Entrepreneurs: Measure the right KPI when it comes to your Start-ups

Entrepreneurs: Measure the right KPI when it comes to your Start-ups

The need for measurement is most evident when a start-up competes with itself. This is the best sort of competition for two primary reasons. Firstly, doing better than you did the previous year is a sure sign of growth. Secondly, self-competition is the perfect stimulus for self-motivation. Comparison with an external entity can sometimes have a damaging effect. But, competition with oneself creates a drive to get better and leaves no room for excuses.

The most elementary questions that cross our minds, when we think about measurement are why and how. I urge you to answer these questions before you read on.

Why should I measure?

Right from marking one’s height on the wall as they are grown from a toddler to an adult, to using a stopwatch to measure Usain Bolt’s speed in training, measurement is the key to improvement. If you are unsure of what to beat to get better, what are you competing against? You need a benchmark to measure progress. A performance index at the end of each year is the best benchmark for the next, considering a constantly growing start-up.

How should I measure?

There are many ratios which act as progress indicators. They can be classified under the broad category of Key Performance Indicators.

KPIs are vital to the growth of a start-up. There are numerous KPIs that can be used to measure every facet of your business. However, using every available KPI can be illogical and redundant. Picking smart KPIs for most relevant measurement is truly a challenge. The choice of KPIs for any business depends on the industry. The rest are specific to the way each business is modeled and managed.

Here, we will deal with the most common KPIs, which hold good for any start-up to accelerate growth:

– Customer Acquisition Cost:

Every business – product based or service driven – needs customers to sustain operations and consequently grow. But, how efficient is your approach to acquiring customers? This can be answered when you calculate the average resources spent on gaining a customer. When compared with customer retention rate and attrition rate, the customer acquisition cost makes more sense and acts as a good indicator to know if your start-up is improving its assets or bleeding finances without apt compensation.

– Lifetime Value:

Over time, the term brand loyalty has become so cliched, that its significance in the business world has faded. However, brand loyalty could be the difference between a sustained business and one that looks set to end before it can establish itself in the market. Customer lifetime value is the net value of all transactions, across the entire period of an average customer’s relationship with your business. The higher this number, the better for your business, because it significantly reduces the stress placed on finances by the customer acquisition cost. It also justifies the resources spent on acquiring a new customer.

The ratio of lifetime value to customer acquisition cost is known as the golden metric in business. When calculated, a number under three is considered to be poor. However, until a start-up establishes itself in the market, it is hard to acquire a customer following or brand loyalty. Keep your eye on this number to ensure that it rises with every passing year, but don’t get disheartened if your golden metric starts off below 3.

– Profit margin:

The bottom line of every organization is directly affected by profits margins, making it the easiest to grasp of all metrics. Simply put, the profit margin is the difference between the selling price and cost of production. Its simplicity should not tarnish its importance, as this metric is a very good indicator of sustainability and growth potential of a start-up.

There are dozens of other KPIs that are specific to varying industries. Some KPIs are used to measure your business against industry standards or leaders. Though these may seem a bit much for budding start-ups, it’s never futile to measure KPIs and device strategies for improvement. These smart tips should come in handy while selecting the right KPIs for steady business growth:

– The salmon strategy:

It is fascinating to watch salmon swim upstream, against the current, to spawn in their home stream. Sometimes businesses must take a page out of the salmon’s book and work backward to solve certain problems. The most notable quandary faced by start-ups is the choice of KPIs. Sometimes its easier to choose KPIs based on the data that is readily available to you. A balance sheet is mandatory for any organization, making most of the primary KPIs easily attainable.

From over two decades of experience, I have noticed that the hardest KPIs to measure are the ones that are related to marketing. With the advancement in technology, it is relatively easier to keep tabs on your marketing team. The use of link management platforms is a novel method to erase obscurity and measure marketing campaigns purposefully. The analytics on these platforms are so comprehensive that precision is never compromised. Social networks, such as Facebook, provide their analytics but do not explicitly state the number of bots that have clicked on your link. Invariably your measurement is flawed.

– Split the responsibility:

Division of labor, based on one’s skill set is the best way to tackle any challenge. In keeping with this axiom, measurement of KPIs is often split into few sizeable chunks and assigned to particular teams. Not only does this ease the burden of measurement, but ownership also ensures that these teams take upon themselves the onus of improvement. Such motivation is a key ingredient to the growth of any start-up.

– Measurement without action is futile:

The sole purpose of measuring KPIs is to improve upon existing business tactics. Without such impetus to improve, measurement is like a mirage of success. Be it to up the bottom line or expand the business, the need for progressive action is only surpassed by adept execution.

– Concentrate on the most important KPIs:

KPIs vary in importance depending on the type of business and strategies employed to achieve business goals. The most important KPIs for a start-up may be the customer acquisition cost, whereas an established brand, in the same segment of the business, may consider customer lifetime value to be more significant than the rest. Whatever be your elixir to accelerated growth, the right KPI must be measured and monitored on a regular basis to stay on track to success.

Five Ways to Acquire More Customers Right Now

Five Ways to Acquire More Customers Right Now

In today’s ruthless world of business, brands are faced with challenges aplenty. The most significant of which – an ultimatum of sorts – is encountered when a brand is a knee deep in business stagnation. The question of whether to grow or go has visited the minds of CEOs the world over. However, it’s very unlikely to encounter a decision maker who chooses to go instead of growing. A decision well worth every applause, but is it deserving of a standing ovation? Certainly not, until the brand has harnessed the potential to grow, filled its sails with desire and ambition, and most importantly traded its dinghy for a galleon.

Customer acquisition is one of the most important drivers of business growth. A larger customer base equates to increased profits, which in turn acts as the seed for business expansion. But, how do we gain the attention of potential customers and convert them into loyal brand followers? Digital transformation has ushered a barrage of changes, a lot of which have had a detrimental impact on traditional marketing approaches. With the influx of several low-cost channels to reach out to customers, the need for expensive advertising is on the decline.

This trend has also overturned the ideology of hard selling and replaced it with more intuitive inbound approaches, which focus on exceptional customer service. ‘Value’ has never been more appreciated, by consumers and businesses alike. Present day consumers are always on the lookout for brands that offer more than just an array of exceptional products. Businesses, on the other hand, are equally appreciative of value, as it is an inexpensive way to get noticed by potential buyers.

One such unique value addition is found in link management platforms. These platforms allow for the personalization and analysis of marketing links. The rocketing use of personalized links, by world-renowned brands, to reach out to their target audience has caught the eye of many a customer. Branded links stand out for their novelty, making them click-worthy. It also works well for smart marketers who can now use links to promote their brand message.

Mountain Standard, an outdoor gear brand, has fully espoused the trend of digital marketing, so much so that they do not own a physical store to sell their products. Most of their sales take place through their online channels, while few customers buy from non-traditional pop-up stores in the U.S. The brand uses the contemporary strategy of smart content and incredible service, which have become cornerstones to the brand’s success. Their vision is simply brilliant! It reads -Premium goods at an honest price = More money for your adventures.

How does Mountain Standard sell premium goods at affordable prices and still manage to churn out a handsome profit? The theory is simple. They save a significant sum of cash in overhead costs by boycotting traditional retail stores that charge an exorbitant price just to place a product on their shelves. That’s all there is to it. But, practically, to sell goods without a chain of stores is much harder than it seems. The company makes this possible through their impressive website, which showcases every available product. A crossed out standard industry cost of the product is displayed next to the product, and the Mountain Standard cost – 40% to 50% lower – is placed next to it. A discount as such is sure to incite sales. The brand also conducts annual surveys to understand the changing requirement of their online consumers. In doing so, their website is always customized for better customer experience. It is said that in today’s digital world your website is the front of your brand, as opposed to office space, not so long ago. Mountain Standard has certainly brought this statement to life!

Not all brands can be as astute in their endeavor to garner customers. Some brands adopt a more direct approach to marketing. Very often direct marketing and hard selling are used interchangeably. However, hard selling is no more a marketing technique. In fact, it is a sure way to drive customers to your competitors. Here are five ways to draw customers to your brand:

Social influencers continue to grow in importance:

Social influencers have gained significant momentum over the past couple of years. Though it may seem like this trend is bound to decline sooner rather than later, brands continue to employ influencers in different capacities. Innovative ways to reach out to customers coupled with the trust they have in influencers has worked wonders for brands.

Traditional approaches such as guest blogging are one sure way to attract attention. Social media networks create a buzz whenever an influencer has an opinion. In due time the message reaches relevant audiences and brands benefit from the seed which is sown in the minds of potential customers through influencers.

More recently smaller organizations have started using bigger brands for promotion. It is known as the ‘host-beneficiary’ arrangement. In this case, an established brand promotes a product in their email to regular customers. This offers a chance to market to a new database of like-minded customers. In exchange, the smaller business may pay for the cost of emailing or offer commission on sales.

Press for press coverage:

The press will never become obsolete. It has withstood the test of time and is still considered to be one of the most powerful forms of media. A press release will do your brand a world of good. Not only will it ensure a good deal of readership, but it will incite trust, as it is coming from a recognized source. This is sure to be an expensive affair and should be undertaken after careful consideration.

Content marketing is at its peak:

Ask google what is the single most influential marketing tactic, and the answer is sure to be smart content! Content can make or break a brand. Right from SEO to social posts, content is the game changer! An expert content anchor can run a marketing campaign into a pot of gold. Great content without direction is a wasted effort. It is futile to have good content without a content strategy. Content creation and distribution go hand in hand. When you hit the right balance, you will see marketing miracles unfold before your very eyes.

If customer is king, customer feedback is the signet ring:

Brands have spent millions on customer surveys and test groups to analyze and improve upon existing products and services. The budget is set to increase in the days to come with the onset of personalized marketing. Without such feedback, it is impossible to create personalized products, service or marketing campaigns to sell the former. Brands with the best personalization strategies will make it big in 2018.

Focus on improving brand loyalty:

Brand loyal customers are hard to attain. Especially with the many choices in today’s market, one mistake is all it takes to lose a good chunk of loyal brand customers. However, these customers are sure to bring in a horde of new customers if their needs are met with value-added services.

2018 is certain to change the landscape of marketing. As marketers, we live in exciting times, when competition is driving mind-blowing innovation. I, for one, cannot wait to see what the latter half of 2018 has in store for us.

Content marketing – The game changer for your brand

Content marketing – The game changer for your brand

The term ‘Content Marketing,’ though relatively fresh, has elevated marketing to a whole new plateau. Thoughts and methods to reach a concerned target market have evolved, leading to the grand inception of this concept. Simply put, content marketing is the creation and distribution of posts, videos, blogs and such to stimulate a pre-existing need among potential customers. It is the stimulant which drives them to purchase products or services that meet their needs. Content marketing is essentially a psychological game, which often benefits the most preceptive marketers.

This may seem vague, but don’t worry, you aren’t alone. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, 55% of B2B marketers said they were unclear about the structure of a good content marketing campaign, despite stats which showed that they allocate 28% of their budget to content marketing. Such is the intricacy and thought that needs to go into content marketing. The next time you think the job of a content strategist is easy, think again!

A content strategist needs to analyze each piece of content, to ensure that the following facets are touched upon:

Social media engagement: Traditional marketing methods have given way to digital channels. The old marketing methods of postal letters and phone directory optimization are dead. Today, everything is online. Without an online presence, no brand would be as grand. With every passing day, the evolution of content marketing brings in newer methods to engage potential customers on social media.

Engagement is not confined to a certain stage in the marketing lifecycle. Before creating content, a content strategist needs to outline engagement objectives and goals to map out a content marketing strategy. After establishing the desired result, it is relatively easy to work backward and create content. However, it does take a good amount of thought to create content that gets clicked and initiates conversations. Content is crucial, as a survey conducted by Demand Gen Report showed that 47% of buyers viewed at least 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.

Without innovation, it is impossible to attract online interest. Custom URL shortener solution is the latest in innovative content. They are eye-catching and receptive to branding. mylnk.is/MeaningfulLinks is more click-worthy than uvw12xyz90.com/sjddh009. In an age where 76% of people use their Facebook feed to find something interesting, custom URLs are too novel to go unnoticed.

Gain trust with relevant content: Brand loyalty is one of the most important aspects of marketing. Though initial content will surely not get any customer close to the sort of devotion that can be classified under brand loyalty, trustworthy information can go a long way in sowing seeds for a long-lasting relationship. In keeping with this notion, the importance of blogs has steadily risen over the past few years. According to a survey conducted by Hubspot, 53% of marketers stated that blog content creation was their top inbound marketing priority.

It is not easy to initiate a relationship, but it is equally hard to cut ties once a relationship is established. For the purpose of illustration, consider Nike. Though the sweatshop ordeal was widely publicized, brand loyal customers hardly budged to give other sporting brands a second glance.

Create curiosity: Human beings are curious by nature. As we progress in years, we learn to disguise our curiosity, which gives “keen observers” the impression that kids are more curious than adults. But, this is far from the truth.

Content strategists have used shrewd content to pique the curiosity of audiences for ages. Consider the Yamaha advertisement from yesteryear, which began with numerous questions on a blank screen. The questions were very mundane in nature, such as “what should I eat” and “what should I wear.”

When the screen was inundated with questions, a rider shattered it with a Yamaha motorbike, and the text read, “It may not be the answer to everything, but at least it doesn’t raise more questions.” Curious to know the answers to the first set of questions? Well, there are no answers, but Yamaha’s shrewd content strategists ensured that people saw the motorbike and were left, not with questions, but the thought of riding to forget the many pedestrian questions that life throws at us on a daily basis.

This advertisement was way ahead of its time. It probably paved the way for the strategic content, which today is vital to the success of any business. A recent study by Adobe showed that 51.9% of marketing professionals trusted videos to deliver the best ROI. It is not just written content, but how it is delivered that truly makes a difference.

The role of content has moved from being product-centric to customer-centric. Extensive studies on this topic have shown that stellar content revolving around a product does not affect sales if a customer cannot relate to it. Potential customers must embark upon a journey of awareness, consideration and decision making, all of which is fundamentally facilitated by strategic content.

Story telling: People love stories! When a brand has a story to tell, people take notice. It is one of the most powerful marketing tools, not only for its ability to attract listeners, but its potential to turn into a juicy piece of conversation. While telling your story, you create compelling marketing content and stimulate word of mouth.

It is like hitting two birds with one stone. This is a competent strategy to gain the attention of your audience. You may need a raconteur to turn your story into engaging content, but it is definitely worth the investment.

A raconteur can turn a dull story into a fascinating fairy-tale, but if your viewers are not stimulated to read it, the effort is wasted. As the adage goes – You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t force it to drink… unless it is thirsty. Visual effects create that thirst in viewers to read your content. In fact, research by Xerox has shown that people are 80% more willing to read content that is accompanied by striking visuals.

Search engine optimization: Years ago, brands vied for top stop in telephone directories. Similarly, but with the use of different practices, brands compete for the top spot in search engines, simply because potential customers hardly ever visit the second page when hunting for anything online. The single most important driver of SEO is content.

The research-based marketing firm, Ascend2, noted that 72% of marketers felt that relevant content was the most effective SEO tactic. Google has tacitly monopolized the term search engine, so much so that ‘online search’ has become synonymous with Google. The fight for Google’s top spot is so intense, that though Google regularly changes its algorithms to make its search more relevant for customers, businesses find a way to beat the algorithm.

E.g., if you look for the synonym of any English word on Google, the first three search items will show www.thesaurus.com, which logically doesn’t make sense. But the people writing content for that website have so flooded it with keywords that other synonyms generating websites don’t stand a chance of finding a spot in the top three. This increases their chance of getting more visitors to their website. It is to nullify these illogical search results that Google regularly revises its back-end algorithms.

It goes without saying that businesses have to keep up with Google and its whims and fancies to get noticed by potential customers. Though this is essential for success, there are other simpler ways to get noticed. The us e of custom shortlink generators, is a novel method to get more clicks, views, and shares.

Create brand reputation: With educative and trustworthy content, brands can become reputed sources of information. Once established as the go-to source for information, the reputation itself can create a legacy that will be hard to come undone.

Though this may seem like a tedious way to acquire brand loyalty, it is tried, tested and trusted. Great products create brand royalty, but great content drives brand loyalty. Royalty does not last forever, but loyalty does!

Subtle advertising: Hard selling is a thing of yesterday. Try hard selling to today’s savant customer base, and you’ll ruin your chances of ever making a sale. Therefore, it is of immense importance to keep away from “in your face” advertising. That being said, divulging information without a go-to-destination can lead your customers to your competitors.

Won’t that make your competitors glad!

Nuances of content marketing and intuition play a vital role in judging where the line must be drawn between marketing aggression and customer consideration when advertising a product or service. You don’t want to be too passive, and yet being aggressive can implode instantly.

Product manual: It is imperative to provide customers with an easy to read and understand “product manual.” Customers who can’t use products that they purchase are likely to be so ticked off that their negative opinion can not only keep them away from your brand but stop others who hear their opinion from venturing to try your products or services in future.

This is reinforced by stats, which show that 53% of smartphone users prefer companies whose mobile sites and apps provide instructional video content.

Now you know why it is of vital importance to have the right content specialist on your team. Without a content anchor, your marketing campaign will sail the stormiest of seas and eventually capsize, though the sea maybe full of potential customers who are waiting for the right sort of bait. Get that game-changing anchor on your team, and your brand will certainly flourish.

5 steps for start-ups to run a marketing campaign

5 steps for start-ups to run a marketing campaign

Marketing is self consuming, once we get in there is no way we feel we have had enough of it . We always want that additional few likes, Extra viewership, Extra Reads, Extra Leads and such. While we may be right in wanting the ‘extra’ and the ‘additional’ it requires  an exceptional campaign to get there. While not all exceptional campaigns require resources, most do. It is therefore important to attempt to create a good clever campaign without the need for resources burning  us out. Here are few things to consider

Step 1.  Identifying the right audience. Knowing whom we are selling to i.e.  the target market whom we want to address is first most important thing. It is important that we understand the profile of the person/s we want to target our campaign to. For example –  In a B2B scenario a campaign targeted for Purchase or vendor Management teams could be different from  a campaign targeted to CEOs of companies for the same solution, product or services.

Task : List down the profile of the desired audience in a simple excel sheet. (Hints: What type of Companies, Who within the company, His Level of Experience etc.)

Step 2.  Messaging.  Once we have got the profile of the audience, identifying and creating the right message, for our audience inline with what the audience wants is key. Often times, we get carried away by the exceptional product that we have and focus on it ‘more’ that what our audience wants. A simple example would be our desire to talk about the great underlying technology of our product while the problem that our audience wants addressed is maybe just a simple and secure way to share data over the internet. While technology is important, we would lose crucial attention seconds to technology tidbits which we would rather have for the audience to figure out how to reach us.

Task : List down the simple problems we have set out to solve. It could be technical if the audience we are going after is technical or simple life problems or business problems if the target audience is such. (Hints: Improve data crunching for higher data throughput in a cloud transaction or simple way to identify stock-outs in a retail store).  It is important to keep in mind that the same message can be represented in multiple ways. Once we have the messages listed out, brainstorm on them till we arrive at one or two most powerful messages (keeping in mind the delivery mechanism- for e.g. a message for a mail campaign with the reader’s own interpretation could be different from a print message where we could have visuals guiding the message)   

Step 3.  Getting the delivery mechanism/vehicle right. This is what, which generally takes away the resources. Marketing campaigns are run through expensive media Ads, Print Ads to downright and significantly inexpensive email campaigns. Generally a right combo of multiple delivery mechanisms work. In our case of Start-ups and SMEs, a combination of email campaigns alongside a well designed website and a dose of social media could help create the visibility and therefore the perception of availability. It would not serve the purpose if we reached out with a good email campaign and we did not have a good (within our means) website to support our claims in a campaign email.

Task : As a takeaway a from the step 1 derive the best and the 2nd best possible hang-out where the audience is available ,  Once we have identified  that, the decision of choosing the Delivery Mechanism is a function of the budget and resources . It is important however to know the trade offs in going for the 3rd best hangout due to resource and budget constraints. However, in a IT service/product business the most economical delivery mechanisms may often be the best delivery mechanisms.

Step 4.  Creating and executing the Campaign. Creating the campaign is an involving activity and a culmination of our knowledge about our identified audience, understanding the messaging that we want to project, the time we have, tuned for the delivery mechanism we choose. Once we have the above 3 steps in place and we know our budgets, it is a mixture of creativity and resources (that our budgets define) and the available time. Therefore the key here is to assign a budget and identifying the time by when the campaign needs to be executed, for example a holiday season or a Financial year closure. Budgets and time also define the creation of the target pool – the email databases for email campaigns, the Blog topics for Blog campaigns, Phone numbers for Phone-out campaigns etc. (not touching the print and media campaigns which focus more on the content)

Task : This is the most time consuming part of the Campaign Preparation. Our creative team, the marketing Team (Including the leadership) works on developing the content, design and the message. Another team identifies / builds the target market list/database, complete with email IDs, phone numbers, company profile data as required. A plan for running the campaigns is created covering sequential and parallel runs and the plan is executed accordingly.

Step 5.  Yield Management – Measuring, tracking and follow up. Good marketing campaigns always have this step well thought out before the campaign is executed. Lack of preparation of post campaign activities can be disastrous. Imagine not having enough sales force to address request for meetings before a holiday season across multiple geographies. The prospect that responded to our campaign of ‘let’s meet’, if not met, will most likely never respond to our future campaigns.  Also, not being able to measure the number of  responses received , type of responses etc. in mail campaign would deny us of crucial learnings to be accounted for in our next campaign.  Our preparation for this activity could also influence our messaging and the vehicle of choice for our marketing campaign.

In all Marketing Campaigns are involved activities, much beyond sending out random emails and tele-calling and the success depends on how much preparation goes behind. While resources are required, smart and less resource intensive ways of campaigning can also yield desirable results.

Task : In case of email Campaigns, create a simple excel sheet with the number of emails sent, day, time, messages and capture the responses, both negative, positive and neutral and build action items for all responses that require action. Collate the info and use the analysis for the next campaign.

Happy Marketing !! 

Frugal Marketing and Sales

Frugal Marketing and Sales

New entrants by their nature of operations have limited resources at their disposal and after investments on their core products/services have very little for their Marketing and Sales activities.

Pitched against the might of behemoth companies in almost any field of service or product leaves only few options for the new entrants, unless they are ground breaking ideas and/or are driven by a set of extremely nascent technologies which take off on their own.

Till the time the Start-up or an SME is funded it is important to follow a frugality in approach and measure every spend aspect against an expected ROI. Though there may not be a direct ROI for many of the activities in marketing, still it is good to keep the end result in mind.

Splurging on a media campaign will surely get us the ears and eyeballs but if we are not prepared to capitalize on the attention we generate, the marketing campaign would not yield the desired result. Therefore while planning for a marketing campaign we must include a clear plan for absorbing the results of the campaign and taking it to the next level. For example the advertisement for a patient management software product meant for hospitals could attract interest across multiple cities and if we do not have pre-appointed sales/sales support folks available who could engage with the hospitals for a demo/discussion, the impact that the marketing campaign made, would be lost and the huge investment with it.

A frugal approach would be to go through a restrained campaign through emails and social media, which can be controlled to a great extent. The investments are limited, however these campaigns need to be sustained over a period, therefore requiring a greater degree of planning and sustained efforts in execution. However tactical it may sound, it would be proper to invest in a basic in-house sales+ marketing team which could anchor the campaign.

The preamble of a Marketing campaign would be to clearly know The specific Product or the service that would be considered for the initial campaign (It becomes very tempting to use a single campaign to promote everything that we offer thereby diluting the message and the impact our limited budgets can make )

Since Marketing is akin to show business, there is never a way which could not have been done better with more resources. A first step towards a measured campaign would be to define budgets.

The next step would be to identify the audience and the hangout most frequented by the majority of the audience. This could be Social Media, Office (Office Email), Mobile Phones for FMCG it could be TV and Radio.

The next task would be to freeze on a media (email, Social, radio, TV) or a combination of media to reach out to the audience. Primarily the budgets and volume and distribution of the audience would determine this. For E.g. A combination of Drip marketing and social media presence could do well for marketing a Technology Event.

The objective of Marketing is not just creating an awareness and impact but benefitting from the impact, otherwise it would become journalism. Once the budget, audience and the media is frozen, it is time to plan for capitalizing the effect or impact that we would generate. i.e. we should have a ready list of FAQ answers for possible queries that our targeted audience may have when they call in, after a campaign or we should be prepared with enough resources to handle Demos in various locations quickly if the campaign promised a demo and our targeted audience asks for it.

If you notice, the focus of this Blog has been more on the less expensive means of marketing namely Email Marketing, tele-calling, Social media Marketing, Blogs and Drip marketing.

Typically a combination of vehicles / media used works and there are many more ways of expanding visibility – some are expensive while some or not. Some have great ‘Value for Money’ while some others are just hygiene factors and must be done. If we are into ‘Frugal marketing’ it will be great to explore few other ways to Market ourselves. Few online options

  • Networking (with a significant supply of Business cards) at RELEVANT events is a good way to spread the word,
  • Alliances with eco system partners – both large and small and to ensure that we get a mention in all/some of the marketing material/web pages that they have.
  • Getting featured in few Industry Magazines  and eZines (if the articles are good – they sometime come free)
  • Other options, apart from regular Social media Tools (FB, LinkedIn etc.) is to Blog regularly
  • Participate in discussions and Blogs of others and in groups

The success depends on planning and relentlessness of execution (rather than brute force of being available everywhere and hence visible and therefore making the chances of being recalled by the audience is higher).

Happy Marketing !!!

Marketing is an Attitude. Sales, is a Culture

Marketing is an Attitude. Sales, is a Culture

Marketing is all about building the right perception and Sales is the grit behind this suave perception. While it is critical to have the determination and perseverance needed to sell, a culture that amplifies the values of the organization is what creates differentiated organizations.

It is not just the job of a marketing team or an external agency to create the external hype, which we call Marketing, it is much beyond and actually goes deep inside the core of the organization.

The way the company represents itself, communicates, deals with its internal organization, and its employees behave while faced with their peers in other companies is what represents the company and this defines the marketing Culture of the company.

While it becomes difficult for smaller organizations to create a visible culture, which can be resonated by its employees, certain steps can be taken to ensure that the entire company brings the same face of the company to the outside world. Lot of it is to do with communication.

Going tactical, marketing cultures can be created right from standardizing email signatures to the way MoMs are recorded and circulated. Aligning of websites with marketing collaterals create a perception of seamlessness across other aspects. Uniformity in communications to customers slowly but steadily helps in creating a brand that an organization stands for.

Therefore a facet of Marketing is into spending big on creating visibility and perception, it also has a lot to do with the culture an organization chooses to adapt

While Marketing can be equated with ‘Soft Skills’ of a human being , sales is the actual character of the organization. While sales at the very minimum an exchange of product, solution or services in exchange of money, in practicality the sales is the process that leads to this final act when the exchange takes place. The tenacity with which the organization conducts itself, the perseverance, the innovation in positioning, efforts and investment in relation building defines the attitude of the organization.

A luxury brand can be in demand because of its ‘don’t care for buyer attitude’ while a similar attitude for an organization with a product which has multiple competing products can spell doom for the organization. A services company expecting repeat sales from an organization would do great with dedicated account managers, while an organization with low cost product line would sink with investments if it chose to do the same with all its buyers.

The attitude of an organization would therefore determine how it takes its product/solution/service to the market and the position, in terms of quality, price and value that it commands. In simple terms, this attitude determines, how we negotiate, concede, refuse and win business deals. This attitude defines the nature of not only the organization’s sales force but the entire leadership of organization that contributes to the sales process.

Needs, Wants and Demands in a B2B Marketplace

Needs, Wants and Demands in a B2B Marketplace

Firms exist to serve other firms and individuals. In a B2B scenario firms serve other firms. Let me consider the requirements that are visible and expressed by Firms to procure new goods and services. It is what is available in structured RFPs and RFQs. Vendor Firms bid for it and at most times the one with the right connections – (Which knows the CEO, Knows the Project Manager, Knows the user) wins. The win is attributed to good connections.

When I really think, what is it, that my good connection gave, which helped me close my deal and I come back to the very fundamentals of Marketing.

The terms  NEEDS, WANTS and DEMANDS.

An RFP is a demand by a Firm (Firm A) which it will like to be fulfilled, because it has an approval to spend so much on a project/product for fulfilling a specific requirement. The RFP is a globally available expression of such desires backed by a financial willingness to buy from the most qualified seller. DEMANDS are important as they have a strategic connotation, where a firm that is floating the RFP adds a cloak around the specific requirement, that make the solution to the requirement unique to the firm.

Then comes the WANT. It is a desire, which need not always have a justifiable correlation with the cost at which this desire could be fulfilled. WANTS are generally posted by middle level managers who wish well for Firm and who collect best practices (Processes/Features/Specifications/User Interface models etc.)  from within organizations and from outside (including competing firms/products). These WANTS could give a One-up-manship to the product/project for which the Firm A is floating the RFP.

Then finally at the root of all this is the NEED

The NEED is a basic requirement at the center of WANTS and DEMANDS. It is as basic as a Human Being’s need for food or shelter. The Firm needs a solution to a specific problem. For example, a software developer in a geographically distributed project team NEEDs to be able to interact simultaneously with multiple of his peers. The basic NEED is to be able to have a crisp and clear multi-location conference like discussion among team members.

The basic NEED gets transformed to a WANT with frills like, Video Presence, File Sharing, meeting reminders, automatic call routers, mute and record options etc. etc. And what translated to the RFP as DEMAND are the basic NEED + half of those frill features (WANTS). The trimming of WANTS happened due to cost, infrastructure, security and other strategic considerations.

Coming back to why Firm X won the deal, is because through its connections, it was able to understand the basic NEED of the Firm A and never lost sight of the basic NEED while proposing its product/service/solution.

The Firm with the connections, picked up the DEMANDed features, met the project managers and negotiated alternate and toned down version of their original WANTS (all of which no longer reflected in the RFP), and made sure it addressed the basic NEED and all this at a cost that suited the bidding Firm. Mind you, the NEED could be something that is not related to the product at all and could possibly be a legal, security related, or simply a long term commitment like warranty and support related NEED.

This knowledge of the NEEDS and WANTS and respect for the various levels of the Firm A, won Firm X the deal, though visibly it was because the Sales guy golfed with the CEO  and dined with the Project Manager of Firm A.

** Of course I am not considering the deals where favoritism in return for other favors swing the deals. I am also considering that the pricing or a perceptible price for the same product or service by all bidding firms was similar. (I have more to say on perceptible ROI, which I will, on another blog)

5+1 tips – Beginning to network for the network shy

5+1 tips – Beginning to network for the network shy

Typically we go to events with a prior mindset of connecting with folks who could help in our businesses. Here are some tips from my experience, to help those who find it awkward to begin..

Wishfully,  I would want to network with the most influential person in the room- but would a meeting like this help? He would have 10 possible networkers around him. It is good to have his card but – very unlikely to leverage from a conversation, jostling in the middle of this crowd

  1. Knowing who do you connect/network – sometimes a look around will automatically draw you to someone – he/she would be a good person to begin with. Once you begin, other people will be around – just mill into the next person. Better still nod your head and stand next to someone available and let him network :smile:
  2. Starting a conversation – Having found the person, striking a conversation is actually simple. In a networking meet, one is expected to be unaware of another person’s business and therefore, “So, what do you do?” and “ Hi, I am Neel with ‘nfaktor’ and you are ?” is a perfectly good start . Asking a simple question, even if it is about the traffic, generally works.   Having a One-Liner that describes you and your company could  not only be handy but also critical at this stage and will help you avoid an unprepared awkward moment should you have to face the question.         3125_wpm_lowres
  3. Continuing a conversation:  Continuing a conversation is mostly not by talking but listening, So let us listen, listen beyond hearing. Go deeper – pause, ask questions on what he/she is saying and you will find that he is interested in you without you speaking a full sentence.
  4. Exchanging Cards: Sometimes this gets awkward because more often than not – one of you has a dinner tray or a coffee cup in your hands. So wait, till that awkwardness goes, if it does not go away – I have found it perfectly alright to say “I will let you finish your dinner and find you later to give you my card”.  Generally, I prefer to exchange cards after the conversation.
  5. Moving on to the next contactWinding up a conversation is again not so difficult and I have heard many variations of     some standard lines like “Let me also grab a plate” , “ Maybe we should catch up again , Can I have your business card? ”.  It is also important at this stage to mention a promise to connect back.

5+1. Converting to a relationship:  This is the difficult part. Typically retaining the contacts that we create in an event is more difficult, because your contact is no longer bound to respond to your “Hi” through a mail, so how you connect with the contact in the immediate next few days defines if your networking was useful. A phone call or an email or both continuing on what you discussed would be great to start.

….from here on networking ends and a relationship begins…Important thing to know is that when you make a relationship you will get business, and networking is about creating relationships – avoid selling and just try and understand everything the prospect says and you will find it easy….

Happy Networking!!

‘Selling’ and ‘Making a prospect buy’ – Not two sides of the same coin!!

‘Selling’ and ‘Making a prospect buy’ – Not two sides of the same coin!!

he objective, in the ‘selling’ approach and ‘making my prospect buy’ approach is the same, but there is an enormous gap in the messaging. In ‘Selling’ we have ‘We’ (our company, our product, our service, our culture) as the centrepiece while in ‘making my prospect buy’ approach the centrepiece is the Buyer.

At this point, we have lot of us nodding our heads in a ‘yes we know’ but typically the connect and the pride that we have with all that is ours (our company, our product, our service, our culture) makes it very difficult to even try to understand what our prospect actually wants.

Companies have become large, just by focusing on ‘how to make my prospects buy’ while those which focused on their greatest product have just perished – we know of the successful companies and for each of them there are a dozen or more companies which got their product right and they felt nothing could be better, not even a prospect which thought a bit otherwise.

One of the key aspects in ‘making prospects buy’ approach, is creating the perception of the product that it is good and is what it promises to be. Perception is a purely one sided word. We can show, tell, write everything about the product but ‘perceiving’ it the way a customer wants, is purely his/her prerogative.

This is where, it becomes an art. ‘Perception’ equates very closely with value. Not the value of the product but the value of the benefit the buyer derives from acquiring the product. Value also equates with the Price of the product, including the effort and the resources that the buyer is going to invest for the value, the buyer ‘Perceives’. Therefore, the key to creating the ‘Perception’ is to understand the customer, its business, need, preferences, dislikes and whatever is possible. In a larger context, a clear understanding of the market from the perspective of the buyers, themselves is essential to create the ‘Perception’. In essence, depending on how it is positioned, Perception becomes the real value.

The second most important parameter after ‘Perception’ is the ‘Likeability’ of the product. Likeability is again a very subjective word, nonetheless, when our buyers do not like the color on the bottle, or are intimidated by the sales guy and we lose serious brownie points. Therefore again, it is important that the product is presented and packaged in a way, it aligns with the ‘Perception’ created. Likeability in a way is a value enhancer

The last and a critical parameter is ‘Association’ of the product. All buyers have subconscious favourites and the favourites could be ideologies, people, fantasies, places, events and there are those standard memory joggers – like a life occasion, a childhood memory, a song. For e.g. associating with happy occasions could be better to get a mindshare for a chocolate brand than listing out the nuts and the flavors; likewise associating with ‘time with family’ could influence a buyer to make a decision on choosing a home internet connection. ‘Association’, in fact is a very powerful sales agent.

Having talked of PerceptionLikeability and Association, it might sound little ‘Consumerish’ but almost everything stated above works even in a B2B scenario, after all it is always a human being that buys, not the business.

Cloud – Subversive, Invasive and Pervasive!!!

Cloud – Subversive, Invasive and Pervasive!!!

Its raining and literally clouds are everywhere and at work too.  Almost as Internet took shape and the web took over, the Cloud is no different. Literary thoughts apart The Cloud is taking over – It is Subversive, Invasive and soon will be Pervasive.

Cloud is changing the way enterprises strategize their IT infrastructure. Sooner than later an enterprise’s cloud infrastructure will define its global reach and presence, it will define the way they service their customers, how customers interact with them.

Be it a Retail organization, maintaining its global inventories and billing systems in the cloud or a Cable Company providing time-shifting and place-shifting services for its content through Cloud, Without Cloud, the sun won’t shine on businesses.

Where it draws a parallel to the advent of Internet is, it is leveling out the playing field between smaller organizations and Industry Mammoths. The Smaller companies now have access to high end, highly available, efficient and specific Servers and Applications, without the huge Capex that they earlier would have to shell out for the same infrastructure.

Cloud is lending another meaning to the word ‘mobility’ . With connectivity becoming faster and cheaper by the day (just read about Google launching its Superfast Broadband service), it would not be far when organizations run out of ‘pocket servers’ and all of us carry our own DRM protected content on our own ‘youtubes’.  Compatibility and ‘Unknown file Format’ would be a thing of the past as you use the Cloud applications, without licensing them out on your own Personal Systems!!! Possibly our personal devices would carry only the Skins, while the applications run on the cloud and even more possibly we will not need to have personal devices because all devices would serve our personal content with the same fervor.

Storage is another area which is getting delimited by the Cloud. Imagine a virtual home in the cloud, where you store your own grocery store and it stores stuff from multiple of your retailers, each providing the item that you want, so you don’t have to search every time you want to buy , a video rack where all your fav movies and Soaps (minus commercials) are available, a library with all your favorite books (in the ebook form). They are all yours, at your tips, only that you never pay for all of them , only the ones that you use, won’t that be amazing. Welcome says the Cloud.

With so much content and applications on the cloud, Security is an aspect which will gain the maximum attention.  The worry and the threat of exposure without a properly thought out Security Strategy  is almost like baiting out all hackers to your cloud. On the other hand with all applications going to the cloud there would be only one place to secure and a uniform strategy and secure policies, organizations can feel more secure than ever.

Clouds are shaping up and for a change they are not dark. A lot is promised, and in small puffs they are all coming together!!