Intent Farm is a digital advertising agency that weaves a perfect digital story in symphony with digital tools and strategies for brands across search and social platforms. Founder and CEO of Intent Farm, Hitesh Lalwani defines the keyword ‘growth’ through digital advertising efforts as “reaching the goal that a brand desires in terms of awareness, revenue on e-commerce, leads, app downloads, etc.”
Orchestrating strategies and executing them for search advertising, social advertising, and SEO wasn’t on Hitesh’s roadmap when he went to the Indian Institute of Technology or IIT, Bombay. However, equipped with an engineering degree from IIT and an analytic bone in the body, the business side of things interested Hitesh. The journey incepted with learning for his calling for marketing at Procter and Gamble followed by entering the start-up world and entrepreneurship.
In 2018, with Intent Farm, Hitesh began to lead from the front as a leader while focusing his energy on advertising strategies. Today, he also guides the Intent Farm team of 30+ professionals throughout the process of crafting campaigns.
In an exclusive conversation with editor at The CEO Magazine, Purnima Narang, he discussed insightful aspects of the his journey, leadership, and Intent Farm’s future. Here are the excerpts:
Hitesh: Marketing, as an industry, demands experiments as you can never be sure that something will work. This dynamic nature keeps creating hurdles that we deal with every day, which I would rather call a routine than a challenge.
On a major front the key hurdle, I believe, is the lack of understanding of data-driven marketing in the ecosystem.
Most of the people marketers in India perceive marketing from the lens of creativity. However, most of the times creativity or unique things have a short lifetime. Thus, it becomes a regular and taxing task over time to keep winning creatively. Our struggle has been to champion this thought of data driven marketing, which is quite popular in the west, to say the least.
Along with the re-engineering, the thought process in the industry, building the team when there are no readily available data-driven marketers in the market was a challenge we surmounted. Indeed, looking forward, these two changes have prepared us for the better.
Hitesh: Rather than sticking to a cliched answers, I definitely, know that whenever we face a problem, the first instinct is to get into the fire-fighting mode. And good fire-fighting, which doesn’t happen in stress. To avoid the chaos, I work with a calm approach, allowing them my team to think it things through, offering my input which adds value to the discussion, trusting them to find the solution and communicate the same with the client very transparently.
Hitesh: Quite honestly, the first 3-4 months when the pandemic prevailed, were difficult due to a lack of clarity from clients about their action plan. While a lot of brands tossed whatever they were doing, we focused on not taking the hard calls and retaining our team. But, eventually, things turned around and digital picked up well.
We were fortunate to be on the right side of things and navigated through the times. Although the times have been unfortunate, a lot of people have acknowledged the dire need for digital marketing and adopting online channels.
Hitesh: As I mentioned before, being an analytical person, numbers excite me. Numbers in our world mean growth. As long as we grow and our clients grow, we are successful. I adore seeing analytics reports at the end of the week from my team on the growth that has been delivered to the clients. This drives me.
Looking slightly long term, success would be championing the thought of data-driven advertising and creating a difference in the execution of marketing to benefit brands is what keeps me motivated.
Hitesh: We, at Intent Farm, value transparency within the team and with the clients. This is evident from our billing model to our client communication and internal feedback systems. Unlike the other agencies who charge lump sum amounts, we keep everything extremely transparent with our clients, from the ways the money is spent to the decisions taken, to the places where we are succeeding or failing.
The second value that is crucial to our team is accountability. We robustly believe in the fact that we have to take through the task we have taken. We do not like to fail. Hence we keep iterating fast enough to succeed eventually. Over time, our team has imbibed the same even though it was difficult at first. It’s via this ingrained accountability that we can create a difference and results through thin air.
Hitesh: I believe, there are various campaigns and accounts that we are proud of. Most of them are case studies on our website now. But that apart, I believe, I am proud of being able to assemble such an incredible team and join forces to ensure the client’s brand is at the centre of everything. This thriving culture is crucial for our business and is indeed a great success.
Hitesh: We want to be synonymous with growth and creating a bigger impact across the marketing spectrum of India. To achieve this broader vision, we are working on adapting technologies and ensuring that more processes can be automated without losing touch with human intelligence.
We work heavily on tech-enabled dashboards and automation to make life easier and reduce the repetitive tasks which aren't value-adding. Intent Farm, which is a part of the Walnut Folks Group which also houses Confluencr – a name that is already synonymous with Influencer Marketing in the industry. We aim to replicate the same with Intent Farm and advertising.
Hitesh: I believe, much quicker than that. I am quite certain of it and this is not rooting in over-confidence. Rather from the numbers and results, we have already witnessed. Within a year or two, we will be on a different plane.
Hitesh: For digital marketing entrepreneurs, I would advise you to always believe in data. Creativity is great and essential, but at least an equal amount of attention if not more to data will take you a long way.
To entrepreneurs, in general, my advice is simple – we all need to iterate fast. You are never going to hit the nail the first time, unless extremely lucky. You are going to need to change your strategy and tactics and sometimes even your product as a whole. But as long as it satisfies your long-time goal, keep remaining focussed to ensure that you succeed.
Hitesh: We do believe in contributing to society. As a company, we engage in pro-bono work for companies that are not financially strong and are set out to help society. This includes NGOs or organisations that have these goals for society at large. We also offer significant discounts on our prices if needed for brands that create meaningful impact.
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