Interview with Shahana Sen Mishra, Head of Marketing-Brand & Digital, TATA Tele Business Services

9 Min Read. |

Pradeep Chopra, Co-Founder, Digital Vidya: Digital Marketing is one of the most lucrative industries. The Digital Marketing domain is dynamic in nature with frequent updates & changes. As a digital marketer, you need to continuously update yourself as per those frequent updates so that you stay in this intense digital marketing competition and do not lag behind. In this interview, I spoke up with Shahana Sen Mishra to know her views and significant approach towards Digital Marketing & its expanding dimensions.

With a cumulative work experience of 18 years, across B2B & B2C segments, Shahana has had the opportunity to manage multiple facets of marketing. In her role as Head- Marketing for Tata’s Enterprise Business, she manages all initiatives related to brand (ATL & BTL), content (product, communication, thought leadership), digital (web, portals, ORM, tools, analytics), demand generation (campaigns, SEO, SMM, SEM), consumer insights (feedback, NPS, competition tracking, market share), ground activations (road-shows, events, meets, channel partner branding).

Digital plays a very important role. From 5% of overall marketing budgets being allocated to digital, 5 years back to about 55% today, the significance & contribution of RoI from digital initiatives has come a long way.

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?

Shahana Sen Mishra: Conventional marketing holds its own in many ways. It works well for local targeting. The older TG relates to conventional channels better.

Promotional material like brochures make for good recall medium & of course, there is a lot that can be re-used. Conventional marketing also allows for a larger reach across many demographics.

In the past few years, the rate of acceptance of digital media as a preferred mode of consumption by the audience & increasing apportioning of media budgets by marketers to digital cousins is definitely encroaching on the viability of conventional marketing channels.

Having said that, these channels are best leveraged when they feed off one another… much like a symbiotic relationship.

Till such time people like me prefer reading the morning newspaper over a cup of tea, I think conventional marketing will survive, even though it may feel neglected every time I peek into my phone, for real-time digital updates!

Share about your 3 favourite Integrated Marketing case studies. What did you like most about them?

Shahana Sen Mishra:

(i) MailChimp: Did you mean MailChimp

What I like most is the brazen and unconventional approach they took. They never lost track of the objective of creating ‘mass brand awareness’.

They played on the ‘curiosity’ of the audience to the hilt & engaged by creating 9 other fake brands, that ultimately led to MailChimp page.

Even though visitors got a little bit more information as to what MailChimp does, they don’t say what products or services they actually offered.

They only stated their moto and how they can help people. If visitors were interested to find out more, they had to click on the “Learn more about MailChimp” button.

(ii) Ikea: Where Life Happens

What I liked about the campaign was the fact that they took a different perspective. Instead of showing shiny, happy people, Ikea chose to show how people cope in tough situations.

They highlight the more mundane, and often uncomfortable, points in real life and showcased how Ikea could be a part of their lives, in both good & bad times.

They looked at common Google search queries in Sweden related to relationship problems, selected products that could come close to solving them, renamed them with those search queries in mind, and added them to the Retail Therapy site. Eg. A dishwasher that has been named My Girlfriend Won’t Do the Dishes.

(iii) GoPro: Be a Hero

I love the fact that Go Pro has positioned itself not as a camera seller but as someone who helps you capture an experience. And, with this campaign, it actually involved customers and created massive user-generated content, which furthers the campaign.

Originally targeted for extreme athletes, it has very successfully captured the imagination of regular users.

The theme “Be a HERO” was used to score one of the top ads of the year by using a firefighter’s original GoPro video, proving that when you have a strong brand message, even user-generated content will represent your campaign and make it successful.

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

Shahana Sen Mishra:

(i) Getting drowned in data without a focus on what one is trying to solve!

The amount of data available to today’s marketer unprecedented opening opportunities to make tremendous improvements.

However, the flip side is that it is easy to get lost in chasing data points that are interesting but ultimately provide no actionable insight.

(ii) Spending more time & resources on push than pull

Often pressures on ROI, push organizations to use digital marketing more like a performance marketing tool, with focus on direct acquisitions.

It is proven that in the long run, unless customers start finding value & start coming in via inbound modes, just push will prove to be expensive & ultimately ineffective.

It is well worth the effort to become the go-to source for your niche and share every ounce of available knowledge with your audience.

(iii) Creating content without a clear objective of converting

Well-written content is only useful if it serves a purpose. It is important to note that any content that doesn’t evoke a click or a desired action, is not really doing anything for the overall marketing efforts.

It’s tough but important to ensure that content is not only relevant & customer-centric but also connects with the right customer at the right time. If one does not address this, very soon one would realize that a lot of money, time & effort has gone into content marketing, without any business benefits.

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

Shahana Sen Mishra: There is no clear cut answer to this. It really depends on the nature of the business, resources & expertise available.

Having said that, I personally would lean towards an in-house team since it provides for better control, in-depth understanding of the business, ownership, faster turn-around-time and better utilization of resources.

However, it may be tough to tick all boxes related to expertise, continuous up-skilling, ability to scale, access to tools & platforms and ability to apply best practices from cross-industry learning.

In such a scenario, I would recommend keeping a large part of the strategy & analytics in-house & outsource the execution of digital plans and have a portion of payout as a variable component, linked with business KPIs. A good partner can add a lot of value & truly augment business output.

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

Shahana Sen Mishra: The best way to do this is to get all stake-holder buy-ins.

Here the stakeholders would be the senior leadership, employees, partners/ associates & of course the customers. Focused & concerted efforts need to be implemented to get all stakeholders aligned to the growing relevance of digital initiatives.

(i) For the senior leadership, ROI led initiatives to need to be highlighted with clearly defined target versus returns using digital initiatives. In some cases, reverse mentoring can also help.

(ii) Employees need to be continuously educated & up-skilled on relevant digital tools & platforms. There is a big opportunity of using employee endorsements & social influence. We have launched a special ‘DQ’ (digital quotient) initiatives to increase the combined DQ level of the entire employee community.

(iii) Partners need to be handheld & inducted into the fold. We have created digital kits & training programs for our partner community to learn & grow with us. This helps not only build awareness & acceptance of digital influence, but also loyalty & accountability.

(iv) Customers are both initiators & recipients of digital interventions. It is imperative to keep them at the centre & both learn as well as educate them on the new initiatives that the organization takes. Eg- our online ‘self-serve’ portal helped our customers to process their service-related requirements in a completely different manner than they were doing just a couple of years back!

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

Shahana Sen Mishra:

(i) For Entrepreneurs

For most entrepreneurs, marketing per se gets ignored in their early days, since it involves spends and that gets considered as a liability.

Digital marketing gives one the option of trying out small pilots rather than investing big amounts and then hoping for results, once the spends have commenced.

Digital Marketing is both an art & science that allows for a level playing field, especially for small & growing organizations. It allows for newer organizations to leverage best practices fast & implement them faster.

(ii) For Professionals

Today, no business can stay isolated from digital presence. Even brick & mortar companies need to be discovered, and most of the discovering is shifting to digital platforms.

So, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist understand the importance of digital marketing. In my own experience of handling marketing over several years, I have seen days where only 5% of my budgets were aligned to digital activities.

Now, with over 60% of my spends being on digital, I cannot afford to learn & continuously up-skill my digital marketing knowledge.

(iii) For Students

For any aspiring Marketer, learning about digital marketing is a must. As organizations are charting the route to digital transformation, so are their efforts on sales & marketing.

Businesses need to be where the consumers are, & consumers are rapidly adopting digital platforms as their preferred place of consumption. This means marketers need to be there too. And, not just be there, but also understand how best to approach customers, showcase value, stand out and attract attention.

Students not only need to learn what is relevant today but need to keep pace with the rapid developments that the field of digital marketing is going through.

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

Shahana Sen Mishra:

(i) Hands on experience of running campaigns online

(ii) Inclination towards self-learning & skill upgrading

(iii) A mix of creative & analytical abilities

(iv) Good communication & visual storytelling

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

Shahana Sen Mishra: Get into it & get your hands dirty. The best way to learn is to get hands-on & do it yourself. Keep your skills updated & read & learn relentlessly.

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?

Shahana Sen Mishra: I try & keep myself updated by reading blogs, having constant interactions with partners/ players in the digital ecosystem, enrolling in specific courses (on topics where I want in-depth knowledge), attending tech meets, knowledge sharing with peers.

I follow Neil Patel, Marketing Profs, Hubspot & HBR to name a few.

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

Shahana Sen Mishra: There are a lot of accomplished marketers out there, who have not only done great work but have also shared lots of learnings. I personally follow- Neil Patel, Larry Kim & Ann Handley.

How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2019?

Shahana Sen Mishra: Digital media will get more and more accountable. It will have to. So, analytics & ROI linked models will become more important than ever. Some of the trends I see catching steam are-

(i) AI & machine learning led platforms & services

(ii) Voice/ video search & analytics

(iii) Augmented & virtual reality

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

Shahana Sen Mishra: When I first started my digital journey a few years back, I looked towards Digital Vidya (DV) to help me get on the bandwagon. And, I wasn’t disappointed. DV helped me build a solid foundation on which I have layered much new skill since. The faculty is good and hands on. I wish DV all the best to keep the good work going!

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 :).

Register for FREE Digital Marketing Orientation Class
Date: 23rd Jan, 2021 (Sat)
Time: 11 AM to 12:30 PM (IST/GMT +5:30)
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