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!!