Archive for December, 2015

Crack Multicountry SEM Campaigns With This Hack

Friday, December 18th, 2015

SEO Global For Google Search

Many midsized IT companies sell in multiple geographies (e.g. USA, UK, Germany) but have their marketing organization centralized in their home country (e.g. India). If and when they ran search engine marketing campaigns, it’s a no-brainer that they’d want their ads to only show up in their target markets (that lie outside their home country). This means their corporate marketing would need to find a way to monitor their SEM campaigns running in different countries even though they’re based outside of them.

Many people tend to believe that, by using a country-specific search version of Google, they’d get to see the same search engine results page (SERP) – and ads – as their prospects and customers in that country. That is that, sitting in India, if you use to run your search, you’d see how Google Search results would appear to people searching in Germany.

Unfortunately, this is not true. Google SERPs are determined by your physical location regardless of which country version of Google Search you use.

If you want proof of this, Google “plumber” via

Here’s what I see sitting in India:


No ads.

As you can see, there are no ads on this SERP. Based on that, you’d think that Americans don’t see any ads when they search for a plumber. If you have someone in the US who can run the same search and send you a screenshot of the results, the deluge of ads on the page would tell you how wrong you are.

So, to reiterate, as long as you are doing a search from a certain country, you’d see results only pertinent to that country, whether you use or or

This is bad news for central marketing teams running SEM campaigns around the globe.

But the good news is that the problem can be solved with a free Chrome Extension. Called SEO Global For Google Search, this tool “allows you to see how Google search results appear in different countries, regions and cities.” With SEO Global, you can get authentic search results from different countries without bothering your friends to run them on your behalf!

Now, let’s use SEO Global to re-run the above search for a plumber. Here’s what you and users in USA will see:


Plenty of ads!

As you can see, there are several ads on this SERP. So you know that Americans will be inundated by ads when they search for a plumber (unless they’ve installed ad blockers but that’s a story for another blog post!).

Now, let’s illustrate the use of SEO Global in a B2B technology context.

One of our products, SAP MAILING LIST, is targeted at SAP service and add-on solutions providers in the USA and UK. Accordingly, our Google Ads for this product are set up to appear only to searchers in those two countries (and not in India where we’re based).

When we use without SEO Global, we see the following SERP page for the keyword “sap customer list”:


No ads

The lack of ads on this page doesn’t mean our campaign is broken. What it really means is that we’re not seeing the same SERP that people in USA are seeing although both of us are using the same website.

Now, when we click the SEO Global button on the browser and select USA, the SERP changes to the following version:


Plenty of ads, including our own!

Voilà, this page, which is also the one seen by searchers in USA, has plenty of ads. Since we can spot our own ad – #2 position on the RHS panel – we can rest assured that our campaign is alive and kicking (Of course, we can infer that even otherwise by looking at our Google AdWords and Google Analytics dashboards and from the email leads and social media shares we get regularly).


This hack should help central marketing organizations closely monitor the progress of their multicountry search ad campaigns running in different parts of the world.

PS: We only need to monitor our SAP Mailing List PPC campaign at the country-level. Therefore, we didn’t get a chance to use the city-level support promised by SEO Global. If there are marketers out there who need to track their overseas campaigns at that level of granularity, it’d be great if they try out SEO Global for different cities and share the results in the comments below.

Winners Incite Action. Losers Wait For Actionable Insight

Friday, December 11th, 2015

DILBERT-ACTIONABLE-INSIGHTAs a tech marketer, I constantly preach that technology must solve a real-life problem for it to enter the mainstream. I also believe that it’s the technology provider’s job to explicitly convey how their product or service alleviates concrete pain areas.

In the context of analytics, this would mean that analytics is useful as long as you know what question to ask of the data. As corollary, analytics should focus on delivering actionable insight instead of insight for the sake of insight.

While this is true for data warehousing, the edict misses the very nature of data mining. For the uninitiated, data mining is a sophisticated branch of analytics that crunches data about measured variables to expose hitherto unknown relationships between them. Therefore, by definition, data mining yields insights without asking any questions.

I’d ask potential users of data mining not to the dismiss the technology on the grounds that it answers unasked questions and to instead take a more nuanced approach towards evaluating its suitability for their organizations. The first step in that journey is to recognize that data mining insights are of the following types:

  1. Insight is not connected with business
  2. Insight is relevant to the business in a nebulous manner
  3. Insight clearly pertains to the business but doesn’t prescribe action.

cards-free-willI have no problem if a business discards insights 1 and 2. However, when it comes to the third category, it’s unrealistic to expect a new insight to come with a readymade course of action. To play a little loose with the famous saying “if you torture data enough, it will confess”, it’s necessary to massage insight before it yields triggers for actions. The extent to which a company can coax action out of insight in turn depends on how it is wired internally. When the same insight is presented to two companies with different DNAs, one company may act on it and the other company may ignore it.

Quite often, the company that’s biased towards action earns rich dividends from the insight whereas the company that waits for someone to deliver actionable insight on a platter loses out.

Let me use the following real-life insight about online payments in India to illustrate my point.

Spurt in failure of payments coincides with implementation of two factor authentication for online payments (Source: Economic Times,

(More background on this can be found in my blog post Skating Away With Online Payments.)

When they were told about this finding, banks and the regulator pushed back with one or more of the following responses:

  1. We can’t do anything about two factor authentication. It’s an RBI mandate
  2. We can’t help it if your Internet connection is patchy
  3. Contact your TELCO if you don’t get the Mobile OTP
  4. 2FA will make people feel more safe about making online payments
  5. Security first, convenience next

In short, the banking industry treated this as insight of the third type and did nothing about it.

On the other hand, One97 Communications, then an obscure telecom VAS company, seized the opportunity exposed by this insight and launched PAYTM, a nonbank mobile wallet. PAYTM stores credit / debit card info of its users, thereby obviating the need for users to enter them for each transaction. By doing this, PAYTM reduced payment failures. Although it didn’t totally eliminate the need for entering CVV and VbV, PAYTM did improve CX significantly with whatever it did. Consumers lapped it up in massive numbers and One97 has gone on to become a fintech unicorn within a short span of five years since the launch of PAYTM.


Clearly, PAYTM “incited” action and became a mobile wallet winner.

While banks turned fast followers and launched their own mobile wallets in the recent past, PAYTM has already amassed 100 million users. As a senior banker admitted recently, the banking industry has lost the “share of voice” in mobile wallets.

This is the problem with waiting for actionable insight.

While analytics vendors still have to do their bit to package their offerings in a compelling manner, banks and other users of analytics can gain disproportionate advantage by teasing action out of insight.

“Going Up The Value Chain” Is Wrong Path For Indian IT Services Industry

Friday, December 4th, 2015

India-IT-and-outsourcing-industry-Becoming-more-than-just-body-shopsEvery now and then, the Indian IT Services industry has been exhorted to “move up the value chain” (read develop products) or face extinction. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this higher value chain Kool-Aid in my nearly two decades in the IT industry but the latest one was in an article titled The Kirana (Grocery) Store and the IT Services Industry on LinkedIn.

Generally, the reasons given for the threat and prescription are:

  1. All IT Services companies work on the same third party technologies like Mainframe, C++, .NET, Java, iOS, Android, etc. Since they don’t own these technologies, they can’t differentiate themselves. The only source of differentiation for the industry is to own its own intellectual property aka develop products.
  2. As demand for IT resources increases in India, their wages will increase. Soon labor cost arbitrage will disappear, consigning the offshoring industry to the rubbish heap because it thrives on this principle.
  3. IT Services attracts lower valuation.

Based on my experience in the software products and services industries, I don’t buy this logic. Here’s why:

#1. Differentiation Challenges

Technology is only one aspect of what an IT Services company does. Having worked closely with leading global IT outsourcers like Accenture, I’ve learned that IT Services has ample scope to differentiate itself on other attributes like domain expertise, program management, delivery process (I don’t mean just CMM Level 5), infrastructure, and so on.

While the grass may look green on the other side, finding differentiators in the products space comes with its own challenges, just that they manifest themselves at later stages of the sales cycle.

Moral of the story: Differentiation is hard. But there’s good news: Tools are available for crafting differentiators and some, like our STRADOF, can be used by both services and product companies.

STRADOF Process 01

Look Beyond Features To Find Differentiators

#2. Disappearing Labor Cost Arbitrage

I’ve been hearing that labor cost arbitrage will vanish soon since 1996, when I joined an Indian ERP software maker. If there was a league table for the ten worst predictions in the IT industry, this would go right on top of it.

In reality, there’s more than a 1:3 cost arbitrage at mid levels between India and the USA even today.


At entry levels, the ratio could even exceed 1:10 since fresher salaries in Indian technology services companies have been stagnant during the past 4-5 years.

As testimony that cost arbitrage has continued to hold steady, revenues of the Indian IT Services industry have ballooned from US$ 10 billion to over 100 billion during the past two decades (Whereas Indian IT Product industry revenues have crawled from US$ 50 million to 1 billion during the same period).

And, thanks to the drop in the exchange rate of INR versus the USD / GBP during this period, IT Services companies can still earn decent margins while serving their mainstay markets of USA and UK.

#3. Lower Valuation

Once upon a time, markets did value product companies higher. When the aforementioned ERP maker listed its shares in the late 1990s, its ten rupee share opened at an astrounding price of INR 4950, making the company India’s first tech unicorn (even before the term was coined to refer to startups crossing billion dollars valuation). However, all that is history now. Dalal Street has realized that product companies have a very long gestation period and even after all that, their success is not guaranteed. These days, well-performing services companies enjoy similar valuations as product companies.


Whichever way you look at it, the “go up the value chain” Kool-Aid doesn’t make much sense. If it’s still going around, it may be a nod to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s strategy:

“When Ms. Mayer is forced to deliver bad news, she employs what she calls a “jiu-jitsu move”— trying to create a diversion by producing tantalizing information”. – The Wall Street Journal, “Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Faces Morale Challenge”

How-good-are-Indian-IT-companiesTherefore, there’s a strong case for IT Services companies to ignore the warnings from doomsday prophets and continue to do what they are good at.

That said, the industry can’t afford to become complacent. There are at least three dark clouds looming large on the Indian IT Services horizon:

  • Labor-cutting effect of engineering automation
  • Smaller team sizes and shorter durations of cloud projects
  • Significant cost savings of insourcing IT to Middle America.

In a follow-on post, I’ll share some thoughts on how the industry can surmount these challenges. Spoiler Alert: “Move up the value chain” won’t be one of them.