Jessie Paul on Services Marketing For a FlatWorld

Friday, July 31, 2009

Outsourcing Speeds, Standardizes, and Automates Routine Marketing

Outsourcing Center Wipro Voice: A Conversation with Jessie Paul, Chief Marketing Officer and Member, Wipro Council for Industry Research

Best-selling author Daniel Pink told participants at the May Gartner Outsourcing Summit that companies will continue to offshore work that is routine. Jessie Paul, Wipro's Chief Marketing Officer, agrees with the best-selling author of A Whole New Mind and Johnny Bunko. "Anything that buyers can reduce to a template can be done anywhere," she says. Wipro has a staff of 200 who perform routine marketing functions for Wipro clients.

"Don't fire your ad agency," she says. "If you want to build a brilliant ad campaign, marketing BPO is not for you."

Companies that send their creative work to local ad agencies and outsource their routine marketing work to BPO specialists get the best of both worlds, in her opinion. The BPO does work the ad agency isn't keen on doing. But the outsourcer is glad to have it. "We can improve the quality and the results by adding technology," she explains. Of course, marketing outsourcing also saves money.

Read full article at Outsourcing Center

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is Twitter One Giant Virtual Tupperware Party?

The idea behind a Tupperware party was that you threw a party at your home, invited your friends over, showed them the product, and they bought. They bought partly because they liked you, partly because they owed you for the party, and partly because they liked the product.

If your’re on social media for business purposes, then you too hope that you will make friends through Twitter or Facebook, and then invite them into your parlour (or website) to close sales. Dell raking in $3 million in PC sales over two years ($1 million in the past 6 months) has shown that it is possible to make serious money through Twitter. And just as Mrs Jones raking in the moolah at her Tupperware party inspired all the neighbours to host their own (considerably less successful) parties, corporate marketers are rushing to Twitter to boost their sagging sales.

I predict that in the immediate future, many of these attempts, particularly by B2B companies are unlikely to show significant returns. Here’s why.

1. Twitter requires you to build a relationship with individuals. While it is indeed a broadcast medium, it also has interactive features, which demand immediate, custom responses. The equivalent of the call center or Interactive Voice Response system for customer tweets is yet to reach maturity so you’re going to have to do this on your own.
2. Most marketing departments were not set up or recruited keeping social media in mind. Truly adopting social media will require a huge disruption in the structure of the marketing organization. That’s because unlike media such as TV, Radio, Print, or even Adwords which are capital intensive (ie the more money you have the more successful you were likely to be), social media in its current form is labor-intensive (the more people you have the more personal and sincere can be your activities be online). Most CMOs will have an aha moment when they realize that they can’t actually take their entire budget and just “do a social media blast”. Though it is probably a small fraction of a company’s marketing spend, it will require a much larger percentage of the marketing headcount. That is a leap of faith in the current hard times.
3. Penetration of social media varies widely across geographies. In growth markets like India, despite the hype, numbers are still very low. For India, the analytics site, cites 2.29M unique users per month for Orkut, 6.92M for Facebook, 1.16M for LinkedIn and 963K users for Twitter. LinkedIn had the highest percentage of users (14%) in the higher income bracket, indicating a higher proportion of executive users as opposed to students. Until adoption is more widespread, it is going to be tough extracting real business benefits from these small audiences. (On the flip side it is a great pool for smaller firms who need a lesser number of customers and can afford to target them individually).
4. Among the available media today, Twitter is probably most likely to be the one amenable to doing business. However, today, a lot of people on Twitter are social media aficionados and early adopters. A lot of the stuff being retweeted in my network is about Twitter itself!

So, given all the above, why am I a Twitter-addict? (@jessie_paul apart from Wipro’s corporate presence @wipro) and active on FaceBook and LinkedIn?
1. Social media will be the way forward for marketing. It is the next big thing after the corporate website. I don’t know if any of the current crop will be the final tool of choice, but it’s best to be an early adopter and understand the medium before it goes mass.
2. While conversions are still iffy, it is very practical as a broadcast medium. In some ways corporate tweets are what newsletters used to be till around 5 years ago.
3. Social media gives B2B marketers a chance to be in direct contact with customers. That is very hard to get in any other media, and is worth quite a bit of experimentation to achieve. This one benefit alone would justify the investment in a Twitter handle.
4. It’s fun!

Photocredit: via Flickr

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tweet No Evil?

I believe that blogs, wiki's, user-generated news sites etc are the way of the future. If the technology exists, someone will find a way to use it. Much like those nasty bombs and tanks.
Recently a hacker allegedly stole corporate internal documents of Twitter from their cloud, and sent them to publications. While TechCrunch has decided to do the right thing and not use all of it, they appear to have indicated that they don't actually see a problem in using the information. The content ranges from executive notes to financial projections to info on job-seekers.
Leaks to media are age-old, but they were usually rather isolated. Print and TV are still governed by old-world broadcasting guidelines, and self-imposed codes of conduct. Moreover, you probably did not want to enter into litigation with big advertisers, unless you were very sure of your data. But in the free world, only your readers matter. And it's a crowded market desperately seeking their eyeballs. So, the dilemma, if you don't print it, someone else who can set up a website for free, can.

This incident highlights that data is often not safe from either a dedicated hacker or a determined low-tech disgruntled employee. Which brings me to the cautionary part of this tale.

I'm a new fan of Twitter. It surprises me that people put so much of their personal information voluntarily into the public space. Search any organization’s name and you will find lonely singles, job-hoppers, frustrated 9-to-5vers. This used to be information that you would typically not share with your mother, let alone your colleagues, but is now being shared with anyone with an internet connection. Is that wise? Perhaps the generation that grows up with this huge amount of information sloshing about will learn to switch off and not let it colour their perceptions of a person or company. But neither socially nor legally are we there yet. So here are some tips on professionally-safe internet usage:
1. Everything you put onto a social site ie Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn can find its way to your present or future boss, spouse or bank manager.
2. Ensure that any public mentions of your employer are in the professional context. For example, don’t post “I’m with BoringCompany looking for a jump to FunCompany.”
3. Assume that any email you send could potentially be shared with a wider audience, unless you explicitly advise the recipient not to. People tend to forward stuff without deleting your cute one-to-one comments.
4. Any mail that is sent to more than 10 people could end up with a much larger circulation despite any requests to keep it confidential. One of the ten is likely to share it with another couple of friends also with a strict injunction to keep it confidential and so on.

Many years ago, when email was still a new phenomenon, a boss advised me never to put anything in writing that you would not like to see on the front page of a newspaper. That advice continues to be valid.

What if a bad apple deliberately violates privacy and confidentiality? Well, the law will of course take its own course, but we, as potential consumers of tainted information, also have to take a stance. Much as the paparazzi only take photographs to feed the public's lust for celeb photos, information has no value with no consumers.

Mahatma Gandhi’s three monkeys got it right – hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil! Or to use the language of social media, Tweet no evil, Read no evil, Retweet no evil!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Free! Ok, sorry, almost free!

One of the hottest attractions in a trade show is the free popcorn. But it isn’t truly free. You don’t have to pay any money to get it, but you will have to barter something - a few minutes of your attention. Depending on how much 5 minutes is worth to you, the popcorn is either free or expensive.

Memories of that yummy popcorn were triggered not by hunger, but by Malcolm Gladwell’s (author of Blink and Outliers) review of Chris Anderson’s (author of The Long Tail) new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Gladwell’s review starts with pondering what will happen to newspapers and journalists when information is supposed to be free. Well, they were founded on the premise of “news”, being defined as fresh information. When everyone newsworthy or in possession of information can “tweet” their own updates in real-time, clearly there isn’t much value for information. The role performed by newspapers, should then be closer to that of aggregators – bringing together material of interest to a particular target audience and exercising some judgment on its credibility. This is still a very valuable role, so why should it be done for free?

In the 90s, when India liberalized, the Iron Curtain came down in USSR, and China decided to be more market-savvy, over 1 billion people entered the global work-force. This exerted a downward pressure on real wages in many countries – more people vying for the same pie. Something similar is now taking place in the communications industry – so many people on social media like blogs, facebook, twitter, are competing for the same eyeballs that used to earlier be glued to the newspaper and TV. All these mini-broadcasters can afford to do it for free because they make money elsewhere. Given the ever-growing pool of such people, obviously it is going to be extremely hard to make social media a profitable venture. A very,very few people, those who can add either a lot of insight or aggregate really well will be profitable and might be fully employed by this business.

But as Seth Godin points out in his blog people will be willing to pay for souvenirs of news. So you’ll see a lot of these micro-broadcasters making money on speaking tours, books, consulting sessions. (Though, frankly, just because you’re a good blogger doesn’t mean you’re a good speaker or trainer!!)

Anyways, if the content is free, what about the hardware? Here, I agree with Gladwell that even a fraction of a cent adds up to a lot when there are billions of such transactions. Many of us are addicted to blogger, facebook, twitter, youtube and consider them as ubiquitous as the telephone. But phone companies charge and social media ones don’t. At some point the big money that is keeping them going is likely to want payback, and that is going to be the next big disruptor in this space. The monetization may not be in the form of money, but in terms of time. Like the good old booth popcorn.

Since stuff IS free for now, how can you benefit? Here are my fractional cents worth:

1. Think of yourself as a broadcaster. Understand your audience, scout around for stuff that will interest them.
2. Information is cheap. Try to propagate insights too. Otherwise your audience will not be sticky.
3. Look at whether social media is an end in itself or whether you can sell souvenirs.
4. Keep a back-up copy of your valuable content. That way you can switch mediums if the current one moves to a monetization model that you do not like.

My book is titled “No Money Marketing”. It’s about how you can substitute time and intellect for money and build a brand, even against much larger competition. Perhaps that’s the souvenir for this blog!!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Build Sticky Relationships with Stakeholders

In this interview to Alokananda Chakraborty of FE, Jessie Paul, chief marketing officer, Wipro Technologies & Wipro Infotech, discusses the strategies the Indian software industry can formulate to emerge stronger and more profitable when global spending on IT gets back on track. Excerpts below. Full interview
FE: The West associates India with outsourcing. Has that changed or does India still conjure up images of a low-cost back office?
JP: The West may identify India with outsourcing, but the days of India being seen as purely a low-cost destination are gone. Let me give you an anecdote to illustrate this. When I first visited the US, cab drivers would not accept tips from me because they assumed that I was poor because I was from India. Then after the dot-com boom, they assumed I was rich because I was in technology. Now, when I say I am from India, total strangers say, “You must be smart!”
This is because of two things— one, the outsourcing industry has moved into higher value areas such as consulting and business solutions, and two, India is increasingly seen as a profitable market by the global companies.
FE: In your book No Money Marketing, you’ve talked about your experience as a “challenger” marketer. What is your marketing advice for companies that are not leaders in their industries?
JP: To succeed, a company must have a superior value proposition relative to incumbents. It needs to focus on increasing market share and building sticky relationships with clients and other stakeholders. The window of growth available for the upstart to achieve a threshold market share is the time taken by the champion to successfully react to the new business model.
From a marketing strategy perspective, keeping in mind the relatively-low budgets, the best plan is to drive focused communication to potential clients and other elements of the ecosystem. Once a threshold level of revenue is reached, one should communicate aggressively to consolidate position and rapidly acquire market share. The brand levers I recommend for a challenger are price, executive branding, country of origin and sustainability. The channels that are most effective are thought leadership, media relations, awards and online marketing.
FE: But organisations seem to be using new technology to reinforce the old marketing habits...
JP: In old media, companies could buy the attention of the audience. The audience tolerated this interruption because it was subsidising their television or radio, which were expensive channels. The internet, on the other hand, is almost free and subsidies through advertising are not required. So now companies have to be interesting in order to get the attention of their prospects, and that is much, much harder. The newer channels also force immediate and personal responses—for example—CEO blogs cannot be outsourced. This is a big transition for marketers and CEOs, and yes, many will not make the leap.