Are you asking the right questions??

OK, this has happened with me many a times. I’d spend so much energy and time scheduling meetings with clients, preparing the presentation, confirmation emails to and fro and of course navigating to the office location. But all of this is a prep work for the final few minutes (depending how much you have been granted) that you get with the client. Once you are through the usual greetings, one liner puns to ease the tempers (for being late in my case :-/) and exchange of business cards….the time starts ticking for you to make some sense before its time to wrap up. Now you know how important this topic is??…and realize how easily you can turn a crucial meeting into a futile exercise if you DO NOT ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS!

I am going to write about some of my meetings with clients and how to I prepared to ace it. As a marketing professional I meet clients who are looking for marketing and branding solutions, and that’s what I am going to talk about here. Believe me…its the worst feeling coming back from a meeting and saying this↓↓↓ to yourself 😀

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Scenario I:   Introduction Meeting

There are times when the agenda of the meeting says “get to know”. do not fall for the trap and take it as a typical networking meeting where you exchange cards and check out the other person’s clothing (#judgemenot). If the client wants to “get to know ” you there is always some scope of work which s/he does not want to disclose straight away. And so it becomes your onus to get that scope of work out of them during the meeting. Think of it as an interrogation only set up in a corporate environment and no gansta talk 😛

So here are 5 questions that you MUST ask when meeting your client/prospects for the first time.

#1 About the organization

well i know the name says abc motors or xyz construction…so its pretty obvious. But do not shy away from asking the client about their company because then you know what and how they describe their business. believe me they always gives away a lot of additional information that you will not find in their ‘about us’ section of the website…like what are their business priorities, expansion plans, subsidiaries and so on.

Also, read between the lines when they say we are planning to set up a team, acquire some business or maybe shut some part of the business. That is where either you are required or you can pitch for your services.

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#2 How did you come to know about our company?

The benefits of asking this question is twofold…here’s how. My company’s marketing investment is focused on Google SEO and Adwords. So if we get to know that companies are reaching out to us after they see our ads or spot us in the top rankings of Google search, we know its money well spent. If companies are hearing about you from other industry players…then you must be doing your job right!

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#3 How can we help you?

Its simple and straight forward. Up until this time in the meeting the two parties have “known” each other quite well so let’s stop the dilly dally and talk business. Of course before you ask this question introduce your company and all the services that you provide. So that the client/prospect is not wondering if you are the right person to ask for help. It is always better to have a company presentation, brochure or profile so that the client gets to see your work.

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#4  Do you want to know more?

It is like breadcrumbs you leave behind to let the conversation flowing. Yes the client needs something that you can provide as a one time job. But if you see more scope of business where you can definitely impress the client, here is you chance. Talk about how you can send them some more information via email of schedule another round of meeting to discuss in detail. The client’s response will also tell you about his interest level in doing business with you. So think of it as a litmus test of your performance so far.

Also if the client is interested and wants to see what you have in store, take a note of all that you gotta share and please do not forget to share the same!

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#5  What next?

This very question prompted me to write this post. Only that I asked this question to myself  on my way back from the meeting…What am I supposed to do next? You know the meeting went well, there is scope and it would be great if you could do business with them…but what do i do immediately after this meeting so that all of the possibilities become come true!

It is no good asking yourself this question…it is rather too late. Confirm the next set of actions before you sign off. Be on the same page and make a note of what key information/communication has to be exchanged between the two parties. You will be surprised as to how much a even a short meeting can lead to.  It is also a good practice to share minutes of the meeting (MOM) to have a record of the points discussed and it can accompany the ‘thank you/pleasure to meet you’ email.

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I hope this helps your next meeting 🙂 and don’t fall asleep during one 😉

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Value Innovation

Reading ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne. My first attempt at reading this book was during my MBA days because it falls under the “must read” category for all business students. But then we had a project submission…you know what i mean (wink wink). I feel NOW is the right time for me to read this book because what i learn will not end up in a hefty answer sheet…it will be used in the current business environment!

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I couldn’t agree more with the authors about the over emphasis on beat the competition strategy by companies who are trapped in the red ocean. No wonder the first few slides of all my presentations are competitor analysis. I am not saying that don’t keep an eye on your competition, their products, pricing and marketing approach but it is not exciting anymore to just up your game (enough to beat the competition) on the relative scale. Obviously the plan is not going to work for a very long time because your competition has been watching you all this while and planning their next move.

I understand the momentary sense of victory that teams and companies experience when they see sales rising by percentage points in comparison to the former market leaders but is that real victory?! consumers today are not the loyal kind, they are mindful explorers who hustle through the supermarket rows to find the right stuff for them. Offers excite them, discounts please them and yes don’t forget the service that follows.

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So what then? 

That’s what this book is about…

  • Make competition irrelevant
  • Create a leap in value for the customer
  • Open new & uncontested market space

 

Sounds good but…Howzat??

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Innovation is a buzzword these days and companies are trying hard to foray into this domain and join the “tech-forward” bandwagon. Interestingly, innovation cuts across business units and verticals in an organization. Production and storage innovation for instance can uplift a company’s operations but the consumer does not directly benefit from it. Also, technology innovations that are way ahead of its time and cost a fortune do not create value for customers.

Value Innovation is a critical strategy that aligns innovation with utility, price and cost positions to allow focus on both differentiation and low cost. The diagram above speaks volume and explains the concept beautifully. So next time I am surely going to include a slide on value innovation for my clients who are seeking strategies to grow their business and come out of the bloody red ocean.

what do you think?

Big (Data) Mistake

 

It is interesting to see the transition in “intelligent marketing” norms. Big data, a few years ago, was all about collecting information wherein the efforts were directed towards identifying each of your existing and potential consumers. While it certainly sharpened the consumer segmentation and targeting, but pasting the same marketing content to all does no justice to the rich collection of data. It is now that we have started to mold the marketing contents, product offerings and communication patterns to closely align it with what they do. It is almost like a democratic form of marketing with all the right prepositions connecting “people” and what we call people based marketing. 

Came across this article on use of big data for reaching the right people at the right time, and what people based marketing does NOT mean. So here is the link to the article under good reads category:

https://www.inc.com/yuriy-boykiv/best-practices-for-utilizing-data-in-the-new-era-of-internet-openness.html

Power to customer

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A market place is a fine example of potential transactions but with asymmetric information. It simply means that the information available to buyers is different or mostly insufficient than the information available to the sellers. The general perception about this gap would be that it’ll insinuate purchase reluctance in buyers if the sellers don’t bridge this information gap. But for this to happen, the customer needs to be aware of the information deficiency which more than often never happens! However, it is interesting to see how this “unexploited value” gives buyers and sellers an incentive to capture that value. And this my friends is the genesis of Marketing Signaling and Screening…a power foreplay of buyers and sellers that had influenced product sales ones but now has changed gears.

Sellers with high quality products need ways to signal the quality of their products so that buyers can distinguish between high-quality and low-quality products. Before we consider this ideal situation, it’s important to realize that there are no fair rules in marketing. A seller would very much want to signal the high product/service qualities but what if it has none? well…the seller can still promise all the big stuff quality and features which for the time being only he knows isn’t true. Buyers must find ways to screen out erroneous information but allow in truthful information. This may not seem very relevant for products which can be easily evaluated or are low involvement like vegetables, soaps but think about the time when you bought a new refrigerator or an air conditioner.

Traditional form of marketing is highly Signaling driven. Remember the print Ads and television commercials which bragged about their product features and how they are the best in the market. They had everything in it for you to believe them and we did!

                              

It was partly because the product value proposition mirrored consumer needs but for most of the time it was because just a one way communication. There was no way the company would answer an individual’s concern before buying that product and so we felt…may be they are right. The scope of screening was very less unless the company salesmen were at your door step to demonstrate or give eye popping warranty for it.

In today’s marketing scenario, with the advent of social media marketing the play field has been leveled for both the players. Social media marketing has helped in completing the communication cycle by including the buyers in every step of the transaction (information and goods). Today the companies on social media platforms cannot just get away with false claims and product featuring. In no time the customer can track them down and inquire about what ever is in their mind out in the open. The ball now is in the seller’s court and they are bound to respond to the query or comment. If they don’t…customer has successfully screened them out and if they can survive the screening the customer gets the best bet. All in all customer has emerged as the powerful end of this marketing evolution and it is expected out of the customer to make the most out of it.

What is Influencer Marketing

Wooing your target customer has become more and more challenging in the cluttered market but there are also new ways to reach out to them.  Brands have moved on from selling products to providing solutions to their consumers, and in this ‘solve my problem’ game trust is the cornerstone. So who would you trust to fix your precious car, or reduce the peeking fine lines on your beautiful face??

Enter INFLUENCER

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Who are they? Anyone, I repeat, anyone who holds a strong opinion (positive or negative or neutral) about anything (that could be sold) and is capable of influencing your opinion about that thing!

I know it sounds complicated but trust me its not. trust me.

Let’s start with very simple examples to under the influencer concept. I was a very inquisitive child and would ask endless questions to my mom about everything possible. I had no idea then that the answers will continue to teach me things even today. Well I once asked her…why did you choose this school for me?! and she said that NEIGHBORS say it one of the best in the town. I hated drinking a glass full of milk and would ask her everyday…Why do i need to drink it? and she replied DOCTORS say it is good for your bones.

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You guessed it…our neighbors, doctors, family, friends and even a storekeeper influence our decisions (very important decisions) everyday. So for people who think influencer marketing is the “in-thing” na-ah…

But yes, influencer marketing has become rather important and relevant in this digital age. That’s a given because today everyone is all eyes and ears 24*7 on n number of platforms just to know your opinion! so why not make them share an opinion about your product/service.

sharing this good read that has all the basics covered :

http://www.gshiftlabs.com/influencer-marketing/28-frequently-asked-questions-influencer-marketing/

 

 

 

 

 

Frequently Unlearning

We always try to read about what to do, how to do it and how much more to do it!! I am talking about marketing btw.

But the evolving landscape of marketing channels, particularly social media, has challenged the cookie cutter marketing strategies that we all have learned and assume as the marketing holy grail. May be it’s time to unlearn some of them…

Here’s a very good blog that talks about: Weird Social Media Habits that’s gotta stop!

http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/03/weird-social-media-marketing-habits/

On of the points which i want to especially highlight here is as follows:

#4 – Focusing Only On YOURSELF

What do you think the purpose of social media is for brands? Is it solely to provide updates about everything happening at your company? Or, is it to help your followers solve their problems, open the door to conversations and provide helpful resources to begin building credibility?

I hope that the answer is obvious. If a brand is using social media platforms as a means to only push out content about the happenings at their company, they’re doing it wrong. Social media presents a unique and more personal opportunity to interact with your followers. Utilize this opportunity to the fullest by uncovering what your followers care about and providing them with insight on those items, and asking them enticing questions to gain their opinions as well.

Been there done that and it has to stop. If you are following your telecom service provider on twitter, I am sure it is because you think it’s a real time deal to get their support. Sure, they won the best service provider award this year…yay! but you don’t want to see another award winning post when you are stuck with a bad service. That’s like pushing the wrong buttons e.g <Enter> after a hate message.