Praval Singh

Vice President of Marketing at Zoho

Praval’s Perspective on the Challenges and Opportunities Present in the Content Marketing Space 

Content is getting increasingly complex with every passing moment. Currently, content is published in a plethora of formats and forms to reach the target audience. And with the injection of AI, the complexity is bound to surge further. How do these complexities affect a content marketer’s life? How does a content marketer/company team up with AI? 

Praval Singh, Vice President of Marketing at Zoho, shares his thoughts on the content marketing space in conversation with us about the challenges and opportunities of the present and the future of content marketing. 

1. Praval please reveal your journey in content marketing.

I have been with Zoho for over a decade now. Before joining Zoho, and two of my friends owned a small agency in Delhi, which we ran for about five years. My journey with Zoho has been diverse, and I have explored various roles related to product and product marketing.

For several years now, my team and I have been responsible for the Zoho brand's positioning, business growth, awareness, engagement, and content. Our office in Delhi/Noida is small, and the main headquarters are in Chennai. Overall, my experience with Zoho has been rewarding, and I am proud to have contributed to the growth and success of this amazing company.

2. How is a content marketer’s life at Zoho? 

One of the first things we advise new marketers in our company is to gain in-depth knowledge of the product they are working on. We firmly believe that creating content just for the sake of it is not helpful to anyone. However, since the product marketing role at Zoho involves creating a lot of content, including sales enablement material, long-form content, and social media copies, it becomes essential to work collaboratively with other teams to develop the best possible content.

This process requires close coordination and cooperation with various internal teams to ensure that the content created is of the highest quality and delivers real value to our customers. By focusing on creating meaningful and informative content, we can help our customers better understand the product, its benefits, and how it can meet their specific needs. As a result, we can create a more engaged and loyal customer base, which is critical to the long-term success of any business.

It's not about counting the number of words or the format in which you decorate a content piece. It's about whether you can add value or create content that is useful to a customer or a prospect.

3. What are their biggest pain points for content marketers? 

Over the years, content has become an integral part of creating a narrative, not just for positioning but also for messaging tailored to specific needs or channels. It has reached a point where being skilled in content creation is critical for success in product marketing roles. The evolution of product marketing has also contributed to this shift. In the past, product marketing was primarily a scientific function, but now there is a greater emphasis on creating creative content.

Today, creating compelling content is considered a vital skill set for product marketing professionals. The ability to craft messages that resonate with the target audience is essential to succeed in this field. In the past decade or so, the role of product marketing has evolved, and creativity now plays a more significant role. While it was once primarily a scientific function, today's product marketers must be able to create engaging and persuasive content that tells a story and captures the audience's attention. A lot of interesting new young people are joining us. We see immense potential in them, in the ability to create content. 

When you're able to add value to a customer’s life, that’s when there would be a sense of affinity that will develop between a prospect and a brand.

4. How are you enabling your teams for functions related to content production? 

At Zoho, we use a mix of internal and external tools for content creation, analytics, and research. Most of the tools we use are homegrown, including Zoho Writer for writing and collaboration software for team collaboration.

We even use our internal tools, such as our payroll system and email, for managing our business operations. For analytics, we have moved away from third-party tools and do not use any third-party cookies on our website. We have invested heavily in R&D, resulting in the development of many internal tools, from content creation to analytics. Although we still use some third-party tools for research, we rely mostly on our home-grown tools at Zoho.

To succeed as a product or content marketer, the recipe for success is to understand the product first, followed by the customers, their needs, and use cases, and then the market, including competitors.

5. What's your take on the AI aspect of the entire content creation industry? 

In my experience, I have tried various AI-led content creation tools, but I don't believe any of them can replace a human writer completely, at least not yet. Instead, I believe AI can assist and enhance good content writers to become even better writers. However, there are specific needs and use cases where AI can add value to upfront content creation, such as quickly generating a list of ad copies for a short ad campaign on social networks. But even in these cases, human intervention is necessary to refine and improve the generated content.

Overall, AI can save time and extend a marketer's reach, but it cannot replace the skills and creativity of a human copywriter. Instead, AI can add value by helping content marketers improve their writing and make their job easier. While we cannot predict what will happen in the future, I believe that for now, AI is a valuable tool for content marketers to leverage in their work.

6. If you're given the capability of designing your content marketing stack, what would that ideal marketing stack look like? 

As a content writer, the first thing I need when I sit down to write is a conviction about the topic. It's not something that can be baked into a stack or tool. Conviction comes from passion, interests, and affinity built around a specific domain. In my case, that domain is B2B SaaS software, and within that, there are different domains like sales, marketing, HR, and finance. Once I have the conviction, the next thing I need is a good environment to write, which includes the right resources, a good editor, and someone who can review my content. All of these put together make my job easier.

The hygiene stuff like spell checks and making sure the copy is clean is taken care of by a good editor. Then, a human being who can review my content ideally helps me refine my work. This could be my colleague, peer, or senior, or a third-party company. Once the content is ready, I need to move it into the right format and the right place quickly. It could be for a blog, research paper, PDF, or presentation, depending on where I want to publish it.

The stack for content creation includes everything from building conviction to moving the content into the right format and place. Although acquiring domain knowledge is not rocket science, building conviction is the harder part. That requires second and third-order thinking, which comes from reading, conversations, and meeting people. While there are mixes of things that different teams use, I'm not aware of a stack that ties everything together neatly.

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