Small.Business.Marketing

New marketing demystified for Indian SMEs

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Web 3.0 and the Indian market

Israel Venture Capital 2.0: Web 3.0 is Coming?.

I usually do not comment on Web 2.0 stories but, the blog by Daniel Cohen was really nice and I thought I can use some points made in the blog to make a few of my 0wn as well.

Mr. Cohen first traces the broad distinctions between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Then he talks about the evolving standards of Web 3.0 and attempts a definition based on a story that appeared first in NYT. Wikipedia had a defition of their own, to which Mr. Cohen links, but it has since been taken off, a sign surely of the still to solidify contours of the Web 3.0.
Of course, Mr. Cohen’s heart is not really in definitions, and rightly so. The important point he makes is that usage will drive the direction and shape of the Web 3.0. Equal relevance to the users and practitioners of internet based marketing are the monetization challenges. As advertising falls out of favour, the challenge will be to monetize interactions, many of them private,  among friends.

What does it mean for us? Web 3.0 will be much more “media-agnostic” than even Web 2.0. Web, TV, mobile phones will all be platforms. This is of particular relevance to India because only with a rich content play on mobile phones, whose spread, penetration and growth continues to outstrip that of PCs in the country, will we ensure the relevance of the internet to the vast majority of our country. This has implications for content producers to an extent unimaginable today; especially if you keep local language content in mind. Also, most content in today’s media is aimed at the urban people; when you start generating content for the rural population, either to inform or educate or entertain, the content explosion will be large.
I for one would love a travel concierge service; something that will put together a vacation package with minimum fuss involving a train, air and bus journey and a hotel stay.

Early Web 3.0: The NYT article mentions technology which is close to going mainstream and the companies that are working to take them there. The usages are many; finding the “perfect vacation package” in response to a complex human query detailing budget, season, type of vacation spot preference and so on is one example.  Mapping the right college to the right student, putting together the best retirement plan for a couple or finding the best hotel room for you; these are all areas where the breakthroughs are expected.
Many technologies and approaches are competing for adoption in this area. Artificial Intelligence based systems, large scale database trawlers, semantic searches to intelligent webcams, they all play a part.
Making predictions about who the winners of this sweepstakes will be/ is hazardous. The NYT article points to many current sites like Delicio.us, Flickr and Digg. However, users are fickle and as a recent trending analysis on Google Trends shows that Delicio.us and Digg are declining and Flickr is just about holding steady. The runaway winner for now seems to be Twitter, the microblogging site.

The marketing mission: Beg

How marketing can support the “beg” strategy

When you are an SMB, marketing to other SMBs, you cannot afford the big marketing budgets of the big players. Nor can you, even though all instincts tell you otherwise,  “go out there, and do it”. Making hundreds and maybe thousands of sales calls is tempting and of course, you can be seen as “doing something”. However, the real achievement will be very low. It is important to have your marketing department own the strategy for customer adoption, have the buy-in from the rest of the organization for collateral help and follow-ups and then execute and measure. The single biggest marketing success is actionable sales leads in the early stage of the product introduction.

What does an SMB need: One thing an SMB does not have is enough time to do everything they want. So, many a time, the biggest value you can deliver to them is simple operational advice: a way to do something better, cheaper, faster or safer will get their attention. If it comes from a trusted source, great!
Your advices, if followed and benefited from, win you friends, supporters and even active promoters. The SMB community is more networked than you think. 
What should marketing do: Marketing’s job, clearly, is two fold: short term generation of leads and longer term building a name/ brand in the market. From a the point of view of a small business, they should look to marketing to do the following:

  •  Identify the micromarket clusters, the key players in them and their pain-points. 
  • Know your “position”. Are you trying to launch a new product or technology or increasing usage for your existing product in a mainstream market? Are your targets early adaptors or mainstream players?
  • Clearly know the communication goals. If the targets are early adapters, then the communication focuses more on the product features and technology. If your targets are mainstream in a stable and saturated market, the focus is more on price, benefits and so on.
  • Create content which resonates with the players in each target segment.
  • Create a campaign plan and execute with the help of e-newsletters, downloadable whitepapers etc.
  • Use your campaign itself to try and segment your customer-base as much as possible so that you can carry out mass-customized “dialog” with them. This needs some elaboration:
    Profiling customers is fraught with issues, always. In most companies this job is done by clueless marcom specialists with very low understanding of the customers’ business, specific role played by the particular contact, the level of technology awareness of the contacts or indeed their pain-points the communications need to be addressed. Forcing sales people to help in profiling does not help either, as they are traditionally most sceptical of the whole “database thing”. So, get the customers to profile themselves, you say? Well, sometimes it works to an extent, but most of the time it does not as customers frequently do not understand the terms they must select in the profile sheets to get what they want to see.
    But, over a period of time, you can surely build up a much more valuable profile which is based on the customers’ “usage or activity” profile. If you start tracking the kind of whitepapers they download or the types of content in newsletters they click on, you can start finetuning your future communication far better to naturally emerging “cluster”s. 
  • Finally, measure the results vs the objectives. And measure only so that you can take action or improve your future communication. All measurement has a cost in terms of time and money. Approximate, estimate and move along.

Keep things simple: Beg, Borrow or Steal

How to increase customers and prospects
I admit it. I used the headline to draw your attention. But, really, customer acquisition, when reduced to the utmost simplicity, is all about 3 main strategies.
Beg: This is the most visible, most well understood strategy and what all salesmen are commonly if erroneously perceived to do. You will need to ask for business, for referrals, for leads. That’s obvious. You will also need to work with the channel intermediaries to get their mindshare and shelf-space.
What is critical at this stage is knowing the buying influences in the entire ecosystem, having a clear understanding of their individual pain-points and how you and your product is going to solve their problem. Then think of how you can communicate your product benefit in just a few words to your audience. If you are a startup focused on ramping up your business, focus on getting the first few apppointments, getting the first few conversations going, getting the agreements for trial-purchase and be “on message”. Flexibility lies in listening to the customer with an open mind, but not in bending with every wind or trying to be all things to all people.
Do keep in mind that what is important to your customers may not be what is the top concern with your channel.
We had once launched a platform of products which were extremely easy to assemble into a system of many parts. In the automation systems market, system integrators are major influencers and they were very thick with our competitor. All this we knew and we thought our ease of integration will be a major sales booster with the system integrator. But, the mistake we made was in not realising that the system integrators like the complexity in our competitor’s products since it makes the position of the SIs stronger. What is the role of an SI if the system is so easy to put together?!

Borrow: This is admittedly laboured. But creating partnerships is a huge deal. Try working with channel partners in shared spaces to open doors. “Borrow” contacts. Like a friend of mine who would first befriend other salesmen from other non-competing organizations to facilitate his entry into large accounts. Referrals from existing vendors are more useful than you think.
Borrowing also refers to sharing the same space, physical or mental. You can share space with your customers or competitors. If you are opening a fast food restaurant, think of an office district with huge lunchtime traffic (sharing space with customers). Or, go and open next to a Dominos or Pizza Hut outlet and serve up Indian fast food or sandwiches (sharing with competitors). Your first customers will be those that came over for Pizza and drifted in for a new experience. Hoepfully, your food and service will make them come back!

Steal: Ah! I see your eyes light up. Loot and plunder; make deep inroads into your competitors’ bases. Be warned that this is the toughest. As in society, stealing also has repurcussions! It invites retaliation from an entrenched and often bigger competition. And, it is expensive to pursue as a strategy.
Hint: Borrowing frequently leads to stealing!

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