Surya Narayanan on the Evolution of Content Marketing in India
Content marketing has become an increasingly important strategy for businesses around the world, and India is no exception. As the country's digital landscape continues to evolve and mature, companies are turning to content marketing as a powerful tool for engaging with their target audience and driving business growth. With the rise in digital marketing, brands are looking to engage with their audience using personalized and targeted sales and marketing channels.
To shed some light on this topic, we had the pleasure of speaking with Surya Narayanan, a seasoned professional who has been instrumental in driving the growth and success of one of India's leading amusement park and resort chains. In this interview, we'll be discussing Surya's insights on content marketing, his take on how it has evolved over the years, and the future that lies ahead for this industry.
1. Please introduce yourself.
I am Surya Narayanan, the Head of Marketing and Growth at Wonderla Holidays, the #1 Amusement Park Operator in India. Wonderla Amusement Park has been ranked No 1 in India and No 7 in Asia by TripAdvisor for 4 consecutive years.
I have been in the industry for over two decades and have seen it grow in terms of the marketing channels and avenues that have got added ever since the shift from offline to online truly began. Prior to joining Wonderla Holidays, I worked with ANSR as the Director of Marketing and Growth, and with Hungama Digital Services as the Head of Business.
2. How do you see content marketing?
Content marketing involves creating and distributing valuable and relevant content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, with the ultimate goal of driving profitable customer action. This can take many forms, including blog posts, videos, social media updates, infographics, e-books, and more.
The major challenge today is understanding the definition of content marketing. Content marketing is typically a strategy that is focused on attracting, engaging, retaining, and selling to your target audience using specific content.
What makes content marketing so effective is that it provides customers with useful information and helps establish a brand as a trusted authority in its field. By creating content that educates, informs, and entertains, businesses can build strong relationships with their audience, foster engagement and loyalty, and ultimately drive conversions and revenue.
"The first social network was a campfire. In ancient times, the person who got the most attention or likes was looked up to and got better materials, resources, etc. The same is the case today with brands on social media, where Likes and Comments are the new currency."
3. How important is quality when we create content?
There is no objective score when it comes to content. The only way to test quality is to put something out and then look at the metrics like a read-through metric, bounce rate, engagement, clickthrough rate, and others. So this is more of a post-facto strategy rather than trying to speculate how content would work.
I believe that the key to defining quality is to know the right KPI. Using this KPI, we can use our existing content or campaign to understand what worked, and what can be done better, and use this to improve the quality of your content.
4. What is the importance of content in your media plan?
The importance of content in a media plan cannot be overstated, as it is a critical factor in determining the success of any marketing or advertising campaign. Content plays a significant role in capturing the attention of potential customers, building brand awareness, and influencing consumer behavior.
We look at content through three simple buckets:
Are we reaching the right people?
Are we reaching these people at the right time?
Are we providing the right message?
These buckets are crucial to help us define what content we need to create and answer some of the key questions like who, why, what, where, and when. Moreover, content can also play a critical role in driving SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and improving a company's search engine ranking. By optimizing content for relevant keywords and topics, businesses can increase their online visibility and attract more organic traffic to their website.
5. At Wonderla Holidays, how do you handle the churn rate?
Churn rate is a common problem for most brands, and this is seen mostly in the travel industry. For example, every group of friends wants to plan a trip to Goa. When the idea is first proposed, everyone is enthusiastic and interested. However, as the group starts finalizing a date or venue, the churn begins. One friend will drop out because the date is not ideal, another because of the budget, and some will drop out because, although the plan sounds fantastic, they are not yet ready to commit to it. Because of this, the Goa trip rarely manifests.
To reduce churn rates, we are an extremely data-driven organization. We use a strategy that is based on providing the right incentive or push for the audience at the right time. This could be a discount to a customer who has viewed our trip but did not take the next step or a targeted email to increase the chances of winning the deal.
Another strategy is to implement loyalty programs that incentivize customers to continue using the company's products or services. This can include rewards programs, exclusive discounts, and other perks that encourage customers to remain loyal.
"What makes you stand out is how you build excitement for your audience using your content."
6. How do you see AI tools like ChatGPT and others playing a role in the future of content marketing?
I am happy doing mundane tasks with ChatGPT while I have an editor or a skilled resource work on the high-end task or doing the more efficient work.
At the current stage, it is very hard to predict how much or how well AI will be used in the industry. In the current stage, we are taking AI tools to solve a specific use case.
For example, in particular stages of the customer journey, we need quick responses to FAQs or chat queries. Here, we want content that is targeted, relevant, and generated in a short span. That is where chatbots or ChatGPT can be leveraged to help with research or come up with a faster turnaround time.
For blogs, long-form articles, or newsletters, it can also be used for research and to automate a few steps. E.g. for a blog, it takes a long time to research and build the framework. But with ChatGPT, we can get a first draft or structure for the article in a matter of seconds. This can be used to make the process more efficient, but it is hard to predict how well it can replace a human being altogether.
We still need humans to create puns, engaging, and impactful content or copy that appeals to the target audience. As an example, ChatGPT or even Google Translate for that matter can translate a basic English or Hindi sentence. But when it comes to a cosmopolitan audience that enjoys wordplay and 'Hinglish' content, the use of ChatGPT at the current stage is limited. This is where we need creative professionals who can create taglines or ad copy that is appealing to the specific needs of the audience. Or even translators who do not just translate word-to-word but even add local flavor to it by thinking about the content from scratch. It is only then that the output appeals to the audience.
7. What are the problem statements in content marketing today?
The biggest challenge in content is measurement. A subset of that is whether we can predict what content will work well and what won’t. So if we have a system that can measure content quality, KPI, and impact, that’s the first step to creating a solid content marketing strategy.
The second is understanding how we can do consistent, high-quality content. For example, we can use a content calendar or define a content framework to help us create consistent content that is relevant to the target audience. But to get the same consistency and quality of content is still not so easy and takes some effort from the brand and the content creators.
The third is getting a contextual understanding of what questions people are asking and what they mean. By understanding what is in the mind of the audience, we can create micro-content that helps us create content that resonates with the audience.
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