Nikhil Davda

Marketing Head At Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd

The Modern Marketing Maze: Addressing Pain Points and Embracing Possibilities With Nikhil Davda

In today's dynamic and ever-evolving landscape, the realm of marketing is both a playground of possibilities and a battleground of challenges. As technology advances and consumer behaviors shift, marketers find themselves navigating through uncharted territories, seeking opportunities to engage their audience while grappling with an array of pain points.

From harnessing the power of data to the emergence of AI-driven solutions, the marketing sphere is undergoing a transformation that demands constant adaptation and innovation.

In this conversation, Agam Mathur, who heads Business and Partnerships at Pepper Content is joined by Nikhil Davda Marketing Head At Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd as they discuss all this and more.

Here are some excerpts.

1. Tell us about your journey so far.

Marketing entered my life unexpectedly, almost by chance. I studied it, but soon realized it wasn't where my true passion lay. Marketing seemed like one of those things you just do without much thought. Whether it was a calculated move or sheer luck, I've had the privilege of diving into diverse segments with every job I've taken. From my debut with energy drinks, working at Red Bull, to shaping various retail formats at Future Group, then venturing into uncharted territory with India's inaugural theme park, UHA Magica, and later immersing myself in the beauty and salon industry, and now, the world of real estate with Mahindra.

Each step has been refreshingly different. What has truly resonated with me, and what I've consistently infused into every role, is a profound connection to business. Recognizing my strength in this arena, I've come to understand that at the heart of it all, marketing must be tightly intertwined with driving business growth. Whether it's crafting products, optimizing service delivery, or any other aspect, the bottom line is always the business numbers.

This philosophy has underpinned my journey, fueling my efforts to enhance customer lifetime value, expand market reach, and elevate average revenue per user, tailored to the specific industry's needs. Whether I was strategizing for retail or energizing Red Bull, the essence was the same – ensuring the right product price, introducing novel offerings, and driving those essential repeat visits. It's about boosting the bottom line and exceeding targets, whether it's through encouraging more frequent theme park visits or increasing the average spend in a salon.

These roles I've embraced, they're not just about marketing – they're about leveraging marketing to fuel business performance. This, in a nutshell, encapsulates my journey.

2. How has marketing evolved and what will be its future impact?

In my view, marketing is intrinsically tied to understanding consumers, and since consumers are essentially people like us, their psychology remains a constant factor.

A former manager of mine articulated this brilliantly: every consumer decision starts as an emotional one, and the rationalization comes afterward.

Take purchasing a Mac laptop or a car, for example – these choices are emotionally driven, backed by calculations but ultimately guided by intuition. Subsequently, we justify our choices with logic and share these justifications with others. Even in scenarios like buying a home, we focus on its positive aspects when discussing it with guests, despite recognizing its flaws internally.

The evolution in marketing lies in how people consume information, gain knowledge and apply it to their decisions. With the surge in digital consumption, terms like "digital transformation" have gained prominence. As we spend more time on digital platforms, content consumption increases, and these platforms become more advertiser-friendly.

A classic example is how an MBA program ad, once placed in newspapers, can now be precisely targeted to potential candidates through platforms like Instagram or Facebook. While this precision benefits effectiveness, there's a balance to strike since an overemphasis on performance can erode brand value.

Two significant trends are digital transformation and the rise of social media and influencers.

Essentially, the landscape of marketing follows where people spend their time, and our task as marketers is to align with those spaces to reach our target audience effectively.

Platforms like LinkedIn and YouTube constantly engage users with new content, often incentivizing content creators. This content, in turn, influences and engages users, leading to the creation of influencers. Businesses then tap into these influencers as a marketing avenue.

3. What does your ideal marketing stack look like?

In my opinion, while there's no universal marketing stack that fits all, there are several essential components crucial for today's business landscape.

An ideal marketing stack is tailored to business needs, encompassing CRM, automation, analytics, ORM, SEO, and content tools.

Let's delve into the four or five key areas that I consider imperative due to the changing consumer behavior and the evolving digital realm.

Firstly, a robust CRM tool is fundamental. It's the cornerstone for collecting and organizing consumer data, including history and interactions. Tools like Salesforce, Zoho, and HubSpot are invaluable for effective communication and data analysis.

Next, automating communication channels is paramount. Platforms like SMS, email, and WhatsApp have become vital for engagement. Utilizing tools such as Haptic, Netcore, and others can streamline planning and scheduling, enhancing the efficiency of consumer interaction.

Analytics cannot be overlooked. Employing tools like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics for monitoring website performance and campaign insights is essential to fine-tune strategies and stay ahead of trends.

Online Reputation Management (ORM) tools are another underestimated necessity. Especially on platforms like Twitter, addressing complaints promptly is crucial. ORM tools with quick response times are vital for maintaining a positive brand image.

Lastly, I emphasize the integration of content and SEO efforts. Often, teams handling content and SEO operate independently, missing out on synergy. Bridging this gap is crucial as they both contribute significantly to a brand's online presence. SEO, in particular, demands attention, and tools like SEMrush and Moz can aid in achieving a solid online ranking.

In this ever-evolving landscape, keeping an eye on emerging trends and staying adaptable is key. The synergy between these tools can shape a successful marketing stack that aligns with a brand's goals and maximizes its digital reach.

4. How do you define great content and what strategy should marketers follow to create effective content?

In my view, defining great content involves the three E's: engaging, entertaining, and educating. For content to be considered great, it must fulfill at least one or even two of these aspects. It's essential that the content aligns with the brand and provides value to the audience by solving problems or addressing their needs.

Creating an effective content strategy follows a structured approach. The first step is pinpointing the target audience, which is crucial. Then, it's imperative to establish clear success metrics. Defining what success looks like for your content is key to measuring its impact accurately. Conducting an audit of past content performance helps in identifying patterns and insights that can inform your strategy moving forward.

Subsequently, thorough research is essential to understand what resonates with your audience and what works within your industry. Crafting a content calendar comes next, incorporating timely topics, business events, and product launches. Selecting the right communication channels and media types is critical; quality over quantity is the motto here. Assembling the right team or collaborators to generate engaging and educative content is challenging but vital.

Finally, ongoing monitoring and optimization are crucial. No one can predict what will resonate perfectly, so constant refinement based on data analysis and A/B testing is essential. The entire process is cyclical, requiring continuous adaptation and improvement to craft content that consistently performs well and delivers value.

5. How do you view the evolving role of AI in marketing and its future implications?

When considering the evolving role of AI in marketing, it's crucial to understand that AI involves machines performing tasks that require human intelligence. These tasks encompass areas such as speech translation, content creation, and various other functions that typically rely on human thinking. Each AI specializes in a specific task, much like the multiple AIs that come together to enable a self-driving car.

AI's integration into marketing isn't necessarily a threat to jobs but rather an opportunity to enhance efficiency and productivity.

Just as calculators evolved into Excel, and Excel further streamlined tasks, AI can enable marketers to focus on higher-order thinking and strategic decision-making. Tools that generate content or assist in demand forecasting and price optimization are becoming more prevalent, freeing up valuable time for more complex and creative work.

AI should be seen as a supportive ally, freeing up time and resources to concentrate on tasks that require human intuition, creativity, and complex reasoning. While AI-driven automation can handle repetitive tasks and data analysis, the unique problem-solving capabilities of human intelligence remain irreplaceable. The future lies in the synergy of human expertise combined with AI's capabilities, leading to greater effectiveness and efficiency across various domains, including marketing.

6. Could you shed light on the critical pain points faced by marketers in the current landscape?

Certainly, in the current landscape, marketers are grappling with a significant challenge – the data overload syndrome. With an abundance of data available, there's a tendency to overanalyze and overcomplicate matters.

It's vital to focus on relevant metrics and not get lost in circles of calculations. Instead of trying to predict every outcome based on extensive data, honing in on a specific set of metrics for accurate insights is key to effective decision-making.

Another challenge I've observed is the pressure for hyper-personalization. While personalization is important, not everything needs to be personalized to an extreme degree. It's essential to strike a balance and prioritize personalization where it truly matters, rather than succumbing to the anxiety that everything must be tailored individually. By identifying which aspects genuinely require personalization, marketers can ensure a more efficient and effective strategy.

The evolving technology landscape poses yet another pain point. The plethora of available tools often leads to conflicts between marketing and IT teams, struggling to integrate various platforms seamlessly. Ensuring that different tools communicate effectively and harmoniously can be an ongoing challenge.

Moreover, the rapid pace of changing trends adds complexity, causing marketers to question whether they're adapting quickly enough. Striking the right balance between embracing new trends and maintaining a strategic focus becomes crucial to navigate this landscape successfully. Lastly, the marriage of content and SEO deserves greater attention. While managed by separate teams, aligning content creation and SEO strategies can yield more powerful results and optimize online visibility and engagement.

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