‘Appetite for creating awareness to trigger long-term demand will determine success’

‘Appetite for creating awareness to trigger long-term demand will determine success’

Parag Amalnerkar, Director, Marketing, NetApp India and SAARC, discusses the changing role of marketing in the ICT domain.

With the advent of the Internet and digital technologies, marketing as a function is transforming. B2B companies in the IT domain were some of the earliest adopters of digital marketing. In an exclusive interview, Parag Amalnerkar, Director, Marketing NetApp, shared with us how the role of marketers will change in the months and years to come.

Marketing RoI is being measured more than ever since the advent of the Internet. Social media marketing seems to have really caught on. How effective is it?
I am a big fan of social as a medium for brand advocacy, or employee engagement and even selling. Today there are platforms available where everyone can benefit and which allow an organisation to aggregate relevant content from the industry. This also allows the employee to become a social selling agent by getting onto the platform. In the current scenario the entire sales force can become a very good marketing engine. For instance, 250 employees across marketing, sales, pre-sales and allied functions, among others, volunteered for our marketing initiative where we trained them on the platform. This exercise helped us personalise content and the messages we wanted to get through to our target audience. I believe that social media has the potential to become the predominant medium for personalisation at the micro level.

Content marketing or the ability to engage customers with neutral content seems to be the holy grail of marketing today. What has changed and how do you see this trend evolving?
Content was always there. Irrespective of whether you are a B2B or B2C organisation, you have always had lots of content to disseminate. Content is messaging. Without content what marketing would you do? But with changing consumption trends there are a couple of aspects I see as challenges. The first is increasing attention deficiency disorder. The attention span of prospective customers is rapidly changing. Secondly, there will be more clutter in 2019 with newer media channels sprouting. Success will lie in building content and engaging prospects at the micro level. Moving forward, videos will become the predominant content delivery media. The visual medium will prove the most engaging. Tools will significantly improve the ability to track engagement, extrapolate into consumer behaviour and utilise these insights to drive demand.

NetApp is a highly specialised storage company. How has the advent of cloud changed the way you function?
Cloud will be the predominant paradigm over the next few years, particularly hybrid cloud. That is the lay of the land for all of us. It is changing a lot of things fundamentally. Over the next five years, cloud will define how enterprises and individuals consume IT. In this regard we want our customers to decide on the advantages of transitioning to cloud and do it at their own pace. We no longer call ourselves a storage company; we call ourselves the data authority of the hybrid world. At the end of the day it’s all about data management. Going back to the cloud part, we have taken the lead in joining hands with all the major hyperscalers in the world. We are innovating here and leading the charge.

For those workloads that can’t wait for months (because, well, your competitors won’t just sit there and wait for you to catch up), cloud offers a new way to not only deploy applications much more quickly, but also to deploy the data infrastructure where your data is stored quickly and easily. After all, without data your applications are completely useless. We call it NetApp Cloud Volumes, a native data infrastructure service that is integrated with the biggest hyperscalers and deploys in seconds. Now your applications have access to a data service that ensures your data is available—and is fast.

Let’s say there is a developer who wants an application or workload. Instead of buying an additional storage platform from someone or us, s/he will just go to the cloud, which is already there. We have NetApp providing the platform in terms of creating services that will be eventually delivered to the end user.

From a marketing standpoint what are the challenges B2B IT companies, like NetApp, likely to face in the future?
The biggest challenge will lie in how you anticipate changes in consumer or customer behaviour in the B2B scenario. There are ways we can understand and get insights for this. Targeting has to be very micro segmented and we need to better understand how to navigate through the various options and decide on the most effective ones that help us engage customers. The metrics that digital marketing throws up is helping, and the skill lies in refining campaigns from time to time basis these insights. Moving forward, we will have to constantly upgrade the tools and knowledge to enable better decision-making. The appetite for creating sufficient awareness to trigger long-term demand will determine market success over time.