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Interview with Kashif Kudalkar, Senior Manager – Digital Marketing Eureka Forbes

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kashif-kudalkarKashif Kudalkar‘s current role is that of a Senior Manager – Digital Marketing, which pretty much sums up the fact that Digital Marketing forms the core of his current professional life.

In the past, Kashif has handled account management for agencies specializing in Digital Marketing. Prior to his stint with agencies, Kashif managed sales profiles for Digital Publishers and Ad Networks.

Hence, he had the privilege of experiencing the Digital domain from the perspectives of the supply side (publishers), the enablers (agencies) as well as the demand side (marketing).

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

Kashif: John Wannamaker is accredited for the quote “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”.

This proverbial black hole of advertising had always intrigued me.

Hence, even though my initiation into the Digital domain was unplanned, the potential of the medium to give a comprehensive picture of otherwise elusive returns on the marketing spends or forced dependence on surrogate measures, has fascinated me.

That coupled with the power which digital technologies are bringing in, helping us to improve relevance to the consumer is unmatchable.

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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?

Kashif: Conventional means of marketing, especially in India still hold an edge in terms of sheer reach. This reflects in a business’s marketing spends where generally conventional mediums still get the majority share.

Adoption of digital is on the rise which is evident with the increasing digital marketing budgets. But according to me the ‘conventional vs digital’ debate is futile; it’s also very subjective. It is the businesses’ prerogative to be where their consumers are or face extinction

And while we watch the trends and make our marketing relevant, for most businesses currently engaged in both conventional and digital marketing, the objective should not be to choose this over that – but to figure out how can the two work together which will create an advantage; something that only a few firms are capable of and one that cannot be matched easily.

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

Kashif: I am skeptic when it comes to case studies highlighting successes in Digital Marketing endeavors. Moreover, their efficacy in terms of practical adoption is also uncertain. 

What I do look out for is the potential capability of tools, techniques and practices and its applicability to the businesses I handle.

Well defined business goals clearly outline the Digital Marketing objectives. These don’t and should not change as per the flavor of the season. Hence, ‘what needs to be attained’ is seldom an issue; the question ‘how best can it be accomplished’ leads to exploration, decisions, implementation and testing in run-time. 

Effective application is constrained by internal policies and practices; often and unfortunately inspiration from success stories does not result in favorable outcomes.

Some examples of effective execution which certainly can be used as a source of inspiration include Sungevity’s ingenious use of the digital medium, the legendary customer service of Zappos. The use of Search Insights by L’Oreal Paris to understand trends and develop products and messaging to meet consumer needs. How Lipton, Burton and Pantene used real-time weather data in their communication to make it extremely relevant. 

According to you, what are the top 3 mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging Digital Marketing?

Kashif: To begin with, let’s make the assumption that there is no ambiguity in the organization regarding their purpose on Digital.

The following are amongst the top errors which are regrettably prevalent

  • Neglecting the development of Digital Marketing Teams:

The digital field is very young and there hasn’t been enough time to formalize the learnings as compared to conventional media. Quite a bit of digital learning in organizations is colloquial and not necessarily correct. Moreover, the medium has close associations with technology and is extremely dynamic in nature which makes the learning curve steep.

Thus for extracting the most from the domain, it’s essential that the team is fundamentally sound and up to date. Without the necessary nurturing, not only will the team will be low on morale but the yield from Digital will also be sub optimal, leading to mediocre performance at best.

  • Relying on Opinion to Guide Action:

Increasing complexity of business problems, a plethora of probable solutions, limited response time and constrained ability of the human mind makes ‘gut based’ decision-making highly sub-optimal. The opinion based decision-making mindset relegates the use of testing and analytics to investigate avenues, crunch data and thereby improve business performance through fact-based decision making.

In a recent article based on a survey of nearly 3000 executives, MIT Sloan Management Review reported that there is a striking correlation between an organization’s analytics sophistication and its competitive performance.  Companies are starting to use analytics as a competitive strategy.  It helps companies to find the most profitable customer and allows them to justify their marketing effort, especially when the competition is very high.

It can help develop a competitive advantage which is not easy to replicate.

  • Disregarding the process and practices to capture the right data:

No data, bad data and/or data in silos. In the race to achieve short-term targets, this extremely important function takes a back seat in several organizations. Invariably this comes back to bite hard and derails optimization and improvement efforts the organization embarks on.

The digital world is moving towards the realm of hyper-relevance. The core enabler for this transformation is actionable data. Only organizations that can harness this invaluable asset will flourish.

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Between Agency and In-house, which approach would you recommend for maximum value of Digital Marketing? Why?

Kashif: I’d recommend a hybrid model.

To get the best from the digital domain, you need expertise in several diverse aspects working together. Having the best talent manage each aspect is desired but is often difficult to get under one roof.

Thus, the structure which I feel is most apt as per the current scenario is to have an in-house Digital Marketing lead who can command the in-house and/or agency/vendor teams, ensure synchronization of the efforts and drive results.   

How do you ensure increasing Digital Marketing’s relevance and influence in the organization?

Kashif: The increasing adoption of the medium and the noticeable change in behavior related to digital devices surely helps.

The effort needed is subjective and varies drastically depending not only on the overall digital acumen of the department/team, on the availability of a representative from senior management who dons the role of the digital champion but also the prevalent culture of the organization in general – how open are people to adopt change.

Having these in place works favorably. 

Setting up realistic expectations, agreeing on concise goals, meticulous planning and sound reasoning supported by copious amount of relevant data helps build confidence in the medium.

Finally, it comes down to immaculate implementation and smart optimization. Digital allows us to fail quickly and cheaply, analyze, adapt and demonstrate results – and this is the final clincher, results speak for themselves.

Which are your 3 favorite Digital Marketing Tools?

Kashif: A quick disclaimer – Without the right people to extract the best from them, tools will just get wrongfully written off as a fad or not delivering ROI.

Google suite of tools, which includes the ones for clickstream tracking, tag management, competition insights (search trends, keyword planner), data studio and the upcoming Optimize, is a formidable set which helps boost Digital Marketing efforts, and is free (with certain limits).

Plumb5 from Decisive is a relatively new entrant but has immense potential and definitely worth exploring for any serious digital marketer.

Data Management Platform, one which integrates best with your systems and requirements, is a must have to get to the next level of creating relevance in Digital Marketing.

Why do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs, marketing professionals and students to learn Digital Marketing today?

Kashif: 

  • For Entrepreneurs:

Done the right way, Digital Marketing can be extremely cost effective and if the business value chain is in sync, can even deliver more impact than a competition campaign with a substantially bigger budget. This can make the difference between surviving and thriving. 

  • For Professionals:

Digital media is powering a rapid change in consumerism. This can be considered as an impeding threat or a fantastic opportunity. Competition – well entrenched and new entrants are making efforts to evolve and ride this wave. Planned evolution to couple conventional and digital marketing can pave the way towards forming a strong competitive advantage. 

  • For Students:

Digital Marketing and the allied functions comprise of a wide range of skills. The demand for specialist skills like UX design, SEO, PPC, Social, Data Analysts etc. as well as a generalist proficiency to drive the Digital marketing efforts is on the rise. Developing their area of interest with the right coaching to form a solid base, students can embark on building a promising career. 

What are the top 3-5 skills you look for when hiring a candidate for Digital Marketing profile?

Kashif: For specialist functions, hands-on experience in the relevant domain is the primary requirement; they need to be passionate about their area of expertise. Secondly, the candidate needs to be up to date with the on goings in their field. A flexible attitude to be open to exploring and learning skills in addition to the domain of specialization is an added advantage.    

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

Kashif: My suggestion for budding digital marketers…First and foremost, get your fundamentals in place.

Stay up to date. Opt for courses from reputed institutes. Read all you can get your hands on, but be especially cautious about diktats and decrees. Never abandon your own logic. It’s okay to seek inspiration and read best practices but always remember that implementation is the key. What has worked in a certain case need not necessarily yield results in all instances.

Lastly, actively seek out opportunities to apply your learnings. Get your hands dirty. This will not only validate your knowledge but the experience will bolster your confidence in your ability.

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?

Kashif: I use email subscriptions and RSS feeds from over 50 different sources to help keep me abreast with the latest in the world of Digital.

In addition, I grasp every possible opportunity to enhance my know how with an online course on a particular aspect of digital marketing or validate my learning with an exam or a certification like the Google Analytics Individual Qualification or one associated with O.M.C.P (Online Marketing Certified Professional) Membership.

Sources like Mashable, Medianama, MOZ, Occams Razor, Kissmetrics, Lunametrics, Hubspot, Google’s official blog etc. are the ones which I refer to frequently.

Likewise, I get prompted by Google Now about new articles related to digital marketing

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

Kashif:  I’ll have to take the liberty to go beyond the stipulated 3 for this one.

I am a huge fan of Avinash Kaushik and have had the privilege of being coached by him during my Web Analytics Master Certification course.

Others include John Marshall, Simo Ahava, Bryan & Jeffery Eisenberg, Rand Fishkin, Annie Cushing, the team at Lunametrics, Jakob Nielsen, Don Norman amongst others.

How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2016?

Kashif: (Since 2016 is almost over, the following are the trends I see gaining importance from a long term perspective)

The use of content in various forms and formats, made available on demand, to inform and educate, answer queries etc. to not only guide consumers in their purchase journey but also nurture them even before they become prospects, will gain major precedence in marketing strategies.

Consumers discovery, research, evaluation and eventual purchase can happen online and/or offline (if applicable). Organizations will have to merge the synergies of the two to give a seamless experience to the user and at the same time build a unified profile of their customers to know patterns of cohorts.

Only then will their marketing become hyper-relevant and make mass customization possible.

Smart companies already have and going forward more of them will adopt data science. Analytics will elevate from a mere reporting tool and move to the domains of diagnostic analysis with an emphasis on improved attribution modelling. The next step will be to deploy predictive analysis so as to understand probable situations and prepare to take pre-emptive actions to manage unfavorable situations and leverage favorable outcomes. Lastly, prescriptive analysis will help organizations adopt the most profitable decisions for their business problems.

Would you like to share few words about the work we are doing at Digital Vidya?

Kashif: The growth of digital in India has been quite unstructured. As a result, the proficiency of a lot of human resources operating in the digital sphere is fallible. To make matters worse, newbies have been and are being passed this unsound know-how.   

Thus, there is an increasing need for knowledgeable digital marketing professionals in the industry. Digital Vidya is helping fill this gap. I am pleased that Digital Vidya is providing structured and quality digital education in India.

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 :).

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  • There are 2 comments


    • 8 months ago

      Annie Cushing   /   Reply

      Thanks for the shoutout, Kashif! 🙂

    • 8 months ago

      Venugopal Gella   /   Reply

      Very useful and practical thoughts

      Good to read

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