Archive for January, 2016

FORTUNE Dodges The Libel Bullet – For Now

Friday, January 22nd, 2016
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FORTUNE, 1 January 2016

I was stunned when I saw the latest issue of FORTUNE magazine. Titled “Amazon Invades India”, the cover features Jeff Bezos as the Hindu Lord Vishnu. Bordering on the sacrilegious, the illustration violates the Hindu stricture against depicting human beings as Gods. If the term “invades” – an obvious throw back to the colonial era – sounds less offensive, it’s only in comparison with the irresponsible graphic.

I was not the only one. Click here, here and here for rants by leading publications against this cover.

There’s nothing new about sensational journalism. Fifty years ago, a vernacular newspaper in the South Indian language Tamil shot to prominence by printing a bold headline “Man Bites Dog”. Tabloids like SUN in the UK and Bild in Germany – among countless others all over the world – have mastered this format of print journalism. With digital media, page views seem to count more than quality of reporting, giving rise to rampant use of headline and click bait.

But I always thought that a venerated publication like FORTUNE would stay above this. I first began to have doubts when I noticed that the magazine was changing in recent times in ways that were not for the better. The latest cover totally shattered my belief.

That some illustrator would think up of such a sensational picture doesn’t surprise me. But I can’t fathom how it could go up the chain of command and get approved for publication. Or, is this further proof that publishers are increasingly becoming like like Web 2.0 platforms and social networking sites that merely connect writers (“content producers”) and readers (“content consumers”) together without verifying the appropriateness of content?

As a student of consumer behavior, I felt that, over time, people would forget the artist and only remember the picture, linking the offensive portrayal directly with Jeff Bezos. But I didn’t imagine the association would happen so soon: The very next day, India’s leading business newspaper, The Economic Times, carried the following tongue-in-cheek cartoon:

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The Economic Times, 15 January 2016

The marketer in me was wondering if the negative association would’ve an adverse effect on Amazon’s ambitious expansion plans in India. And, if so, would the ecommerce giant register a note of protest with FORTUNE or, worse still, sue the magazine for libel.

For now, the magazine seems to have dodged the bullet by issuing an apology for this fiasco.

Only time will tell if we’ve seen the end of this incident.

Request To Aggregators: Solve Your Customer’s Problems, Not Yours

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Every now and then a startup comes to us with the idea of aggregating fragmented markets, seeking our assistance in product management. The common theme behind most of these marketplaces – across corporate gifting, handicraft, printing and other industries – is to make use of technology to mediate a physical business. When we see that many of them leave the underlying process unchanged – other than to make it run on an Internet-connected computer / tablet / smartphone – we step back. Aggregation models based on digitization alone are destined for failure.

To drive home this point, let’s see what’d have happened to cab aggregation had the underlying issues remained unchanged: You’d push a button on an app and find that one cabbie refused to drive to a certain location, another cabbie’s vehicle was dirty and a third cabbie wanted extra money to drive empty until your pickup point, and so on. Obviously, you’d hate the experience, go back to your existing transport options and, long story short, Uber wouldn’t be a household name.

Realizing this, cab aggregators went beyond a fancy mobile app to work with cabbies to establish standards in service areas, cleanliness and fares. In other words, they went the extra mile to create a consistent CX, despite the underlying inconsistencies among individual cabbies and cabs. IMO, they burned billions of dollars of VC funding towards driving this consistent CX than on customer acquisition, but I digress.

Unfortunately, many aspiring aggregators don’t get this and maintain that they can’t do anything if individual service providers have their own terms of service.

Take MyCuteOffice.com for example.

This startup positions itself as the “Uber for office space” and lists spare office space on its platform. When I recently checked out its website, some offices were available only from 9AM-5PM, some charged extra for WiFi and others would only accept bulk bookings for 10 workstations. This didn’t help me as a potential customer. The diversity of the listings meant I couldn’t even create a shortlist of offices to view physically – let alone finalize on one – by using the platform. As a result, I went away dissatisfied with the platform. (No doubt the platform provided visibility into spare office space that I otherwise lacked but, 20 years after Internet has entered the mainstream, discoverability alone doesn’t suffice.)

I’d have felt positive about MyCuteOffice if all its listings conformed to a set of basic standards viz. 9AM-9PM, WiFi, conference room, etc. We can debate whether free parking space should be a part of the basic package or not. However, there can be no argument that the aggregator must spec a minimum set of features that solve pain areas faced by the market and rally landlords around to support them.

Oyo Rooms is one startup that has done a great job at this. Before Oyo, travelers were never sure what they’d get at a budget hotel – some would throw in free breakfast, others would charge for WiFi, etc. Oyo understood this consumer pain and established a few basic standards:

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Oyo Standard

The startup worked with hundreds of budget hotels in tens of cities all over India and got each one of them to provide these amenities. As a result, the traveler opting for an Oyo Room got a consistent experience, no matter which Oyo property they visited. (This is not very different from the assurance of QSCV – Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value – that people got when they spotted the yellow McDonalds arch anywhere in the world).

Oyo Rooms has become such a hit because it provides a consistent CX driven by features that alleviate consumer pain areas.

And it’s not just me.

oyo01As the startup’s 22 year old founder Ritesh Agarwal himself says in this Times of India article, “You have to understand the problem of your customer or business partner in relevant context to build products…had we continued to focus on making budget hotels discoverable, we wouldn’t have opened up this phenomenal market opportunity. It’s only when we addressed the issue of predictable, standardized, affordable stays that customers responded with such enthusiasm”.

Incidentally, Agarwal started his entrepreneurial career with Oravel, a website that merely enabled discovery of budget hotels without providing consistency in facilities. Oravel failed to take off. Agarwal learned his lesson and pivoted to Oyo Rooms.

Dear Startups, I hope you’re convinced by now that an online aggregation platform will work only if it can solve the underlying customer pain areas. Using technology to merely bring a physical process to the digital world doesn’t cut it any more.

Two Secrets Of Selling More To Existing Customers

Friday, January 8th, 2016

angeles-crest-fiIn his post titled 4 Major Mistakes B2B Companies Commit To Lose Clients, author Ian Dainty declares that B2B technology companies lose business by failing to communicate with existing customers about their value delivered, new offerings, and so on.

It’s a no-brainer that customers will stray away from their incumbent vendors if they’re kept in the dark by them. However, I’m not so sure if it’s a real problem. To explain why, let me backtrack a bit.

In the good old days, once sales booked an order, the account would be handed over to delivery. Once project managers get into the thick of project execution, frequent updates to customers about value add and new offerings were often forgotten. In fact, in some companies, delivery folks would themselves be out of the loop on these things! As a result, customers would defect to competitors whenever they had a new requirement and didn’t know that their incumbent vendor was geared up to fulfilling it.

Most vendors realized this and responded to the problem by employing Client Engagement Directors. These are senior professionals responsible for growing business from a customer. Often stationed at client premises, it’s the job of these people to keep the customer updated on what was happening within their company and how they were adding value to the customer’s company. CEDs are often comped on the incremental revenues they generate from the accounts managed by them.

Given the focus placed by them on “mining existing accounts” – as this process is called in industry speak – IT vendors no longer lose business for reasons given in Dainty’s post.

But they still do lose business from existing customers.

I was trying to figure out why this happens regularly.

At about the time I read this post, I saw this tweet by an existing customer of a leading bank:

I realized that, for every customer who complains about not receiving updates, there’s another who protests about about receiving too many updates!

So it struck me that communication per se can’t be the reason for vendors to lose business from their existing customers.

Then what is?

From personal experience and anecdotal evidence, there are two imporant consumer behavior insights regarding communications:

  1. Provide updates too frequently and risk irritating customers. Provide updates too rarely and risk customers forgetting about you.
  2. Customers welcome relevant updates and spurn irrelevant updates, no matter the frequency.

Therefore, we can infer that frequency and relevance are the key elements of successful customer communications. Getting them right is key to winning more business from existing customers.

How does a vendor get the frequency and relevancy of their communications right?

The simple answer to this question is to go ask the customer. However, we don’t recommend doing that. Most probably, it will backfire in today’s world of Buyer 2.0.

For the uninitiated, our post What Happens Before A Prospect Contacts Sales? provides a good overview of this new purchasing paradigm.

Marketable_Items_400wOur approach to sell technology in the world of Buyer 2.0 is explained in Ensuring That Buyer 2.0 Contacts *Your* Sales. It resonates very well with CEB’s “Challenger Marketing” strategy where we gain insight about our customer’s industry, find pain areas, industry hot topics and use Marketable Items to draw attention to what prospects are doing wrong or not doing right. In other words, we take a bold bet about major drivers impacting our customers and advise how they should respond to them. Having taken that approach, it would be silly for us to ask our customers to guide us on apparently mundane matters like do they want weekly updates or monthly updates. So, we don’t ask them.

What do we do then?

  • We start by providing updates once in N weeks. If customers complain that they’re hearing too much noise, we dial down their frequency to once in 2N weeks. If customers call us strangers, we dial up their update frequency to twice in N weeks. We rinse and repeat this procedure until we reach an equillibrium. This helps us get the update frequency right.
  • aspo-fi-3We recommend crafting ASPOs, which are account specific point offerings that are based on triggers specific to an account. More on this approach can be found at Use ASPOs To Improve Cold Call Response Rates. We believe this is more effective compared to the traditional approach where you send out updates of your new products or services, expect the customer to map it to their needs and wait for them to get back to us if and when something suitable turns up. While ASPOs don’t come cheap, they do a great job at surfacing new opportunities and pay for themselves many times over from the very first new deal they help win from an existing customer. By definition, ASPOs are relevant.

To summarize, the secret to better communications is to iterate until you get your update frequency right and use ASPOs to make your updates relevant. Depending upon the breadth of your offerings and the heterogeneity of your target market, you might have to set both frequency and relevance at the level of customer segments or even individual accounts. If that sounds too onerous, we’re there to take the weight off your shoulders!

Season’s Greetings!

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Season’s Greetings and Best Wishes for a Happy and Prosperous New Year 2016.

Welcome back to the GTM360 Blog!

In this first post of 2016, we list the Top 10 posts of 2015:

#10. Why Customers May Flee Abroad Sooner Than Tech Startups!

#9: Every Pageview Is A Conversion Opportunity

#8: Core Engineering Covets Top IIT Talent But Does Top IIT Talent Covet Core Engineering?

#7: Secret Of Survival Of Bank Branches

#6: Hiding Your Secret Sauce

#5: Don’t Lose Deals By Belaboring Business Value – Part 2

#4: Why Dial Volume Is An Important Inside Sales Metric

#3: Teardown Of Myntra’s App Mantra

#2: 3 Secrets To Uncovering Business Pain Areas

And the most popular post of 2015 was:

#1: HDFC Bank’s PayZapp Ends My Bill Payment Woes

A big thanks to WordPress / Automattic for providing the platform on which GTM360 Blog runs.

Dear Readers, we thank you for your continued interest in this blog and look forward to staying in touch with you through 2016.