What is the CMO role in 2022 and how should Chief Marketing Officers think about marketing strategy and prioritizing marketing investments?

To learn more, we talk with Gaurav Chand, the CMO of Cognizant about technology investments, customer experience, the importance of brand, talent hiring and retention, experiential marketing and how he leverages data for better decision-making.

In this episode, we discuss:

As CMO, Gaurav oversees all aspects of Cognizant’s global marketing, including brand, creative, digital, events, communications, field and corporate marketing. Gaurav’s primary mission is to facilitate growth by developing and executing a comprehensive marketing plan that promotes Cognizant’s digital leadership, increases brand recognition and extends its competitive advantage in all market segments.

Gaurav serves on the board of directors of the Cognizant U.S. Foundation, a 501(c) (3) private foundation supporting STEM education and skills training across the United States. Gaurav holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Fergusson College in Pune, India, and an MBA from Southern Methodist University.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: Chief Marketing Officer Investment Priorities and Strategy with Gaurav Chand, Chief Marketing Officer of Cognizant.

Gaurav Chand: We're approximately a $20 billion company. What we specialize in is all IT services and operations work. We've got locations all across the globe. We've got approximately 330,000 associates.

We can handle the end-to-end gamut of what our clients face from a technology standpoint. The place that we are especially good where almost 50% of our portfolio is concentrated, is the digital, so technologies like AI, cloud, digital engineering, IoT. All of these technologies, that's the place where 50% or most of our revenues come from now.

On talent management and brand in 2022

Michael Krigsman: I'm just thinking how complex and broad marketing is. Can you give us an overview of how you think about marketing and divide it up into pieces?

Gaurav Chand: There are so many elements in my previous companies that I didn't have to think about that I do have to think about in a company of the size of Cognizant, like simple things. There are obviously the obvious marketing stuff, building the brand, thinking through demand generation, thinking through your overarching strategy, aligning to business goals, and all of those pieces. But one of the key elements that you tend not to think about is recruitment marketing, a recruitment marketing tool.

Think about it. We have 330,000 people. We have to be a talent magnet, especially at a time like now, right? Everybody is talking about the Great Resignation, pieces like that. We have to be a talent magnet. Therefore, recruitment marketing gets really critical.

Michael, for a minute, imagine purpose, vision, values, and having them spread across, consistently across a population of 330,000 people. That's another massive challenge from a communications standpoint.

Then think about just the global breadth of operations. We've got people practically in every part of the globe that you can imagine, and keeping that entire, all from messaging, sales enablement, demand generation, techniques, sponsorships, and client activation consistent across the globe. There are so many things that you have to think about when designing an overarching strategy. Then working through the execution elements behind it.

On aligning business priorities and marketing goals

Michael Krigsman: If we look across that landscape, how do you define or what are the key priorities or investment goals that you have?

Gaurav Chand: Michael it all started with understanding the business priorities. I'll take you back in some history.

When I joined Cognizant about 2.5 years ago, about 30% of our business was digitally oriented (i.e., again, those technologies that I mentioned: cloud, IoT, digital engineering, AI, and automation – pieces like that), yet we never got credit from our clients.

If you look at all the research we conducted around awareness, in the U.S. we had decent awareness because 75% of our business is from the U.S. We had decent awareness.

However, it was not along the lines of being that digital transformation partner. It was more along the lines of offshoring of applications and pieces like that.

Once you got out of the United States, apart from maybe UK and I, when you looked at top priority, big economies like Germany, the Nordics, Australia, we had comparatively lower awareness. Number one, to align with those business priorities, we had to create awareness for Cognizant as a brand.

But it wasn't good enough that we just created awareness. We had to land a perception of us being that digital transformation partner that our clients required. That was a key aspect of it.

We had to couple this awareness with landing on the perception of being that digital transformation partner. That was a global challenge we faced around the perception piece of it.

Then there were obviously operational priorities. When I joined (again, 2.5 years ago), we had a very antiquated martech stack. We dominantly went with what I call legacy tools with client engagement, so a lot of event participation, a lot of email, and very little digital. So, we had to hyperfocus on building our capabilities around digitally targeting our clients and digitally engaging with our clients and change that paradigm.

Let's face it. There's a lot of research, Michael, that points to the fact that 70% of the decision-making is already done by the client before they tend to engage any partner, any vendor, anybody in the ecosystem. The number one mechanism for clients to look for information is digital: websites, social, and all of those pieces.

We were missing from that conversation, largely. Just upgrading the martech stack, upgrading our capabilities around digital, semi-operational but highly necessary, and also necessary not just to evolve as a future-ready marketing organization, but also to make sure that we could successfully execute on the business priorities along the lines of creating awareness and shifting that perception.

On the importance of thought leadership and content marketing

Michael Krigsman: We have an interesting question from Ginny Hamilton on LinkedIn who wants to know, "What was the role of content and thought leadership in building this awareness?"

Gaurav Chand: If there's one thing you get right, it has to be the content. I couple talking leadership with content. Without good content, nothing works.

You could have the best propensity model in technology. You could have the best predictive analytics technology. You could use geofencing, geotargeting, and the latest tricks in your bag. However, if you do not have engaging content that keeps the client or keeps the persona you're targeting engaged, there is no way you're ever going to see success.

That's one of the key metrics I practice. Just using a very tactical example, Michael, which is, I could have huge traffic being driven to my website. But the critical piece is what is the bounce rate of that traffic. If it is a very high bounce rate then there are certain leading indicators.

Obviously, there are operational and tactical indicators like the time it takes to load your pages and all of those pieces, but the number one thing in all research that correlates to a high bounce rate is the lack of good, engaging content. It all starts, in my mind, with messaging that produces that content, and then that content gets filtered into all of your vehicles that you engage with the clients whether it be an ad on LinkedIn or a post on social or your website or whatever it is. Content is king, and it has to be the starting point for any conversation.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like this issue of accurate messaging is fundamental to everything that you've been describing so far. Is that the underlying thread for you?

Gaurav Chand: It absolutely is. And it's funny, Michael. I grew up at a content person. I grew up in my early years as a messaging person. I was lucky, from that standpoint, because I truly understood the value of messaging.

Messaging takes a lot of forms, so it's not just simply thinking about the messaging. You have short-form. You have long-form. You have medium-form. You have infographics and all of these different elements to messaging that we have to think through really, really well.

A post on Twitter looks very different to a post on LinkedIn looks very different to a website page. But the starting point has to be that messaging that informs every vehicle that you think about once you get past that.

On where Cognizant focuses its marketing investments

Michael Krigsman: Now, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Hit the subscribe button at the top of our website so we can send you our newsletter and keep you notified of the awesome shows that we have coming up.

Let's talk very directly around your marketing priorities and your investments. You've described a little bit of it, but where do you focus your investments? And to whatever extent you're comfortable sharing the relative proportions as well, that would be great.

Gaurav Chand: When I think about the portfolio of investments, the first point is obviously one of the business objectives. Therefore, what are the marketing objectives that come out of those business objectives?

One of the things I mentioned was awareness. One of the things I mentioned was shifting the perception.

The moment you hear shifting of perceptions, then you can very clearly drive to the fact that you're not just looking at a driving eyeballs strategy. You have to have an explanation behind driving eyeballs.

I'll give you an example. Our sponsorship portfolio is very expansive at this point in time. We've got a relationship with Aston Martin, Formula 1. We've got a relationship with LPGA around the Founder's Club, with the PGA around the President's Cup, and with SailGP.

Just getting eyeballs because your name is on the car is not good enough. It has to be coupled with the right client experience around it, so you can sit and discuss with your clients about that shifting perception piece, so a lot of our focus goes there.

Another key element, Michael, is the notion of digital versus legacy. That's a key part of the planning process because, again, in the pandemic, we saw this. Events went down to zero, and companies that were solely focused on events from a demand generation standpoint saw themselves at a huge disadvantage at that point in time, which is why there's a focus on digital.

Just one example of sharing the numbers, when I joined this company 2.5 years ago, approximately 20% of our spend, our demand generation spend, was digital and 80% was email marketing, was events marketing, and all of that kind of stuff. Today, when I look at my entire portfolio, 77% of it is digital and only 23% of it is in the email marketing, events, and all of that.

You know practical items, Michael, make a big difference. Even email marketing, I'm a big proponent of email marketing, but it depends upon where you use it in that funnel. If it is the starting point of an engagement in a customer journey, the likelihood that you're going to succeed is next to none, and the data will show you that.

The response rate, the clickthrough rate for email today for external audiences is somewhere around 0.03% to 0.07% percent. That's it. It is something set up to failure.

Whereas, if you use email at the right point when the customer or the client or the persona is aware of what you're trying to push and you take them through that journey, we have seen programs in which clickthrough rates for email have been higher than 70%. It's all about using it at the right time in that customer journey in your funnel. It's all of those elements that you have to think through.

The other thing, I talked about shifting to digital. One of my big priorities was that. That's why we updated our martech stack. We've got world-class predictive analytics technologies. We can do a bunch of geofencing and geotargeting.

But there's a country lens that you have to throw on top of that. Over the top television versus broadcast television. I personally love over-the-top television because I can target through over-the-top television. I cannot target through broadcast TV.

So, when I look at my mix in a country (like the United States) where digital, over-the-top TV, predictive analytics, geofencing, geo-targeting by zip codes is a lot more mature, my marketing mix fundamentally changes in the U.S.

But when I look at a different country where it's not as mature, let's take Europe for example, over-the-top TV is not as mature in Europe. It just is not. Folks like Hulu and all have not been able to break through some of the countries in Europe and broadcast television is still the predominant source of global advertising or broad reach advertising in those countries.

What you can do with that martech stack changes vastly, so you have to think in mix, not just at an overarching level. You set some parameters. You set some parameters knowing that if you go to a country like Germany where privacy laws are different, if you go to Australia, if you go to the UK, if you go to some of the Nordic countries, depending upon what those countries can offer to you from a targeting standpoint, your mix has to fundamentally change and evolve and take into consideration what those dynamics are.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like, again, the underlying thread here is a deep, profound understanding, a nuanced understanding, of the customer at various points in the customer journey, the customer lifecycle, as well as in the different regions.

Gaurav Chand: Absolutely, Michael. It's funny you mentioned that. It reminds me of something.

Michael, when I started my career in marketing – it's a long time ago, obviously – marketing was considered a jack of all trades. You get somebody smart enough, and if he or she could do advanced, then he or she could do other things and things like that.

Today, marketing is such a specialized function. When you look at the sophistication behind the martech stack, whether you're using technologies like 6sense or MediaMax or Bombora, the ability to interpret that data and turn it into insights that can be used from a customer targeting standpoint.

What is a client doing in the dark funnel? What is the client doing in the known funnel? How do you target the client in the dark funnel? How do you target the client in the known funnel? All of those, marketing is so much more sophisticated, I feel, that you're now getting those functional silos that always existed in a lot of other functions within an organization, but you're getting that in marketing in a real way.

It's exciting to see that, in all honesty, because there's so much one can do around building a career path when you have that functional distribution within a function like marketing.

On marketing measures, metrics, and KPIs

Michael Krigsman: What does your CEO want you [to measure]? Because when you're conducting brand building activities, thought leadership, content, all the things you're describing, it's not so easy to measure as opposed to, say, demand gen activities.

Gaurav Chand: I would bucketize them in four overarching categories.

One is to create awareness and shift perception. That's absolutely critical for Cognizant as a brand.

The second, I would say, is marketing influence, pipeline, and that's the tricky part, Michael.

Interestingly enough, for a majority of my career (prior to Cognizant), I've worked in places that both had relationship and transactional businesses. Transactional businesses are typically a measure of marketing results. Relationship businesses are typically measured by marketing influence.

With the services capabilities we have, there is not an iota of transactional elements around it. Therefore, marketing influence is the main thing we track. That's absolutely essential in each and every of our activities.

The third piece, I would say, is again we are in a war for talent. We have to place ourselves solidly as a talent magnet in the industry. So, increasingly, marketing becomes a really, really critical aspect of what I do on a day-to-day basis.

The fourth and final piece, I referenced this early on. We are a 330,000+ strong person. To make sure all 330,000 folks are marching in the same direction is a massive exercise. Internal coms obviously plays a huge role in that along with several other elements of marketing.

Those are the four elements, I would say, is what my CEO expects me to deliver on, what I am measured on, and yearly, we have discussions with the board around here are the measures and here is exactly how we're going about it.

On measuring marketing influence on sales and other areas

Michael Krigsman: How do you measure marketing influence?

Gaurav Chand: It depends upon the tactic, in all honesty. Let's just use an example. Let's use sponsorship as an example, and client experience around, let's say, a golf event.

One of the assets we are personally extremely proud to partner with the LPGA is the Cognizant Founders Cup. That's a golf tournament that happens every year. One of the key elements of that golf tournament around the experiential aspect of it is the point that we have N+ slots.

We have 50+ clients playing in that Pro-Am. We very closely measure the pipeline influence with those clients and those accounts six months prior and six months post. We measure the delta.

That delta, again, it's marketing influence. It's not sourced, so it's not a dead accurate number in that somebody went to my website, clicked, and bought. It's never going to be that accurate for a business like mine, but that's one example of how we measure marketing influence in the sponsorship arena.

We can replicate that exactly for our other assets, whether it be Formula 1, whether it be the President's Cup, or SailGP. That's one instance.

The second instance is also through a high propensity score. Which clients are engaging with us digitally? Did they look at a social post and come to our website? How much time did they spend on the website? What kind of topics were they on when they went to our website? Is there any correlation between those topics and the pipeline generated within the next three to six months, as a result?

That's the other thing, Michael, which is tricky about our kind of a business. You're talking about sales cycles being somewhere between six to nine months. You're not talking about one to two days or hourly sales cycles and things like that. You have to measure the right timing.

You have to have this conversation with the business leader because, at the end of the day, whatever you measure has to be absolutely believable and acceptable to the business leader. Marketing cannot live in a vacuum where they're patting their backs on a great job done and the business leader sits out there and says, "Well, I didn't even know you folks did this," or "I didn't even know you folks measured this."

That has to be done in tandem so, again, depending upon the timing, we look at various different techniques to measure the marketing influence by client.

Michael Krigsman: You're comfortable with that ambiguity of not being able to attribute a precise result to a precise activity.

Gaurav Chand: It took me some time getting used to it. Again, I've always operated in businesses that had a relationship component to it, but it was 30%, 40%, maximum 50%. I had 50%, which was much more small and medium business, transactional kind of elements that I could track very carefully.

It took me some time. It took me some education, personally, too. Understanding the portfolio at the depth. Understanding the sales cycle. Understanding the customer journey. Talking to our client partners who are our client-facing teams. And understanding how they go position various different services to the clients. What are the sales cycles around this?

I had to go through a personal, educational journey to figure out how I believe is the best way to measure ourselves. Then I had to go communicate that with the entire executive committee, which is the CEO and all of my peers (the reports to the CEO) saying, "Hey, after having done all of this work, I believe these are the measures we need to put in place. This is how we're going to measure them. This is the frequency at which we're going to measure them. Is this acceptable to all of you? If so, we can start."

Michael Krigsman: I'm just thinking about trying to align all of these stakeholders. It sometimes cannot be an easy task.

Gaurav Chand: And that's a key part, right? A lot of people just don't think through those operational elements around working with your peers and getting consensus on a lot of these pieces. But that's a key aspect of the role of the CMO today, honestly.

On the importance of culture change in business transformation

Michael Krigsman: Let's take some questions from Twitter. This is from Arsalan Khan, who is a regular listener. I always thank him. Arsalan, thank you for listening and for your great questions all the time.

Shifting gears here slightly, he says, "Digital transformation requires culture transformation. How do you convince your clients that their culture needs to change," he's very blunt "without them firing you? What is the relationship between marketing and IT to bring about digital transformation?"

Gaurav Chand: It is incredible. It's that notion. Arsalan, thank you for that question. It's that notion of people, process, technology.

Technology exists. It's not just a question of culture. It is culture both from a people standpoint as well as a process standpoint. That's what's absolutely critical.

Look. The best way to convince your clients, there are two ways to do it. One is show the clients that have gone through this. Be very transparent about the challenges around the culture, the processes – that element of it. But the great news is we also have very sophisticated and very mature digital business operations that allows us, gives us the capability to do that.

We also deploy a consulting team that are experts in change management, so you have to do a bunch of elements. It's not just the notion.

It's not as simple as saying, "Hey, yesterday this application lived in a legacy server storage networking environment. Today, we want it migrated fully to the cloud." It's not as simple as that.

There are people working there that need to be repurposed in the way that organization lives. There is a change in management associated with that. There's an operational rigor associated with that.

We call on all of the facets within the organization and within our capabilities to effect those kind of changes and help our clients go through that cultural change, both from a people as well as a process standpoint. That's the most key element behind it.

Now, it always helps. It always helps to have showcase studies of clients who you've taken through that journey with the right results. So, another key element of marketing in today's world is that case study element and clients standing up and vouching for the work you have done.

Last, but not the least – and I'll tell you this is also an incredible proof point – is Cognizant on Cognizant. Can you prove that you went through this transition successfully and you got all the right benefits out of it? That's a key thing that our clients want to hear, which is why talking to the CTO of the company, talking to the CIO of the company in understanding these broad, cultural changes is a really key element of that entire gamut.

On the relationship between the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) role and the Chief Information Officer (CIO) role

Michael Krigsman: Then Arsalan also wants to know, and I'll ask you to respond pretty quickly because we're just going to run out of time. He wants to know the relationship between marketing and IT. He's an IT guy. We have a lot of listeners who are coming out of IT. How does marketing and IT work together to drive digital transformation?

Gaurav Chand: It has an incredibly powerful relationship at the end of the day. What we saw, and we saw this shift starting to occur ten years ago where the CIO was not the only person driving IT decisions. There were very much other groups now starting to drive it. HR driving decisions like Workday. Marketing driving decisions like predictive technologies, Web technologies, Adobe, which version of Adobe, and all of those aspects around it.

It has to be an incredibly tight relationship. I speak to my CTO and CIO at least once a month. My team speak to them on a daily basis. My martech stack team is fully embedded with the IT team. Those relationships are really critical for this to work out.

Michael Krigsman: From LinkedIn, Avi Singh Malhotra asks this question. He says, "With the privacy changes driven by Apple, Google Chrome, et cetera, how do you see the marketing landscape change, especially around ROI optimization and attribution?"

Gaurav Chand: There are always going to be privacy changes that are going to affect your technology stack in some form, fit, or function. The only way you're ever going to get above any and all privacy changes is when the client, when the persona you're targeting, gives you consent to market to them. That is the only way.

Irrespective of what privacy changes take place, once the persona you're targeting gives you consent to target them, you're in the clear, and the only possible way to do that is to have world-class content. If you have truly engaging, truly enlightening content, people will reach out.

My advice to my team, all marketeers, is leave the technology aspect. Leave the political, social-political elements around privacy and all completely out of the picture. Focus on building world-class content and your clients will come to you.

Michael Krigsman: This is from Lisbeth Shaw. This is another great question. She says, "How have the brand challenges for Cognizant changed and how does that impact the market investment and strategy of Cognizant for 2022?"

Gaurav Chand: Right now, I wouldn't say our brand challenge has changed. Right now, we're just about a year and a half into this journey. As you can imagine, a fundamental shift in perception is a three- to five-year journey if done right, and even longer if not done right.

From my standpoint, the awareness piece that I talked about, the shifting of perceptions piece that I talked about, none of that has changed. But I will give you a hypothetical example since you asked the question.

Today, I rely heavily on a sponsorship strategy that gives me two elements that I really want. One is global eyeballs coupled with the ability to engage clients at a very effective and personal level so I can drive that shift in perception.

Tomorrow, if my perception is exactly where I want it to be and all I want to do is drive a lot of engagement so I can expand my book of business, or if I need to expand my client set, I will change my awareness strategy. I might drop all of my sponsorships and focus exclusively on digital targeting around the topics I want expansion on and some client experiential added to that. That's just a very basic example of how I view as your marketing strategy evolves, as your business objectives evolve.

But today, in all honesty, we have just started our journey. We still have a long ways to go before I can say confidently that I'm going to ramp some element in my portfolio because I feel I have achieved the outcome in need to achieve.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like you've settled on the message. You understand the customer. Now you're in an execution phase as opposed to a figuring it all out phase.

Gaurav Chand: Yes, the first step is to understand your client, your customer. The next step is to understand all the various personalities and personas within those clients. Then target them very effectively because, back to that previous question, the CIO is not the only person driving IT decisions in today's environment. The best CIOs are the ones that fully embrace that.

You have marketing. You have HR. You have business leaders. You have finance. Everybody is driving some kind of an IT decision or at least influencing it. You have to be able to successfully talk to each of those personas.

Michael Krigsman: This is from LinkedIn. This is from Ramesh Ramakrishnan. He asks, "With business transformation driving converged roles, including full-stack developers, how is the industry equipped to coach and develop full-stack marketers?"

Gaurav Chand: That's one of the biggest challenges, in all honesty. It generally is because, from an education standpoint, around certain key elements, you still are not fully educated once you leave either undergrad or grad school. Full familiarity with a digital stack involves understanding.

I'm going to throw some brand names out there. That doesn't mean that I am all behind them, but it just means, as an example, understanding, let's say, AEM 6.5, understanding if you're deploying a MediaMax, 6sense, or Bombora, what does that feed give you? What does it mean? How do you go change your MediaMax plan according to that? Which elements are performing extremely well? Which elements are not performing extremely well?

Social is another really good example where a lot of folks that we get, we have to train them around what works in social. Long-form messaging does not work in social. Short-form messaging works in social.

Video creation: What is the difference between a 6-second, 15-second, 30-second, and a 20-minute video? Why is it critical when you're advertising on Instagram? When you're talking about the company on Instagram, you have to take a completely different lens on the video creation than when you're talking about broadcast television, advertising, and stuff like that.

There are elements in that that are not fully done. I think they're getting better. I think curriculums are getting better, and they will get to that point. But it is one of the challenges. That said, I think most mature marketing companies, in all honesty, have built a nice training program as a starting point for folks coming in certain disciplines.

I think the industry has, for the most, caught up. I think, as long as the education process catches up, I think we'll be in good shape in a few years.

Michael Krigsman: Again, Arsalan Khan comes back, and he says, "As marketing relies more and more on data, how do you strike the balance between capturing too much or too little data?" He also wants to know, "Who provides the budget for martech, CIO or CMO?"

Gaurav Chand: The CMO provides the budget for martech, and I'll be honest with you. The data question is extremely pertinent, and that's where data science becomes an art.

Understanding the feeds coming out of the dark funnel and known funnel to your predictive analysis technology, being able to equate that into the right action but experimenting all the time to see what succeeded and what not, and having the data in real-time to flip the strategies becomes really, really critical.

Michael Krigsman: A couple of topics I'm hoping we can explore in the next few minutes. Number one is (you mentioned a couple of times) talent. I have spoken with a number of CMOs recently who have just expressed their pain and suffering at hiring talent, retaining talent, and paying for talent right now. Any thoughts on talent?

Gaurav Chand: We have hired 900 brand new recruiters since the beginning of this year. Since the beginning of this quarter, we've hired approximately 9,800 net new folks at Cognizant. And since the beginning of last year, we've hired about 43,800 people at Cognizant. Just think about those numbers.

Yes, it is difficult. It is a critical part, I believe, of any marketer to actually think about the group marketing do, not just because I am a people business and I'm a people company. I think every company in the world is going to need an element of recruitment marketing given that there is a war for talent and I don't believe that's going away any time soon whatsoever.

On the importance of experiential marketing

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned the term experiential marketing.

Gaurav Chand: Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: I know that that's very important to you, so can you tell us about that?

Gaurav Chand: Experiential marketing has always been critical, but again it's where you use it in the funnel that makes all the difference in the world. Email marketing was another example that I used.

Experiential marketing used as a first sign contact, from my experience, has never yielded the right results. It's always when somebody knows something about your company, is hungry for more, and you attack them at the right time in that customer journey, pull them in, give them the opportunity to talk in more detail about your company. That's where it's very effective.

Honestly, at this point in time, Michael, I think experiential marketing is even more important. Why? Because we've all lived through two years, two and a half years of this pandemic. It's not fully over, but we are getting back together. There's a strong desire for people to go out and engage and interact with human beings. I think experiential marketing (for the next few years) is going to be another very, very critical element of an entire marketing strategy.

On using experiential marketing to build trust among customers and clients

Michael Krigsman: I'm assuming that one of the reasons it's so important for you is because Cognizant is in a relationship business and inviting people to events and so forth helps build those relationships. I assume that's the case.

Gaurav Chand: Yeah, it's a complex sale. It's a long sales cycle. Therefore, you need a lot more time to sit down and explain what you do with clients.

The second element that I brought up very, very early on in our conversation is shifting perceptions. Shifting perceptions is comparatively difficult to do in a LinkedIn ad or Twitter ad. It needs to start there, but then you need some time to sit face-to-face with a client and explain what you're about and where you're shifting, what kind of investments you're making, and all of those aspects around that. That's where experiential marketing plays a really critical role.

Michael Krigsman: I also have to make the assumption that fundamental to this is the opportunity for the clients to get to know you to build and establish trust.

Gaurav Chand: That's exactly right because, again, in a relationship business, that trust factor is absolutely critical. There is no better way to build trust than sit down with people and discuss face-to-face.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for marketers on ensuring that their marketing goals, activities, and investments are matching, aligning with the organization's business goals?

Gaurav Chand: The biggest advice I have is, make sure you're fully connected with the business leader. Marketing exists for a purpose, and that is to accelerate the business irrespective of what the goals are.

It takes time. It's tedious. However, it is absolutely critical that that gets done before you plan any aspect of marketing strategy whatsoever. Just spending the time doing the due diligence and understanding the business problems and what you are solving for is the most critical element.

One more piece, Michael, that I would love to tell people is what I have noticed. Marketing people are sometimes the worst personal marketeers. I've noticed this time and again, which is, we all view our work, and we all view that doing our work is all that it takes. But it's not.

There is a last mile, which is, how do you intelligently talk about your work without coming across as bragging or boastful and all of that? Learn that art in order to accelerate your career in any company. The people who tend to accelerate tend to have that skill set the best.

Great marketeers sometimes prove to be the worst marketeers for themselves. Use that skillset you've developed in coming up with great marketing programs and use it for yourself also a little bit in your day-to-day career.

On account-based marketing (ABM) as the future

Michael Krigsman: Where do you see marketing at Cognizant headed?

Gaurav Chand: I'm excited at point in time. I think we are getting an even more sophisticated martech stack. ABM has kicked off in a big way at Cognizant, getting it to the next level around digital targeting.

As country infrastructures mature outside the U.S. and our ability to target personas very specifically and expand our persona set to the entire C-suite, that's exactly where we're taking marketing at Cognizant.

Michael Krigsman: With that, I want to say a huge thank you to Gaurav Chand. He is the chief marketing officer at Cognizant. Gaurav, thank you very much for being here today.

Gaurav Chand: Thank you so much, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: A huge thank you to everybody who watched and especially to those folks who asked such great questions. I love your questions. You guys are such a smart audience.

We have amazing shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com. Now, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Hit the subscribe button at the top of our website so we can send you our newsletter and keep you notified of the awesome shows that we have coming up.

Everybody, thanks so much. I hope you have a great day, and we'll see you soon. 

Michael Krigsman: Chief Marketing Officer Investment Priorities and Strategy with Gaurav Chand, Chief Marketing Officer of Cognizant.

Gaurav Chand: We're approximately a $20 billion company. What we specialize in is all IT services and operations work. We've got locations all across the globe. We've got approximately 330,000 associates.

We can handle the end-to-end gamut of what our clients face from a technology standpoint. The place that we are especially good where almost 50% of our portfolio is concentrated, is the digital, so technologies like AI, cloud, digital engineering, IoT. All of these technologies, that's the place where 50% or most of our revenues come from now.

On talent management and brand in 2022

Michael Krigsman: I'm just thinking how complex and broad marketing is. Can you give us an overview of how you think about marketing and divide it up into pieces?

Gaurav Chand: There are so many elements in my previous companies that I didn't have to think about that I do have to think about in a company of the size of Cognizant, like simple things. There are obviously the obvious marketing stuff, building the brand, thinking through demand generation, thinking through your overarching strategy, aligning to business goals, and all of those pieces. But one of the key elements that you tend not to think about is recruitment marketing, a recruitment marketing tool.

Think about it. We have 330,000 people. We have to be a talent magnet, especially at a time like now, right? Everybody is talking about the Great Resignation, pieces like that. We have to be a talent magnet. Therefore, recruitment marketing gets really critical.

Michael, for a minute, imagine purpose, vision, values, and having them spread across, consistently across a population of 330,000 people. That's another massive challenge from a communications standpoint.

Then think about just the global breadth of operations. We've got people practically in every part of the globe that you can imagine, and keeping that entire, all from messaging, sales enablement, demand generation, techniques, sponsorships, and client activation consistent across the globe. There are so many things that you have to think about when designing an overarching strategy. Then working through the execution elements behind it.

On aligning business priorities and marketing goals

Michael Krigsman: If we look across that landscape, how do you define or what are the key priorities or investment goals that you have?

Gaurav Chand: Michael it all started with understanding the business priorities. I'll take you back in some history.

When I joined Cognizant about 2.5 years ago, about 30% of our business was digitally oriented (i.e., again, those technologies that I mentioned: cloud, IoT, digital engineering, AI, and automation – pieces like that), yet we never got credit from our clients.

If you look at all the research we conducted around awareness, in the U.S. we had decent awareness because 75% of our business is from the U.S. We had decent awareness.

However, it was not along the lines of being that digital transformation partner. It was more along the lines of offshoring of applications and pieces like that.

Once you got out of the United States, apart from maybe UK and I, when you looked at top priority, big economies like Germany, the Nordics, Australia, we had comparatively lower awareness. Number one, to align with those business priorities, we had to create awareness for Cognizant as a brand.

But it wasn't good enough that we just created awareness. We had to land a perception of us being that digital transformation partner that our clients required. That was a key aspect of it.

We had to couple this awareness with landing on the perception of being that digital transformation partner. That was a global challenge we faced around the perception piece of it.

Then there were obviously operational priorities. When I joined (again, 2.5 years ago), we had a very antiquated martech stack. We dominantly went with what I call legacy tools with client engagement, so a lot of event participation, a lot of email, and very little digital. So, we had to hyperfocus on building our capabilities around digitally targeting our clients and digitally engaging with our clients and change that paradigm.

Let's face it. There's a lot of research, Michael, that points to the fact that 70% of the decision-making is already done by the client before they tend to engage any partner, any vendor, anybody in the ecosystem. The number one mechanism for clients to look for information is digital: websites, social, and all of those pieces.

We were missing from that conversation, largely. Just upgrading the martech stack, upgrading our capabilities around digital, semi-operational but highly necessary, and also necessary not just to evolve as a future-ready marketing organization, but also to make sure that we could successfully execute on the business priorities along the lines of creating awareness and shifting that perception.

On the importance of thought leadership and content marketing

Michael Krigsman: We have an interesting question from Ginny Hamilton on LinkedIn who wants to know, "What was the role of content and thought leadership in building this awareness?"

Gaurav Chand: If there's one thing you get right, it has to be the content. I couple talking leadership with content. Without good content, nothing works.

You could have the best propensity model in technology. You could have the best predictive analytics technology. You could use geofencing, geotargeting, and the latest tricks in your bag. However, if you do not have engaging content that keeps the client or keeps the persona you're targeting engaged, there is no way you're ever going to see success.

That's one of the key metrics I practice. Just using a very tactical example, Michael, which is, I could have huge traffic being driven to my website. But the critical piece is what is the bounce rate of that traffic. If it is a very high bounce rate then there are certain leading indicators.

Obviously, there are operational and tactical indicators like the time it takes to load your pages and all of those pieces, but the number one thing in all research that correlates to a high bounce rate is the lack of good, engaging content. It all starts, in my mind, with messaging that produces that content, and then that content gets filtered into all of your vehicles that you engage with the clients whether it be an ad on LinkedIn or a post on social or your website or whatever it is. Content is king, and it has to be the starting point for any conversation.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like this issue of accurate messaging is fundamental to everything that you've been describing so far. Is that the underlying thread for you?

Gaurav Chand: It absolutely is. And it's funny, Michael. I grew up at a content person. I grew up in my early years as a messaging person. I was lucky, from that standpoint, because I truly understood the value of messaging.

Messaging takes a lot of forms, so it's not just simply thinking about the messaging. You have short-form. You have long-form. You have medium-form. You have infographics and all of these different elements to messaging that we have to think through really, really well.

A post on Twitter looks very different to a post on LinkedIn looks very different to a website page. But the starting point has to be that messaging that informs every vehicle that you think about once you get past that.

On where Cognizant focuses its marketing investments

Michael Krigsman: Now, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Hit the subscribe button at the top of our website so we can send you our newsletter and keep you notified of the awesome shows that we have coming up.

Let's talk very directly around your marketing priorities and your investments. You've described a little bit of it, but where do you focus your investments? And to whatever extent you're comfortable sharing the relative proportions as well, that would be great.

Gaurav Chand: When I think about the portfolio of investments, the first point is obviously one of the business objectives. Therefore, what are the marketing objectives that come out of those business objectives?

One of the things I mentioned was awareness. One of the things I mentioned was shifting the perception.

The moment you hear shifting of perceptions, then you can very clearly drive to the fact that you're not just looking at a driving eyeballs strategy. You have to have an explanation behind driving eyeballs.

I'll give you an example. Our sponsorship portfolio is very expansive at this point in time. We've got a relationship with Aston Martin, Formula 1. We've got a relationship with LPGA around the Founder's Club, with the PGA around the President's Cup, and with SailGP.

Just getting eyeballs because your name is on the car is not good enough. It has to be coupled with the right client experience around it, so you can sit and discuss with your clients about that shifting perception piece, so a lot of our focus goes there.

Another key element, Michael, is the notion of digital versus legacy. That's a key part of the planning process because, again, in the pandemic, we saw this. Events went down to zero, and companies that were solely focused on events from a demand generation standpoint saw themselves at a huge disadvantage at that point in time, which is why there's a focus on digital.

Just one example of sharing the numbers, when I joined this company 2.5 years ago, approximately 20% of our spend, our demand generation spend, was digital and 80% was email marketing, was events marketing, and all of that kind of stuff. Today, when I look at my entire portfolio, 77% of it is digital and only 23% of it is in the email marketing, events, and all of that.

You know practical items, Michael, make a big difference. Even email marketing, I'm a big proponent of email marketing, but it depends upon where you use it in that funnel. If it is the starting point of an engagement in a customer journey, the likelihood that you're going to succeed is next to none, and the data will show you that.

The response rate, the clickthrough rate for email today for external audiences is somewhere around 0.03% to 0.07% percent. That's it. It is something set up to failure.

Whereas, if you use email at the right point when the customer or the client or the persona is aware of what you're trying to push and you take them through that journey, we have seen programs in which clickthrough rates for email have been higher than 70%. It's all about using it at the right time in that customer journey in your funnel. It's all of those elements that you have to think through.

The other thing, I talked about shifting to digital. One of my big priorities was that. That's why we updated our martech stack. We've got world-class predictive analytics technologies. We can do a bunch of geofencing and geotargeting.

But there's a country lens that you have to throw on top of that. Over the top television versus broadcast television. I personally love over-the-top television because I can target through over-the-top television. I cannot target through broadcast TV.

So, when I look at my mix in a country (like the United States) where digital, over-the-top TV, predictive analytics, geofencing, geo-targeting by zip codes is a lot more mature, my marketing mix fundamentally changes in the U.S.

But when I look at a different country where it's not as mature, let's take Europe for example, over-the-top TV is not as mature in Europe. It just is not. Folks like Hulu and all have not been able to break through some of the countries in Europe and broadcast television is still the predominant source of global advertising or broad reach advertising in those countries.

What you can do with that martech stack changes vastly, so you have to think in mix, not just at an overarching level. You set some parameters. You set some parameters knowing that if you go to a country like Germany where privacy laws are different, if you go to Australia, if you go to the UK, if you go to some of the Nordic countries, depending upon what those countries can offer to you from a targeting standpoint, your mix has to fundamentally change and evolve and take into consideration what those dynamics are.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like, again, the underlying thread here is a deep, profound understanding, a nuanced understanding, of the customer at various points in the customer journey, the customer lifecycle, as well as in the different regions.

Gaurav Chand: Absolutely, Michael. It's funny you mentioned that. It reminds me of something.

Michael, when I started my career in marketing – it's a long time ago, obviously – marketing was considered a jack of all trades. You get somebody smart enough, and if he or she could do advanced, then he or she could do other things and things like that.

Today, marketing is such a specialized function. When you look at the sophistication behind the martech stack, whether you're using technologies like 6sense or MediaMax or Bombora, the ability to interpret that data and turn it into insights that can be used from a customer targeting standpoint.

What is a client doing in the dark funnel? What is the client doing in the known funnel? How do you target the client in the dark funnel? How do you target the client in the known funnel? All of those, marketing is so much more sophisticated, I feel, that you're now getting those functional silos that always existed in a lot of other functions within an organization, but you're getting that in marketing in a real way.

It's exciting to see that, in all honesty, because there's so much one can do around building a career path when you have that functional distribution within a function like marketing.

On marketing measures, metrics, and KPIs

Michael Krigsman: What does your CEO want you [to measure]? Because when you're conducting brand building activities, thought leadership, content, all the things you're describing, it's not so easy to measure as opposed to, say, demand gen activities.

Gaurav Chand: I would bucketize them in four overarching categories.

One is to create awareness and shift perception. That's absolutely critical for Cognizant as a brand.

The second, I would say, is marketing influence, pipeline, and that's the tricky part, Michael.

Interestingly enough, for a majority of my career (prior to Cognizant), I've worked in places that both had relationship and transactional businesses. Transactional businesses are typically a measure of marketing results. Relationship businesses are typically measured by marketing influence.

With the services capabilities we have, there is not an iota of transactional elements around it. Therefore, marketing influence is the main thing we track. That's absolutely essential in each and every of our activities.

The third piece, I would say, is again we are in a war for talent. We have to place ourselves solidly as a talent magnet in the industry. So, increasingly, marketing becomes a really, really critical aspect of what I do on a day-to-day basis.

The fourth and final piece, I referenced this early on. We are a 330,000+ strong person. To make sure all 330,000 folks are marching in the same direction is a massive exercise. Internal coms obviously plays a huge role in that along with several other elements of marketing.

Those are the four elements, I would say, is what my CEO expects me to deliver on, what I am measured on, and yearly, we have discussions with the board around here are the measures and here is exactly how we're going about it.

On measuring marketing influence on sales and other areas

Michael Krigsman: How do you measure marketing influence?

Gaurav Chand: It depends upon the tactic, in all honesty. Let's just use an example. Let's use sponsorship as an example, and client experience around, let's say, a golf event.

One of the assets we are personally extremely proud to partner with the LPGA is the Cognizant Founders Cup. That's a golf tournament that happens every year. One of the key elements of that golf tournament around the experiential aspect of it is the point that we have N+ slots.

We have 50+ clients playing in that Pro-Am. We very closely measure the pipeline influence with those clients and those accounts six months prior and six months post. We measure the delta.

That delta, again, it's marketing influence. It's not sourced, so it's not a dead accurate number in that somebody went to my website, clicked, and bought. It's never going to be that accurate for a business like mine, but that's one example of how we measure marketing influence in the sponsorship arena.

We can replicate that exactly for our other assets, whether it be Formula 1, whether it be the President's Cup, or SailGP. That's one instance.

The second instance is also through a high propensity score. Which clients are engaging with us digitally? Did they look at a social post and come to our website? How much time did they spend on the website? What kind of topics were they on when they went to our website? Is there any correlation between those topics and the pipeline generated within the next three to six months, as a result?

That's the other thing, Michael, which is tricky about our kind of a business. You're talking about sales cycles being somewhere between six to nine months. You're not talking about one to two days or hourly sales cycles and things like that. You have to measure the right timing.

You have to have this conversation with the business leader because, at the end of the day, whatever you measure has to be absolutely believable and acceptable to the business leader. Marketing cannot live in a vacuum where they're patting their backs on a great job done and the business leader sits out there and says, "Well, I didn't even know you folks did this," or "I didn't even know you folks measured this."

That has to be done in tandem so, again, depending upon the timing, we look at various different techniques to measure the marketing influence by client.

Michael Krigsman: You're comfortable with that ambiguity of not being able to attribute a precise result to a precise activity.

Gaurav Chand: It took me some time getting used to it. Again, I've always operated in businesses that had a relationship component to it, but it was 30%, 40%, maximum 50%. I had 50%, which was much more small and medium business, transactional kind of elements that I could track very carefully.

It took me some time. It took me some education, personally, too. Understanding the portfolio at the depth. Understanding the sales cycle. Understanding the customer journey. Talking to our client partners who are our client-facing teams. And understanding how they go position various different services to the clients. What are the sales cycles around this?

I had to go through a personal, educational journey to figure out how I believe is the best way to measure ourselves. Then I had to go communicate that with the entire executive committee, which is the CEO and all of my peers (the reports to the CEO) saying, "Hey, after having done all of this work, I believe these are the measures we need to put in place. This is how we're going to measure them. This is the frequency at which we're going to measure them. Is this acceptable to all of you? If so, we can start."

Michael Krigsman: I'm just thinking about trying to align all of these stakeholders. It sometimes cannot be an easy task.

Gaurav Chand: And that's a key part, right? A lot of people just don't think through those operational elements around working with your peers and getting consensus on a lot of these pieces. But that's a key aspect of the role of the CMO today, honestly.

On the importance of culture change in business transformation

Michael Krigsman: Let's take some questions from Twitter. This is from Arsalan Khan, who is a regular listener. I always thank him. Arsalan, thank you for listening and for your great questions all the time.

Shifting gears here slightly, he says, "Digital transformation requires culture transformation. How do you convince your clients that their culture needs to change," he's very blunt "without them firing you? What is the relationship between marketing and IT to bring about digital transformation?"

Gaurav Chand: It is incredible. It's that notion. Arsalan, thank you for that question. It's that notion of people, process, technology.

Technology exists. It's not just a question of culture. It is culture both from a people standpoint as well as a process standpoint. That's what's absolutely critical.

Look. The best way to convince your clients, there are two ways to do it. One is show the clients that have gone through this. Be very transparent about the challenges around the culture, the processes – that element of it. But the great news is we also have very sophisticated and very mature digital business operations that allows us, gives us the capability to do that.

We also deploy a consulting team that are experts in change management, so you have to do a bunch of elements. It's not just the notion.

It's not as simple as saying, "Hey, yesterday this application lived in a legacy server storage networking environment. Today, we want it migrated fully to the cloud." It's not as simple as that.

There are people working there that need to be repurposed in the way that organization lives. There is a change in management associated with that. There's an operational rigor associated with that.

We call on all of the facets within the organization and within our capabilities to effect those kind of changes and help our clients go through that cultural change, both from a people as well as a process standpoint. That's the most key element behind it.

Now, it always helps. It always helps to have showcase studies of clients who you've taken through that journey with the right results. So, another key element of marketing in today's world is that case study element and clients standing up and vouching for the work you have done.

Last, but not the least – and I'll tell you this is also an incredible proof point – is Cognizant on Cognizant. Can you prove that you went through this transition successfully and you got all the right benefits out of it? That's a key thing that our clients want to hear, which is why talking to the CTO of the company, talking to the CIO of the company in understanding these broad, cultural changes is a really key element of that entire gamut.

On the relationship between the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) role and the Chief Information Officer (CIO) role

Michael Krigsman: Then Arsalan also wants to know, and I'll ask you to respond pretty quickly because we're just going to run out of time. He wants to know the relationship between marketing and IT. He's an IT guy. We have a lot of listeners who are coming out of IT. How does marketing and IT work together to drive digital transformation?

Gaurav Chand: It has an incredibly powerful relationship at the end of the day. What we saw, and we saw this shift starting to occur ten years ago where the CIO was not the only person driving IT decisions. There were very much other groups now starting to drive it. HR driving decisions like Workday. Marketing driving decisions like predictive technologies, Web technologies, Adobe, which version of Adobe, and all of those aspects around it.

It has to be an incredibly tight relationship. I speak to my CTO and CIO at least once a month. My team speak to them on a daily basis. My martech stack team is fully embedded with the IT team. Those relationships are really critical for this to work out.

Michael Krigsman: From LinkedIn, Avi Singh Malhotra asks this question. He says, "With the privacy changes driven by Apple, Google Chrome, et cetera, how do you see the marketing landscape change, especially around ROI optimization and attribution?"

Gaurav Chand: There are always going to be privacy changes that are going to affect your technology stack in some form, fit, or function. The only way you're ever going to get above any and all privacy changes is when the client, when the persona you're targeting, gives you consent to market to them. That is the only way.

Irrespective of what privacy changes take place, once the persona you're targeting gives you consent to target them, you're in the clear, and the only possible way to do that is to have world-class content. If you have truly engaging, truly enlightening content, people will reach out.

My advice to my team, all marketeers, is leave the technology aspect. Leave the political, social-political elements around privacy and all completely out of the picture. Focus on building world-class content and your clients will come to you.

Michael Krigsman: This is from Lisbeth Shaw. This is another great question. She says, "How have the brand challenges for Cognizant changed and how does that impact the market investment and strategy of Cognizant for 2022?"

Gaurav Chand: Right now, I wouldn't say our brand challenge has changed. Right now, we're just about a year and a half into this journey. As you can imagine, a fundamental shift in perception is a three- to five-year journey if done right, and even longer if not done right.

From my standpoint, the awareness piece that I talked about, the shifting of perceptions piece that I talked about, none of that has changed. But I will give you a hypothetical example since you asked the question.

Today, I rely heavily on a sponsorship strategy that gives me two elements that I really want. One is global eyeballs coupled with the ability to engage clients at a very effective and personal level so I can drive that shift in perception.

Tomorrow, if my perception is exactly where I want it to be and all I want to do is drive a lot of engagement so I can expand my book of business, or if I need to expand my client set, I will change my awareness strategy. I might drop all of my sponsorships and focus exclusively on digital targeting around the topics I want expansion on and some client experiential added to that. That's just a very basic example of how I view as your marketing strategy evolves, as your business objectives evolve.

But today, in all honesty, we have just started our journey. We still have a long ways to go before I can say confidently that I'm going to ramp some element in my portfolio because I feel I have achieved the outcome in need to achieve.

Michael Krigsman: It sounds like you've settled on the message. You understand the customer. Now you're in an execution phase as opposed to a figuring it all out phase.

Gaurav Chand: Yes, the first step is to understand your client, your customer. The next step is to understand all the various personalities and personas within those clients. Then target them very effectively because, back to that previous question, the CIO is not the only person driving IT decisions in today's environment. The best CIOs are the ones that fully embrace that.

You have marketing. You have HR. You have business leaders. You have finance. Everybody is driving some kind of an IT decision or at least influencing it. You have to be able to successfully talk to each of those personas.

Michael Krigsman: This is from LinkedIn. This is from Ramesh Ramakrishnan. He asks, "With business transformation driving converged roles, including full-stack developers, how is the industry equipped to coach and develop full-stack marketers?"

Gaurav Chand: That's one of the biggest challenges, in all honesty. It generally is because, from an education standpoint, around certain key elements, you still are not fully educated once you leave either undergrad or grad school. Full familiarity with a digital stack involves understanding.

I'm going to throw some brand names out there. That doesn't mean that I am all behind them, but it just means, as an example, understanding, let's say, AEM 6.5, understanding if you're deploying a MediaMax, 6sense, or Bombora, what does that feed give you? What does it mean? How do you go change your MediaMax plan according to that? Which elements are performing extremely well? Which elements are not performing extremely well?

Social is another really good example where a lot of folks that we get, we have to train them around what works in social. Long-form messaging does not work in social. Short-form messaging works in social.

Video creation: What is the difference between a 6-second, 15-second, 30-second, and a 20-minute video? Why is it critical when you're advertising on Instagram? When you're talking about the company on Instagram, you have to take a completely different lens on the video creation than when you're talking about broadcast television, advertising, and stuff like that.

There are elements in that that are not fully done. I think they're getting better. I think curriculums are getting better, and they will get to that point. But it is one of the challenges. That said, I think most mature marketing companies, in all honesty, have built a nice training program as a starting point for folks coming in certain disciplines.

I think the industry has, for the most, caught up. I think, as long as the education process catches up, I think we'll be in good shape in a few years.

Michael Krigsman: Again, Arsalan Khan comes back, and he says, "As marketing relies more and more on data, how do you strike the balance between capturing too much or too little data?" He also wants to know, "Who provides the budget for martech, CIO or CMO?"

Gaurav Chand: The CMO provides the budget for martech, and I'll be honest with you. The data question is extremely pertinent, and that's where data science becomes an art.

Understanding the feeds coming out of the dark funnel and known funnel to your predictive analysis technology, being able to equate that into the right action but experimenting all the time to see what succeeded and what not, and having the data in real-time to flip the strategies becomes really, really critical.

Michael Krigsman: A couple of topics I'm hoping we can explore in the next few minutes. Number one is (you mentioned a couple of times) talent. I have spoken with a number of CMOs recently who have just expressed their pain and suffering at hiring talent, retaining talent, and paying for talent right now. Any thoughts on talent?

Gaurav Chand: We have hired 900 brand new recruiters since the beginning of this year. Since the beginning of this quarter, we've hired approximately 9,800 net new folks at Cognizant. And since the beginning of last year, we've hired about 43,800 people at Cognizant. Just think about those numbers.

Yes, it is difficult. It is a critical part, I believe, of any marketer to actually think about the group marketing do, not just because I am a people business and I'm a people company. I think every company in the world is going to need an element of recruitment marketing given that there is a war for talent and I don't believe that's going away any time soon whatsoever.

On the importance of experiential marketing

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned the term experiential marketing.

Gaurav Chand: Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: I know that that's very important to you, so can you tell us about that?

Gaurav Chand: Experiential marketing has always been critical, but again it's where you use it in the funnel that makes all the difference in the world. Email marketing was another example that I used.

Experiential marketing used as a first sign contact, from my experience, has never yielded the right results. It's always when somebody knows something about your company, is hungry for more, and you attack them at the right time in that customer journey, pull them in, give them the opportunity to talk in more detail about your company. That's where it's very effective.

Honestly, at this point in time, Michael, I think experiential marketing is even more important. Why? Because we've all lived through two years, two and a half years of this pandemic. It's not fully over, but we are getting back together. There's a strong desire for people to go out and engage and interact with human beings. I think experiential marketing (for the next few years) is going to be another very, very critical element of an entire marketing strategy.

On using experiential marketing to build trust among customers and clients

Michael Krigsman: I'm assuming that one of the reasons it's so important for you is because Cognizant is in a relationship business and inviting people to events and so forth helps build those relationships. I assume that's the case.

Gaurav Chand: Yeah, it's a complex sale. It's a long sales cycle. Therefore, you need a lot more time to sit down and explain what you do with clients.

The second element that I brought up very, very early on in our conversation is shifting perceptions. Shifting perceptions is comparatively difficult to do in a LinkedIn ad or Twitter ad. It needs to start there, but then you need some time to sit face-to-face with a client and explain what you're about and where you're shifting, what kind of investments you're making, and all of those aspects around that. That's where experiential marketing plays a really critical role.

Michael Krigsman: I also have to make the assumption that fundamental to this is the opportunity for the clients to get to know you to build and establish trust.

Gaurav Chand: That's exactly right because, again, in a relationship business, that trust factor is absolutely critical. There is no better way to build trust than sit down with people and discuss face-to-face.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for marketers on ensuring that their marketing goals, activities, and investments are matching, aligning with the organization's business goals?

Gaurav Chand: The biggest advice I have is, make sure you're fully connected with the business leader. Marketing exists for a purpose, and that is to accelerate the business irrespective of what the goals are.

It takes time. It's tedious. However, it is absolutely critical that that gets done before you plan any aspect of marketing strategy whatsoever. Just spending the time doing the due diligence and understanding the business problems and what you are solving for is the most critical element.

One more piece, Michael, that I would love to tell people is what I have noticed. Marketing people are sometimes the worst personal marketeers. I've noticed this time and again, which is, we all view our work, and we all view that doing our work is all that it takes. But it's not.

There is a last mile, which is, how do you intelligently talk about your work without coming across as bragging or boastful and all of that? Learn that art in order to accelerate your career in any company. The people who tend to accelerate tend to have that skill set the best.

Great marketeers sometimes prove to be the worst marketeers for themselves. Use that skillset you've developed in coming up with great marketing programs and use it for yourself also a little bit in your day-to-day career.

On account-based marketing (ABM) as the future

Michael Krigsman: Where do you see marketing at Cognizant headed?

Gaurav Chand: I'm excited at point in time. I think we are getting an even more sophisticated martech stack. ABM has kicked off in a big way at Cognizant, getting it to the next level around digital targeting.

As country infrastructures mature outside the U.S. and our ability to target personas very specifically and expand our persona set to the entire C-suite, that's exactly where we're taking marketing at Cognizant.

Michael Krigsman: With that, I want to say a huge thank you to Gaurav Chand. He is the chief marketing officer at Cognizant. Gaurav, thank you very much for being here today.

Gaurav Chand: Thank you so much, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: A huge thank you to everybody who watched and especially to those folks who asked such great questions. I love your questions. You guys are such a smart audience.

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Everybody, thanks so much. I hope you have a great day, and we'll see you soon.