In Conversation with Taran Nandha, Founder of Growth Natives15 min read

Cloudways: Hello Taran! Thank you for joining us for the interview. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Taran: I grew up in Chandigarh, India, but my career as a marketer for over 20 years is spread across 5 countries and 3 continents. Spent more than 15 years in the US before moving to India in 2012.

Before starting Growth Natives, I worked for companies such as i2 Technologies, Trend Micro, Cvent, and BirdEye.

On the academic front, I graduated from UC Irvine with an MBA in 2000 and have an engineering degree from Panjab University before that.

Cloudways: Tell us all about Growth Natives. How did the idea arise? What is being done at Growth Natives? How is it going so far?

Taran: Spending 20 years as a career marketer, working in marketing leadership with 3 unicorns and consulting for many others, one thing that I believe truly differentiates winning companies is how good their marketing is. Not undermining the power of product, people, and operations that make a company great, but it is true that marketing is often the catalyst that helps them break away from competition.

Marketing in today’s world is complicated because marketing technology stacks are ever-evolving, with marketing channels intertwined.

You want to build an omnichannel marketing experience that generates meaningful customer engagements, both online and offline, and high conversion rates powered by marketing automation. To achieve all that, you have a limited budget. In that budget, you need to plan and build the marketing strategy, create content, and leverage various marketing technologies that could help execute it well.

Building a team with all these skills is hard; it can take months to recruit and is expensive. The second option is to leverage agencies and freelancers but that usually ends up being a highly inefficient process with questionable results. Because even if you do assemble the right team, you are left with a very limited budget to fuel your campaigns.

That is why we introduced our unique methodology called Growth Pod, where we provide a fully functional and integrated team of experts that can hit the ground running in no time and at the fraction of the budget you would expect to spend. Our Growth Pod methodology has helped many companies reduce their customer acquisition cost and improve customer lifetime value.

Cloudways: Many B2B companies don’t focus on having a strong digital presence. How important is it for B2B companies like Cloudways to have a sound digital marketing strategy and what key results can we expect from having one?

Taran: Today the world is digital. Even small businesses that never felt the need for digital transformation or the use of technologies are now wanting to create digital experiences that could elevate customer experiences.
From investing in digital marketing, companies can attract quality prospects, deliver great digital experiences, drive high customer engagement rates, better communication through marketing automation, and extend their reach via an omnichannel marketing approach. All this to drive one thing, Growth, while also:

  • Lowering customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  • Increasing customer lifetime value (CLTV)

So essentially, digital marketing can help companies improve customer acquisition and also extend the reach of their business beyond physical boundaries.

Cloudways: This is a question I personally ponder over a lot. Which platform is better for B2B lead generation, LinkedIn or Facebook? And why?

Taran: If your target audience includes larger companies (mid to enterprise level), then in my experience, LinkedIn is a great platform. However, if you are targeting small businesses with small ticket price products or services, Facebook is quite good for B2B lead generation. In general, LinkedIn is a go-to spot for business-driven individuals. Below is the breakdown of why:

It’s easy to identify key decision-makers (and reach them via ads and messaging).

  • Social engagement is embedded into the platform.
  • It’s easier to build and leverage your network to influence people as the platform was built specifically for that purpose.

eMarketer reported that LinkedIn occupies the largest share of B2B display ad spending at 32%.

Yet, Facebook may work better for brands that want to reach consumers directly. In addition, you gain access to ten times more prospects with Facebook and have a great place to generate brand awareness and engagement. Now, even though Facebook leads in numbers, LinkedIn takes the win when it comes to generating tangible leads.

According to LinkedIn’s internal stats, four out of five of their members are decision-makers or influencers at the companies where they work. Also, according to some studies, LinkedIn users convert into leads at a faster rate than Twitter or Facebook users.

Cloudways: Digital experiences are being improved at an extremely fast rate as we know it. What do you think will be the next big thing or breakthrough in the digital marketing world?

Taran: Mixed reality is a breakthrough innovation in the digital space. Its creative brilliance outshines the typical incremental ‘need for speed’ kind of innovation. Mixed reality (MR) marries the two ends of the immersive technology spectrum of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Virtual reality is one of the technologies with the highest projected potential for growth. According to the latest forecasts from IDC Research, investment in VR and AR will multiply 21-fold over the next four years, reaching 15.5 billion euros by 2022. In addition, both technologies will be key to companies’ digital transformation plans and their spending in this area will increase significantly. While 56% of businesses have already implemented AR or VR in some form, another 35% are considering it.

The latest 5G standard can also provide very interesting scenarios for the evolution of VR. This standard will allow more devices and large user communities to be connected. In addition, its almost imperceptible latency will make it possible for consumers to receive images in real time, almost as if they were seeing them with their own eyes.

All this means that virtual reality is no longer science fiction. It is integrated into our present and in the coming years, it will lead to advances that will shape the future. By 2030, AR and VR applications are expected to deliver a £1.4 trillion boost to the global economy.

Cloudways: The digital space is always evolving. How do you keep yourself updated with all the new trends of this industry? Please feel free to share any platforms/applications/books with our audience.

Taran: Keeping pace with technology change takes talent! And that’s why we believe in proactively upskilling ourselves. We focus on the upfront investment that is needed to keep up, such as the cost of upgrading systems, matching competitors’ technological capabilities, and meeting customers’ technology expectations. To stay competitive and relevant in today’s business world, we consistently train ourselves on new technologies and keep 20% of our time budgeted for learning new technologies.

It is always better to learn from thought leaders and for marketing, I have been majorly following content from Pragmatic Institute and HubSpot. From connecting businesses to buyers to building the buyer expertise, the Pragmatic Institute has it all in their courses to make your marketing effective. To keep up the pace with latest insights and research, I would recommend visiting McKinsey’s institute for business and economics research that publishes fact-based insights that help inform management and policy decisions.

I really enjoyed reading MicroMarketing: Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small.
The book is less a “how to” and more a “this is what is so you can figure out your own how-tos.” According to the book, the key is to focus on delivering connection, value, and meaning for your small group of core customers. Micromarketing is the next big thing in the marketing field. Now anybody can dominate a market.

Another good read in my list of books which I would want all marketing ninjas to read is Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation. Do you think that the phrase “going digital” is only relevant for industries like tech, media, and entertainment? Well! Mobile, analytics, social media, sensors, and cloud computing have already fundamentally changed the entire business landscape as we know it. The problem is that most accounts of digital in business focus on Silicon Valley stars and tech start-ups. But what about the other 90+% of the economy? In this book, you will unleash how large companies in traditional industries—from finance to manufacturing to pharmaceuticals—are using digital to gain strategic advantage.

In Driving Digital Strategy: A Guide to Reimagining Your Business, Harvard Business School professor Sunil Gupta has provided an actionable framework for following their lead. The book is full of wonderful insights about the problems companies encountered and the steps they took in response to the demands to stay relevant today.

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Cloudways: In your experience, what marketing initiative/strategy has been the most challenging to execute and why?

Taran: Virtual events have worked wonders for helping businesses keep in touch with their audiences throughout the pandemic, but it has not always been an easy ride. The biggest challenge is that event organizers face difficulties when engaging their attendees to make a lasting impact. A common misconception among event planners and attendees alike is that a virtual event is just another Zoom or Microsoft Teams meeting.

Another major challenge is that many events end up being little more than live video streams, in which there are minimal opportunities for people to interact directly with one another. The lack of a strong social element is exactly what makes many virtual events forgettable.

Virtual events generate large amounts of valuable data, but leveraging these data for actionable insights is another major challenge. It is not easy to achieve when you are using lots of different systems to drive engagement. Always choose an integrated event management platform that works with your CRM and other systems to make this work.

Cloudways: What advice would you like to give to all the new startup founders and entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses using digital mediums?

Taran: We have seen the paradigm shift in the mainstay of the global economy during this pandemic. We are witnessing more and more people starting up their own idea! The success of all start-ups greatly depends on the right marketing strategy among other things.

The way forward at present is through the portals of digitization. Entrepreneurs must focus on digital marketing right from the start. They must team up with the right partners for that. Not only do you need to pick the right marketing partner, but you also need to chalk out the right marketing strategy. One ought to design robust marketing and drive it with digital marketing at its core. Furthermore, sync the plans with your sales strategy. Those are the two wheels that steer you correctly on the path of growth and success.

The ingenuity of marketing is highlighted by catchy and gripping content. The content must entice the target audience until deep within.

We all have our role models and ideals. Hence we need to look around and seek inspiration from all such sources. To really stand out, one must observe keenly and understand what is mundane and ordinary, thus creating a strategy that outshines the standard strategies.

The more startups arise in the market, the more will be the competition. To ace your competition, you need to understand your product well. But you need to carry out in depth research of your competitors as well.

Finally the ultimate judge, jury, and executioner of your product is the consumer. Thus consumer behavior is a vital aspect that needs to be understood and well researched before you field your product. You need to keep these aspects in mind and work upon them, if you really want to catapult your startup at the very beginning.

Cloudways: Many of your clients must be ecommerce businesses. What marketing strategies/practices work best for such businesses? Please share your expert insights and learnings related to marketing for ecommerce businesses.

Taran: Ecommerce marketing is the practice of driving top-of-funnel traffic to convert into sales and customers. And there are hundreds of ways to go about it. From focusing on organic traffic and ecommerce SEO to using Facebook or Google ads to drive targeted traffic, you can mix and match paid strategies with non-paid strategies, all in an effort to figure out which mix converts the most people.

There are some tried-and-true methods as well as newest techniques of marketing for an ecommerce business to grow and excel. The first and the most important one is to be creative. Be original and hit the right audiences with the right message at the right time. Engage your target audiences with rich content, preferably informative than salesy.

The next big step is website optimization. When customers visit your website, you want to make sure it’s easy and simple to check out such that they feel naturally inclined to purchase your products and are clear how to do so. So, keep an eye on customers’ buying behaviors through heatmaps. Test it for a week and see how your conversions change.

The heart of any ecommerce business is its social media marketing. It is a powerful tool that allows you to communicate with your industry, customers, and market in a personal as well as public way.
Maintaining a solid tone and personality of your company through social media is important because consistency is what creates trust within your audience.

Bonus tip: Look at the full on-site journeys of your converted customers and consider how to adjust your pre-defined funnel to better meet these needs. You may have forgotten to consider a customer’s affinity for visiting your reviews page and can identify this as a key conversion-journey touchpoint.

One of the most effective forms of reaching out to your customer base is through email marketing. Although you have to be careful about the content within your emails from who is included in your outreach to the consent of the end user. The reason email marketing has been around for so long is because it works. But make sure you are monitoring the analytics of your email marketing efforts and any ecommerce marketing strategy elements, for that matter.

Another important method of improving your ecommerce website is making sure it’s optimized for search engines. With today’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) standards, it’s now more important than ever to make sure your website is constantly updated with rich and relevant content, promotes a good user experience (UX), and is optimized to be as error-free as possible.

PPC (Pay per click) works as the backbone for an ecommerce business. There are three basic elements to any pay-per-click marketing campaign: the ad, the offer, and the landing page. Keep the landing page free of distractions and unnecessary bells and whistles. Also, keep in mind that your landing page is the most appropriate place to boast your product benefits to the customer.
With the right mix of marketing techniques, you can improve your conversion rate and attract sustainable business that will continue growing over time.

Cloudways: How do you find the time to balance your work with your personal life? What activities do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Taran: I am able to achieve a healthy work-life balance by managing my professional and personal life in sustainable ways that keep my energy flowing, my mind and body healthy. The most important thing above all is your health. If you are not in good shape physically, mentally, and emotionally, both your work life and personal life will suffer. I eat healthy meals (especially breakfast), go on walks for at least 30 minutes, play Golf twice a week and sleep for a minimum of seven hours per night. It is important to make time for friends and family and take time off from work whenever possible. It is also important to have some hobbies or passion not related to your work; for me, it is music that always elevates my mind.

It is possible to have a successful professional career along with a fulfilling personal life. Take control of your work. Be proactive with your time. Get a (balanced) life.

Cloudways: Please share any memorable story/milestone/achievement that you believe will inspire other people.

Taran: The most important achievement has been the consistently high success rate with our customers and a continuing high-performance culture within our company. Our success rate is almost 100% and our Glassdoor ratings are 4.9/5.

Cloudways: Lastly, what piece of advice would you give to all the young individuals who are just entering the digital marketing field?

Taran: In the marketing world, digital is the new normal. It’s a great practice to showcase techno-functional capabilities making an impact in the business growth. New folks diving into the digital marketing space should start thinking as a marketer in the first place. It is important to understand the business and target audience first before jumping into the technical operations. Once they have clarity on what story they need to tell and to whom, they can easily execute it via Martech platforms available at their disposal. Since technology also keeps upgrading, they should keep themselves up-to-date with the latest trends and developments so that they can get the best returns on the investment they are making into digital marketing programs.

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Shoaib Israr

Shoaib is a passionate digital marketer who believes creativity is everything. His interests lie in content, digital marketing and he loves to help agency and ecommerce business owners in growing and expanding their businesses. In his free time, Shoaib loves to play football or binge-watch some interesting shows on Netflix.

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