The Role of Process in Digital Marketing

photo of people doing handshakes
Photo by fauxels on

One of the benefits of working as a Digital Marketing consultant is the opportunity it provides of meeting a variety of interesting businesses, people and getting a chance to understand and help solve different problems. Over the past 18 months, I have been fortunate to have got the opportunity to analyse varied businesses and help them with their Digital Marketing and Growth Strategies. It’s been a great learning experience for me as well, trying to understand what could be some of the common reasons and opportunities for all these varied businesses.

There are a few reasons when businesses feel the need for an external consultant when it comes to Digital Marketing:

  • They have an idea and realise they need some expertise in developing an overall digital presence.
  • They have been in business for some time, have some degree of Product Market fit and now realise they need Digital Marketing to grow their business and take it to the next level.
  • They have been doing Digital Marketing for some time and would like an external pair of eyes to help them understand the true performance of their Digital Marketing and drive further efficiencies

One of the key learnings for me so far, having engaged with businesses in all of the above stages, is that, in most cases, the solution lies in the process.

Digital Marketing is a continuously evolving field. Channels come and go, as do tactics. What works well for one business in a particular context might not work for another. But one aspect that has really not changed is that it is a very data-driven field. And that, by necessity, requires businesses to have a strong process orientation to be successful.

What does this mean in practice?

Barriers to entry in Digital Marketing are low and keep dropping all the time, so almost anyone these days can start a Digital Marketing campaign from their computer in about 24 hours (or even less). This makes it very tempting to jump into a specific tactic headlong. However, just because execution is relatively simple and easy does not mean that one should not take the time to think through how one is going to evaluate the performance of their Digital Marketing. And this requires a Digital Marketing framework that includes the objectives, strategy, execution and measurement plan. And the first step in developing this framework is an in-depth understanding of the customer.

Once a business has some strong customer insights is when they can start developing their Digital Marketing strategy – what are the channels to leverage, how does one target the relevant audience, what is the content strategy and, most importantly, what are the measures of success?

The reason I emphasise the process aspect is because, very often, businesses might not have all the insights, or it might be very expensive and time-consuming exercise to get very accurate insights. What I recommend businesses is that it’s fine to not have all the insights, as long as one has put in place a process to gather insights quickly, translate these into hypotheses, create a plan to test these hypotheses, gather and analyse the data as close to real-time as possible and then make changes to their tactics and strategy based on these insights.

The point I want to emphasise is that there is no ‘magic bullet’ solution when it comes to Digital Marketing. Every business is unique. Customers might be common across multiple businesses, but the mindset they are in when it comes to interacting with brands might be very different across different brands. And, therefore, assuming that what works for someone else should work for you can be a dangerous assumption. It is always best to start from first principles, iterate, learn, tweak, learn some more and so on. And one requires a robust process mechanism to ensure that this happens as a matter of principle.

So do you have a process to do the above?

If you would like some help with setting one up, please do get in touch with me. I will be happy to help!

Monday Reads – 10/02

group of people making toast
Photo by fauxels on

A mix of tech, culture and food in this week’s collection:

Tech in 2020: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – What’s next in the world of tech, not that over 4 billion people have a smartphone? This is the question that tech analysts, Benedict Evans, attempts to answer in this presentation. A data point that was new to me – ‘China and India use more mobile data than the rest of the world combined‘.

Pop Culture’s Rate of Change May Mirror Organic Evolution – A fascinating research that compares the rates of evolution of certain cultural phenomena—pop music, automobiles, medical literature and 19th-century novels—with those of the scarlet tiger moth, the Darwin’s finches of the Galápagos Islands and two other well-studied creatures: a snail and another moth. And the conclusion is that “the evolutionary pace of modern culture is generally the same as that of many animal populations—which is to say, it is a lot slower than people think.

Inside Google’s Efforts to Engineer its Food for Healthiness – Almost everyone knows Google has a tech / data company. And almost everyone with some knowledge of the company would know that it’s very famous for its free food policy. I have been fortunate to have visited a couple of Google offices internationally. Our team would eagerly look forward to these visits as it was an opportunity to have the food there! This is an in-depth look at how Google is applying its famous policy of experimentation to get their employees, especially in the US, to eat healthier. “What Google is attempting here is culture change…And that’s the level we have to reach to transform behaviors and health for a lifetime.”


The Magic of Movies

palm trees near projection screen during nighttime
Photo by Roberto Nickson on

As a child, I was not a big fan of watching movies, especially in darkened movie halls. This changed when I went to college. The four years I spent in Pune while doing my Engineering degree went by in a blur of activities, not least of which was watching as many movies as possible in darkened movie halls of all shapes, sizes (and smells!).

This happened nearly three decades ago, well before the advent of smartphones and mobile data. Which meant that the only form of entertainment available to us were watching movies (and the occasional music concert). It also helped that movie tickets were ridiculously cheap in Pune in those days (less than Rs. 10, or $0.20). The fact that our hostel was located bang in the centre of the city also helped as we could walk to most of the movie halls. And these were almost always never planned decisions. The call would go out around 9:15 pm to round up the usual suspects. A short discussion to finalise the movie and we would be off to the theatre for the 9:30 pm ‘last show’. Fun days…

I continued watching movie regularly through the first few years of my working life. Again, I was lucky that I spent a few years in Bangalore in the early part of this millennium, when multi-screen theatres had still not come up. There was still a romance in going to old-fashioned single screen movie theatres like ‘Rex’ and ‘Plaza’.

It was when we had children that we, by necessity, had to cut down on watching movies in a movie hall. By then, the age of satellite TV was well established, so we could still catch up on movies from the comfort of our house. And now, with streaming media, we hardly watch movies on the big screen. And I can’t say that I really miss it.

Anyway, all of the above was just to set the context for the main story.

I just finished watching Disney’s ‘Dumbo’ with my young kids. We streamed it on our TV, as we typically do these days. I am lucky in that I have a decently sized TV connected to a good speaker system. It can never replace the experience of watching a movie in a movie hall, but it provides a reasonable decent ‘movie’ experience.

And I enjoyed watching this particular movie with my kids. The cinematography, background score and (some) good performances encapsulated, for me, the ‘magic’ that movies provide. It was fascinating to watch the effect of it on my kids. They have typically been watching animation movies so far. And the first few minutes tested their patience. ‘Too many bid people talking‘ was my daughter’s comment. But as the main character made his appearance, they started getting swept into the action. And by the finale, they were hooked.

Yes, the movie did not receive very favourable reviews, but for me (and my kids), it was a wonderful couple of hours spent.

How is Design Impacting your User Experience?

Juice Dispenser

I have been fortunate to have worked closely with graphic designers during the course of my Digital Marketing career. I am primarily a data-driven performance oriented marketer, but I do have a keen interest in art and design. I might not be able to draw to save my life, but I can appreciate aesthetics and good design.

But this post is not about web design or UX Design. It is, unfortunately, a bit of a rant triggered by a few observations of items that I use daily.

The first exhibit I would like to present is the image above. I am sure you will agree that it’s a very aesthetically pleasing design. I was observing people consuming juice from this dispenser at my co-working place. I guess it must be very obvious what the design flaw is about this dispenser. Yes, the tap is placed not at the very bottom, but a few centimetres above. And, as you might have guessed, it means that a good amount of juice at the bottom of the dispenser cannot be extracted easily. Surely, the better design would have been to move the tap closer to the bottom. Yes, it might not be as aesthetically pleasing as the current design, but, surely, far more practical and useful?

Mobile Phone

The second exhibit is my mobile phone. Without revealing the brand, it is a standard design for a smartphone with a relatively large screen. No physical buttons anywhere on the front, but it has a power button on the right towards the top and volume levers across this on the left. These are both fairly well designed ergonomically. Except for one irritating flaw. If I am holding the phone with both hands, as one does fairly regularly, then I have discovered that there is no way I can switch off the display without pressing the volume lever on the opposite side. And pressing both these switches simultaneously triggers the screenshot capture. I have lost count of the screenshots I have taken when I meant to switch off the display. Again, I am sure there must be a way I can programme it such that pressing the two switches together does not trigger a screenshot capture. But it is too much effort to research and act on. So I just grumble whenever this happens, delete the image and move on.


The third exhibit is another device that I use almost daily – my laptop. And the irritating piece of design is very similar to my mobile phone. The power charging socket of the laptop is on the right, at the very top of the keyboard close to the screen hinge. And on the left hand side of the keyboard, towards the middle is the power button. Every time I use my left hand to firmly hold the laptop as I insert the charging socket using my right hand, my fingers on the left hand brush against the power button, putting the laptop to sleep. Which means that I have to remember to pay close attention when I am doing a mundane activity such as connecting the power charger to my laptop. Something that I will be happy to do without really thinking about it.

For sure, these are not critical flaws affecting the usability of the products (except the first one). But when one is a regular user of these products, these flaws can prove to be a cause of irritation. I might not change these products due to this flaw, but I will definitely consider other brands when I am purchasing my next phone or laptop.

This leads me to wonder – why is it that such large and leading brands have such basic design flaws? Is it that they are not aware of the existence of these flaws? I am sure they must be doing User Experience Testing as part of the Product Design process. Is it that they have not tested for these use cases? Or is it that they are aware of it but decide to let it slide as there is no simple solution for it? Irrespective of the real reason, it feels like they could probably do with being more ‘customer obsessed‘.


Monday Reads – 03/02

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

We are into the second month of the new decade already! It’s been an interesting weekend, especially in sports, with the Australian Open Finals and the Super Bowl, not to mention the Six Nations Rugby.

This weeks’ articles focus on culture in tech.

Social Capital in Silicon Valley – A very interesting read on what really makes Silicon Valley the centre of tech innovation and entrepreneurship.  “Silicon Valley works the way it does, as successfully as it does, because it has a rich social contract that governs everyone’s behaviour. Without that social contract, Silicon Valley tech becomes just another industry, or just another bubble.”

Some More Reflections On Silicon Valley – A continuation on the above theme, but a more personal and direct take on the culture in Silicon Valley.

How do Indian entrepreneurs differ from their Silicon Valley counterparts? – India has a much shorter history when it comes to tech start-ups. This article touches upon some of the ways the culture within the Indian start-up ecosystem differs from Silicon Valley’s.

How Startup Culture In India Differs From The U.S. – Some more points of differences.

The Indian Startup Circus – A no-holds-barred look at some of the stuff that does not get discussed much about (at least in public) when it comes to Indian start-up culture.