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February 28, 2011

Busting sales myths!

There are lots of myths about sales people. 

A sales person is very dominating: This is one of the myths that every one believes. They imagine a sales person to be like a James Bond . Suave, smart and utterly over powering. He is seen as a bulldozer, who can raze down everything in his wake. But a sales person is one of the most submissive (or plays the role of a submissive) person. He has to subordinate himself to his boss, his customer, the dealers and even the service department. He has to be good negotiator to get along with his job. Some people call sales people good wheeler dealers. Most Sales people have dogs as pets. Dogs are the most submissive of all pets and his pet dog is the only thing that submits itself to the sales person.

A need can be created: This is something that I always hear even professional sales people say. But my friends that the basic tenet. A need can’t be created. Only wants can be created. If a person is not hungry nothing in the words can make him consume anything. Yes if he is hungry he might choose any of the various option of overcoming his hunger.

Selling combs to a bald person: One of the favorite questions of all interviews.  “Can you sell a comb to a baldie”. My answer would be a no. But pushed to answer, maybe I would volunteer to say that one of the uses of a comb for a baldie would be to scratch his head if it is itching.

Selling a refrigerator to an Eskimo: This is something that is possible. Yes Eskimos use the refrigerator and for the exact reverse uses of what we are it using for. We use the fridge to keep the food cold and to see that it is not spoiled. The Eskimos who live in a very cold area find that all their food is frozen so hard that a person can be killed with a sharpened chocolate bar! Eskimos use the fridge to keep their food soft and malleable and in a eatable condition.

A sale is an art and not science: Sales is seen as a mambo jumbo. Something that is like black magic. Customers are hoodwinked and they are sucked into a sale. But sales is pure science. The steps of a sales process can be broken down into logically and any any smart person can master these steps. It is as simple or as difficult as surgery or accounting. Correctly trained most people would find sales to be a very enriching experience.

Sales ends with the procurement of an order: Most sales professionals exclaim that sales ends with the procuring of the order. But sale is cyclical and would go on and on in circles . The order has to be executed, installed, the customer has to be trained, the payment has to be collected and the customer has to be given excellent service. All these successfully executed the same customer could be approached to buy the product again.

February 27, 2011

Last bogie of the train - Come again!:

One train traveler had a harrowing time. He was in the last bogie of the train. The last bogie ends up at the end of the platform and the travelers have to be  good sprinters to go to the middle of the platform and rush back before the train starts. In a fit of anger he wrote a letter to the railway minister “ Sir, please take care that the next time I book a ticket on the train, I should get a seat in a middle bogie. Even if it is the last bogie please see to it that it is in the middle of the train”. 

Poultry Owner - to feed or not to feed is the question?

One poultry owner had a visitor. The visitor enquired "what do you feed your hens?” The poultry owner wanted to impress the visitor and launched into a tirade “ I give them soya drink in the morning. They get piped in music. They get customized lunch and dinner. They also enjoy air conditioned comforts and the vet is just a call away”. The visitor nodded grimly “ if you are giving so much you must be making lot of money. I am from the Income tax department. You will have to pay a penalty of Rs 1,00,000/-”. The agitated owner had no choice but to pay the penalty.

One month later the poultry farmer had an another visitor. The process was repeated. On enquiry of the type of treatment, the owner said “ hey, I don’t feed them anything. They get lots of water from a tap and they wile away the time by fighting among themselves. And they never get a visit from  the vet. On death they carcasses are simply dumped into the garbage”. Shocked to the core the visitor said “well well I am from the SPCA (Society for prevention of cruelty towards animals). You are treating your birds very cruelly. You will have to a pay a fine of Rs 2,00,000/-”. The flabbergasted owner had again no choice but to pay the fine.

The next month the poultry has one more visitor. This time the owner was very careful. He took out a tooth pick from his mouth “ Well sir. You know how hens are. They are finicky eaters. Their taste differ. In the morning all the birds queue up in front of me. I hand them Rs 100/- each. They eat and drink whatever they fancy”.

Two mistakes - The tale of a salesman

A new salesman was regularly coming late to the office. Compounding the problem he was leaving early. His supervisor bore with him for two weeks. After two weeks the new salesman was questioned about his behavior. “How can you be late in the morning and leave early?”. “ I can’t be doing the same mistake twice a day” was the reply. Meaning that as it is he was coming late, that is the first mistake. He can’t be committing another mistake by going late. That is why the smartie was going early. 

Irritated by the cockiness of the salesman and to test his loyalty the Human resource department added Rs 500/- extra (more than what was promised) in his pay cheque. The salesman happily accepted the pay cheque and kept quiet. The next month the Human Resource department put Rs 500/- less in salesman's pay cheque .The salesman immediately complained.

The Human Resource manager called him to his office and said” Last month I had put Rs 500/- extra in your pay cheque. You never complained. Why is that you are complaining when I have put Rs 500/- less?”

"I can tolerate one mistake. But I can’t tolerate two mistakes” was the quick reply

February 26, 2011

Craigslist's Success Story

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster
Craigslist's CEO Jim Buckmaster has an unusual business approach for the popular classified advertisements site. Keep it simple and don't try to maximize revenue.

Craigslist serves classified advertisements to 450 cities. The site receives more than 750,000 job listings a month, and users self-publish about 20 million new classifieds a month and has been profitable since 1999. It generates revenues by charging nominal fees for job posts in seven cities and for broker's apartment listings in New York. No user fees. No banner advertisements.

Some of the CEO’s Jim Buckmaster views

About users: Users aren't asking for text advertisements so Craigslist does not have them. Paid search can create a conflict of interest with site search. Deliver what the customer wants.

Business policy: let the users do things for themselves. Thus was there is no dependence on someone at Craigslist office. Users are better positioned than the Craigslists's staff to serve themselves and help each other.

Feedback: Craigslist loves feedback. Millions of requests have poured in over the 12 years. Everything that one sees today on Craigslist is because of user feedback.

Bells and whistles: People aren't looking for the interface to be exciting. They're looking to it to be fast, reliable, and easy to use.

About inappropriate material:  The way to deal with Inappropriate material is to let the users flag something that's inappropriate. If enough users flag it, it comes down automatically within a few minutes.

About monetization of site: Generating more revenues hasn't been tempting. Craigslist is not sure what it will do with a big surplus of cash. It might probably look at ways to give it away.

The speed of delivery at Craigslist: Craigslist is in the top 10 companies in traffic with a staff of 24, whereas the other companies on that list have staffs of more than 10,000. This is because Craigslist has invested in open source software from the beginning.  

Secret of success of low cost and speed of operations: Craigslist does not  have sales and marketing teams. it mainly has engineers. They don't have meetings.  People can work from wherever they are whenever they want. The technical team is managed on the alpha geek principle.

Views about competition: Craigslist is not setting out to conquer the world or achieve any particular market share.  It is just following up on what its users want it to do. Craigslist tries to be there in the background as an insurance policy in case the competition decides to turn the screws on their customers.

Views about newspapers: Craigslist feels that the newspapers have gotten away by taking on debt for acquisitions and focusing on how to increase their profit margins. The newspapers should try to get back to the principle that they should serve the role of the Fourth Estate effectively.

Customer loyalty issue: If Craigslist is so inept that it couldn't provide a value proposition that users find important then Craigslist itself would probably encourage the customers to go away.

Product Adaptations – the Case of the Indian Tooth Powder in the USA

One Indian tooth powder manufacturer had gone to the USA.  He had an appointment to visit one of the super market giants. The product manager at the super market major gave him a patient hearing. He was very appreciative of the tooth powder concept but dismissed it saying “Not practical for US citizens. No one here uses their fingers to clean their teeth. This product will not fare well”.

The Indian tooth powder manufacturer was very depressed. It was a shattering blow. His entire effort was wasted. He suffered losses on product, psychological and on financial fronts. He glumly went to the restroom in his hotel for a wash. As he was washing his hands he was struck with a brain wave.

The super market major had a surprise visitor the next day. It was the same persistent tooth powder manufacturer from India. There was a spring in the Indian's gait. He greeted the product manager “Hello sir, I have a report for the laboratory about the germs that are present in the dirtiest place in the restroom. Would you take a look?”

The product manager gingerly picked the report and read it. The report was a shocker. It detailed the millions of germs, viruses and bacteria that were present in the sample that was sent for analysis. He handed the report back” shocking” he said “I always knew that the toilets seat area had the most germs”.

The Indian responded “Sir, the sample that was sent was not from the toilet seat. The sample that was sent was from the toothbrush that was left in my wash room by the guest who stayed before me. The place that the germs would like to concentrate upon is the wettest area. The wettest place in the restroom is the toilet and the tooth brush, In spite of cleaning daily with water there are millions of germs left. The cleanest part of our body is the hand as we clean it very often and wipe it clean with a cloth or with a tissue. So there is no better way to clean the teeth than using a hand”.

After listening to such a persuasive argument the Product Manager had no choice but agree to stock the tooth powder in his chain of stores. It is not clear what the outcome of this incident. May be the product did well or may be it did not do well. But it showed the dynamism of the manufacturer who came out with an innovative argument in favor of his product.

May be the tooth powder manufacturer could have used the tack of his tooth powder being useful for pets (after making sure that its ingredients are not harmful to the pets). I am sure that such a strategy would have been successful as brushing pets with tooth brushes is quite useless. The dog or the cat would simply chew up the tooth brush. When using a finger the owner can maneuver his finger to ensure that the teeth of his pet are sparkling clean.

February 25, 2011

Food Marketing - India

India is a country of more than a billion. It is said that in India the food, the culture, the language, the customs, the soil change every twenty kilometers. There is diversity in everything about India. We have meat eaters  who swear by their food habits at one end of the spectrum to Jains who wear a cloth over their nose (they believe that even small insects should not be killed during inhalation of air) at the other.

Chicken Tikka Masala
But   surprisingly  in the Food category India has not exported its dishes as well as it should have. CTM  (Chicken Tikka Masala) the very Indian sounding dish is not Indian by origin. It is patented in the UK. United Kingdom holds Indian food in high esteem. Curry is so famous that trying up to be overtly friendly is called “currying up”.

Indian food is not packaged very well. Indian sweet dishes like the laddus though tasty are crudely circular (have no exact shape) and show traces of physical handling. The Pedas and other North Indian food stylishly cut in the form of squares and diamonds with a silver foil on the top have a better chance of finding universal acceptance. Indians should also  take cue from the cookie queen in USA who tried the sampling method of sales promotion for many years before her brand of cookies were accepted  by the public.

Also food habits take time to change. Indian food manufacturers  have to believe in themselves and their products and stay the course. Food is a horse for the long distance. It takes time for the market to accept the products. Once accepted the sales could just zoom.

Samosa and Papad
One of the products that could do well is the Samosa, (triangular) the deep fried patty like snack. Salty and filled with potato, it could give  a scare to the burger. But packaging should be taken care off. The humble papad (circular) has already proved to be popular in Russia. It could be promoted as a very light snack that could go well with salads. It needs to be roasted lightly or micro waved. The feeling of stickiness or oiliness would put off the calorie conscious westerners.

Some Indian food is simply out of the world. Foreigners have to be educated on the way to eat Indian food. Indian government had held India International melas in the past. One such mela in Paris reported a very strange sight. Parisian were gobbling up Dosa along with Gulab Jamoons.

Gulab Jamoon
For the uninitiated Dosa is like a burrito and it has to be eaten with a chutney ( a hot side dish like hot sauce). Gulab Jamoon is a sweet and is consumed at the end of the meal.

Jilebi  and Tea

Why blame the westerners. Indians have problems with their own food. Unlike in North, south Indians do not consume  sweets at breakfast. A visitor in North India would be served Tea and Jilebi (a sweet dish).  A south Indian is struck, Eating the Jilebi before the tea would make tea tasteless and having tea before eating the Jilebi would mean that Jilebi would taste like tea!

February 22, 2011

News readers and their funny pronunciation - Case for correct Communication

News readers have a important role to perform. They have to read the news, create interest in the viewers and at the same time appear to be empathetic. Many a time news readers make mistakes which are absolute howlers.

Many of the north Indian news readers get the south Indian state names all muddled up. They call Kerala as Keral, Tamil Nadu as Tamil Nad and Karnataka as Karnatak. This jars the South Indians . North Indian News readers find the word Tiruvananthapuram difficult to pronounce. Their struggle are painful to see and hear.

Some times their pronunciation of even national level leaders is puzzling. They get the name of P.V.Narasimha Rao wrong and call him Narsing Rao. They end up calling Kurnool as CURNOOL. In Andhra Pradesh Kurnool is spelled as KARNUL. Same way they call Cuddapah as CUDDAPAH where as the local people call it Kadapa. They call Ongole as on-gole but in Andhra Pradesh it is pronounced as Ong-goal.

Laxshmi becomes Laxmi and Rajender becomes Rajinder. Chandigarh becomes Chandigad. When pronouncing names from a different region one needs to be careful. Same  is the case with Bengalis. They call computer as cumputer and customer as kustomer and shoe becomes su. Very  puzzling.

A south Indian was working in Kolkata, Bengal. His neighbor had called him one day for Bhojan (dinner). The south Indian was excited,. Being the foodie, he was exited as Bengali food is tasty and has mouth watering fish curries.

He eagerly goes to his neighbor’s house in the evening. He finds all his other neighbors also there. They were sitting on the floor and chanting hymns and prayers. This  goes on for two hours. The  south Indian was getting frantic. His stomach was grumbling, But he sits and waits. May be the Bhojan will be served after  the prayers!. But to his dismay small amount of Prasad is served. All his neighbors were going home. Hurt and terribly hungry he looks at his host. His host folds his hands and says “ Thank you very much for coming to our  house at attend the Bhojan”. The reality hits the South Indian hard, His neighbor meant “Bhajan- praying and singing and not Bhojan - eating”.   

Film Marketing - Mere Paas Maa Hain! (My 200th blog posting)

Deewar scene where Shashi Kapoor is telling Amitabh " Mera Paas Maa Hain!"

The psychology of watching films: India is the country that produces the most films in the world. So what is that makes Indian movies larger than life to the typical Indian movie watcher. 

It is the fantasy that the Indian movies are good at. Movies offer kaleidoscope of emotions. They are made with liberal doses of emotions; relationships are glorified, especially between mother and son. There is a famous dialogue where one brother says to the other “I have everything in life what is that you have?” His brother say “Mere Paas Maa Hain, (I have mother with me)”. There is also slapstick comedy, garish costumes, silly songs and very filmy fights with dishmum dishmum sounds. No wonder this type of entertainment is loved by Indian public.

But why is that the Indian movie watchers watch the same movie again and again. That too when the movie ticket are quite expensive and cost lot of money. The answer lies in how the movie is perceived by the hard core fans of the hero.

The hard core fans of the different heroes identify themselves so much with the hero that they become heroes themselves. Next time observe the photographs of fan associations presidents and other office bearers. They bear slight resemblances of their heroes. This resemblance is the basis of their great fascination for the hero.

On other words the fans of a particular movie watch themselves on the screen. They romance the heroine. Bash the villains. That is the reason why Indian movies where  the hero plays roles of a railway coolie, Auto rickshaw a driver  and other poor man roles become such block buster hits.

It is the dream of every poor man. That he has chance of making it big in real life. That he might become rich one day and can romance the most beautiful girl in the world. So what if the taming of the rich girl is done a little roughly! It adds to the fun. The rich and beautiful girl groveling at the feet of a the hero satisfies the innate desire and makes the typical Indian movie watcher to go back to the movies again and again thus making the movie become a hit at the turnstiles. 

The Indian film makers are quite well known for their formula ridden movies. The lost and found formula of Manmohan Desai was beaten to death but always appealed to the movie goers. It is not a wonder that Manmohan Desai had only scorn for the critics. He was fond of stating that his critics are the movie goers and as long as they liked his movies he has no problem.

Name less movie:  A Telugu movie tried the unthinkable. It was a movie without a name. In a movie industry where a name is everything this movie went to the town saying that it has no title. The producers claimed that the viewer could name the movies after watching it in the theatres. It was a very brilliant concept but the movie was not great. Finally the movie was named Paape na Pranam (My daughter is my breath). The movie sunk without a trace.

According to JD chakravarthy the hero and producer it was the stupidest title but it was chosen by the viewers. He also was of the opinion that nameless movie will arouse the curiosity in the audience and that they will come to the theatres and according to him it worked, until they named the movie. The co-producer wants to release in B and C centers (In India that would mean small towns and rural areas) and he felt that audience won't accept the movie without a title and opted for this title. That effectively took out the USP of the movie which was not having a title, A brilliant marketing coup laid waste by a back peddling co producer.

Puja of the goddess in the hall: South Indian movies are very heavy in mythology. The holy movies made in south India drew flocks of devoted audience. The gods and goddess stories used to play out in the theatres and when the audience came out a impromptu temple greeted them. They would receive the blessings of the gods or the goddess whose movie they just saw. This was a huge draw for the god loving Indians.

Song books at a very cheap rate: Indian movies have many songs. These songs are learned by rote hummed and there are many reality shows and game weaved around the filmy songs. More than 50% of all music revenue in India is generated from sale of movie songs. Thus it is not surprising that till the 70s and 80s song books printed on cheap news print were sold at a throw away price to entice viewers to come again and again. These song books which have become collector’s items have proven their worth by acting as loss leaders. They made the songs popular and to watch the songs the viewers would come to the movies again and again.

February 19, 2011

Presentation tips for Marketers

KISS is an acronym for the principle "Keep it Simple, Stupid!” Other variations include "keep it short and simple"[, "keep it simple AND stupid" or "keep it simple and straightforward". The KISS principle states that simplicity should be a key goal in everything we do and that unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

4 x 4 principle:  Frequently used in business communications. It means that any slide that is used in a public presentation should follow the 4 x 4 principle. There should be 4 lines in a slide and 4 words per slide. If a picture is used minus 2 line and eight words. That is if a picture is used then the slide should use 8 words only. The font size should be a minimum of 18. Less is better in presentation. Use matter and visuals to create an impact and do not read out your slides.

A picture is worth a thousand words: Most learners are visual in nature. Use visuals wherever necessary. Visual can create an impact and are difficult to forget. Check out the visual on the left. It left an inedible impression of the attack on the twin towers in the USA.

Man biting a dog is news rather than dog biting the man:  Always strive for a dramatic impact. You could always say that there are many animals that eat shit for living. That will wake up any slumbering giants in the audience. You could always quickly add that you are talking about dung beetles. This would leave the most serious person with a smile on his face.

Paraphrasing: Many times the listeners of a presentation ask the presenter questions and some of these may be complicated or not properly structured. The presenter needs to repeat what was asked in order to verify the meaning of the question posed. This is called paraphrasing. The term simply means repeating another person’s ideas in your own understanding but retaining the thought of the statement or question.

If I heard you correctly, you were asking if the process is reversible or not …”

“You were asking that less than 60% is a fail grade…Is that right?”

“As I understand it, you want to know if the break will be for 5 minutes only…. Am I correct?”

“So your question is about the maximum limit of pages in the project …”

Humor: Audience likes to associate themselves with cheerful presenters. Always have a smile on your face. It takes 71 muscles to frown only only 21 to smile. So smile and smiling is very inclusive. Don’t worry if you make a mistake in the presentation. Most listeners have empathy and will forgive small errors and mistakes.

February 17, 2011

Packaging the silent Sales person

Ask any student of Marketing about basics of marketing and he would rattle off the 4Ps, Product, Price, Place and Promotion . It is the holy grail of marketing. 4Ps are what all marketing professionals swear by. But what happens when all the 4 Ps stop? Who will market the product when all the other Ps stops? In steps packaging the least glamorous but the most vital function of marketing.  Packaging is called the 5th P. Packaging is also referred to as the silent sales person.

Sometimes in the class some of the student might be drifting off. I challenge them by asking some simple but challenging questions. One of them is “what is 767 in packaging?” Students are stumped and think that is a holy number or some formula of a product. The answer so very basic, 767 is the arrangement of cigarettes in a 20s pack of cigarettes. You have to give it to the marketers. The marketers pack 7 in the first row, 6 in the second row and 7 in the third row.

Check out the following innovations in packaging:

Packaging for the blind - Tu Plast the company makes its packaging user friendly for the blind. It makes the label in Braille. This is very thoughtful as the blind have equal rights as others and this type of packaging is socially conscious and increases the sale. A double whammy!

Slick Packaging:  Some products even though are very useful and convenient are quite cumbersome to use. Take the example of liquid soap which is quite messy to use. If the liquid soap is in a bottle the liquid would splash and much of it would be wasted. In comes a liquid soap dispenser. One can take as much as one wants. The innovative dispenser system I am sure was instrumental in making the concept of liquid soap popular.

Some products by nature are quite difficult to pack. Think of eggs and water melons. Both are very nutritious and tasty but come in odd shapes. With the advances of science it is possible to have square water melons and square eggs. Square eggs are great for the customer and shopkeepers but must be quite painful for the hen!

Baby chicks are very fragile. But they need to be transported over long distances. The utilitarian packaging that is provided by the sellers sees to it that they can survive the long distance travel. There is provision for food and water in the packaging and the packing is rugged to take the abuse of the road and rail journey.

Packaging that glows in the dark – A product of Aplha packaging, technigraph, this is packaging that glows in the dark. Apart from attracting the children who are quite crazy about the glowing products the glowing packaging makes the product visible in darkness and easy to use. The glow in darkness packaging can be useful for products that have to be used at night like water and tablets dispensers.

Packaging - children – GIFLOR: Cute packaging for the children. Good idea for dispensing products like chewies, candies, bubble gum and Chiclets.

Packaging - bormioli Rocc:  A very interesting product. It is very difficult for a mother to ensure the exact portion that is needed for her child. This innovative add along that is given along with the medicine attaches to the bottle and the exact quantity of the medicine that has to be administered can be read. The mother tips the bottle and the medicine would come into the dispenser and that is directly administered to the child.

Packaging - blue diamond – weatherchem:  This packaging provided by Weatherchem makes self medication very easy. Let’s say that a particular medicine has to be taken for eight days. The transparent packaging makes it easy for the user to control his portion. The portion of nuts once consumed will be an indicator of the numbers of days that are exhausted and the visible part shows the number of days left.  I would say very innovative packaging.

February 16, 2011

Ambush marketing or surrogate Ambush Marketing?

Nothing Official about it  - Pepsi's Ambushing Coca-Cola in ICC Cricket world cup 1996

ICC World Cup is big news for India and cricket crazy Indians. It is said that 6500 crore Indian rupees are riding on Indian cricket in the next eleven months. All companies want to climb the band wagon of cricket whether officially or otherwise. 

While non-sponsor brands cannot use World Cup-related trademarks in their marketing campaigns, they are finding new methods and techniques to make their offering to the consumer. (Business Line print edition dated February 15, 2011)

  • Parle Products is bouncing a ‘Full Toss', a potato snack, under the same name.
  • Nike has launched a range inspired by the ‘Men in Blue'.
  • ICICI Bank is tempting credit-card holders to keep the “score” going while shopping.
  • Public sector Canara Bank has put up a huge billboard to announce its ‘Hatrick' quarterly profitable performance.
  • Cycle Agarbathi will be rolling out mobile vans with special prayer kiosks that will allow customers to light Cycle Pure Agarbattis and pray for Indian cricket team.
  • Reliance Digital is urging consumers to get ready for the World Cup with an air-conditioned stadium at home; with an eye on its latest range of air-conditioners on offer (all examples from Business Line print edition dated February 15, 2011)
Surrogate ambushing: Can this be termed ‘surrogate ambushing?  Technically speaking what these companies are doing is not illegal. But in countries it is illegal. 

Companies are claiming that cricket is a common property and no one can claim exclusivity. The companies are determined to cash in on the craze and it is a futile attempt to stop them because they will stop at nothing. Hotels will have menus with cricketer’s names and cricket strokes.

The discussion leads us to ambush marketing.  Ambush marketing is a marketing campaign by a competing company that takes place around an event but does not involve payment of a sponsorship fee to the event. The company that has paid the sponsorship fee to be the official sponsor pays the money but the competing company cashes in on the craze without paying any fees.

During the 1996 cricket World Cup, although Coca Cola was the official sponsor of the tournament, Pepsi ambushed the campaign by coming up with the tagline “nothing official about it”. The campaign by Pepsi was so successful that everything official was seen as "strait jacketed, boring and outdated" and Unofficial was branded as “new, exciting, and trendy”