Indian digital marketers should improve on execution: Michael Leander

Michael Leander is a much sought after marketing speaker and trainer, having delivered workshops/ training sessions on a wide range of marketing topics in over 40 countries. In this e-mail interview with, he shares his views on the current state of digital marketing in India, the opportunities and challenges for marketers and the key area for improvement: execution.

International marketing speaker and trainer,Michael Leander

Could you tell us a bit about the nature of your work in digital marketing in India?
[Michael Leander (ML)]: My work in India has been centered around training and speaking at conferences. Since the first digital masterclass took place in New Delhi, I’ve been fortunate to have many of the top Indian brands and marketers attend the Email Marketing Masterclass, Social Media Marketing Masterclass and Digital Marketing Masterclass in Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi. All of the masterclasses have been organized by DMAI – Direct Marketing Association of India.

I have a few dates booked for the coming year.

I also consult corporations in the areas of direct marketing, digital marketing and marketing automation. I plan to come to India more often.

Working with Indian managers and marketers has been quite interesting so far. Perhaps one day, I might end up working directly in India. Let’s see what the future brings.

What is your assessment of the current digital marketing spectrum in India? How does it compare with the ‘state-of-the-art’ in say, Europe?

[ML]: Indian marketers are talented, hardworking and seemingly committed to success. But, the devil is often in the detail. It seems to me that marketers in India do not pay enough attention to detail. Flawless execution is crucial for marketing campaigns to meet and exceed objectives. Indian marketers still have some way to go when it comes to execution and – in particular – tying all the different digital and offline marketing assets together to deliver a seamless experience.

On the other hand, there seems to be massive creative talent in the country- creative concepts, platforms and approaches. However, overall, I think India is 4-5 years behind the so-called state of the art in Europe.

I am sure that we’ll see lots of Indian marketers outcompete their European and North American counterparts within the next 10 years.

What are the key opportunities and challenges for digital marketers here?

[ML]: The short term challenge is to bring staff involved in execution up to speed and to ensure that marketing management understands how to establish a winning digital marketing ecosystem. It should be one that is focused on meeting marketing and business objectives.

Opportunities for digital marketers are massive in India. An exceptionally good digital presence can potentially become a positive differentiator. But the challenges in India for many brands is that the rate of internet access adoption differs so much across the country. So you might have one scenario in a tier 1 city, and a completely different scenario in a tier 3 city.

This means that most brands need to maintain a multi-channel approach where traditional channels need to dominate – simply because these channels are the insurance that the brand manage to reach the right audience in large enough numbers. Unfortunately, maintaining a presence in all channels means that more resources need to be invested, and often with the same result.

Balancing the different channels and understanding how to integrate them should be on the agenda for top Indian brands in the years to come.

How do you foresee the adoption of search (both organic and paid-for), display, e-mail and mobile in India? What specific areas will digital marketers have to pay special attention to?

[ML]: When it comes to media channels and tools, I must say that there seems to be tendency towards “instrumentation fanaticism” in India – as there is everywhere else in the world. I am a multi-channel focused person. I believe that the answer to your question begs another question: “which channels are your audience active in, and which channels are best at engaging your audience in different stages of their buying process?”.

Needless to say, search is important; local search even more so. But that doesn’t mean that search is the right area of investment for everybody. All brands have different challenges, and should address the marketing mix based on their unique situation.

Michael Leander delivering one of his popular sessions
on marketing strategy

How do you assess the success of a digital marketing campaign?

[ML]: Being clear on the purpose of a campaign is where it all starts. Once the purpose is clear, deciding on the strategy is important. Once that is done, it is time to look at the tactical elements. For less successful brands, most campaigns begin with someone making decisions about channels. Without a clear purpose or strategy, this approach is usually set up for failure.

Once the tactical elements have been decided, it is time for execution. In this phase it is important to allow enough incubation time to be able to test & tune individual campaign elements. Too often marketers are racing through the motions and don’t afford enough time to dive into the little details that often make or break a campaign.

Finally, measuring the success of the overall campaign as well as individual components on a daily or hourly basis is crucial. Ensuring that reporting is actionable and that the campaign team is equipped with the power to make changes on-the-fly, are also important.

What advice would give to aspiring digital marketers in India?

[ML]: Study like there is no tomorrow. Continue to study and learn your whole career. Teach yourself to take a multi-channel approach. Demand that part of your remuneration package is tied into the results you generate.

Find out more about Michael Leander and his speaking engagements on his website.