Piyush Somani, MD and CEO, ESDS, talks about the changing trends in the Indian marketing landscape.
By Satyaki Sarkar
Piyush Somani, a first-generation entrepreneur, started ESDS in 2005, initially focused on outsourced hosting support. He then diversified its services by acquiring two hosting companies, in the UK and US. He then built a data centre in India, started co-hosting and data centre services in India, and went on to become a cloud service provider in India. A while back, ESDS acquired a US patent for its Enlight cloud, making it the only Indian company to have a cloud patent. Proficiency in core sales, marketing, and technology, along with years of experience, and meticulous research and studies have helped Piyush predict trends and market behaviour. Here he talks to us about customer loyalty, changing trends, and the importance of analytics and emotion in marketing.
Digital marketing versus traditional marketing?
“For most B2C business models, digital marketing plays a vital role nowadays. With the advent of online shopping and the boom in e-commerce, digital marketing is essential to ensure brand awareness through effective advertisements and offers. Digital marketing nowadays is primarily about getting to know customers and cater to their specific needs and desires. Social media has proven invaluable in this regard. However, for B2B business models, most of the marketing initiatives have to be traditional, offline marketing; where one connects to the businesses and decision makers directly, builds a relationship with them and reaches a significant comfort level with them, before conducting business. B2B requires a more hands-on approach when it comes to marketing, compared to B2C business models.”
How importance is getting to know your customers?
“For any kind of marketing, it is extremely important to know what your customers are looking at, what they want and need, and what catches their fancy. Customers need an excellent post-sales service, along with the best technology, which minimises the need for excessive manual intervention. It’s not just up to the moment of the sale, but even the service provided afterwards, which impacts a customer. For B2C marketing, people trust a brand only when it provides them with an authentic service. Meeting and exceeding a customer’s expectations when it comes to post-sales service, product quality, technology, relationship, and branding, as well as analysing what the customer wants, is paramount to successful marketing.”
How dependent are CMOs on data and analytics?
“For B2B and B2C marketing, knowing the behavioural patterns of customers, and how they are making decisions is extremely important for a CMO. It is the age of intelligent marketing, where it’s all about personalised marketing. So, data and analytics play a huge role in this regard. Using a variety of tools like Google Analytics, Webmaster, and Google AdWords one can gather a vast collection of data on one’s consumers. For B2C models, this is essential in successful marketing efforts. The data helps in creating an emotional connect with customers as well as measuring the audience reach. For B2B models, however, it’s a largely offline based, where some businesses are expected to come up with their requirements and only then can they be targeted. Advertising and brand awareness has very little, if any, impact on a B2B model.”
What is the importance of emotion in marketing?
“An emotional touch has started gaining more importance in this day and age. Earlier, companies would use well-known personalities to reach a customer. If you switched on your TV, every second advertisement would feature the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Katrina Kaif, or MS Dhoni, promoting a host of brands. However, if you notice the trend nowadays, it’s less to do with a celebrity and more to do with the message the ad conveys. From Fastrack to Bajaj to Cadbury, it’s more about conveying a message and invoking an emotion through the ad. Nowadays, a number of make in India companies have popped up, but still it’s a struggle for them to convince customers of their worth. On the other hand, foreign companies set up in the country have been doing much better comparatively, simply because of effective marketing and a solid connection with their customers. People are less worried about the price nowadays, as there are always other brands that have competitive offers at any point in time. And even if they have to pay 20-30 per cent more they would much rather settle for higher quality than lower price. A personal connection, on the other hand, has proved invaluable for a few Indian brands, which have managed to capitalise on the relationship with its customers. A very good example is that of Patanjali, which is succeeding massively simply because of the brand connection it invokes, and the huge following the company’s founder has. But the ironic thing is, that from marketing to production to advertisement, everything is done by Indians. However, the ideas and implementation of the foreign brands, as well as their service and quality of products, has been much better than their Indian counterparts.”
What are some of the major challenges for a marketer today?
“One of the major problems is that brand loyalty no longer exists. Earlier, if a person used Colgate toothpaste, he would go on using it for years, without bothering about other brands. However, nowadays people are more interested in experimenting with alternate options to find the one they like best, in terms of quality, price, and every other factor. Simply offering discounts is not enough, as customers can always find a better offer in the market. From quality assurance and competitive prices to consumer connection, there is a varied range of factors that drive a customer’s demand. So it is important to carefully consider the market, the customer trend, their budgets, as well as a plethora of other factors in order to drive an effective marketing operation, which has made measuring the return on investment extremely difficult.”
What’s your favourite part of the job?
“Customer appreciation is one of the best parts about marketing. Through exemplary post-sale service, high quality products, and effective marketing one can still manage to create a consumer base that appreciates and sticks with the brand. For example, the way that Google or Microsoft has created a place for themselves in the market through their exceptional service and products right from the start, no matter the kind of services they provide, means customers still prefer them over their alternatives. So, in simple words, in a market where brand loyalty no longer exists, it is when a company still manages to create it through their own efforts that make it truly rewarding for a marketer. When a brand manages to retain customers who have been with it for more than a decade, it is a sign that moving forward they can expect to not only gain a lot of new customers but also rely on their old ones to stick with it, for years to come.”