Archive | Product Management RSS feed for this section

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.

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

Google set to launch free Videoconferencing

10 Nov

Google guys never fail to amaze me ..

 

Accoring to this online news Google is all set to launch free Videoconferecing . A threat to Cisco perhaps ?

About time we looked at Rural India !

16 Dec

My uncle wanted to know if I was preparing for IIM exams ( notice that he dint ask me Cat or Xat but IIM) i dint have much to answer him except that , ” No, I am not interested in IIM’s or XLRI’s or any of the so called top colleges” … he gave me the incredulous look that you would have have when you hear that “Kumari” Mayawati has become the PM of our country.

And so when he asked me what my future plans were . I had to give him the truth . I told him though i am in the advertising field I would like to explore opportunities in Rural or Health care/fitness marketing . I also told him that 5-10 years down the lane I would like to specialize in marketing/branding for rural areas and start a non-profit company.I am very passionate about using the tools and knowledge of marketing and integrated PR in Health care/fitness Industry or Rural Marketing.

He gave me that OK-i-don’t-get-your-stupid idea look with a you-aint-gonna-go anywhere – with-that kinda nod and changed the topic. But not before it got me thinking about , ” why not rural India ?” .

Prahalad_0131877291_PB.qxd

Have you guys read the phenomenal book ” Fortune At the Bottom Of The Pyramid” by C.K Prahalad? If you haven’t yet .. then run to your library or better still buy yourself a copy of the book and  read it . Now is the right time to read the book. As global recession is going south bound and no one has a clue to what to do next .. here is the book which will give answers to the big MNC ‘s and entrepreneurs alike .

(This is not a book review. As a personal principle , I don’t write reviews. I recommend books to my friends but i never give them  a review of the books I read. Who am i to take a judgment call on another man’s work ?)

Getting back to the crux of the post and in conjunction to blog title , I think multinational companies in India and abroad should start looking at reaching out to rural cities/villages to stay afloat during recession. Or prevent another recession in the future.

Most SME’s and MNC’s ignore rural areas because they believe that people in such cities/villages have no buying power. They are considered poor by most global standards. But, that is exactly why we need to see them in a completely different perspective . C.K Prahald challenges the myth that considers poor people as poor when they are not . He quotes the work of Hernando De Soto’s book “The Mystery of Capital” which postulates that poor countries ; people from rural areas are not really that poor. They are often asset-rich and capital -poor. To quote from the book , ” Assets cannot become capital unless the country guarantees a rule of law- primarily the law of contracts – whereby the ownership of assets is clear….. For example, he ( Mr Hernando Soto) estimated that the trapped resources of Mexico are about $ 300 Billion” .

That is a phenomenal number! Imagine what potential can India have when 80% of India’s population in the Bottom of The Pyramid (BOP) slab will be able to quantify ? This 80% currently accounts for 67% of the current consumption. Aint that an awesome information to behold ? India is quite simply and easily one of THE  richest nations in the world and all that potential waiting to be  tapped and unearthed. We should be doing that now!

The Big Idea ? If MNC’s and SME’s ( Small and Medium Enterprises ) can come up with innovative, cost effective and customized products for the rural markets we would unleash a massive wave of marketing and innovation revolution in India. This would also force goverment to work with private companies to set up better infrastructure, proper health care and free education.

Here are my thoughts on a macro scale where we can make some mega changes in this sector :

Not just 4 metros : Metros are so termed because of the huge population and infrastructure growth. I suggest the state govt with the center remove the metros tag altogether. metros means metropolis. Taking TN as an example, let there me more metros in TN alone. Identify and improve those cities . say – Trichi, Coimbatore, Erode..etc .This idea can also be reflected in other states ..

Infrastructure : Have you been noticing that the number of cars in Chennai increasing  and really pissing you off ? Ever wondered why ?The answer is obvious, the middle class are getting prosperous and buying new/more cars. But why only chennai ( and other metro cities across the country) city alone? Because every year, of the lacs of engineers,diploma holders who pass out of universities come to cities like Chennai to work. Because MNC ‘s are well entrenched in metros. Simply put – they seek out better job opportunities and enhanced standard of living. Why not give these Young Turks opportunities in their home cities? Why not prevent them from migrating to the cities? Instead provide opportunities in their native places.

Young Turks : Have better local knowledge: These Young Turks ( as i would like to call them) can be better exploited or rather groomed by companies as they will have better working knowledge of the people in their area. Give them proper training and they will reward you with a better perspective on marketing, product development and sales, much better than IIM grads. And hey, you don’t have to pay top dollars for these turks . Pay them not with just good salaries but show them how they are contributing to their society through the company and you would even reduce attrition rates. Make them not – sales executive and stop their career growth. Give them titles like – Sales Manager or Marketing Manager of the area.. This will usher in sense of ownership as well. Unlike high funda grads these guys are more loyal to companies than most.

Streamline these grads – take care of them : Assign a experienced mentor and segregate these grads to become experts in Rural Management,Micro Finance, market research,rural marketing etc , step up teams and send them out to the field to visit the villages . Make the job profile exiting.A team can consist of 1 rural management expert– he will evaluate and micro manage, 2 market research experts– 2nos because this involves number crunching , 1 micro finance guy – who will identify how and how much loan to provide and 1 marketing expert – he will conduct survey and collect customer info and come up with ideas on marketing. The marketing guy with the rural managementguy can work on business development and sales. 5 in a team for one area/district, as necessary. 20-50 teams can be supervised by a General Manager . 10 General Managers can come under one Head . 5 Heads will report to Vice -President Operations of that Area – say South Market .. etc ..

And when they are out in the field- in villages and rural cities  for days – give them the sense of security that their families are taken care of when they are not around. You will  see ever lasting commitments to the parent company from these guys. Indians from rural cities give more value to relationships and sentiments than money and luxury.

Teach them to be innovative : Pick the latest copy of Businesswold. You will read the cover article about “The Real Nation builders”. They are not from IIM’s or IIT’s . what i am trying to convey here is if you can teach grads from rural areas to be innovative they will bring in results. They will give you great ideas . The MNC only has to identify the right idea , ideate on it , strategize and implement them. There you may need the IIM and XLRI graduated guys with Mckensiey background to do the work.

Use technology : The best software is not good enough if it cant deliver. India is already a tech/software giant. Software companies can then join hands  with services companies and launch customized products in rural areas and benefit from that .

You don’t have to depend too much on global money when it is right there to be taken from our backyard.

Rural India is a gold mine waiting to be tapped.  MNC companies wont just rake in profits but also built a nation in its truest form. All they need to do is understand customer demographic profile clearly and launch products according to them.

Welcome your thoughts and ideas on this .. If you like what you read here.. spread the word around and would love discuss more of the same- here in my blog.

Further reading from Economic Times :

Rural spend,housing to rescue growth

Innovation is the key to social media marketing not random banner ads

14 Dec

The article Advertisers face Hurdles on Social Networking Sites in The New York Times is once again bringing to light on the fact that putting up banner ads and fan page in social networking sites need not be entirely successful. Being a social media evangelist myself, i echo same point here as well.

Putting up in-expensive banner ads or creating a fan page is not good enough. The users will sign up/become a member of the fan page just to show their solidarity to the brand. Fair enough. But that is not branding .

Branding is all about reinforcing the name of an existing brand and the product or luring in new customers to buy the brand. To put in simple language , that is.  Bottom line .. all this is done is to increase sales.  Dynamic banner ads is not the solution for that .

One thing is that social media marketing and networks are at a very nascent stage. In order to leverage social media companies should find much better ways to use social networks in branding and lead generation.

One good way is to start a blog ,connect with relevant bloggers and run a viral campaign. Implement multiple viral/buzz/online word of mouth marketing campaigns and learn from trial and error method. But make sure there is one “BIg IDEA” behind every campaign which is run. For this , the marketing teams should innovate and launch highly customized products to users and propagate it without being intrusive and irritating.

Zestadz now sell ads in facebook mobile platform.

4 Jan

It is now official. ZestADZ, India’s leading mobile advertising platform is now ready to sell ads in facebook mobile platform.

This means, that mobile site/content owner in facebook who offer services via SMS/WAP or other rich media format can now monetize it, from India traffic, by embedding ads from leading advertisers in India.

Mobile-worx, which conceived and created ZestADZ, is the first Indian company to offer such services.

Here are the advantages of ZestADZ:

For publishers:

  • Monetize WAP/SMS inventory via traffic from India.
  • ZestADZ shares revenues only with publishers. Earn better revenues!
  • Transparent and real- time reporting system.
  • ZestADZ can send ads anywhere in India. Pan-India access.
  • ZestADZ can deliver ads in all mobile platform- SMS/WAP/ Rich media content (videos, games, mobile TV episodes…etc).

For advertisers:

  • Send highly relevant and contextual ads anywhere in India.
  • Highly interactive and personalized communication.
  • Spread brand awareness.
  • Generate leads.
  • Under customer better.
  • Advertise in all forms mobile platform.
  • Get real time analytics info and fine tune campaign accordingly to have better ROI.

 

Press release links here :

Ndtv Profit reports

Exchange4media reports

 

 

 

The mark of a true leader- Mark (facebook founder) apologizes

6 Dec

 

“To be a leader, follow the leader” is what my company founder Terry Uppal advised me today. And in Mark Zuckerberg you see an ideal leader. He has finally come out and has profusely apologized on the way Beacon program was released and marketed. And that, my dear friends how it should be done!

A company, be it a start-up or a well established one, tries to grow in the market by new product releases and by entering new unexplored avenues (or markets) with kick-ass product marketing to their best of their ability. But nobody ever said that every time there is a new product released it is going to be success overnight. And that’s what has happened to Facebook Beacon project. For the first time facebook tried to monetize their site and it went wrong. Fair enough! Shit happens in business all the time. You make a mistake, then you unlearn and then you re-learn.

That is what Mark has done today. He has come out in public and apologized for the mistake made in the product release. You should read his post here- The facebook Blog

Remember, the whole issue was raised by 50,000 users and facebook has 35 million registered! But a good leader, a good business man is the one who values each and every customer of his and delivers what his customer wants, address issues raised by his customers and sort it out accordingly. He could have ignored the whole problem and went ahead with the program and as consolation issue a press release. But no! he personally apologizes to his users that a mistake has been made , lessons has been learnt and it will be corrected eventually. If that is not hallmark of leadership, I don’t know what is.

I had earlier posted my thoughts on Facebook Beacon Project release and had ended it with a note on how keenly I would be watching Mark’s next move on this issue. You can read my post on Facebook Beacon privacy issue.

Simple idea: – It is ok to make mistakes but it takes guts to accept that you have and then go ahead and correct it.

let me know what you guys think

 

see you soon