Interview with Varun Thunuguntla, Marketing Director – Digital Unit at Sonova Group

At SaaS Talks, we have focused on the leaders in the SaaS industry. But it’s also important to talk to people to understand how the ever-evolving industry has helped them and their businesses. That’s why, this time around, we’re talking to Varun Thunuguntla, Marketing Director – Digital Unit at the Switzerland-based Sonova Group.

1) Your journey as a marketing professional. I’ve been working in the online marketing industry since 2006 after having graduated in Economics.

My first stint was as an Account Manager at Google for a portfolio of North clientele. After that, I stepped out of Digital for a brief period and went into traditional marketing at General Electric in Paris. Over the last 8 years, I’ve been working in startups of various sizes in Berlin across e-commerce, gaming, streaming, and currently health tech.

My current role has been predominantly as a Marketing leader for B2C and B2B2C assignments (particularly with mobile apps and websites), but also across product and CRM, thereby helping me develop a holistic approach to all things spanning branding to conversion. I’ve made my way to a more strategic position but still enjoy running operational campaigns on the side on a continual basis.

2) What are your thoughts on how has marketing evolved over the years?

As someone who has experienced the advent of the internet and the colossal change it has brought to traditional marketing through digital, I think this is a realm that’s constantly influenced by pop culture, technology, and data-driven efficiencies. Everything from machine learning, artificial intelligence, IoT, and Big Data is now a part of our everyday approach to user acquisition and marketing operations. As everyday marketers, we have made the journey from purely research-backed (or worst case, guesswork) marketing to hypothetical testing that draws from data repositories we maintain of our target audience. The modern marketing landscape draws from various touchpoints that we establish through CRM systems, Product, as well as user group studies and thereby informs our daily operations in a cost-efficient manner. I think the future of marketing will be clearly influenced by data privacy, and the gamut of legal regulations that come with ensuring customer protection. We already see signs of these movements across Safari and iOS in mobile as well as impending changes in Google Chrome and Firefox for the web. Marketing will need to change the game, based on the limited data or new forms of ‘intent’ based targeting that follows from all these measures.

3) Which marketing channels do you use primarily? What would be your insights from each of them?

Every one of my organization’s marketing units has differed in their respective portfolio of channels not only in terms of ‘spread’, but also in terms of spend weightages between them. The overall purpose of any marketing campaign, be it branding or performance, needs to address an audience that shows the tendencies or a strong intent of ‘converting’ into a product or service and based on the exact demographic we need to go after the right channel platform to do so would differ as well.

Native channels like Taboola and RevContent, alongside certain social channels like Facebook and Reddit definitely make up a healthy chunk of our acquisition platforms. However, SEO and Google Search also contribute to brand building and performance marketing. Insights per channel would be hard to summarize as a simplistic answer however, my only suggestion would be to pay attention to user behavior on every platform and what needs to be done at both a creative level as well as a content / copy level when you speak to the audience on every channel. For instance, pay more attention to community management on a social platform, apart from making an ad creative look more genuine, and suited to the rest of the platform’s context.

4) What are your favorite SaaS software for marketing?

Salesforce is a top favorite of mine when I think about SaaS. It has enabled most small and mid-size businesses to collect information on customers, prospects and leads within a single online platform as well as providing access to critical data on any connected device at any time by an employee through its customer relationship management offering.

Related read: Marketing in the times of COVID-19: how are SaaS marketers engaging with customers

Microsoft took its MS Office offering and now gives the same flexibility through Office 365 that many companies appreciate, especially during these times of COVID and remote work. The entire Google G Suite and AWS are things most companies cannot live without in the present day. I know of no single company that doesn’t use Google Analytics or integrates those learnings into other platforms or products to do their jobs better. When I think Conversion Rate Optimization, Optimizely, and HotJar are essential for A/B testing things and understanding user behavior better.

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