Interview with Gaurav Kakkar, HCL Technologies, Lead – Digital Marketing

14 Min Read. |

Gaurav Kakkar is the Global Digital Marketing head of HCL Technologies, a 7.4 BN US$ global IT company. He is globally responsible for digital platforms management, conceptualizing/ executing the global brand awareness campaigns, online demand generation, and, aligning digital closely with the business.

He has held various marketing leadership positions across North America and India. Under his leadership, the Digital Marketing team has generated more than $1 Billion funnel through online channels, SEO, paid media and has won more than 100 awards (ITSMA , Forrester Groundswell, BUSINESS MARKETING ASSOCIATION, DMA INTERNATIONAL ECHO, W3 etc.) which is considered as a vital contribution for HCL Technologies. This has enabled HCL become the most awarded IT Services Company across the globe. Recently his team has won 2017 ITSMA Diamond award under the category “Transforming Marketing for Digital Leadership”. He has experience of managing the digital presence of global brands.  He also holds credit for developing various Digital Marketing propositions like Digital Marketing maturity framework which is being leveraged by global companies. Recently, Gaurav has been recognized as top 100 Digital Marketers by Paul Writer & PluralSight.

Co Author: His book “You are the key – unlocking doors through Social Selling” (Bloomsbury Publisher) hit # 2 in the Amazon India Best-Sellers list (Under Books > Text Books > Business & Finance > Marketing) within 20 days of being launched in Jan 2016 and was a best-seller on the WH Smith best-seller list as #1. It was also recognized by Honorable Prime minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi for its contribution to Digital India.

Academic Contribution: He and his team had written a case study about “How HCL technologies website generated Billion Dollar funnel from digital channels”. This case study has been published by Ivey Business School at Western University, Canada. It had also won the 1st  prize for the best marketing case-study in 2015. The case study is also available at Harvard Business Review.

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

Gaurav Kakkar: I was doing an internship with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 2002. The project was related to calculation of the bullet’s velocity and implementation of a security algorithm. While working on the project, I did lot of research on the internet and had visited multiple websites. While searching on the internet, I used to wonder what makes website rank on the search engines. And to explore it, I created my own website. This initiated my interest in Digital Marketing. Further, for the project evaluation, we were asked to create a project report. Instead of creating the traditional project report, I updated the website with interactive pages and other project details for my evaluator. I also shared the website with my friends and mentors to get the instant feedback. This experience helped me understand the potential of digital world and invoked my interest to explore it further. 

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

Gaurav Kakkar: 

  • CoolestInterviewEver: World’s first ever end to end recruitment through Twitter

While organizations have been using social media as a platform for hiring through job postings and background checks, there has never been an end-to-end recruitment process on a single social media platform. Also there was never been any attempt to create preferred employer brand using new age social media channel. We conceptualized social media recruitment campaign called #CoolestInterviewever which leveraged Twitter to conduct a complete recruitment while amplifying “HCL’s employer value proposition”. For the first time, interview was conducted openly and hiring became a two-way conversation on a social platform. Campaign reached 102 countries and more than 88,000 applicants across the globe were interviewed in 15 days which lead the total engagement more than 250,000 on Twitter. The campaign had been covered by more than 60 international publications like Bloomberg, Reuters, Yahoo finance etc. It resulted in HCL Technologies enjoying a preferred employer brand among the Generation Y ( age group 21- 33) and had also helped HCL achieve maximum number of followers on Twitter among all the IT services organizations. Our team had won more than 14 awards including international accolades for this campaign.

Here are the videos related to CoolestInterviewEver:

  • Billion Dollar Challenge

Campaign Name: The Billion Dollar Challenge

Campaign Description: The objective of the campaign was to generate USD $1 Billion funnel from Digital Marketing platforms, primarily from the corporate website The digital marketing team undertook the task of converting their legacy website into an USD $1 Billion lead generation vehicle.

How we achieved it:

1.) Web leads management process was enhanced to support end to end demand generation. The web enhancement included:

  • Tools like Demand base were implemented to personalize the visitors experience. It further helped identify & capture all digital touch points of the B2B buyer.
  • In addition to the leads management process, HCL Marketing team enabled the sales team with digital account intelligence, real time & weekly alerts were set up to track & communicate important activities done by key accounts on HCL’s digital platforms.
  • The whole demand generation process was automated by deploying the best in class marketing automation system, salesforce system and  analytics tools.

2.) A complete 360-degree SEO strategy was deployed – HCL team identified the right keywords, created & optimized engaging content, acquired the link backs from reputed sources and ensured the website gets quality organic traffic

3.) To enable personalization, almost 4000 pages of website content were personalized which were targeted to the specific audiences.

4.) The entire was made mobile responsive & accessible in record 2 months

Business benefits of this campaign in terms of ROI

  • Within one year of revamp, the website generated web lead funnel worth USD $1.2 bn.
  • Website was personalized using best in the class industry products which increase the average time spent by 42%.
  • HCL became No. 1 position in content marketing score in European Union region for Large Enterprise BDM audience amongst peers as quoted by LinkedIn.
  • Account alerts & digital footprints influenced multi million worth of deals.
  • With the digital outreach of new brand positioning of HCL “Relationship Beyond the Contract” and alignment of web properties, HCL ranked among the top 20 Indian Brands & achieved 35% increase in the brand value as evaluated by two of the leading brand valuation agencies in the world (Intrabrand, Brand-finance).

The campaign has won 5 international recognitions and 4 national recognitions.

  • Manchester United Partnership

HCL is the digital transformation partner of Manchester United. As part of the initiative, HCL has been consistently engaging with Manchester United players and fans on social media. HCL has enabled first in class initiative to engage the audience by launching World’s first co- created tweet powered by crowdsourcing. The fans were invited to Tweet any character along with story about why they feel character deserved to be included in the Tweet. Outcome included:

  • 215 million potential impressions, with close to 50,000 tweets during the campaign
  • #UnitedByHCL trended across 13 locations, with unique user participation from 107 countries.
  • Our share of voice grew by 416% over the campaign duration – eclipsing the conversation share with respect to our top competitors (43% vs 11.4%)
  • HCL Technologies brand awareness rose 200% based on a survey conducted on a global panel of Manchester United fans.

Watch the video for more details:

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

Gaurav Kakkar: The most common mistakes include:

Creating random presence on the digital media platforms

Digital Marketing is rapidly changing. Many social media platforms have been launched in a short duration. Some of the organizations randomly create presence on every social media platform, while the decision should be taken based on the following factors:

  • Is the target audience present on the platform?
  • What role does the platform play in customer lifecycle? What is the content strategy for the platform?
  • What is the engagement plan with the audience?
  • Have the social media guidelines been defined for the platform?
  • Are there enough resources available to manage the platform?

Desperate attempt to leverage real-time marketing

Every marketing team wants their content to go viral. Some of the marketing teams have desperately tried to use real time marketing. During a natural disaster,  one of the company tried to leverage real time marketing by posting objectionable content to promote its product. It backfired. The social media audience reflected their anger by boycotting company’s products. The damage was so severe that their CEO had to personally apologize for the objectionable social media posts. Real time marketing is definitely an art which brands like OREO have used very effectively. During Super Bowl XLVII, the lights malfunctioned and OREO creatively Tweeted “Power Out? No problem” with an image having following caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.” The takeway is that organizations have to be empathetic and should not hurt the sentiment of the audience while leveraging real-time marketing.

Lack of governance within the digital marketing ecosystem

It is necessary for a 21st Century enterprise to be omnipresent and engage with customers at every stage of the customer lifecycle. However, most of the enterprises are operationally challenged to enable this, and it is very common to encounter the following issues:

  • A new product website is launched without determining how will it receive the traffic. Later, it is figured out that there was no need of creating a new website instead a new section within existing website would have solved the purpose and it would have leveraged the existing traffic.
  • A digital or social media campaign is launched without even establishing the objective.
  • A new campaign is launched without the demand generation plan in place.

These problems are very common and the main reason is that the enterprises fail to utilize the cohesive approach of targeting and engaging customers. Providing seamless commerce experience is challenging as enterprises operate in silos and are unable to optimize their resources.

The solution lies in enabling governance across whole Digital Marketing ecosystem which can be achieved by a structured approach. You can find more details at the following link: Leveraging the digital marketing maturity framework.

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

Gaurav Kakkar: It is dependent on the nature of business but I always believing in having an energetic lean team which strategize, conceptualize, operationalize the programs.

The other non-core activities can be outsourced to an agency. And, if the activities are being outsourced to an agency, then it is very important for the in house team to govern the agency.

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

Gaurav Kakkar: Being the central team, my team provides Digital Marketing services to all the business units/ business marketing team of HCL technologies. The business marketing teams are consumers while Digital team is the service provider. Staying relevant and creating visibility of our digital offerings is very important and my team achieves it by:

  • Learning new marketing trends: It is very important to keep an eye on the new developments within Digital Marketing space to stay relevant. My team keeps on exploring the new developments in the marketing field and evaluate whether digital services would be relevant for us or not. Once the evaluation is complete then the team conducts sessions for business marketing team to make them aware about the new service and trends.
  • Attending Global marketing events: My team is regular participant of international marketing conferences like
  1. Gartner Marketing Conference
  2. Business Marketing Association Conference
  3. ITSMA marketing conference

It enables them understand the latest in digital marketing .

  • Leveraging digital Marketing Dashboard: HCL’s Digital and Content Marketing team publishes monthly Digital Marketing performance dashboard which is shared with the leadership team and business marketing teams. It contains the summary of key performance metrics of each business unit. It helps the leadership team understand what is working and what is not working for their teams. Also, it contains information about the highlights of the months, progress on the current initiatives and initiatives planned for future. The dashboard act as an important communication channel. 

Which are your 3 favorite Digital Marketing Tools?

Gaurav Kakkar: 

A.) Google Analytics Premium

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted” – Albert Einstein.

Customers are nowadays making decisions well before the actual in-store or online interaction with the brand. Google defines this behavior as “Zero Moment of Truth” (ZMOT), where customers search/consult from an average of 10.4 sources online before making any purchase decisions. It is necessary for a 21st Century enterprise to record each interaction of the customers and engage with them at every stage of the customer’s lifecycle journey.

It is very important to understand that the digital marketing ecosystem requires evaluation, monitoring, and optimization of multiple channels, applications and 3rd party systems. Google analytics premium enables capturing all this information. It provides interesting insights about customer acquisition, engagement and conversion. Marketers can also create custom attribution models to understand which channels are performing and which of these channels are underperforming. The tool is capable of capturing multiple dimensions, enables real time data capture, unlimited data capture, custom funnel reports, data driven attribution model, un-sampled reports and more.

B.) LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator

One of the first platforms to vehemently evangelize the marketing & selling process is LinkedIn sales Navigator. It enabled us:

  • Focus on the right prospects
  • Get important insights about the prospects
  • Establish and Build trusted Relationships.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator helped us connect to over 7,000 new decision makers, which resulted in establishing connections with over 2,500 new accounts. We also found that Sales Navigator users have 17 times more connections than the non-users.

C.) Eloqua (Marketing Automation Tool)

HCL Technologies embarked upon a marketing transformation journey with marketing automation at the core of it. The goal was to increase marketing program effectiveness and provide a modern marketing experience by breaking the functional silos, better alignment of sales and marketing teams, enable continuous flow of quality leads and thereby increasing the volume of lead and conversion ratio. Post implementation of Eloqua, HCL experienced 40% increase in the average mail open rate, $ 752 Million funnel influence in the FY17, significant improvement in subscription rate due to centralized contact database management.

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

Gaurav Kakkar: 

  • For Entrepreneurs: It is very important for entrepreneurs to build their presence on digital platforms as they can connect with their customers on digital channels, they can leverage it to hire talented team and most important, they can connect with investors through the Digital Marketing platforms. Most successful entrepreneurs have also used Digital Marketing to hack the growth for their companies. Airbnb and Facebook have aggressively used Digital Marketing to acquire customer base at initial phase and now they have dedicated growth hacking teams.
  • For Marketing Professionals: There is a fundamental shift of consumers from traditional channels to digital channels. As per Global WebIndex’s media consumption report, 16-24-year-olds spend approximately 7.5 hours per day online with mobile devices. So, marketing professionals cannot even think about marketing  enablement without having a presence on Digital Marketing channels.
  • For Students: Social Media channels like LinkedIn has dedicated products for students which can help them search for a job, apply for higher education and get detailed information about the university for higher education. Students can also use the digital platforms to research about particular topic and get real time updates. Some of the students even use Digital Marketing platforms to connect with their mentors and to receive recommendations for the higher studies. 

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

Gaurav Kakkar: 

  • Learnability Skills
  • Past Achievements
  • Accountability
  • Collaborative Attitude
  • Innovative Skills

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

Gaurav Kakkar: 

  • Focus: Instead of focusing on learning everything about digital marketing, just focus on 1 or 2 areas. For example, you may focus on learning PPC or display media or organic search and once you understand one topic in depth, you can easily scale up to learn the other topics, as the basics remain the same. There is lot of demand of specific expertise within the industry.
  • ROI: At the beginning of the career start focusing on ROI. In case, you are working for an agency then it is very important to ensure that every dollar spent get measured and its ROI gets recorded. Gone are the days, when digital marketing was about impressions and buzz.
  • Agility: We are living in a dynamic world and it has also impacted the marketing. One of the basic requirement of good marketer is to be agile and respond to ever changing marketing ecosystem. 

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?

Gaurav Kakkar: I follow the following three sources to keep myself updated:

  • I regularly attend the conferences like ITSMA Marketing conference, Gartner marketing conference, Martech conferences & more.
  • Through the websites like Techcrunch, Forbes, Search Engine Land, Moz, Social Media Examiner, Mashable, KISSMetrics, Marketing Land
  • Through the Twitter feed of the influencers

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

Gaurav Kakkar: 

  • Avinash Kaushik
  • Nir Eyal – An author, educator, and entrepreneur. His book “Hooked” contains great concepts applicable to the digital marketing field.
  • Rand Fishkin

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How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2017?

Gaurav Kakkar: 

  • Contextual Personalization: According to Gartner: by 2018, organizations that have fully invested in all types of online personalization will outsell companies that have not by more than 30%. Gone are the days of mass marketing and welcome to the new age of personalized “1 to You” marketing. For B2B companies, it started with industry-based personalization (if the prospect from a particular industry visited the website, then the content of the website gets aligned as per the prospect’s industry). It was followed by account based personalization where the content is aligned as per the account of the prospect. The latest trend is the contextual personalization where artificial intelligence is playing an important role. Contextual personalization is based on the fact that every prospect visiting the website has his/her own objectives and this objective should be leveraged to contextualize their future visits.  Therefore, if the prospect from a particular company visits the website then he/she may get totally different experience as compared to other individual from the same company. Both the individuals will be served the content based on the earlier visit pattern or their intent This is contextual personalization and is one of the emerging trend which is going to change the way the content is being served to the visitors.
  • Live Video: Nowadays’ audiences are interested in understanding the product or service in real time. They want to engage with the marketers in real time and this has been made possible by companies like Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram Live. Live streaming enables the brands connect with the consumers, enables outreach of rich content and enables better interaction with the customers. The brand becomes more relatable, more real and more accessible.
  • Connecting offline and online world: Another emerging trend is enabling the continuity of the experiences by connecting the offline and online world. Earlier, if the consumer had an offline interaction with the brand and wanted to continue the interaction in the online mode; then it was not possible as there was no connectivity. But now, it is possible. Let’s assume that you are researching about a product and visit a physical store to get an idea about the size. And once you reach the store to feel the product, you may also want to read other customers’ reviews, rating and feedback. This  is now enabled by smartphones. Many retailers now allow the shoppers to scan the products using a smartphone app and read the product reviews.

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

Gaurav Kakkar: 

Digital Vidya has been the pioneer of Digital marketing education. The team has done great job of spreading awareness about digital marketing. Digital Vidya has enabled and empowered many individuals who have now become successful digital marketers. Those who are interested in building their career in digital marketing, Digital Vidya is the right platform.

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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1 Comment

  1. rishanku goyal

    Gaurav has always been such an inspiration and a source of supreme knowledge when it it comes to Digital marketing. I have been fortunate enough to get an opportunity to work under his direct guidance which exposed me to new facets of DM. keep spreading knowledge through your experience and kudos for this masterpiece.
    A GEM of an interview!!


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