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Co Creating Value with your customer. How a Saloon can use social media to build its brand reputation

21 Apr

I was waiting for my turn for a haircut at the regular saloon shop when I started talking to the guy in charge also who happened to be the brother of the owner. We were discussing latest mobile phones, laptops, fitness etc,When I asked him – “Is that computer connected to net?” He replied with an affirmative.  I asked him if his saloon had a website or a facebook fanpage or an orkut community group.  No, his saloon did not have any online presence.

So I ask him – “How many branches you have in this city”.

Reply: 12 branches in Chennai. 3 in Coimbatore.

“What kind of customers do you get here? Age group? “, I ask.

Reply:  Customers come in all age groups.Male and female.

I understand from the cost of basic haircut that the shop reaches out to middle and upper class.

I tell him – Guess what? I can help you expand your business. Grow your customer base, improve sales and more importantly build brand loyalty which will generate word of mouth.  And you don’t have to spend tons of money. Are you interested?

Reply: Absolutely…

I became a Social Media Consultant for him.

Here are the points I discussed with branch head. Maybe you can use it too…

Website:

Start with a simple website. Simple content should suffice. Don’t worry about SEO and SEM. You don’t need that here. First, cover the basics:

About the company, who owns the company, History of the company, what are the services you are offering, prices for each of your services, meet the barber

Let us focus on 2 features:  Services offered and Meet the Barber page

Services offered will have different hairstyles with pictures for the customer to identify each hairstyle. Also, why not a video testimonial of a satisfied customer? Host the video testimonials to a youtube page which will have other similar customers giving you 3 min testi of your services.

Meet Ur Barber Page: Will have the name and profile of the barbers you employ with ratings section. Your customers can rate the barber in an open transparent system. Every month the barber who gets the maximum ratings gets incentive. Thus, you also build morale and a healthy competition which in turn will improve productivity.

The website can also have a page dedicated to latest hairstyle in vogue. Your customers can chose the hairstyle, get the name and when they visit you next time, then can mention the name and get it done.

Let your website also have a space for your customers to submit ideas. This is your UGC (user generated content). This is important. UGC has power. Give your customers power and give them platform to share. That is why you need…

Facebook  Fanpage :

Your facebook fanpage should be integrated to your website so that your customers can connect and collaborate with each other online. Here are the things you can do:

–      Post pics of latest bollywood, Hollywood heros and heroines with their latest haircut. Ask questions and generate interactivity with fans.

Eg: Post in your fanpage wall – Check out Brad Pitt’s latest hairstyle ( post the pic). Kool huh? Who wants this hairstyle? The first 10 people, who wanna have this haircut, comment here and get 10% off.

Or,

Eg : kareena latest haircut ( post the pic) . You can get it done at any of our branches. Just drop a mail with your details to fix an appointment.

Or,

Eg : Our new facial for summer is out. It’s a blend of (this and that). The first 10 who post a comment here get 30% off on this new natural facial.

–      Post videos of your customers in youtube and pull it to fanpage

–      Offer tips on grooming

–      Offer sneak peak and special discounts exclusive to online customers

–      Ask your customers to directly post pics or videos of their fav good/bad hair moment

–      Invite your customers/fans to post ideas, seek advice on hairstyles, good hair maintainance tips etc…

All this will go in building a good brand name and generate word of mouth buzz.

Twitter:

Twitter should be next in agenda. Use the content which you have and post it to twitter. Today, loads of Indians have twitter handle, why not connect with them?

Twitter is important because Search Engines now give importance to social media feeds.

Use blogs: Start a corporate blog. Comment on other blogs which has content on grooming, facials, hairstyles etc…

Write to online local/citi portals to feature you.

There are huge load of things you can do with social media.

( if the reader of this post wants to discuss more ideas, get in touch)

The branch Head then had a big question for me:

“Vikas, how to bring fans or bring customers to facebook fanpage?”

Answer:

Simple! From now, every time you give a bill to a customer, ask him for his name and number, mail id, and ask if he has a facebook, twitter or a blog presence .

Then tell him, this – Sir, we have a facebook fanpage and we have plans to have a website, may I invite you there? Is it ok if I send you an email invitation? You can also give us your ideas on what and how the website should be

If the customer agrees, then later send him a mail. This is Permission Marketing. You are not blasting spam; you are asking the customer his permission.

This is social media at its best and the customer will appreciate it.

Crowd sourcing:

The saloon has all sorts of customers who use their services. Why not run a contest inviting web designs? The best web design will become the official web design and the guy/gal who wins get 3 haircuts free with the name featured in the website.

Some of you who read this may argue , why is that I am going to such lengths in discussing social media for a saloon.

You are obviously missing the point.

The point is – Social Media is not confined to big brands. Social Media is sometime best suited and most effective for small business owners who wanna build big brands.

I am always open to crtizism or better ideas.

You can tweet me @spartanvikas

If you like my post, may I request you to share it in twitter, facebook or Delicious?

Dedication :

I would like to dedicate this post to C.K Prahalad, the pioneer behind the idea of Co Creating Value with the customer. He inspires me to give the best I can give to my customers.

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1:9:90 Theory of Online Brand Marketing

21 Feb

I was reading a newspaper today when I came across the idea on the 1:9:90 Theory. Not sure who was saying this in the newspaper but I am definitely not going to claim that this theory is mine. I am only going look at it a bit deeper.

The 1:9:90 Theory is simple to understand, profound in thought and difficult to implement. But thou shall reap immense rewards if you execute it.

The Theory says:  Among your consumer group (or target audience if you will):

  • 1 % should create content
  • The content created by the 1 % should engage 9% of your audience and convert them to Brand Evangelist or to use the Facebook phraseology – Fans.
  • This 9% of brand evangelist should then take the content, connect and collaborate with 90% of your target group. Of course, the 90% who will absorb the content is important but marketers in the online space would do great by focusing on finding the 1 % content creators.

These content creators are what, if I may borrow Seth Godin’s terminology –  Tribes.

Find the Tribe:

Seth Godin in his remarkable book Tribes talks about how it is important to find and engage the members of a  Tribe. The Tribe are your diehard fans. He/she is the one who will do what it takes to get and use your product/service ignoring all others in the market. All you ought to do is make space for your fans/core consumers to create content. Democratize your company. Give them the tools. Let them create content. All you have to do is channelize the tribe by being the Leader.

Let the fans create the content, find and touch base with the 9% of the brand evangelists who in turn will share the content with 90% of your target audience.

Your job is to basically find the content creators.

And it isn’t an easy job. But it is definitely better and more effective than creating million dollar advertisements targeting everyone out there and praying to Almighty that someone watches the ads and respond to it.

Finding loyal fans and content creators is tough but it is long lasting, just like true love. Finding true love is not an easy job. But when you find it, engage with that person, nourish the relationship; it becomes bliss and long lasting.

It was exactly this point Geoffrey Moore was trying to tell us in his seminal book Crossing The Chasm.  The book is all about the importance of Early Adopters of technology.

Find the Early Adopters.  Give them the importance they deserve. Give them the tools through which they can play with your product/service. Show them how you value their passion for your products. Then politely ask them to create content for you. Ask them nice and be honest about it and guess what? They will give you the content. And since they are doing it out of passion and love for the product and not you, you will get great viral content.

The word Viral is important. It is word of mouth. It is something you will get by Co-creating value with your customers as C.K Prahald articulate in his books.

Building Brands Online:

Today it is far easier and better to build brands online than using traditional media. It is easier because online activities can help you engage with your audience. It is measurable and accountable.

More importantly it can be used to target the your real serious customers than every tom,dick and harry ( no pun intended of course). When you launch focused advertisements or campaigns the reach is better, ads can be tweaked, mistakes can be made so that old rules are broken and new lessons learnt.

Simply put: The status quo can be challenged.

When you do that, you somehow will manage to create The Purple Cow (I love Seth for what he stands for  … you ought to read his blog). From then on use innovation to sustain and feed the Purple Cow

Digital Marketing Agencies:

The agencies of tomorrow should not be stand alone Advertising and Public Relations companies. Instead they should become an Integrated Digital Solutions companies which should have core team of people who can come with digital strategies and how to use such tools (like me … lol) and people who can create engaging content ( not necessarily award winning creative’s) and solid tech cum web team who can implement your communication ideas in the most optimized way.

Read this awesome blog by Seth Godin on Viral Growth to understand on how important it is to connect with core fans and creating great content

An open letter to HBR team

1 Jan

To,

India Today Group and the HBR team

Extremely sad and shocked at the increase of the price of HBR from Rs.500 to Rs.750! Not sure why this suddenly increase in price. Is it cos of the new design or because it is a double issue or it is New Year?

What is the point in making the new design more accessible to reading when you are making the magazine less accessible for people to buy?

As long as the price was at Rs.500 I used to eagerly wait for the magazine to come out. Cos Rs.500 for me was an opportunity cost in financial planning. Rs.500 was a sacrifice I made for a movie outing with my finance. I used to think – even if I missed a movie with her, that’s fine! I get to read HBR management stuff. She understood.

Now, I can’t give her that reason. I can’t tell her that I sacrificed my time with her for a book which cost Rs.750.

What about the rest of us? What about new managers climbing the corporate ladder who may not have big salary but have big dreams and want to learn management ideas and thoughts from icons of HBR but cant because of the increase in price. Others may get access to HBR cos their HR would be good enough to buy it for them in office. Student’s studying MBA may get access to it from the coll library.

So what happens to the rest of us? Are we to be denied the pleasure of reading HBR?

The Entrepreneur (India edition) is Rs.100. that makes sense. That makes big sense to buy. And the content is good. Not as classy as HBR but good nonetheless.

So here is my big question: Why on earth did you guys raise the price back to Rs. 750?

If you are charging HBR print edition so much, why not give free online access to your articles and archives?

You know what is even more sad? Me not buying HBR won’t make any difference to you. It won’t cause a dent in your brand, sales or the policy you follow.

But hopefully there ought to be more ppl like me out there who will read this blog, nod their head and voice out their concerns as well… That may probably be a wake up call for you guys to rethink your pricing strategy in India.

A Dejetced Big Fan!

Sri Vikas

The Fear of Deflation in Indian Economy

20 Mar

Today’s Economic Times has the screaming article Indian Economy staring at deflation. Is it good news ? in its front page.  Too late .. I have already predicted and reported on this .

On Feb27th of 2009 I had posted a blog  Inflation down to 3.36%. Nothing to be happy about. This blog was posted when 3.36% inflation figures were released by the government.

Is it good news ? Of course not. Why should it be ? Think about it. Deflation arises when less money is chasing more products. So the question now comes – Is it that we Indians have no money to buy ?

On the contrary,Indians have the money to invest. How else would you explain record number of new mobile connections sold ? How else will you explain Mercedes selling more cars in India than in most of the so called “‘mature”, “developed”  markets ? How else can you explain the IPL commercial values involved? How else can you explain DTH connections sold in drones in the last 6 months?

So you see , we can safely say that we Indians have the money to spend. What prevents us from spending a lot ( unlike last year) is the fear factor.

France , America, Britian has millions of job loses reported . France had 3 million out on streets protesting against wage cutes and unemployment. How many such rallies have we seen in India? I will let you answer that question.

First, let us accept the accept that the Indian economy clocked 9% G.D.P last year and it was fueled by entrepreneurship . But, unlike our counterparts ,Indians are largely insulated by the bad economic troubles. But true to our risk averse mind set we are saving our money and too scared to invest or buy in indulgence. Therefore , demand is low.

There are 2 ways at looking at it. Positive and Negative. Taking the current discussion under consideration, we are forced to look at the negative reasons. And negative reasons are very scary indeed.

What can be done ?  Two things – Awarness and Proactive solutions by the government and private companies and banks.

Self Awareness from the people is hard to come by. The government representatives should come out and talk directly to the people instead of just giving out talks in press conference . TV news channels can give a good coverage by inviting top brass to address people directly.

Address the Nation : When was the last the time we actually sat in front of the TV and listened to Presidential speech on the eve of Independence day ? Be honest about it .. But , this is the right time for Ministry of Finance, Planning Commission, RBI head to directly to the people. We should also have business icons and thought leaders like Naryana Mooorthy, Sam Pitroda, Sunil Mittal, Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni, and writers , celebrities talk directly to the people. The idea is to instil confidence and security to the people.

Go Vernacular : Talking in high jargon filled English is not gonna do the trick. The biggest curse of India is that we have not been able to permeate the growth of the economy to the villages. Few people realise that villages, tier 2 and 3 cities hold the key to super power status of India. They may not be English educated but they have spending power. And like Unilever’s CEO Mr Paul said in a interview , ” We will have to drive people’s habits” . Very True!

But talk to people in their language.

Start spending but in a controlled way . Educate, Empower and set example and spread the word. Be a thought leader yourself. Ask your friends to spend but not in excess. Try to include Indian products in your grocery. This will fuel domestic economy and also in the long term make us a potential market and make it more investor friendly .

Simple things are can go a long way. You dont have to be a Chief Economist to drive change.

Just a thought : We should stop IMF and S&P500 and other agency give investor ratings during recession. Otherwise people are gonna reach such stats and go into a shell and reduce spending and brakes the FDI’s.

Business Development and Sales Management – Best Practices for sales pitch

30 Jan

Never underestimate the importance writing down your sales pitch even before you go about making that cold call which will bring in business.

Here are the essentials

First Rule: Watch and Learn:

Making a sales pitch is an art not rocket science. And to learn art you need to learn it from the guru. So, before you make the first sales call watch how your Senior (anda  successfulone at that) sales guy does it. Watch him, understand the pitch he is using and learn from him. I am not asking you to ape him. I want you to learn is modus operandi and tweak the sales pitch the way you see it fit.

Second Rule: Ink it down:

No point in watching the guy do the stuff, nod your head and walk away! That won’t do. You need to watch him do it form. If you have a VP of sales, in your company, and if he is the amicable kinda guy then watch him giving the sales pitch. I have always noticed that the best sales guys are always ready to impart knowledge. If he is the nice-types, then ask him to show you how it is done. And no, dont ape him. Learn from him. Do it 20 times for 20 days if you have it.
And write your own sales pitch. I mean it.. literally.. Write it down, mono ami. Write down your sales pitch word by word, syllable by syllable. I don’t care how long it will take you to do it. If you are smart enough – 1 day. If you are bright then – 2days. If you are the hard working type- 3 days. Anything more, then you are gonner!

LOL… Just Kidding. Take your time but get it done.

So, get the first draft ready, think about the pitch, the product you gonna sell and refine it.
Dont worry the pitch will get further refined as you go down the lane of selling.

Third Rule: Get the decision maker on the phone:

No use in dilly- dalling with the guys who cant make decisions. At best he can help you connect with the top guy. But when you make the call ask ” Can you please connect me to the head of Marketing” or ” Head of Business development” or do what i did when i made my 10th sales call,       ” Can you connect me to the Chairman of your company , please” .. Of course you wont be connected to him, but if you aim high you are bound to hit couple of inches down that, right? So someone will connect you to top dog in the company. Make sure he is the decision maker.
And go ahead and make your pitch, Sir!

Fourth Rule: Get Rejected:
That’s right! If you get the sale done in your first call then where is the fun, dude? You need to get rejected like zillion times to become the great sales guy you wanna be! So go ahead and fail and fail royally! But make sure you learn your lessons from it. If you dont know where you are going wrong, then ask your sales head to sit with you when you are making the call. That ought to do the trick. He will point out the mistakes to you. Now, he may not be the best judge but at least you will get a start, right?

And throw out your blasted ego and pride here… will ya?

Fifth Rule: follow… follow.. Follow-up:
This is really important. If you are gonna be the sales guy in your company, dont ever forget the cardinal rule.

After you make you sales pitch send in a follow up mail saying – “It was great talking you. I will connect with you (at time at Date) as agreed. Meanwhile, you can reach me at the following contact coordinates”. And then go ahead and give your contact details.
And if the sales call was a successful one then follow up it with a mail on the details of the product/service you are offering in the form of pdf format. send in your details in your pdf format only!
And hey, remember the rule, follow up.. Keep doing the follow up thingy. If he doesnt reply then mail him after couple of days (you will instinctively know when). If he still doesn reply, then call him . Remind him. Be nice. Be polite. Sound enthu (not over enthu).

Big Idea: Crying child gets the milk

Seventh Rule: Maintain a pipeline report:

Always maintain a proper pipeline . It should have the following fields:
Company name, Web address, Phone number, Mail id , point of contact name, and the decision maker, status of the sale, expected closure time.

I am not really a sucker for CRM. I rather put it in my excel sheet and share it with my team. And no, am not advocating that CRM is bad. But this is my personal choice. You take the call on this. Most companies insist on using CRM solutions. But my advice to those companies is that they need to get their sales people get familirize on how to use a CRM.

Most sales guys use Ms Excel anyway!

Eighth Rule: Keep in touch:
Your job is not over once you are done with the sale. You need to keep in touch with your client. Build relationships of trust. Do not disappear from your client’s radar.At least once a month shoot him a mail asking him what he thinks of your product find out profile of the  end users of the product are etc. If you give a analysis to your product manager it help me improvise on the product/services your company is offering.

Dont give him a chance to come to you when there is an issue. At the same time let him know where he can reach you and that he can reach you any time he wants.
This ensures that you have already a solid groundwork done before you go ask him for a sale again.

Ninth Rule: Build Trust:
This is paramount. People dont do business with products or company brand name. They do business with people. People who they can trust. So make the right moves for him to trust you.

Be fantastically good at giving him world class service even if you are not a world class company. You don’t have to be HP or WPP to give world class serice. Gain his trust with good service. Simple things will do – prompt reply to his mail, regular follow ups etc… Find your own ways to keep him happy.
These days almost everyone is Linkedin, facebook or Orkut.
Go ahead and connect with him there. It is ok to get a bit personal. Social Networking is ok these days !

The Tenth Rule: Love your customer’s, customer.

I dint say “love your customer”  … Read it again! I said – Customer’s customer. Your client’s end user.
The book by Ram Charan ” what the customer wants you to know” was not exactly the best sales book ever written but i did like what he said – Understand your customer’s end user. If your product can make that “customer” happy then rest assured your client will call you to give you the sale.

So what is it that you’re waiting for? Go ahead and do your research!

Here is an article from the business week which caught my attention and upon which i put up this post –

Sales Stuck?  Try Sticking to script

Other blog posts for you to read :

Successful Sales Starts with Listening

Tips To Being A Great Sales Person
Look forward to your comments on this…