Archive for January, 2017

How Do I Run An Email Campaign To Generate B2B Leads?

Friday, January 27th, 2017

This is a slightly edited version of my answer to the following question on Quora:

How Do I Run An Email Campaign To Generate B2B Leads?

Most email campaigns I’ve come across provide a great answer to the question “What does your company do?”

Not surprisingly, they fail to generate leads.

Because people receiving those emails are not asking that question.

If you look at it another way, these emails respond to leads. Therefore, they can’t generate leads. (For the purpose of this post, a lead is defined as a company that has shown interest in knowing more about a vendor’s product / service).

Called “suspects”, people receiving these emails may not even know about the existence of the vendor sending them out. Even if they do, located at the “top of the funnel” (TOFU) in marketing-speak, these people don’t really care about the vendor – at least not yet. Added to that, they’re not expecting this email, so it may interrupt what they’re doing.

No wonder suspects don’t open – let alone respond to – such emails.

This is not a failure of email marketing. It’s a wake up call for marketers to rethink the content of their leadgen emails.

A leadgen email should answer a different question:

“Why should I care about your company?”

To do that, it should follow an “outside-in” approach. By which I mean its content should be oriented such that it looks at things from the prospect’s perspective. Specifically, it should first outline the pain areas and hot topics faced by the target company and then describe how the vendor’s offering can address them. In other words, it should give a few good reasons why the prospect should be interested in knowing more about the vendor’s product or service.

While “inside-out” elements used in most email campaigns – like features, benefits, case studies, capabilities, etc. – are important, they shouldn’t take the center stage in a leadgen email. The trick is to reorient these elements such that they reinforce the core message.

The same “outside-in” approach is also required in target lead list compilation, cold calling, rebutting objections, and all other activities performed at the top of the funnel.

We help B2B technology vendors generate leads by creating email flyers based on what we call “Marketable Items”, which package a vendor’s strengths and differentiators into a compelling reason to buy / adopt that resonates well with the pain areas and hot topics of the target market. Please find below a few examples of Marketable Items and a sample Email Flyer.

As you can see, Marketable Items consciously leave out more things about a vendor’s product / service / company than they include! To that extent, creating Marketable Items is an “exercise in sacrifice”, as Gartner analyst Jake Sorofman characterizes positioning in Six Reasons Why Your Positioning and Messaging Probably Isn’t Working. “Increasingly, who you are is defined by who you aren’t. What you become depends on what you’ve left behind.”

Before closing, let me hasten to add that the vendor should abandon the above approach once a lead is generated! Because, if they belabor business value beyond a certain funnel stage, they may lose the deal, as the vendor in this post learned to its dismay.

Five Reasons Why PayTM Is Miles Ahead Of Its Competition

Friday, January 20th, 2017

With over 100 million users a year ago, PayTM was way ahead of its competitors well before the Nov. 2016 demonetization of high value currency notes in India. On the back of the push for #CashlessIndia consequent to #CurrencySwitch, the Alibaba-backed mobile wallet has increased its lead over other mobile wallets (e.g. MobiKwik, PayZapp) and account-to-account money transfer apps (e.g. UPI). Today, PayTM boasts of 150M users (Source: Wikipedia).

Based on my personal experience and anecdotal evidence, I advance five reasons to explain PayTM’s overwhelming popularity.

#1. Ease of Onboarding Merchants

Merchants can sign up for PayTM without a bank account. They can receive money into their PayTM wallets without a bank account. They can even spend their wallet balance by shopping at other merchants that accept PayTM payments. It’s only when they want to cash out their money from their PayTM account that they need a bank account.

As a result, PayTM was / is able to sign up hundreds of thousands of merchants that don’t have bank accounts. These merchants could sign up for PayTM immediately after the demonetization announcement, start accepting payments and visit banks in parallel to open their accounts as their PayTM account balances were growing.

This was / is not possible with competing e-wallets, which insist that merchants link their bank accounts (or debit cards or credit cards) at the time of installing and onboarding their respective apps. As a result, PayTM’s competitors were not in a position to sign up financially-excluded micromerchants at the point they desperately needed to accept cashless payments. They lost this huge market to PayTM.

#2. Viral Distribution

When PayPal launched in the late 1990s, it incented existing users to send money to non users. When users sent money to their friends and family members (that were not on PayPal), PayPal sent them an email saying “Collect $$ by signing up for PayPal”. This give non-users a far more compelling reason to join PayPal than any direct advertising or PR efforts and generated a massive viral distribution for PayPal.

PayTM has copied this approach. And has reaped the rich rewards à la PayPal.

PayTM’s Viral Distribution Strategy

Surprisingly, PayTM’s competitors haven’t followed this approach. They insist that payments can be made only to people that have already signed up to their e-wallets.

To take the example of UPI, to receive payments, you need to have a Virtual Payment Address (VPA) from your bank. Assuming that you’re thorougly sold on UPI and decide to create your VPN, you’ll need to contend with your bank’s systems to actually generate one. This adds a big moving part, which doesn’t always work. Just today, I got an SMS from my bank saying they can’t issue new MMIDs – an integral part of IMPS, the payment rails on which UPI works – for the next five days. There’s no guarantee that you’d still be interested in UPI five days later.

A few PayTM competitors I spoke to told me that sending money to a non-user would be tantamount to putting the cart before the horse. Indeed, it would. But, as I’ve said time and again, Putting Cart Before Horse Does Work. PayTM and PayPal get it. Many of their competitors don’t.

#3. Feet On Street Approach

In the weeks following #CurrencySwitch, PayTM salespersons made daily rounds in retail hotspots asking storekeepers if they wanted PayTM.

I’ve seen this personally in my building storefront that’s dotted with teawallah, fruit juice vendors, pan-cigarette sellers and other micromerchants.

I also heard more details of PayTM’s aggressive merchant acquisition drive from a Uber driver.  According to this cabbie who accepts PayTM on his personal name – PayTM is also Uber’s official digital payments partner – PayTM sales reps ride on their motorbikes up and down a street near Pune Airport where hundreds of Uber and Ola taxis are parked, asking drivers if they wanted to sign up for PayTM. When a driver says yes, the rep connects the driver’s smartphone on his own 4G network using tethered WiFi hotspot, downloads the app, installs and onboards the driver on PayTM. All this in 5-10 minutes. Without being judgmental about whether the driver is tech savvy or not. And at no data charges to the cabbie. This Uber driver is so conversant with PayTM’s onboarding process that he even knows the PayTM rep’s sales quota (10 merchants a day)!

In sharp contrast, most competitors of PayTM haven’t harnessed the power of feet-on-street approach to recruit small merchants. To see just how detached they are from market realities, an investor in a digital payments company placed the focus of merchant acquisition of his investee company on self-service. In his MEDIUM article, he said,

Merchants should be able to go to an Amazon or Flipkart site or a Croma store and just buy a terminal at their own cost and link their bank account and start accepting payments.

Well tried. Even if they’re tech-savvy, crazy busy merchants just don’t have the time for self-service, especially when they’re busy getting pampered by the nation’s #1 mobile wallet company!

As a result, most micromerchants I’ve quizzed are not even aware of UPI, BHIM and other competing e-wallets.

#4. Frictionless Payments

By design or default, the Sign Out link in PayTM’s mobile app is buried deep inside the app. As a result, many users have never seen it and stay logged into their app all the time. This means they’re able to make a payment without a password or PIN.

This creates a significant security vulnerability in PayTM. But it also makes the mobile wallet’s CX that much more frictionless, which matters a lot when people need to use it to make payments several times a day.

Security is a hygiene factor. Convenience trumps security. Everytime. Even in India.

PayTM has capitalized on this element of consumer behavior. Its competitors haven’t.

#5. Miscellaneous

As I’d highlighted in Hiding Your Secret Sauce, PayTM preloads its wallet on the fly without user intervention. As a result, users wary of having to topup prepaid mobile wallets before initiating payments find the PayTM experience superior to that of mobile wallets, which bump them off with a message asking them to load enough money into their wallets first and then reattempt the payment.

PayTM is also very well funded and is able to absorb losses on every transaction.

While these factors contribute to PayTM’s dominance of the digital wallet space, I tend to believe they’re secondary to the aforementioned ways by which PayTM has differentiated itself from its competitors.


With PayTM’s lead over other e-wallets and the reasons for that out of the way, let me come to its detractors who point out that PayTM’s dominance is only a thing in the present. I agree with that.

Some of the detractors have gone to the extent of predicting PayTM’s demise in view of competition from BHIM, a government-sponsored m-wallet. I think that’s highly exaggerated.

That said, PayTM does face a few headwinds:

  • Sustaining relationships with merchants with daily sales of INR 50K+. This category of merchants includes vegetable vendors and fruit sellers among others who find its cap (INR 20K per month without KYC, INR 100K per month with KYC) too low. I know at least two merchants that have bailed out of PayTM for this reason. (Interestingly, they’ve gone back to cash, which suggests that PayTM’s competitors couldn’t recruit them either)
  • Willingness of PayTM’s Chinese backer to fund the company’s cashbacks and mounting losses.

As they say, past performance is no indication of future success. This maxim is as true for PayTM as any other company. Only time will tell how long India’s #1 mobile wallet will hold on to the top spot.

Should I Look For An Alternative To Amazon India?

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Since I wrote Strange Happenings In Amazon India, I went through another experience with Amazon India. It was so strange that it merits a separate blog post. Here goes.

I’d recently ordered a leather wallet from Amazon India. When I received it, I realized that it didn’t have a coin pouch. Therefore, I wanted to return it. I logged in to my Amazon India account to initiate the return. During the process, I was taken to the the refund screen where I’d to select whether I wanted the refund amount credited to a Gift Card or my Bank Account. I selected the second option. I was about to enter my bank account details when I saw two entries already listed there. I was shocked at this because:

  1. I’ve never set up any bank account on Amazon.
  2. The first entry was in my name but showed an account number that wasn’t mine.
  3. The second entry was in the name of “Mueller Schmidt” (for the uninitiated, this is the German-language equivalent of “Tom Dick & Harry”). Given that Amazon insists that the account must be in my name, I was wondering how such a wildcard account could be set up under my login.

All this reeked of a data breach and, that too, by an insider.

My suspicions were confirmed a few days later when I received an email from Amazon India stating “we discovered that your Amazon.com email address and password may have been compromised”.

amazon-fi-3

I deleted both the bank accounts in the refunds section. I also took the opportunity to delete all my credit cards on file in the payments section. This meant that I’d be even more resolved to use my preferred payment mode of Cash on Delivery in future. But I digress.

I then proceeded to enter the details of my bank account into which I wanted my refund amount to be transferred. The CONTINUE button at the bottom of the form was dimmed. I didn’t know how to proceed and bailed out.

I didn’t get any email or SMS confirmation for my return request. Nobody turned up at my doorstep to pick up the product, either.

It was obvious that my return request hadn’t gone through.

I went back to the returns screen and selected the Gift Card option instead. The CONTINUE button was now activated. I clicked on it and scheduled the pickup date and time per my convenience. This time, I did get a confirmation for my return request. A couple of days later, the collection guy landed up randomly without paying any heed to the pickup appointment selected by me. Luckily, since I was at home when he turned up, I was able to hand over the product to him.

This experience made it clear that Amazon was issuing refunds only in the form of store credits. In other words, it was forcing consumers to spend their refunds on Amazon.

I didn’t like this practice when India’s #1 ecommerce player Flipkart tried it earlier last year.

I didn’t like it when Amazon was trying to the pull the same trick on me now. It’s no different from the traditional practice of brick-and-mortar stores who are supposedly getting disrupted by Amazon and other new-age ecommerce sites.

This is not the kind of CX I expect from Amazon, a brand for which I exhibit cult loyalty.

If things continue like this, I may be compelled to end my 15+ years of association with Amazon and move my custom to another etailer. Luckily, “winner takes all” is not yet a thing in the Indian Internet services business, so I’ve a fairly long list of alternatives to Amazon India.

Putting Cart Before Horse Will Work In Achieving #CashlessIndia

Friday, January 6th, 2017

On the back of the demonetization of high value currency notes in India, the government has been aggressively pushing cashless payments. Trending on Twitter under the hashtag #CashlessIndia, the initiative has attracted criticism from the blogosphere and mainstream media on the grounds that India is not yet ready for digital payments. The average urban business-sensitive citizen seems to echo the same sentiment, judging by the results of the following poll conducted by Economic Times.

cbhci-fi

See MediaNama article titled Cash vs Digital Money: why going cashless is going to be tough in India for a comprehensive coverage of this point of view.

I don’t disagree with this viewpoint. In fact, I’d highlighted a few more hurdles to going cashless in my recent post PSA: Don’t Get Defensive About Not Going Cashless:

#5. Reluctance of Banks to Issue Merchant Accounts (aka POS Machines)
#6. Cash-Out Costs & Delays
#7. Card on Delivery Limitations

Attempting to drive cashless payments without overcoming these hurdles is a classic case of putting “the cart before the horse”, as Harvard Business Review observes aptly.

Does it mean India should fix these fundamental issues first and only then attempt to go cashless?

No.

Why not?

Because some of these hurdles won’t go away anytime soon. Take infrastructure for example. Like physical infrastructure like roads, bridges, etc., network infrastructure also has a way of attracting more and more traffic until it becomes inadequate in a vicious cycle, reflecting the German proverb that translates to “The appetite grows as you eat”. Even in the Bay Area, which is the de-facto Mecca of technology, network connections are patchy at times. Core banking, card management & other payment systems break down not so infrequently everywhere in the world, leading to failed payments. That’s why waiting for 100% readiness of infrastructure to push digital payments is an exercise in futility. (I’ve always maintained that a robust business model is the real critical success factor for digital payments but that’s a blog post for another day).

Also because a certain degree of jugaad and leapfrogging of technologies has always been a part of the Indian DNA in several areas. For example:

  1. I once visited a village in Tamilnadu, a state in South India. This village got TVs first, then the electricity connection required to power the TVs! More on this experience in my blog post Putting the Cart Before the Horse Does Work!
  2. As the legend has it, doyens of the Indian IT industry set up their development centers in the Mariwala area of Bangalore in the early 1990s well before there was a paved road to access the facilities. It was only after they staged protests to call the attention of politicians to their employees’ plight that the local authority built proper roads in this neighborhood. Had they waited for infrastructure first, IT Services might not be a $140 billion business for India today.

IMO, we shouldn’t sacrifice our competitive advantage just to follow the Western left-to-right, top-to-bottom approach towards nation building.

Good news is, based on the following early indications in the last two months, India can easily achieve 50% reduction in the use of cash without necessarily waiting to overcome the hurdles in front of digital payments.

#1. Debit Card Activation

200M out of the 755M debit cards in India were activated only after the November 2016 demonetization.

What stopped them from being activated earlier?

#2. Card Promotion Campaigns

My bank ran an SMS campaign to promote card use two days after demonetization.

Why did this bank have to wait for #CurrencySwitch to stimulate card use when it has been in the card issuing and acquiring business for over 20 years?

vaishali#3. If Vaishali Can, So Can Others

This iconic restaurant in Pune started accepting card payments within a week of #CurrencySwitch.

Why was it hung up on cash for 40+ years of its existence?

#4. Factory Worker Salary Payments by Cheques

According to Times of India dated 12 December 2016, the Indian government has made it mandatory for wages of factory workers to be paid by cheques going forward. When I read this, I was, like, duh?

I began my career as a Graduate Engineer Trainee in a factory in 1985. I got my first paycheck by, well, cheque.

30 years later, why haven’t cheque – or the myriad other forms of cashless – payments become the norm for payment of wages for factory workers?

#5. Newspaper Vendor Accepts Cheques

Enough of questioning others. Time for introspection.

I’ve always been paying my newspaper vendor by cash. Prompted by the recent cash crunch, I asked him last month if I could pay him by some form of cashless payment. He nodded and pointed to a line in his bill that provides drawee details for cheque payments. I was shocked! His bill has remained unchanged ever since he started delivering newspapers to my home over ten years ago.

Why didn’t I notice earlier that he has always been accepting cheques?


While many people – including me – prefer cash for good reasons, the above examples suggest that there’s a vast segment of the Indian population that has shunned cashless methods of payments because, to put it simply, “old habits die hard”.

I won’t comment on whether a democratic government has the moral authority to force its citizens to shed their old habits and foist a new payment behavior on them. Personally, I’ve no hassles with cash. I foresee that, in the immediate term, the switch to digital payments will cause a lot of chaos due to failed payments, identity theft and cyberfraud. I’m not one of those people that naively believes that cash implies malafide activity and noncash implies guinuine activity.

But we do have a democratically-elected government that wants to push cashless payments. If we accept the reality as it is, the above examples make me confident that demonetization alone will provide the required stimulus to pump up cashless payment volumes from the present 2% to at least 50%.

I’m not alone in saying this. According to the aforementioned HBR article, “demonetization move is a welcome shock necessary to get a cash-intensive society weaned off its addiction and onto modern systems of digital payments”.

It’s only to raise cashless payment modes to levels beyond 50% that overcoming the fundamental hurdles to digital payments would be required.

In other words, putting the cart before the horse will work for now.