Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Should marketing take a sales target?

There is a big temptation to measure marketers by the number of leads they generate. Marketers tend to respond that they don't control the conversion process so the number of leads generated is meaningless.

IT Services marketers do need to prove that they have a revenue impact if marketing is not to be a fair-weather spend. There are some interesting ROI models that I have exploring recently, but they are time-intensive, expensive and based on assumptions which can be easily disputed.

I came across this easy to read 25-page ebook which provides a good approach on how marketing can align with sales. It does however, require deep structural changes in which sales and marketing are measured. For example, it requires sales to be measured (seriously!) on the number of leads they follow-up. And for marketing to be able to (accurately) track the volume of revenue generated from these leads. And for all this to be automated. Logically it seems really easy. Philosophically requires a mind-change! If anyone has implemented this methodology successfully in a $1bn+ company IT services do share your views.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Twitter

I realize that I am still a newbie in the brave new media world. So, I went seeking knowledge to the Forrester site. They recently ran a conference for marketers in Bangalore so they were top of mind recall for me.

And I discovered that they were yo enough to be on Twitter. And have helpfully created a post to explain it all http://blogs.forrester.com/marketing/2007/12/do-you-get-it-y.html AND have a report made available free titled "Microblogging for Marketers". Check out http://twitter.com/forrester - I learnt that Tupperware parties have morphed to Wii cyber-parties held by "alpha moms".

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Marketing makes sales superfluous?

"Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business."

“…the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself..”

Both these quotes are from Peter Drucker.

The best example of a category which has achieved this very successfully is the luxury fashion industry. Brands like Mont Blanc, Chanel, Prada don’t need to do much direct selling – they invest a great deal on building a unique aura for the brand and keeping their products fresh and high-quality. They make their products so desirable that potential customers are drawn to their products and shops.

But chances are you work with hundreds of salespeople. And your organization is likely to have many more salespeople than marketers. Why? Is it that marketing and innovation are no longer the key roles of business? Or that we have stopped building the product or service that sells itself? Neither.

As the products got more complicated and the organization got bigger, the marketing function got more specialized. Marketing used to be the custodian of the customer’s view point and of the market landscape, but this function was now performed by the business planning department. Marketing traditionally owned the customer, but customer satisfaction surveys were now performed by the Quality department. And because the customers are often far away from the producers, marketing needs feet-on-street to customize the solutions for individual buyers – and this was now done by Sales. So while the organization continues to effectively perform the marketing function as defined by Drucker, not all of the elements reside in the department of the same name.

With industrialization, location-independence and complexity this fragmentation was a logical progression. But now, with the emergence of Web 2.0 there is a chance that marketing can pin itself back together again. Using collaboration tools it is now possible to understand your customer even from a remote location. With new technology like telepresence the need for feet-on-street will diminish as a good customer solution can be presented from anywhere in the world. And importantly with new media like Facebook and Second Life marketers can communicate one-on-one with customers anywhere in the world. In many ways this is like a return to the pre-industrial age, when marketers and producers were often the same people and sold to their friends and neighbours.

So I see a return to a more traditional form of marketing enabled by the latest in technology. What do you think? Is this likely to happen? Or will we continue to see specialization (and fragmentation) of the marketing function in organizations? And is that good or bad for marketers?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Marketing in New Age Media

Social networking is not only for the gum-chewing, game-playing, post-industrial .mp3generation. It is pervasive and will change the way marketers, media owners, and users interact.

Facebook claims 54 million active users. 45% of their users are over 35

LinkedIn has 15 million subscribers and the average user is around 39

Second Life has over 10 million residents, and over $1-million in business was transacted in the last 24 hours.

There are more out there like Hi5, Orkut, Bebo vying to be a part of this gigantic virtual gabfest. Social networking sites provide you with the tools to create your online personal profile, stay in touch with your friends, and play games, watch videos, download music, be a pundit, musician, and artist. The sites broadly fall into four categories with differing service goals:

Social: Sites like MySpace, and Orkut , primarily created as an online hang-out. The users are there to catch up with their online friends, share music, videos and views.

Social+business: Facebook started as a way for Harvard students to stay in touch, but is now being used by professionals to stay in touch with their colleagues and friends. Second Life enables anyone, including businesses, to build their interactive environment, kind of like a 3D website with amazing graphics capability.

Business: Linkedin.com provides professionals a means to stay connected, get answers, and be a passive job-seeker.

Affinity networks: These provide all the collaboration tools of their bigger peers but target users with special interests. E.g. fashion-networks.com provides a networking hub for the apparel industry.

These networks are still is their early adoption phase and sorting out various teething issues like privacy, profitability and so on. So, why should you be interested? India is estimated to have 30 million internet users. A study by JuxtConsult of 10,000 households indicates 22% of users spend over two hours a day online as opposed to just 14%, who spend that amount of time watching TV.

Collaborative networks mark a milestone in New Age Media because: The ability to collaborate, in real-time, with vast groups of like-minded people changes the dynamics of influencer management. Perceptions are no longer shaped by marketing communications, but by what their friends, and friend’s friends say about you. It is the complete democratisation of opinion when you can reach thousands of people at a mouse-click, for free. E.g., a best employer survey is not all that relevant if I can call upon my network of 20,000 LinkedIn friends and friends-of-friends to share their first-hand views of the organisation.

Customer relationship management can never be the same again. Your customers can share tips, views, and cribs in real-time on Facebook. They can do it without you (and probably do), but it would be so much better if you joined that conversation or provided an alternative forum.

Conversations are the key to success in this transparent, all-social, all-talking, all-sharing world. You cannot engage with your prospects by shouting at them –– it has to be a dialogue, and it has to be in a format that they see value in. The consumer has complete choice to ignore your marketing message. Unlike TV or radio where advertising subsidised the service, these networks are free. So if you have a presence on Second Life, your avatar must wait to be asked for information before it can start selling. Or your visitor will just fly away to the next virtual world.

Collaborative networks are still in their early-adopter phase, and it is a good time to explore the medium and develop expertise. Here are three things that organisations might consider:

You have to be in it to win it. Just as the early websites were brochureware, you may want to start with a stripped down presence on these sites and then work your way to a more full-fledged option once you are comfortable with the nuances of the medium.

Engage in conversations, don’t advertise. The key to success is pull-marketing, not push. Offer something –– at least a virtual T-shirt –– to attract people to your site, and once they visit, structure the conversation around their specific interests.

Be focused. The virtual world is infinite. Be clear about your positioning and whether your primary audience is your employees, potential employees, customers, media or prospects.

This was published in Economic Times, the world's largest business publication by circulation http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News_By_Industry/Services/Advertising/Marketing_in_the_new_age_media/articleshow/msid-2573688,curpg-2.cms

Disagree? Think that new media does not lend itself to business use?

Monday, November 12, 2007

What is the X-Factor in Marketing?

Before I went on the Diwali break, I was asked this question by a marketing magazine called Pitch. It set me thinking - what IS the X-Factor?

Is it what sets apart one campaign from another? What allows one product to be sold at twice the price of another? What makes customers queue for hours to buy – even when another product is available with identical functionality. What makes consumers forgive the occasional glitches in the service. What makes demand far outstrip supply. In short, the X-factor is every marketer’s holy grail. The elixir which when found and bottled will keep their products fresh and desirable in their consumers’ eyes. I know I am going to lose many readers by admitting this, but I don’t know what the X-Factor is. After all, if I (or anyone else) knew what it was, it would no longer be the “X” which is an unknown quantity, but, and pardon my vanity here, the Jessie Factor! But, having had the privilege of working with a number of successful brands which have at various points in their lifecycle achieved marketing nirvana, one factor does strike me as being common across their success. It is authenticity.What I mean by that is the ability to identify a benefit or value that resonates with the clients and then build that into EVERY aspect of the product or service delivery. Marketing is often treated as the icing on the cake – somebody bakes a cake and then hands it over to marketing to “prettify” it and make it palatable and attractive. So you often have delicious chocolate icing being slapped onto a mediocre pineapple cake! The customer can tell. And he ain’t coming back for a second helping. A truly authentic experience is when the cake and the icing are made for each other and live the same corporate ethos – eg natural ingredients or low-calorie or organic or vegetarian. When we engage in Authentic Marketing we have to move the marketing platform from being separate from the corporate soul. Instead, the marketing message has to encapsulate the corporate soul in a manner that is relevant to customers. Philip Kotler – the man behind the 4 Ps – now says that marketing has to be defined as “creating, communicating and delivering value to the customer”. In short, we have to manage the customer experience. So what makes a brand authentic?


  • It is the little things that matter as much as the big things. If quality is the keystone of your brand, then clients expect it in everything – your website, letters, events etc, not just in the service delivery.
  • The CEO has to believe in the brand value and ensure that it is baked into the organization. The organizational structure has to institutionalize the brand value.
  • The employees have to understand the brand value and believe in it. This needs to be a part of the selection process. For example, if you have a brand which epitomizes fun you can’t hire doleful people!
  • Your brand experience has to be seen as a series of conversations with your prospects and customers

The God of Little Things
A friend recently pointed me to a Mercedes website www.a-to-s.co.uk It is a great example of how all the little things contribute to a brand. Visit and you will find out that ostrich feathers are used in the paint-finish process, that the paints are environmentally friendly, that the cars are tested for lightning resistance…26 such facts which can persuade you to pay the premium for what is essentially a means to get from A to B!!
(Disclosure: I don’t own a Mercedes and have no association with their organization)

Brand is the cake, not just the icing

Around 18 months ago we were working on creating a new marketing campaign for Wipro Technologies. There were a number of attributes which Wipro excels in and which are relevant to customers. So we narrowed it down to those attributes for which we could find substantial corporate commitment AND which were relevant to clients. The Wipro corporate tagline is “Applying Thought” and innovation was a natural extension of that. The fact that it was an integral part of our soul was borne out by the fact that Wipro has had an Innovation Council for many years which funds employee innovation, and which has the personal involvement of the Chairman. Wipro’s commitment to the cause of innovation is also shown by the fact that we track the percentage of revenue derived through innovation initiatives. And since one third of Wipro’s revenues are derived from R&D outsourcing, there is a certain amount of innovation baked into the corporate DNA. The campaign which emerged as a result of this was “Applied Innovation”. Employees have to live the brand An integral part of the customer experience is their dealings with the employees whether they are involved or not with the service delivery. The best examples of this are successful hotel chains like the Ritz Carlton where every employee is geared to smile and help clients – whether it is their job or not. Even when the product delivered is the same the culture of employees can be the differentiator. Airlines are a good example of how this can work, but it is true everywhere, even in seemingly complex industries like IT.

Let’s Talk

There was a time when the role of marketing was just to shout from the rooftops and make people aware of the service or product. Today, our role has shifted to educating customers about the benefits of what we do and how we do it. And there are many, many ways to do it outside of TV and print advertising. In the brave new world of web2.0 there is Second Life, Facebook, Linked-in, specialist websites, events …You have to make your theme a part of everything you do and everything you say. The campaign we launched was “Applied Innovation” and rather than go with a traditional advertising campaign we decided to make it part of our customer and employee experience. So it is a part of our themes for client visits, we now have an Applied Innovation Council for clients, we have established an award with industry bodies like IAOP and ITAA (the NASSCOM equivalent in the US) to reward Applied Innovation, launched an internal award to recognize applied innovation and so on…So the icing is integrated with the cake. This post will appear in a slightly edited form in the next issue of pitch (they don’t have an online edition).


There is of course no simple answer to this question and the X-Factor is likely to be a combination of factors. So what do YOU think is the X-Factor in marketing? Which brands do you think have it?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Second Life - Hype or not?


Wipro announced its presence on Second Life this week. This site arouses mixed emotions among casual technophiles and geeks. Some knock it as overhyped and unlikely to every succeed, and others as the next big thing. I belong to the "older generation" - it is unlikely that I will ever get addicted to Second Life. But I think it has amazing potential as a communication tool - you can see buildings in 3-D, control your interactions, and chat with pals in any format you like - voice, text chat. Unlike some other social networking sites, in Second Life you can have clearly defined corporate territories and people wander in voluntarily because they need information or you have some cool goodies (did I mention that the wipro site offers t-shirts to visiting avatars?) You can restrict access to your site too.

In many ways Second Life is like a new, improved web where sites are in 3-D animation with super-improved navigation and communication features.

Yes, like all pioneering technologies it may or may not stand the test of time. It may go the way of the early search engines or net browsers. But those who have figured out how to benefit from Second Life will emerge stronger in whatever is the next phase of that evolution.

Around 9 years ago when a friend introduced me to google I thought it was cool, but not essential to my life. Now, not a day goes by that i don't use it in business and personal life. I hope Second Life lives long enough to become ubiquitous, but if not, there will be a Ninth Life to take its place!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

a logo is a logo is a logo. or is it?

I dropped off the blogging scene because I didn't think anyone read the stuff I wrote!

Amazing how when you stop writing all your friends go to read your blog and come back to you with the news that it is as dead as the dodo. So after a hiatus I am back. Ok, I've been pushed into running a blog on the corporate website, so hey, what the heck, may as well do one on my own too.

Over the past couple of weeks have been doing some thinking about iconic vs illustrative vs logotype logos. If you are looking to create a logo any time in the near future, you may want to keep this in mind. In my time I have worked with a number of logos...and you can never find a marketer who is happy with the one they inherited!!! So let's discount the aesthetics and talk about practicality, and since marketers are always cash-strapped (or believe they are!), the economics.

Logotypes - these logos are typically simple and just unique renditions of a text name. Examples are google and infosys and ibm. Mostly hand-lettered for uniqueness, these allow you a lot of freedom to play around and evolve your creative style. google is a brilliant example of that. these are also usually the most economical to maintain - and interestingly, one of the world's most successful investor firms, berkshire hathaway has a logotype.

Iconic logo - though logotypes are the easiest to do and often the cheapest, most marketers and CEOs want a nice visual representation of their brand identity. Examples of iconic logos are Intel, Dell, Cisco, Doordarshan, iGATE Global, Nike. These make business cards and stationery stand out, but are more expensive to create and later to execute. why expensive to create? that's because if you want to register your logo in the US or India, you have to undertake a legal search for uniqueness and if your icon looks like anyone else's in the same or related industry you can't use it. given that people have been making iconic logos for years and years most of the simple graphical representations are already taken. depending on how complicated your icon is you will have to spend more to get your t-shirts and visiting cards to be true to the reality ie better quality printing, special colours, and embroidery not printing on t-shirts

Illustrative logos - these are the most unique but also the toughest to create and maintain. Examples are Apple, Wipro, Hartford Insurance, Jaguar, Camel cigarettes, Ferrari. On the plus side, they are amazing tools for visual reinforcement - you see a jaguar you think of the car, you see the horse you think of ferrari. The reasons they are difficult to create are that you need a talented graphics artist to create a representation that is unique yet doesn't look like kindergarten art. They are also far more expensive to reproduce accurately - all the difficulties explained in my previous para get multiplied for these logos.

So, what logo is best for you?

If your business is new or you don't have a clear view of your brand identity, (or if you don't have a marketing manager to lovingly reproduce your logo) go for either a logotype or simple icon.

If you are an established business with a clear view of the desire aesthetics go for an icon. If you are passionate about the visual representation of your brand and are willing to invest in it you can go for an illustration. Another good reason to use an illustration is if your service expects to have (a) mass appeal eg Deccan Air's Common Man cartoon (b) appeal to a youthful audience eg Kidzee, Max ice-cream (c) lend a warm touch eg Air India's maharaja,
Illustrations are not used as much as they used to be mainly becuase they raise the complexity of production.

Taglines are often bundled with a logo, but they are a whole different blog posting

What do you think? Which are your most effective logos?