Technologies make it easier for marketing leaders because all decisions are data-driven and one can easily gauge the impact of each marketing initiative
This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Ankur Dasgupta, VP – India/ APJ Marketing & Communications and Global CSR, NTT DATA Services
How did you plan your career path to be a successful marketing leader?
My original goal was to earn an MBA, so I chose finance because I felt it would give me important perspectives on sales and marketing. I also chose accounting as my major. During my first year at college, I discovered GMAT, GRE, and TOEFL preparation books, which I found incredibly enjoyable. I then completed a three-year communications course to hone my communication skills, which would be crucial for sales and marketing.
My first job was in sales with a design firm. That helped me understand how to manage business relationships and run a business effectively. Next, I joined an Indian multinational, where I excelled in institutional sales and selling services. I identified new opportunities, helped expand into new markets, and formed a strategic partnership with a Swiss client, which allowed me to reach a wide swath of clients. I then founded a presales business before moving into marketing, where I have been for the last 18 years.
What challenges did you face in your career path, and how did you overcome them?
When I started my career, IT was nascent, and Internet exposure was limited. This was a challenge of the time, unlike today when children are seemingly born with computing devices in their hands. So, to grasp the Internet better and gain knowledge about IT, I enrolled in an elective course that taught the fundamentals of computers and some basic coding.
Two recessions presented other major challenges—first the dot-com bubble that burst in 2000–2001 and then the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007–2009 that blew up into the Great Recession. Though the companies I worked for survived these downturns, the broader industry at that time could not capitalise on some opportunities like e-commerce and cloud computing. Thinking back, if some of these companies had been more persistent and bullish in their financial management and had embraced disruption and uncertainty the way many companies do today, the industry itself would have matured sooner. Of course, the best course is always more obvious in hindsight.
Another way to get over major crises is to strengthen yourself—learn new skills, improve your financial acumen, and continue to consume knowledge so you can spot patterns and trends that you can use to your advantage.
How do you plan to promote your company’s technology and technology products?
I’m focused on current business needs and long-term technology trends. For example, the application of digital technologies to marketing has been great for companies and for the field of marketing itself. In previous times, marketing lacked a tangible way to demonstrate return on investment (ROI). However, digital tools allow you to determine whether your campaign, email, video, pay-per-click, or paid social media was a success or a failure.Being able to quantify results is a big advantage for demonstrating your success.
Secondly, I’m focused on enhancing organisational reputation and identifying key individuals who can serve as brand ambassadors. It’s also important to focus on people. In my current organisation, one of the initiatives I’ve consistently worked to advance is employee engagement. This is because when employees work contentedly and with personal passion, they can accomplish a lot for the company while advancing their own careers.
Another way is by highlighting the company culture. This builds trust with our clients while also inspiring our employees to always act in the best interests of the company.
How can marketing leaders implement marketing technologies, and what would be their benefits for their organisations?
In a tech company, implementing various marketing technologies like CRM, content management, analytics, and campaign management is relatively easy. But mastering MarTech and digital tools to reach your clients using the right messages and channels is challenging. So, you need to constantly build your digital marketing skills by attending seminars and events, collaborating with marketing colleagues who are implementing digital marketing campaigns, and learning from them.
These technologies also make it easier for marketing leaders because all decisions are data-driven and one can easily gauge the impact of each marketing initiative. Even if an initiative doesn’t succeed, the campaign generates solid, tangible data that can be used to act differently the next time.
What are the challenges faced by marketing leaders today while implementing technologies in marketing?
In an IT organisation, implementing technology is relatively simple. You are surrounded by technology, tools, and data. Because you work in such an environment, you understand how to harness technology and use lateral thinking to solve problems.
In essence, today, every organisation needs to view itself as a tech organization. Even a company that produces fertiliser or food grain should view itself as a tech company because tech acts as a catalyst for growing an industry even as it helps grow the organisation itself. To grow in the digital world, organisations must become tech-enabled. Even revenue falls under the purview of technology since R&D, product planning, advertising and promotions, pricing, and CRM are all areas where technology can create a competitive edge.
How can marketing leaders overcome the challenges faced?
First, you must have a clear-eyed analysis and understanding of what the challenges are. Then you need to hire people who are astute with digital technologies. They typically possess a higher level of technology than your typical techies. Finally, marketers who have been using traditional methods like newspapers, billboards, and TV or radio also need to learn digital marketing and social selling. This balance between conventional and digital learning requires constant learning and consuming new information to gain knowledge.
Any best practices, industry trends, or advice you’d give to fellow marketing leaders to help them succeed in their careers?
It’s important to hire employees who have deeper skill levels than you. I say I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room because my goal is to be surrounded by smart people. Teams drive individual success. Also, always keep in mind that you should strive to lead any change from the front. Since you develop the organization’s voice and brand, you are defining the organisation. Finally, have trust in the team you’ve built.
Anything else that you would like to highlight?
I’ve realised that change is constant, so I embrace it. Each time a downturn occurs, remember “This too shall pass,” because everything does eventually pass. So, always strive to see the bigger picture. If there are rocky coasts or dangerous seas, the only stable element is the lighthouse. Why not strive to be the beacon that shines in that lighthouse?
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