Thursday, December 16, 2010

Social Media ROI – Measurement Metrics

There is lot of excitement, curiosity and confusion around social media marketing. On one hand, there are a lot of organizations which are joining the social media bandwagon just because everyone seems to be there. On the other hand, there are others who are looking for ways to measure the ROI before they get into social media marketing.

For those looking for ROI measurement, I think the first thing they need to do is to think a little differently. I believe that the ROI measurement needs to go beyond number of visits and clicks etc. Here, conversation is more important than conversion. I suggest, before you start with social media marketing, first clearly define your objectives: Are you looking for leads and sales, are you looking to build a community of engaged and involved prospects and customers, are you looking to create brand awareness, are you looking to gather new ideas or are you looking to create online brand?

Once the objectives are defined, I think measurements become easier because the measurement metrics change based on those. Just be careful to not get excited about worthless metrics like ‘number of followers or fans’. Remember to also focus on quality and not just quantity. Here, the measurement metrics could be ‘the kind of people following your blog’, ‘number of influencers who tweet about you’, ‘number of people who actually used your TwtQpon’, ‘kind of engagement around a discussion on your Facebook wall’, ‘Number of retweets you get and from whom’, ‘reduction in support investment because of support through online community’, ‘number of new features your product users suggested to you’ and so on.

Here are some of the successful social media campaigns. There are many such successful campaigns. I have just picked these few:

  1. Starbucks: Starbucks started MyStarbucksidea. Here, Starbucks asked its customers as to what they want from Starbucks. The social media success metric in this case would be number of suggestions gathered, number of unique suggestions which the company might not have thought of and number of suggestions which the company actually implemented.
  2. Dell: Dell announces offers and promotions on Twitter. Here, the ROI is clearly measurable in terms of sales coming from Twitter, the number of people who availed the ‘Twitter Exclusive’ offers.
  3. Target: The retail chain Target donates 5% of its income to charity. Last year, it decided to donate the money to charities which are selected by Facebook users. It did ‘Bullseye Gives’ campaign which essentially was a voting application connected to Target’s existing Facebook page. On this, it allowed users to select which charities they would like to see the funds. Money was given based on percentages. Here, Target not only just did good through charity, but it also increased the fan following of the brand. It can now be able to communicate with these fans in future.
As we see, the ROI metrics go beyond click through and more towards audience engagement and involvement.

Do you have any thoughts on measuring social media ROI?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

3 Golden Rules About Time in Successful Negotiations

In my earlier blog post ‘The Power of 'Power' in Negotiations’, I presented the importance of power in negotiations as explained by Herb Cohen in his book 'You can Negotiate Anything'. In this post, we will have a look at ‘Time’ as the second most crucial aspect in negotiations.

Herb describes 3 golden rules about time.

Rule #1: The passage of time affects negotiations in a very significant way. In any negotiation, the consensus or settlement action happens close to the deadline. So be patient. Patience pays. Wait for a favorable moment to act. When not sure, do nothing.

Rule #2: Never reveal your real deadline to the other side. Deadlines can be flexible. Never blindly follow a deadline but evaluate the real benefits. The ‘other side’, no matter what they try to show, always has a deadline.

Rule #3: Don't take an extreme action unless it is advantageous for you, cautions Herb. Many a times, as the deadline approaches, you might observe a sudden change in power. Because, as we know from rule #1, with the passage of time, although people remain the same, circumstances do change!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Social Buzz Creation through Unusual Celebration of Usability Day

A recent post about FREE website design on one of the social networking sites caught my attention. Well, it was for two reasons: 1) It was offering one FREE website design and 2) which is more peculiar is that the occasion which this company chose for this contest is the "World Usability Day".

Honestly, I had not heard of this day until I saw this post. All of us talk about (like experts) about usability in everything – phones, ipod, TV set, DVD and what not. But I don’t think many of us pay special attention to this aspect when it comes to designing products or experiences. The company, IDYeah Creations, which has announced this contest, offers usability services and UI solutions.

I thought this contest is a very interesting thing for few reasons:

  1. By celebrating “Usability Day”, the company is showcasing its passion about usability
  2. Website is something which every business needs and probably by doing one FREE website, the company will create an example of how to design a user friendly website and demonstrate the power of usability
  3. The amount of buzz this is creating – of course there is some freebie, but more for its uncommon celebration of a not-usually-celebrated day. The company has said that it will choose the winners based on ‘genuine’ need and I am sure many people (like me) are thinking about how to demonstrate the genuine need – more controversy, more buzz!
Things like these convince me that social media and buzz creation have immense potential - provided you add a little bit of creativity to it.

I will be keen to see the website of the lucky winner which IDYeah creates!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Our Internet Marketing and Social Media Marketing Workshop was a Great Success!

A half day workshop on October 27th, 2010 organized by Midas Touch Consultants was a great success with professionals from variety of streams attending it.

Amongst the audience, we had CEO and marketing professionals of India’s leading antivirus software company, former MD of a well known software product engineering and quality engineering services organization, Owner of a usability services organization, Sales Consultants, Co-founder of an organization providing expert services in the area of software testing and quality engineering, Head of Strategy and Consulting from a Outsourced Enterprise Product Sales consulting organization, Head of Marketing of leading Thermal Insulation Material dealers, CEO of a public relations and communications company, Strategic Marketing Consultant, Event Head from an enthusiastic startup and also a student who is leaving for an overseas job soon.

The workshop covered various aspects in online marketing such as Website Optimization, Web Analytics, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Email Marketing and Social Media Marketing. With lot of real-life examples, it made it easier for the attendees to understand the concepts.

The most enjoyable part of the workshop for me, as a presenter, was the very enthusiastic and participative audience. Through their questions and participation, they made sure that they understand whatever is being explained in the session. Not only this, they also asked lot of questions relevant to their own area of business. The collaborative learning gave good insights to everyone. The discussions revolved around how online marketing can be used for consumer products, how it can be applied for software products, services or to niche enterprise products and how social media can be used for enhancing personal brand.

For revision of concepts, we played a nice game (built using Harbinger’s YawnBuster software). The correct answers to the questions asked during the game convinced me that the audience has well grasped the concepts. Even post the afternoon break where we all relished on some yummy snacks, the participation levels were as high as before and there was absolute no lull – either the snacks were not tasty or the presenter engaged the audience with interesting discussion topics – and I would like to believe in the later one -:)

I felt especially good when one of the participants coming all the way from Mumbai mentioned that the workshop was worth her travel!

Thanks everyone for making it such a great event and for those who missed it, we look forward to see you next time!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Product Launch Checklist and More….

Okay, so now you have completed conceptualizing a product idea, the design is ready and your engineers have started building it. What next? You obviously gear up to make a big launch of the product.

What is the checklist you need to go through before you can say that you are ready for the launch from the marketing perspective?

Here are some items which I think are important:
  • Naming the product
  • Product messaging
  • Product positioning
  • Target market segmentation
  • Sales strategy
  • Pricing and introduction offers strategy
  • Marketing plan preparation
  • Advertising channel identification and finalization
  • Channels identification (?)

Coming to more of operational items: 
  • Logo and website design
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Literature Preparation (brochures, flyers, conference panels etc)
  • Sales tools preparation – whitepapers, demos, FAQs etc
  • Press release
  • Newsletter preparation and opt-in management
  • Social media promotion strategy and preparation for the same - you can’t avoid this if you want to reach out masses in a short time
Can anything more be added to this list?

Once you have the checklist ready, what do you think is the best way to plan and execute these items so that none of these are sidelined just because “we don’t have time right now!” or "we can always do those later"?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Power of ‘Power’ in Negotiations

In the book You can Negotiate Anything, Herb Cohen describes Power, Time and Information as key elements in any negotiation.

Describing the variable of 'power', he goes on explaining various dimensions (mentioned below) which, if understood and used well, can make you come out as a winner in any negotiation. Here is an excerpt of that.

1. Power of competetion: The author suggests that you should create competition for something you possess. Never enter a negotiation without options because if you do, the other side will treat you lightly.

2. Power of legitimacy: Legitimacy is very strong in our society. Tapping in on its power can certainly give headway. The author gives a tip that use power of legitimacy when it’s for your advantageous to do so and at the same time, challenge its power, when it’s advantageous to do so.

3. Power of risk taking: Risk taking is a must during negotiations. Mix courage with common sense and take calculated risks. But, before taking a risk, calculate the odds to determine whether the potential benefits are worth the possible cost of failure. Never take a risk out of pride, impatience or a desire to get it over with. When stakes are higher, consider sharing or syndicating the risks.

4. Power of commitment: Get a commitment of large number of people because this way you put yourself in a position to exploit a favorable opportunity.

5. Power of expertise: Establish your background and credentials early in the confrontation. That way, your statements may not even be challenged. Prepare ahead of time. But don’t be pretentious. Ask intelligent questions and know whether you are getting accurate answers.

6. Power of knowledge of “needs”: Everybody’s needs are different. What people say they want (their demands) may not be what will actually satisfy their needs. As Herb Cohen has reiterated, to successfully interact with any individual in any setup, determine his or her needs and then fulfill them.

7. Power of investment: It is important to get the other person invest time, money or energy in a situation. It’s the key factor in making an ultimatum work. At the beginning of every encounter, you should approach people collaboratively. If you want to become competitive, be that only at the end, after the other side has made an investment. The extent of an investment and willingness to compromise are directly proportional. The author gives a tip stating that: if you have something difficult to negotiate, cope with it at the end of a negotiation, after the other side has made a hefty expenditure of energy and substantial time investment.

8. Power of rewarding or punishing: Yours as well as other side’s perception about a person, situation or object play a very vital role in negotiations. Don’t eliminate options and reduce the other side’s stress unless you receive something for something. Let them wonder until you have received what you are shooting for.

9. Power of identification: Get others to identify with you. The power of identification exists in all interpersonal relationships including business transactions and politics. Identification, whether with or against, plays a big factor in negotiations and decision makings. Therefore, behave decently and try to help others.

10. Power of precedent: Use the power of precedence to your advantage. To justify what you’re doing or asking for, always refer to other situations similar to the one you’re currently in, where you or others did so-and-so, and the result you wanted occurred.

11. Power of persistence: Be persistent enough while negotiating. You must be tenacious. Persistence pays off.

12. Power of persuasive capacity: If you want to convince people, show the immediate relevance and value of what you are saying in terms of meeting their needs and desires.

13. Power of attitude: Try to regard all situations and encounters as a game, says the author. Do your best, but don’t fall apart if everything doesn’t pan out as you’d like it to. If you develop this healthy attitude towards all negotiations, there will be many benefits like: a) you will have more energy, b) you will be under reduced stress and c) you will get better results, because your attitude will convey your feeling of power and mastery of your life.

In my coming blog posts, I will also put up information about the other two elements (time and information) in negotiations.

Till then, happy reading!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Co-existence of Sales and Marketing – Has it Changed?

How many times have you heard this dialogue or have experienced it yourself?

Sales Manager: "Give me good leads. The leads which you gave are not good. How can my team sell?"
Marketing Manager: "You have got good leads. Your guys are not able to close those!"
Well, gone are the days when companies and managers could afford to be in the middle of such discussions. In today's active online world, it is no more lead generation, handover and closure with separate stakeholders from marketing and sales for each task. Today, buyers rely more on online reputation, social media and sites than just what the sales people tell them.

Smart organizations thrive on creating a culture where the marketing and sales people work together hand in hand to facilitate faster closure. It's no more about only "leads". Free content is what drives the action. Marketing and sales need to work together in creating valid content for each step in the sales process and facilitate easier evaluation of the offerings throughout the sales cycle.

In fact, in case of complex sales, which involve multiple decision makers and have long sales cycles, social media can play a very important role. A well managed social reputation can in fact shorten the sales cycle. It can help the buyers in making more informed decisions and can also help sales people in bringing people into the top of the sales funnel.

What is your sales and marketing strategy?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How important is it to be ‘closer’ to customers or prospects?

Recently I came across an amazing service called Flowtown. According to the company blurb "When all you have are email addresses, Flowtown can show you all the different social networks your customers are on including: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace and more!" Services like these are taking the virtual world to next level. These are helping marketers and sales managers in connecting better with their prospects and customers.

The online world has seen a major change with virtual meetings, emails, voice chats, messengers and social media. The need for face-to-face meetings is considerably reducing. I have myself been part of teams operating from one part of the world and serving customer base worldwide.

However, on the other end, last year when the Harvard Business Review conducted a global study that included over 2000 businesses, over 95% of the respondents judged in-person meetings to be critical to building long-term business relationships.

So what are we seeing here? On one hand, there are success stories of people have not seen a human being for months and have still managed to acquire and retain customers while on the other hand, there are entrepreneurs, business owners still believe in need of face to face meetings.

So what does it depend on? Does it depend on your audience- Tech-savvy or no-tech-savvy? Does it depend on whether you are selling product or service? Does price or cost play a role?

I am keen to know your thoughts.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is your email campaign objective?

Email marketing, being a more personalized and targeted marketing, helps you reach out to your niche audience in a better and more focused way. The cost-per- lead in email marketing is much lesser compared to the direct offline marketing.

But creating a successful email campaign is not as easy as it sounds. The key in successful email campaign is the content. I think one of the main reasons why email campaigns fail is because the objective of the campaign does not come out clearly. Obviously there are other factors like appeal of the campaign, lack of click-to-call actions, non-clarity of message etc but in this particular blog post, I am focusing on the ‘email campaign objective’.

Here is a quick list of various objectives which can be considered while designing an email campaign:

1. Building Awareness:

If you are launching a new product or service, you first need to create awareness about it and establish the identity. The focus of marketing needs to be in effectively reaching out the prospective users and providing relevant and accurate information about your product or service. Tell the market who you are and what you have to offer.

2. Creating Interest

Various researches on consumer buying behavior suggest that the buyers first need to recognize the need before they actively start looking out for products or services. Convincing the customer that the need exists is the key and the campaigns need to be designed considering the fact that the objective of the campaign is to first convince on the need before selling the product.

3. Providing Information or Educating the User:

Once the awareness is created and interest is generated, you need to help the customers in making informed decisions. You, being the expert in the field, need to provide the customers accurate information which will help them in making the right decision. In case of innovative products, you might need to educate them on the innovation and why the product exists. Whereas; in case your product which competes with other products in market, you may need to provide clear comparisons with competition products helping them in forming mental differentiation.

4. Motivating for Purchase

Right promotion can drive customers to make purchase. For this, in case of new products, one can offer free trial or sample. In case of established products, one can encourage sooner purchase by providing strong reason such as promotional offers or discounts.

5. Reinforcing the Brand:

Getting a new customer is five times harder than retaining an existing customer. Therefore, it is no surprise that successful marketers take special efforts in nurture existing customers. Keeping in touch with existing customers helps in building a strong relationship and the buyer moves from just a user to a loyal customer. Here, you can choose to keep in touch with your customers updated by letting them know about new products, new offers or even by offering discounts on future purchases.

Once the objective is clear, it is easy to design and appealing email campaign. And the best part is that you are not ‘surprised’ on the results because you know what to ‘expect’!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stop Driving the Car by Looking at the Rear Mirror

"Why is my marketing failing? I am doing exactly the same things which that big company had done when they launched their product." – a question which arises when companies introspect on their failed marketing strategies. The answer is simple - "because you drove your car by looking at the rear mirror".

Whatever has worked in past need not work now – the times have changed, people have changed, their perceptions have changed and most importantly, the media has changed. Now the media is more cluttered. It's a lot harder to get people's attention and the right mind share in this cluttered media. And before capturing the market share, it's important to capture the true mindshare.

It is the time when one needs to think beyond traditional advertising and marketing media such as TV, hoardings and paper ads because these are unlikely to give you the mind share – market share comes much later. Earlier when these were the new media, people used to pay attention to advertising. Now people have acquired the art of 'not looking' at advertisements. Grabbing people's attention is more challenging now.

So what are the options? No point in advertising where everybody else is advertising. Identify a media which is unconventional. Something which will give you focused mindshare of your target audience. In past, there have been successful examples of using such clutter free media such as space on peanut bags used by street vendors in New York City or back side of fortune cookie!

Another strategy is leveraging on the early adopters of your product. Make sure that they create the buzz about your product and talk about it. Buyers are more likely to believe in them rather than your advertising.

Have you tried any new marketing idea in your business? Anything which you can share?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Are you confusing advertising with marketing?

"I have decided to do a banner ad and email advertising for my product. Does this not mean that I am doing marketing?"

Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes because advertising certainly is one important part of marketing but marketing is not restricted to only advertising.

Marketing involves much more than just ad planning. It involves additional things such as:
  • Strategizing
  • Planning
  • Deciding advertising media
  • Understanding the target user and target market
  • Product pricing and positioning
  • Forming a perception about your brand in the minds of people
  • Planning distribution
  • Forming customer community and customer support– very important because customers play a very important role in your business success
In short, whatever it takes to form a relation and communucation between the consumer of your products and services and your business.

We can say that marketing is a process of reaching out to the target user whereas advertising is description or presentation of product or service.

It is therefore important that businesses, especially small and medium size organizations, make balanced use of marketing and advertising for successfully taking their products and services to the market. By concentrating only on advertising, there are chances that you are missing on a large chunk of effective marketing which could potentially hurt the business.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Successful advertisements – Do they touch the reason or emotion?

"Advertising is 85% confusion and 15% commission." - Fred Allen

Thoughts, Emotions and Beliefs almost 'drive' every individual's life. It won’t be exaggeration to say that emotions control many of the decisions. It’s not surprising to see many advertisements appeal to emotional desires more than logic, economy or utility. Emotional appeals work better at selling brands because brands are built in the minds and hearts of the users.

Fear, safety, security, hope, anxiety, love, distress, surprise, guilt, shame, interest, excitement, happiness, joy, anger, disgust, contempt or loathing, pleasure, self-esteem, sadness, amusement, peacefulness, grief, sorrow, trust, anticipation, depression, envy, frustration, sympathy, loneliness, embarrassment, horror, recognition, status, respect are various forms of emotions. There is an increasing trend of touching on these emotions to make ads connect with consumers. The basis for this trend is that if consumers connect with the ad emotionally, they are more likely to "hear" you out.

However, successful advertisers understand what the consumers like and what makes them go for their brand emotionally as well as rationally. If an ad evokes strong emotional response but does not provide sufficient information about the product, then it is unlikely to succeed. People need credible information to change their mind and opinion and if the ad does not provide that, it can’t change consumer behavior or increase the market share. This is underselling. Getting audience attention is the most difficult task and once you get that it is important to cash on it and if the deal cannot be closed after that, it is of no use. What’s the use of just building the goodwill and not able to increase sales?

In a nutshell, successful ads need to strike the right balance between generating emotional connection and providing sufficient information about the product. Effective ads need to communicate both the aspects flawlessly.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Concept Selling – More Than Just Selling

Wikipedia defines innovator as “…a person or an organization who is one of the first to do something and often opens up a new area for others and achieves an innovation”. It’s a dream of every product development company to come up with a product which is first of its kind in the world. Being someone who has managed product developers for several years, I can say that engineers thrive on developing such innovative products.

So where are the challenges? The challenges are often faced by the sales teams. For the sales person, the challenge is in convincing the customers about buying something which they have not heard of. Customers, most of the times, believe that they don’t need it because they have lived without it for years.

For an innovative product, when it comes to selling, it is about selling the concept. Concept selling involves educating the customers. Here the product benefits and Unique Selling Points (USP’s) need to be used to ‘create the need’. It is about selling the benefits rather than selling the features. It’s different than established products. For established products, it’s about convincing the user in buying a product by telling how it is better than others.

Although referred as concept ‘selling’, this is one step beyond selling. Here, one needs to come up as an expert in the field and true advisor to the user. Although the end goal is to “sell” the product, it needs to go through: educating on the concept --> convincing on the benefits --> explaining the features --> describing the ROI --> and finally selling.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why Should Small and Medium Sized Businesses Care About Online Marketing?

Online marketing has become the most talked about but least implemented phenomenon. Most of the small and medium size businesses talk about it but then lot of apprehensions start creeping in: "Do I really need the online brand?", "I don’t have time for this, I am busy selling", "I don’t think I am yet ready for my marketing plan / strategy", "Which mediums are effective for my business", "social media, SEO, website optimization, newsletter - I don’t know how it can be used in marketing".

Rather than concentrating on the apprehensions, let’s start looking beyond that and identify the value which online marketing can bring in such as: cost effectiveness, can be done from any corner of the world, ability to address the audience worldwide, very effective, huge spread and so on.

Once we are convinced about the value, then it gets into the “how” part. Obviously it is not rocket science. The key is to identify the right sequence of right medium to start with. Identify your audience and then decide on the medium. For example: When your business demands reaching a wide audience, then social media is the way to go. Whereas while addressing a very niche audience, probably a good email campaign with right collateral material will do the trick.

It’s already year 2010, no matter which business you are in, if you have envisioned spreading it and going global, then you NEED to have an online presence. If your business is targeting the young generation, then you need online presence now! Sooner you start the better lead you have. So for me, the right time to go online is "NOW".

What are your views? Have you implemented online marketing in your business? Any success stories to share?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

High price of your products: Do you justify it or cash on it?

Do you represent the rare businesses where low price or low cost is NOT the point on which you can get the lead? In fact, you have relatively high price – compared to your competitor? For known brands, probably high price is easily justified because the consumer gets the brand name to flaunt.

What if your business has not yet established the brand but still, the price is high. What’s your stand in this case? Do you go about justifying the price or you believe in cashing on it.

Let me explain what I mean. When you ‘justify’ the price, you are in a defensive mode. You take an apologetic stance and try and explain (often unsuccessfully) why you have a high price. You get into feature on feature comparison with your competition and start describing how you are better and therefore the why the high price is justified. You are living in a red ocean in this case. Trying to get head on with competition (and not competition as well).

So what does it mean by ‘cashing on high price’? It means explaining the value which your product or service brings in rather than concentrating on price. It means describing benefits rather than describing features. It means assuring quality. It indirectly also shows the confidence you have in your product. It indirectly also means you choose your customers rather than they choosing you.

What’s your stand point for your business? Do you agree /disagree?