New marketing demystified for Indian SMEs

Archive for the tag “customer acquisition”

Balancing information and action : CRM systems

We grew up on proverbs and one of the most enduring ones happens to be: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.

But, step back a little- would you agree that a little knowledge is still better than no knowledge at all? Especially when it comes to customers. If in doubt, ask the telemarketer who gets a sheet of paper in the morning with 100 names and phone numbers to call by the evening and no other information. How on earth does she structure her call? More information about the persons she is calling would allow he to customize the message for specific audiences- and convert more to a customer from a prospect.

The trouble is- the information continuum from “no-knowledge” to “everything that there is to know” is not treated as such but more like a binary system. This is even more accentuated depending on the perspective of the person you talk to- in sales or in marketing.

What customer data do we capture

Types of customer profile data

As your processes mature, your team can handle more information

Marketing wants perfect information- sales does as well- but, in most cases customer information is obtained only from the sales team. So, faced with the task of populating all the information fields in the “contact profile” or “account profile” screens- sales does the easiest thing possible- simply refuse. This is surely not ideal. In all my experience designing, deploying, customizing and using CRM systems- I have seen the biggest issue is always getting the sales team to see value in using the CRM systems.
It is my experience that as the familiarity and usage increases, you can choose to increase the amount of information capture.

How information needs and uses increase in stages

So, I have 3 simple rules for introducing CRM in your organization:

1. Keep it simple- less is actually better- when it comes to customer information. Not only is profile data “outdated” virtually the moment you input it, it is always inconsistently captured. So, some profiles may have department filled up but not designation and some may have designation but not department. And, activity data is always better than static profile data- it allows you to, over time draw up a far better profile than simple static profile. Other good thing is that activity profiles captures can be automated to a large extent.

2. Have a clear use model for the information you are capturing- if you do not intend to use the customer’s age group in any marketing activity- do not capture it. No use, none whatsoever.

3. Opt for pre-defined workflows rather than flexibility. I know this is contra-intuitive but let me explain this. When you are in the early stages of any process implementation, it is an opportunity to often learn from what works outside rather than something that has so far been working for you. After all, if your existing processes were serving you fine, you would not have been wanting to implement a CRM system, would you?


Making software accessible to SMEs in India

All the recent surveys on the Indian software market I have read point to its enormous growth potential. The Zinnov Study commissioned by Nasscom on the software products market and the more recent on the opportunities in the SAAS market both forecast huge numbers in domestic sales. Where is this going to come from?

A disproportionate amount of this growth needs to come from SMEs; manufacturers, retailers, exporters, healthcare services, law-firms: many of them almost first time users of IT beyond the obvious MS-Office.

What needs to happen to make the adoption faster? As someone who runs a SME in the software products domain, here’s what I think.

Read more…

Marketing is so expensive

Communicating with your target base: efficiently and effectively

A simple direct mailer, A4 size folded 3-fold. 4 colour offset, did you say and on a 170 gsm paper? 5000 pieces. No, wait. Make it 10,000 pieces.

After you have done with the printing and putting the missives into envelopes ready to be mailed; you have spent close to Rs 100,000/- after paying your design agency and print-shop.

Pay another Rs 20,000/- for address- label printing and pasting on the envelopes.

Pay another Rs 40,000/- for stamps.

The letters set forth.

20% never reach their destination (you did not have the right addresses)
30% are trashed by the recipient without even opening the envelope.
The balance are trashed within a minute of their being opened. Well, not quite, but you get the picture.

How often do you do this in a month? In a year?

The move to e-mail

A few years back, we all woke up to the potential of e-mail communication to the database. The economics was certainly attractive.

Design cost was as before; but, delivery was cheap; less than 50p per address. And, no printing cost!

So, a similar excercise as above ended up costing sometimes 1/10 of the paper version; if executed on e-mail. Wow! And, no rainforest depeletion on your conscience.

Also, you started getting those nice “metrics” data; how many of the recipients opened the e-mail, how many clicked on the links you embedded on the mail and so on. Even, how many (and who!) trashed your emails without ever opening them. So, now you know!
If now you know which e-mail addresses “bounced” (mail not delivered), you can work to clean them up. If you know which customers clicked the links on your email, you can build on it by creating a dialog with them by proposing solutions more tuned to their areas of interest. And, if some customers are repeatedly trashing your mail, then it is a signal to you that your communication is not relevant to those customers. Either, you understand the issues and fix them or, you purge those names from future communications.

..but, beware the temptations

All of the above are nice things. But, what if, you start drawing the absolutely wrong conclusions? And, be tempted to take the wrong path?
For instance, “oh, so delivery is cheap. Let’s send 20,000 emails now rather than 10,000. And, piss off 10,000 contacts who are going to resent the intrusion into their already overcrowded mailbox.
The cost of delivery is immaterial; if the message is relevant, if you are convinced the message will resonate with the target audience, by all means send it. If not, don’t. Whether through paper or e-mail. Untargeted spam is ineffective at best and downright offensive and harmful at worst. The cost of ineffective communication far outweighs supposed efficiency gains from paper to e-mail.

Knowing what to say and who to say it to:
The basic tenets of marketing communication: knowing who to talk to and what resonates with them do not change irrespective of the media or indeed the marcom mix employed. Too much effort is wasted in media selection and “how” to deliver the message (read how creatively). In most cases, a simple, uncomplicated message, delivered in simple uncomplicated way, serves the purpose. But, it does not suit the purpose of most marketing agencies to have you send simple, “design-free” communication. So, whether on e-mail or paper, your communication gains in complexity and expensiveness while loses on effectiveness.

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.

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