in leading the webinar?

Afzal: It was an amazing and quite new learning experience for me to lead the webinar. I had given trainings and had been a speaker to live audience, this was my first time leading an online webinar. Thanks for the opportunity to be part of this.

Please share top 3-5 takeaways from the Webinar you led for our community.

Afzal: Takeaways for me on leading this webinar would be:

  1. Sharing my knowledge & learning with wider audience and your entire community.
  2. An added opportunity to build my reputation & authority in the industry.
  3. Help me to groom myself turning into a Speaker.
Do you have any suggestions for us to further increase the value of our Digital Marketing Webinars?

Afzal: Honestly, you guys are doing great and I don’t have any suggestions at the moment, but surely will share if something which I feel can add more value.

Are you inspired by the opportunity of Digital Marketing? Start your journey by attending our upcoming orientation session on Digital Marketing for Career & Business Growth. It’s online and Free :).

[Sr. Associate - Content Marketing] A content passionate, Jasleen handles the content writing and marketing activities. Additionally, she leads Digital Marketing Internship Programme. Her deep passion and enthusiasm for writing guided her towards being the Associate Editor in English for her college magazine. Only deep passion and zeal can guide a person towards a professional writing career. Apparently, Jasleen is one of those persons. She is in the content writing and marketing fraternity for 5 years now. A top-notch individual, she is proficient in writing content for multiple requirements including blogs, articles, books, brochures and social media. She embraces practical knowledge of WordPress CMS. Besides this, she is also highly engaging in Social Media Marketing activities.
  • Digital-Marketing


  • There are 4 comments


    • 2 years ago

      Anis mansoori   /   Reply

      Afzal sir u sheared with all of us a lots of importent things releated to the digital marketing. As a starting my carrier in digital marketing, what would like to suggest in terms of great opportunity. I am waiting possitive response from your side.
      Thanks
      Anis mansoori
      Bhopal

    • 2 years ago

      Sachin Garg   /   Reply

      Thanks Afzal Sir for yur valuable suggestion .

    • 2 years ago

      Afzal Khan   /   Reply

      Hello Anis,

      Thanks for sharing with your valuable feedback and I’m really glad to know you find it useful. As I see you are about to start your career in Digital Marketing field, my suggestion for you would be to religiously start reading all the resource/site links which I shared while answering the Interview Question: “How do you stay updated on the latest trends in Digital Marketing? Which are the Digital Marketing resources (i.e. blogs/websites/apps) you visit regularly?”

      Along with this I strongly recommend you to attend Digital Vidya Webinars and Join their Digital Marketing Certification Courses, I am positive it will help you a lot. Well if you read my full interview you’ll find that I already had shared with great details/advice for all the Newbies who want to build their career in Digital Marketing field. Please do check all such resource/site links. Good Luck and yeah welcome to Digital Marketing field 🙂

      Cheers,

    • 1 year ago

      Jasleen Kaur   /   Reply

      Thanks Afzal for your contribution to our community through this interview. Really happy to know your feedback about the work we are doing in spreading digital (marketing) vidya :).

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