Sramana Mitra: Could you take an example of one or two clients and walk me through the specific functions they are outsourcing with you, and what kind of organization you build for them? What systems and processes are being tackled in your organization as part of the CMO’s extension?
Venkat Viswanathan: I can give you some context for how this works. For instance, one of our clients is Microsoft. It is a portfolio of multiple consumer and business-to-business brands. They have their online business, which is broadly consumer targeted. Then they have the gaming business, which is again broadly consumer targeted. And they have the enterprise software business, which is broadly B2B. They have challenges all the time in terms of the measurement aspects I talked about, which is about making sure they are spending their marketing dollars most effectively. How do we measure the returns on marketing investment? How do we build brands on social media platforms, and how well are we doing compared to the competition? How do we run campaigns and understand their impact? How do we link in to customer feedback on these campaigns – how do we run surveys and get back results from those surveys?
These were challenges that marketing leaders in the organization faced. One of the models they are looking at is how to partner with a third-party organization in addition to using their own pool of in-house analysts to work toward an extension of their internal teams, work in a dedicated manner for their business, and work toward each of these problems in a business cycle. This is how they plan their work and how their internal reporting works.
If we had to drill down one more level, let’s take social media. Let’s take a brand like Bing or MSN, which are part of Microsoft’s online business. They want to be able to understand how much buzz they are creating, how it compares to their competition, what specific issues people are talking about from a use perspective of their product – which are positive and which are not positive? And how to interpret all this in a fashion intelligible to humans so they can come up with a plan and make course corrections. I use the idea of “human-intelligible fashion” deliberately, because there are a lot of tools available in the marketplace today, but it is still an evolving marketplace. These tools have not yet reached a point where, unless you attach a smart analyst to interpret what the tool is saying, they are simple tools to understand.
That is where we come in. It is not enough to just see technology investments; you also need human capital to go with these investments. You need people who have the right blend of knowledge in terms of understanding marketing, math, and data. That combination of business, math, and data is unique for the kind of work we do, and that is the value our clients see. That is the way we contribute inside, and our work then goes on to be used in their business.
SM: Who buys the tools and technology infrastructure?
VV: Most of the time large corporations already have those tools and technology as investments. There are special cases where we have licenses for tools. These are very specialized tools, which large companies may not have invested in. Or it might be IT that we have created, which is our own and we put to use for a particular client assignment. But most of the commonly used tools our clients have. From an information security perspective, that is the preferred model. They want to own everything and allow us access to it and then hand over all the data to us.
SM: So, you provide the analysis layer and work with the data, these tools and technologies?
VV: That is correct. We primarily provide the analysis layer in a very small fashion. We also provide tools and technologies. To give you an example: As the social media insight says, as in marketing you have a concept of brand perception mapping. This is like Marketing 101, where you are saying: “I have the comfort of positioning and now I want to understand how our brand is perceived compared to a competitor brand in the mind of the consumer.” No social media insights until today could provide this kind of mapping. It is not available. It gives you all the raw data, but to construct a brand perception map you still need to do it yourself. We have built tool kits which take the raw data and auto-generate the perception maps. Then we can go back to our marketing plans.