Thursday, December 6, 2012

We're moving to Pune!

Will and I will be moving to Pune in January. I have accepted a new position with iPlace USA, a recruitment process outsourcing service provider, running their sister company, iPlace India. In an expanded Senior Vice President role, I will be in charge of HR, marketing, leadership development and career coaching, and responsible for all new initiatives for expanding the company and achieving the business goals. It's going to be AWESOME. Even better, the CEO is American and we're in synch with where the company should go and how we can grow it together as a team. The company has made some amazing hires and while most of the staff are very young, they have tremendous potential. The company works hard to treat everyone fairly, there is parity across the organization, and employees are compensated based on their performance and effectiveness, not by who the managers like or are related to. Nice change. Some of the managers in place are extremely impressive and I look forward to working with these rock stars. :-)

We're super excited! Will is looking for the right college and there are plenty of very good schools in Pune. We'll be closer to Mumbai and south Goa, a couple of our favorite places in India, and will enable us to focus our travels in the south of India, where we haven't spent much time. We've been all over the north of this great country, but the backwaters of Kerala are calling, Pondicherry has been whispering in my ear for years now, and the fact that I've never been to Bangalore is almost embarrassing to make public.

So, this blog will effectively end with this post. My thanks to all my readers, for all of your great feedback, support, laughs and fury. It's been a tough slog these past few years. I will deeply miss my current co-workers, some of the best and brightest women (and a few good men!) I've ever worked with, here or overseas. But fear not, dear reader! I have set up another blog, focused on Pune at http://american-in-pune.blogspot.com. Check it out! Subscribe to it, like it, share it amongst your friends and we'll continue our brilliant conversations from there, okay? Follow me!

Onward,
Jeanne

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Dignity of Your Workforce

Because of India's caste system, employees in India can have issues reporting in to a senior staff member who comes from a lower caste. Foreigners don't have any caste, but can be seen as either not applicable or unclean, depending on the caste of the person you are meeting. I've seen countless indignities forced upon members of the workforce based on their positions in the company and these other societal issues.

Every office has "tea boys" or "office boys" that run errands for staff, fetching lunch, picking up laundry, what-have-you. These "boys" can be any age, but many start very young. I've watched elder men slicing up apples and serving tea to really rude junior staff, not even acknowledging their presence unless to yell at them. They think it makes them look important to THEIR junior staff. Not so. You just look like an idiot.

I'm usually pretty friendly with this low level of staff because no one ever seems to interact with them, tea boys, cleaners, security guards... It's a shame. They're human beings and deserve at least a friendly hello just like any other worker. They're part of your team, no matter what level they are in your office structure. Without them, the office couldn't function. They should be treated as part of the team.

I once moved into a new building at a company I worked for a while ago here in India and noticed that the washroom cleaner was squatting in a corner on the floor. She wouldn't even look up at me. I'd say hello, and I'd get a very quiet, "Hello maam," while she continued to look at the floor. First - why is it necessary to have full time cleaners you ask? Bathrooms here are typically a nightmare. Water all over the floor, toilet paper either missing or fallen on the floor, soaken wet (if available at all), unflushed toilets, hair in the sinks... seriously, ladies, you're not the only one using these stalls. Clean up after yourself when you leave. Be considerate of your fellow workers.

Because of this, many offices have bathroom staff. Just to clean up after people who think they're "too good" to clean up after themselves. Second, I really felt it was unnecessary to force this young girl to sit on the floor, so I asked the admin guy to get her a stool. He refused. "Madam, she is a cleaner. No chair required." I insisted. He said to talk to the CEO. I went and got her a stool myself, which she happily accepted. It lasted two days. The admin guy removed it because, "She'll start to put on airs," he said.

Until a week ago, I thought this was typical only to very traditional old school Indian firms, but then a friend told me that she had recently been visiting the subsidiary of an American car manufacturer here in India and while using the restroom, saw the same thing. I have a problem with that. I'm sure that if the people at the company in the US knew about this, they would immediately put a stop to it. Americans don't treat their staff like that - we'd have all sorts of issues, societal and legal, if we did this. It could be a PR nightmare if this information were leaked out. Americans are very sensitive to child labor, indentured labor, and slave labor issues - just ask Nike.

I'm not passing judgement, but I'm frustrated. India does so many things well, but one of its main challenges that I see, is empowering its workers, not from a union point of view (which is another problem here), but from a "team" point of view. Your company is only as good as its weakest member. When you continually stratify staff into certain levels and only see them as going up to a certain point based on caste, religion, or state where you were born, you could potentially be missing out on the vast talents that they may be able to contribute to your organization.

For me personally, since I have no caste and my skin is white, I can enjoy stepping to the front of the line, as people will let me go first whenever I approach. They immediately see me as a "guest", and here in India, "a guest is next to god." While that is an awfully nice premise to work with, I prefer to wait my turn, as I'm really nothing special and shouldn't be treated like that. They've been waiting longer than me. But people feel uncomfortable when I wait because I'm not working within their societal rules and one of us ends up both feeling uncomfortable no matter which option I choose.

I love India. The lifestyle, the natural beauty, the amazing people, all have built castles in my heart. Someone asked me the other day, when I said I had no intention of moving back to the US, if I planned to apply for Indian citizenship. I immediately said, "No". It's not that I don't love it here, but I self-identify as an American and the most problematic? Visas! I travel a LOT. Indians need a visa to go just about everywhere. The mountain of paperwork is incredible. As an American I rarely need to apply for visas - only Brazil and Myanmar have required it, other than India. So I'll be keeping my American citizenship for the near future, thank you.

What are your thoughts on life in India? How do you interact with foreigners? What's the most difficult aspect of life here in India as an expat? I look forward to your comments.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

All the News

RebelMouse has come up with a neat embed script that enables you to curate across the "interwebs" and post in one place. Kind of awesome. Actually, all sorts of awesome.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Truth in Advertising - Recruiting Staff in India

At a previous company, I had to manage staff that were completely untrustworthy, never followed through on projects, always had excuses why they couldn't work on projects, completed work poorly and were generally difficult to manage. Exacerbating the problem was top management who never shared projects with middle management but went direct to managed staff to get work done with no regard as to how other work was to be completed.

That said, I did my work to the best of my ability AND their work. One individual, who had the title of Senior Marketing Manager was by far the worst. Whenever asked where he was with a project, he had always never started it because he was "working on another project for the CEO". His work was shoddy at best, rife with misspellings. Once he had an entire trade show project, booth panels, printed deliverables, etc. to work on and instead of using a reputable translation service, took it upon himself to pocket to costs and use Google Translate to put everything in Russian; it was a complete disaster. Did he get into trouble for this? No. When I asked for him to be replaced, the COO said that he had hired him personally and it was my responsibility to mentor him. While I agree with the concept, there is only so much that can be taught to someone who doesn't want to learn.

I'm no longer with the firm, but yesterday, I got a connection request on Linkedin from him. Here's what his Summary on linkedin states:

Hmm. Sounds familiar, methinks. First, he is writing sentences in proper English, something he was unable to do in the three years I got emails from him. Here's my summary:

Hmmm.  So what does he say he does at the company we both worked for?

Interesting. While he played a role in packaging and did all of the photography, he was not involved in any other aspect he has stated were his responsibilities. There is no way that he could write a requirements doc, do social media, write a film brief - he can't write a decent sentence in English. Here's mine:

A lot of what's written on his is from a previous version of my resume, something which he has in his possession because one time I had given him my backup external drive while at a trade show for him to use in case a project came in that required him to work on projects I'd been developing. He had copied EVERYTHING, including my personal files, photos, etc. onto his computer while performing none of the work he was supposed to work on. No one seemed to think this was an issue.

Unless his title really changed, he's still Senior Marketing Manager, not Creative Head. And he's still no good.

This is not an isolated case. I see hundreds of resumes that are cut and pasted from other people's CVs. Recruiters tell me that the single toughest issue they fight in recruiting staff in India is the veracity of people's CVs. This manager will likely find something else to do, another employer who thinks he can actually do this work, which he very much can't. And that's too bad, because honest hardworking staff should get that position, not a liar. I feel bad for the company that hires him because what they expect as an employee is hardly what he represent himself to be.

What do you think about this issue? As a recruiter? Potential hire? As a company?




Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Will the "I" in BRIC become Indonesia? CNN Says So.


What Indian Management Needs to Understand About the Global Economy

I watch CNN a lot. Recently on "Quest Means Business", Quest asked an Indian business analyst, "Aren't you concerned about India's failure to deliver?" Fareed Zakari of "GPS" on CNN recently did a spot on the potential of Indonesia and forecasted that with India's slowing growth, and Indonesia's rise, that BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India & China) may soon replace the "I" in BRIC with Indonesia.

There are substantial flaws in India's ability to evolve, from its lack of quality education for the majority of its citizens, its substantial failing at providing infrastructure (roads, water, electricity, housing, etc.), and by far the worst, the deep, long term and entrenched corruption at local, state and national levels. Manufacturing and (some) innovation have been making substantial change, but I keep hearing, "Where is India's Google, Facebook, or Groupon?" What's built here, while some are wildly successful, are copycats, not gamechangers.

Indians like to point at the Tata Nano as a gamechanger and I scoff at that, especially for India. While the idea at heart makes sense, there problems that make it not a game changer:
1. It is a cheap car for the masses in a country of 1 billion that doesn't have roads to handle the current traffic.
2. It uses fossil fuels. If this car was green -- electric, or built on a Stirling engine using hydrogen, thereby reducing CO2 in a country rapidly succumbing to the worst pollution levels in the world, it could have been a gamechanger.
3. It's not as cheap as it was supposed to be. The design itself has issues (try fixing a stall on the road - you have to take the back seat out to access key components) so it won't work in Western countries (and I'm not sure it has the emissions technology built in to allow it to be sold in the EU or California).
4. An industry insider said that 25% of the components that make up the Nano are manufactured in China.
5. It was a marketing disaster.

Another weakness than many Indian companies have selling overseas is that many don't respect that the customer is king and you need to respond to them as such. One Indian CEO said to me. "Why should I bother with customer service when there are a billion of us here?" Ethics are expected in global business. Excellent customer service is expected. Product quality is demanded, on time at the price quoted. This issue becomes more dominant when working with Western buyers because we don't negotiate off proposal prices. What you've presented, we usually believe to be the final price. We respect that and pay it. Our Indian vendors consider us fools for doing so, thus their existing high profits. This is changing as salaries continue to rise and Western companies go elsewhere.

So where should Indian companies go? Start domestically. Every MNC is salivating on India's fast rising domestic market and there's a lot of money up for grabs. Foreign products go for high prices due to draconian tariffs, but people are willing to pay for them because they expect a quality product and customer service, things they're not sure they'll get with a domestic product. The Chinese have been successful here by producing low quality goods at a price that's more affordable, providing long term pricing contacts that allow for minimized risk, even though there are conflicts on their shared border. India is trying to keep the "Giant from the North" from flooding their market with cheap goods, but they're coming in anyway, cutting into the domestic market that India's companies should already be serving.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/huawei-will-china-conquer-the-world/article2243928/

Another issue is culture. Middle managers build fiefdoms for themselves and seek short term solutions, instead of convincing their seniors on long term strategies that will sustain them over the next decade instead of the next year. Incentives based on performance need to be standard practice. Communications from the CEO all the way down to the tea boy needs to be clear, measurable and effective. People need to know what you want, when you want it, and engage across the company, You're a team, people, not silos of information and skills sets to set upon each other in a drag-out fight for supremacy.

Invest in serious innovation, not copying other companies. Sure, you might be able to copy a widget, even make it better at a lower price, but that's not really innovation. Make a widget that the consumer doesn't know he wants yet. Find ways to see a problem and come up with a different, more elegant solution. Figure out how to change the world. That's innovation, and if Indian companies really do start investing in real innovation, no one would question the "I" in BRIC. Watch out.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Localization: More Challenging Than CEOs Think

One of the mistakes many companies make during expansion is putting up foreign language web sites and thinking this is the end of their localization initiatives.

Imagine walking down the street in New York and a guy in a hot dog costume hands you a flyer in Hindi with a call to action. When you pick up the phone and call, what language do you expect the call to be answered in? Hindi, right?

Once you start down this road, by putting up your first Spanish web site, you have set expectations to your visitor that you will support their language across all their touchpoints:
  • Sales Literature
  • Tech Support
  • Customer SUpport
  • Invoices and Billing Information
  • Sales Proposals
  • Contracts
  • Technical Documentation
  • Installation + Maintenance Manuals
  • Social Media
  • Blog
  • Advertising
  • Everything
Develop a cross functional team and list every deliverable to be produced, staff to recruit, procedures and approval processes. Finalize your budget and determine what it will take to establish return on investment (feasability). Implement one language at a time, doing milestone reviews and documenting any improvements that could be made to streamline processes, decrease costs, improve quality.

Also bear in mind that local languages come in all different flavors. Portuguese in Portugal is very different from Portuguese spoken in Brazil. For some languages, like Spanish, classical versions will enable you to serve more customers across the Spanish-speaking world. Prioritize your language set by markets and potential reach.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How to Maximize Your Social Media Strategy

Social media can be a very powerful driver of traffic to your web site. It can also be a major investment that doesn't justify the salaries of the staff involved. How do you maximize the effectiveness of your program and convert fans into leads that convert to additional sales?


NOTE: A technical issue - social media sites are not built as a vehicle for marketing. Making fake profiles for marketing purposes is against most Terms of Service. One of the ways that they catch “social spammers” is by capturing their IP address. Most company networks typically use a single IP for the entire system. If 20 people using the same IP address suddenly become active, their software will suspend or delete these users. A few suggestions to counter this issue is to utilize a number of different IPs, usually through a proxy, or to connect from mobile phones, or from different locations.

Facebook


WHAT: Facebook is the single largest social media site in the world and has the highest potential for growth. Search for SEO keywords, and identify similar pages and special interest groups. These groups can be utilized to link back to your domains. Even if you have an established Facebook Fan Page, all "public writers", i.e., any personalities that you use online, such as spokespersons, story-line characters, etc., should have professional profiles and Fan Pages as well. All staff should be fans and actively participate on your company's fan pages. Writers should post links to their latest stories.

WHO: 110,278,000 registered users visited Facebook this year, a 278% increase over last year. Facebook has earned more than a 45% market share, with 52 Billion page views/month. The average time on site is over 20 minutes. In 2007, Facebook eliminated its reporting of political views, but information from then indicates that 2.8 million identified as liberal, 1.9 million as moderate and 2.2 million as conservative.

DO:


Corporate:

  • Enhance your Company Fan Page.
  • Develop giveaways that can be downloaded for user pages, such as widgets, badges, etc.
  • Develop an API construct such as a poll, game, etc. that links back to your web site (preferably to a targeted landing page that amplifies the interaction while pointing to other parts of your site for demos, downloads, product information and sales.

Individuals Profiles:

  • Friend people of similar interests by joining groups, searching for interests, etc.
  • Check in on Birthdays on the homepage (extremely high CTR).
  • Respond to any comments on your wall.
  • Post at least one status message daily.
  • Share at least 3 interesting updates you find.
  • Comment on at least 7 updates or status messages.
  • Leave a message on 2 fan pages.
  • Leave a message on the walls of 2 people.
  • Respond to any event invitations by leaving a message.
  • Recommend at least one person to your contacts.
  • Add at least one update to your Group / Fan Page / Business page.


LinkedIn

WHAT: LinkedIn is the top most visited professional social network site in the world. It is the best platform to raise questions on your industry, recruit staff, talk about industry issues, etc.

WHO: LinkedIn receives over 14 million visitors a month on average with 42.9% from US alone. Visitors has been increasing at the rate of 3.75% on a monthly basis between April 2009 and April 2010. Their audience is between 25 to 54 years old, with 35-44 as the largest group on LinkedIn. Over 9 million of its members have a college degree and over 4 million have a post graduate degree or above. An average user views 8.45 pages on LinkedIn and spends over 6 minutes on-site.

DO:

LinkedIn Company Profile for Your Company
In order to have a brand presence on LinkedIn, you must have a company profile. To start one now, visit: http://www.linkedin.com/companies?didentcompy=. It gives your company a face and the visitor an overview of what you’re all about without having to visit your website. This will give your online presence a boost as well as bring in curious visitors.

Network with Thought Leaders and Potential Strategic Partners
LinkedIn groups are one of the best places to network with thought leaders in your industry and listen to what others are thinking and saying about in your industry. You’re allowed to join 50 groups on LinkedIn but don’t join all the groups in your industry. Find similar people in groups that are peripherally connected to what you do.

  • Do market research and get feedback
  • Depending on how active the people are in each group, the individuals should be sent links to blogs and articles on your web site.
  • Asking questions in the LinkedIn Q&A Section can generate content as well as a community discussion. They can be asked what their take is on a particular subject with a link back to the original article or post.
  • LinkedIn Polls will allow you to get sample data from your professional network as well as publicity on various issues related to your company and industry.
Become a LinkedIn expert
Once you volunteer to answer questions in the Q&A section of LinkedIn, you’ll have a chance to become an “expert”. You can monitor questions by subscribing to related topics via RSS feeds. Depending on how often you answer and how you answer questions, it may take a while before someone marks you as an “Expert”. It’s worth your time if you can answer things the right way, and really think about the answers. If you’re an expert in your area already, you won’t have to think about it much. Besides, you’ll be getting good LinkedIn karma by helping someone out, and others will contact you if your answer is interesting enough.

Nurturing and Generating Leads
The contacts you gain through LinkedIn will give you email addresses as well. They can be sent an canned welcome email on whether they’d like to subscribe to company newsletters or alerts. Personalizing the email will be seen as a personal invitation to subscribe and not as spam.

Host a Group on LinkedIn
Make a group for dialog between people who are concerned about issues and concepts related to your company and industry. Invite those individuals who are already in other related groups. Most groups have few members because there is no dialog or activity within the group. The right audience will be already there since they’ve joined other similar groups. Being a part of a larger group with a personal invite also means that they can engage in conversations that they’re have an interest in already.

  • All authors, staff, and board/advisory members of your company should have a profile on LinkedIn. They should accept any invitations that make sense to accept.
  • Enter any recent business cards to invite them to LinkedIn or connect with them and point them towards your group. 
  • The dialogs from a conference can start and continue online through group discussions. The group should also link back to videos of panels.
  • Recommending colleagues and partners is a must. Provide 1 recommendation every few days and be honest.
  • Update your status at least once a day or tie in your status with Twitter.
  • Make at least one introduction/recommendation to those with similar interests.
  • Industry keywords should be highlighted as one of their interests on LinkedIn. The Linkedin group should also be prominently displayed in their profiles.


Twitter

WHAT: Top micro-social blogging site in the world.

WHO: Twitter had over 21 million registered users in the last year, spending an
average of seven minutes per session, with 6.57 page views each.

Goals in Using Twitter

  • Generate Traffic
  • Engage with users, readers, fan base, and even the critics -- controversial topics will spark more discussion.
  • Reach a wider audience who might be following influential twitter people.
DO:

  • Search for SEO keywords and respond to those tweets as appropriate.
  • Have a Google Alerts set up for related keywords for news and articles.
  • Retweet 7 things and reply to at least 5 people, with FULL replies.
  • Recommend 1 person you admire (#followfriday).
  • Follow back at least 10 people.
  • 10 minutes of polite 2 way chit chat goes far.
  • Tweet 3 business related Tweets.
  • Tweet 2 personal related Tweets.
  • Ask at least one question that requires answers.


Del.icio.us

WHAT: Community saves and shares web bookmarks.

WHO: 2 million registered users; 2 million visitors / mo. Somewhat young,
technical and web centric, but growing in reach, Del.icio.us has a broad audience,
but skews toward people interested in media and blogs. Visitors tend to average 3
minutes per visit with an average of 3.36 page views per visit.

Digg


WHAT: Community submits and votes on news stories.

WHO: 18 million visitors/ month; 4 million registered users, 94% young males (88% are 18-39 ) working in technology. 64% have an income of less than $75,000/year. 39% blog.

DO:

  • Post articles as soon as they are live on the site in the correct category.
  • Broadcast post and encourage digging them up.
  • If it’s already been posted, vote it up.


StumbleUpon

WHAT: Community submits and votes on web pages, then people visit pages based on the number of votes.

WHO: 4 million registered users; 1 million visitors per month, (people use the service without visiting website) averaging 4:40 minutes per session, with 6.5 page views per visit.

Blogs

DO:

  • Reply to at least 5 comments on your blogs.
  • Comment on a couple of your commenters’ blogs.
  • Stumble or socially bookmark your commenters’ blogs.
  • Write the occasional blog post promoting another blog.
  • Email a synopsis of recent posts at least once a month.
  • Find 2 new blogs to comment on each day.


Forums


DO:

  • Reply to at least 2 threads every day.
  • Post one new thread.
  • Make a point of thanking people who reply to you.
  • Accept any connections that make sense.
  • Recommend a member’s blog or website and say why.


Niche Groups

NING, Buddypress, Kickapps and Posterous are DIY social network builders. Any person can setup their own network online devoted to a topic of interest. Your company can build its own network and tie in to other existing groups to drive like minded individuals back to your web site. Ensure your site has targeted landing pages to address each online group's individual needs and their content interests.

Tie in to other social media more powerfully - use the interaction from other sites as adjunct content - let your readers also be active writers - enable them to upload content to the site. Make your use of SHARE buttons for social media much more prevalent. This makes them more loyal to you as well, and ask them to recommend you to their friends - this has the highest clickthrough rate potential you can get.



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Content is King

Most SEO companies demand content, and lots of it, in order to generate the high search rankings that are their ultimate goal. You can buy content, hire freelancers, or hire full time staff, but are your long term goals being met by all this content being spread across the "interwebs"? What exactly are you accomplishing?

In the short term, this plan can be effective, but in the long term, you may end up driving untargeted traffic that only wastes bandwidth. For example, one company I worked for targeted the keywords, "signal enhancement" and a majority of the content generated focused on these keywords. Because "enhancement" can be paired with other words, most notably "pen*s", we drove a lot of traffic from the search engines for "pen*s enhancement".

Watch for any keywords that may be paired with porn or gambling casinos, as they can unfairly keep you from generating the rankings you desire. Most blackhat SEO companies utilize similar word pairings to drive traffic to their sites from unsuspecting surfers.

To battle this, a company should put in place a content strategy plan, along with an editorial calendar, that focuses on your entire set of keywords, from top ten to long tail, to ensure that your content is written FOR the user, not the search engines. It should meet BOTH criteria - keyword frequency and information for the reader that is engaging, informative and serves their needs.

Ultimately, it's your visitors that are important. You need them to pick up the phone or place an order online in order to drive revenue. Keep this in mind as you build your content  and your content will drive the right traffic to your site, keep them engaged, and act.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Do You Have A Case of the Mondays? (NSFW)

I love istock. Yu Yu and I were looking for royalty-free images for a logo she needs to develop and we stumbled upon CSA Images. As we were reviewing these, we decided to come up with some captions for a few.

NOTE: We're using low-res comps because this is just for fun. We highly encourage you to visit istockphoto.com, which has a wealth of amazing images, illustrations, video available for download at very reasonable prices.

"And this is how we plan to screw over the employees."

"Why yes, I DO lead the Marketing Department. How did you know?"

 "Why yes, I did overdo the Xanax today... why is the wall paper moving?"
"Hey! You're zipper's open."

Man: "Honey, I have to confess. I'm a teabagger."
Woman: "Oh, honey, I love the Tea Party, too!"


"I hope he doesn't discover my balls are tucked in."

"Oh no, I think they know I peed in the office coffee this morning..."

Enjoy.




Thursday, March 1, 2012

Improving Market Share Through the Development of an Interactive Online Presence (Part 2)


PHASE TWO:


Internet Marketing:
Consists of traditional search engine marketing, traffic analysis, link exchanges with high ranking related web sites, posting and linking back from related web sites, online advertising, etc.

Blog Marketing:
The purpose of the blog is to update visitors to the site on a regular basis. The blog should encompass more than company-centric content and more on your industry as a whole, broadening your SEO capabilities, enabling RSS registration, and providing a web destination that is empirically recognized as the place to go for information on industry-related topics, segmented by your company’s main product offerings.  Short articles of interest to visitors, links to other sites of interest, comments and responses to industry announcements, etc. should be scheduled on a at least a weekly basis for B2B marketing, with a higher frequency for consumer marketing.

Explore rich media such as webinars, video demos, films, interviews of your staff - humanizing your company, providing faces to go with names, goes far when engaging your customers and prospects.

Let's talk a second about content. It can be re-used, but it has to be done smartly. What I've done in the past is have different copywriters re-write the same content for different purposes. A blog post can be extended to become an article for distribution. An article can be augmented to become a white paper. Short paragraphs from any of these items can be linked to the rest of the content on most social media and blogs. Think about how you can reuse what you already have.

Email Marketing Implementation Strategy:
Persuasively written personalized email campaigns are far more effective than traditional direct mail campaigns. Opt-in email newsletters are an inexpensive yet highly profitable way to contact customers and prospects on a regular basis to announce company news, product launches, staff introductions, industry-related news, job openings and more, without the high cost of printing, postage and labor to process a printed newsletter version. This process describes a one-to-many distribution method. Before the internet, it was always a many-to-many distribution which resulted in people having different versions of their latest contact with you. Now, you have control of who sees what when. You can even have a membership-driven pre-announcement version for those who pay for the privilege.

Marketing can send email messages in any format including text, html, embedded graphics and attachments. Monitor and analyze your email campaigns with reports to learn who reads the emails and who clicks through to your web site.

Email Alerts and List:
Using an email marketing tool such as Relevant Tools, you can send email alerts to all the registered users informing them whenever a bulletin or announcement is uploaded to the site. This can also be used for regularly scheduled email newsletters directed to different target audiences, such as prospects, press/media, Spanish speakers, etc. This will cut down on costs and help in the timely broadcasts of information to those who request it. The list should be updated automatically as soon as a visitor enrolls to receive the email.

SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT:

Three Types of Social Media
1. Publish
2. Share
3. Network

Social Media: The Publish Construct 
Everyone can publish anything for everyone
Publish everything we have anywhere we can
Monitor what others publish, promote it
Empower your customers to publish
Monitor What’s Published
Promote Flattering Content
Empower Customers to Publish 
Social Media: The Share Construct 
Anyone can promote anything to everyone
Monitor what’s being shared about us
Find where our audience hangs out
Promote our content and other content
Produce content our audience will love and want to share 
Social Media: The Networking Construct 
Anyone can connect with everyone from anywhere
Make friends
Find your existing connections
Network through groups
Add to your email signature, blog articles, bio or profile…
Be helpful
Answer questions
Share interesting content
Make connections

Activities:
Join Social Networks
Develop consistent, in-depth profiles
Meet people and start conversations
Answer questions – help others
Ask questions – trust others’ advice

Become a Real Member of the Community:
Add value to the community
Ask and answer questions
More effective than live cocktail parties
No boundaries of time or space
Other people can listen in easily

Measuring Results
Blog Subscribers & Visitors
Del.icio.us Bookmarks
Inbound Links
Facebook Fans & Activity
Retweets

Other Metrics to Pay Attention To:
Video views on YouTube
Friends on Facebook or LinkedIn
Votes for blog articles
Posts in forums
Questions answered on Yahoo Answers

Online Advertising Campaigns Deployment Strategy:
Plan and implement an online marketing strategy to generate targeted traffic to the web sites. There are many aspects to online advertising from simple banner ads, Google Adwords, to rich media placements. Identifying the correct sites to advertise on is key.

Evaluate not only the unique visitor numbers (to maximize exposure to your market), but location, if you are focused on a particular market. Review "real estate" - when negotiating with a site, check what ads sizes and locations are available and whether sub-pages would be preferable. Ad management and rates are all over the place. Test lots of ad sites AND A/B test ads to see what drives traffic. Is it an offer for a free white paper? Is it a free 90 day trial of your online service? Testing different approaches is crucial to find out what are the emotional touchpoints that will drive click-throughs to your web site.

Online Advertising Campaigns consists of the following fundamentals:
Online Advertising Campaign Management
Advertising Creative Concept Development
Media Buying / Placement Services
Adwords/Adsense
Pay per Click (PPC)
Cost per Action (CPA)
Banner Advertising
Web Site Sponsorships

Link Building Implementation Strategy
Generating quality back-links from websites, blogs and other online destinations to drive traffic to the website and increase Google PageRank. The trick to making this a long term, qualified traffic growth strategy is to links between high quality, relevant sites between your web site and other industry related sites, authorities, etc. Usually calling this page "Resources", and be genuine that these links ARE actually resources, can drive cross traffic between your sites for mutual benefit.

Example Link Exchange Acceptable Link Guidelines*:

Page on which link exists must be cached by Google.
Page on which link exists features 150 outbound links or less.
Page (or Home Page) on which link exists has a PR3 or above.
Site in which link is placed features no more than 25,000 links.
Site in which link is placed is not blacklisted or identified as a SPAM site.
Links must last a minimum of 90 days. Obviously, you are looking for maximum life span.
Links should be on domains that are registered in the locations of interest (India for domestic marketing, international sites as targeted by your marketing plan.).
Link page should not have junk links or unrelated links.
Site in which link is placed should be theme-based and not a directory.
Linking sites should have different class C IP addresses.
Linking domain should not be redirected to another address.
Page where our link is located should not redirect to a different domain.
There must be a direct link to our site in spite of having certain redirects.

* These are the minimum criteria. The criteria may be changed as needed.

These two blog posts detail the very basics of internet marketing. If you have specific comments about your particular industry or have specific challenges you'd like me to respond to, please let me know by sharing a comment below.


Why HR Needs to Understand Founder Exit Strategy

Exactly what is “Founder Exit Strategy”? Long ago, I discovered that being successful meant always planning all activities with a focus on what the entrepreneur plans to do with the business in the end. Does he want to take it public? Is she planning on a short exit through selling the organization? Do they plan to bequeath the business to their heirs? This is what I call founder exit strategy.

Each department should be responsible for their part of meeting that goal. HR should work closely with Marketing to share resources, cross-team, to strategize on what activities can be done to acheive the exit strategy. Let’s say the plan is to go IPO. Are there external funders or other stakeholders that need to be advised? Will the company need them to achieve their goal? If so, what VCs or other funding resourcers do we want to attract? What messaging will attract these VCs? What sort of personnel will be required and how do we want to attract them?

Brainstorm ideas, prioritize those to focus on the short-term, new initiatives to test as resources become available, and develop a complete plan that addresses the needs of all stakeholders. You may also want to transform the work environment to facilitate the implementation of the plan. Team growth or decrease may require changes to the floorplan configuration for more conference and meeting spaces, or an expanded space for R&D, training venues, modernization, for examples. Marketing can work to ensure that the space conveys the same attributes which align with branding and messaging. For example, you can’t have an internet company in an office that looks like a bank. Dress codes are different as well. The HR policy makers may be persuaded to add word-of-mouth benefits, like being a pet-friendly office, or “ties not allowed” – something interesting that becomes a potential conversation starter or a mnemonic.

What other ways do you see synergy between marketing and HR? Leave them in the comments below. Cheers.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Improving Market Share Through the Development of an Interactive Online Presence


PART ONE:

Internet Marketing encompasses a number of discrete disciplines ranging from SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEM (Search Engine Marketing), Link Exchange, Blog Marketing, SMM (Social Media Marketing), and Online Advertising, among others. Before anyone embarks on this effort, your existing web sites should be carefully evaluated to see if tweaks to the existing site are enough or if your site will require a complete redesign  to maximize the return on investment.

Imagine you're having a dinner party. You're investing in invitations, calls, maybe follow up calls and reminders to ensure your guests will arrive. But once they arrive, there's nothing for them to do, there's no food or liquor (the horrors!), and maybe they keep trying to open doors that go nowhere. Not a nice experience. Are you doing this to your prospects?

As part of this process, establish a baseline of analytics. Big word - basically just means data. You don't need a lot, but these are pretty important to establish before you launch anything new.

IMPORTANT BASELINE DATA TO COLLECT:

  • TRAFFIC: Total unique visitors
  • TIME ON SITE: This is the metric that Facebook is famous for. Time on Site shows visitors are reading and engaging. You want this as high as possible.
  • % INTERNATIONAL: % of visitors from specific regions - base this on where your business focus is.
  • % BOUNCEBACKS: To determine the amount of traffic that showed up, realized your site wasn't what the were searching for and left. 
  • KEYWORDS: Self-determined. Where do you rank when searching for your SEO keyword terms via google, bing, yahoo? Cross match this with what organic searched are actually driving traffic, but eliminate all keywords built on brand or company names (for this purpose).
  • FB FANS: # fans who've liked your Facebook Page. You could also mention #messages by non employees to measure engagement.
  • LI MEMBERS: # members to your Linkedin Group and/or Profile.
  • TWITTER FOLLOWERS: # members to your Twitter Profile, and sweet fancy moses, make sure you get some sort of twitter verification service to keep spammers out of your follower list. You want real traffic from real people.
  • SMM TRAFFIC: By reading your analytics, you can determine the source for traffic by searching for facebook, linkedin, twitter, and the rest of the social media and web sites. Interestingly, Stumbleupon comes up higher than you'd think. You might want to invest some time there...Break these out by site.
  • BACKLINKS: You want to know who and what quality sites are linking back to your site. This gives you credibility to search engines.

ESTABLISH MEASURABLE GOALS:

Examples:

  1. Drive traffic to the web site, increasing unique visitors by 10% each month. (EX: Month 1=100, Month 2=110, Month 3=121)
  2. Drive international traffic to the sites, to ultimately eclipse domestic traffic. Increase international traffic by 10% each month.
  3. Decrease the bounceback from 78% to 45% of visitors within six months.
  4. Increase the search keyword universe to include organic search terms beyond branding – 2 additional non-brand keywords or phrases added to top 100 search terms each month.
  5. Increase fans/members/followers to social media sites by 5% each month.
  6. Demonstrate traffic increases from social media efforts – increase traffic sources from social sites by 5% each month.
  7. Increase Google PageRank from 2 to 3.
  8. Increase backlinks by 20 per month.
PHASE ONE:
Fix your web site to include add-ons that enable the company to offer interactive content and engagement activities for visitors to your web site. Any redesign should focus on the user experience, facilitating the user’s need to fulfill their information requirements and enable ease in communicating with you.

Search Engine Optimization:
Search engine specialists optimize sites for specific keywords and engines so that the sites will rise through the ranks and appear on the first page of search results on Google and Yahoo!.You can either hire an external SEO firm to ensure that our sites can be found on high-ranking relevant web sites all over the Internet, hire an in-house expert if you plan to drive most of your revenue from your site, or try it yourself. You'll figure out that one or the other will probably suit your needs best in the long run.

Incorporating search engine friendly design and content strategies will improve search engine rankings and drive more traffic to your web site. Optimization is the practice of refining and reworking the content and tags on individual pages and graphic files in order to facilitate a search engine’s spider software to evaluate the web sites’ contents as more applicable to certain keywords and categories.

This includes optimizing titles, meta tags, alt tags, keyword tags, comments, and file names to add an increase in rankings.  Individual pages are tweaked for more specific phrases. Keyword density is measured and improved where possible. Site architecture is structured to assist the spiders in listing every page of your site. Many other tasks are done, all with the achievement of a higher-ranking score as the goal. All pages will be optimized for search engine ranking and include google analytics for web site traffic analysis. 

When stakeholders are satisfied with work, work with your ISP to launch the site.

After this, the real work starts. The next post will introduce Internet Marketing principles. See you then.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top 4 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Fail

My entire career has been focused on startups and small to medium-sized businesses that are anxious to take their company to the next level. IMHO, I have been quite successful in setting strategy to ensure that we take the necessary steps to take the company to the founder's exit strategy, whether that be selling the business, going IPO, or just growing the business to the next level as a private concern. My strategies usually coincide with investor deadlines - three to five years.

WHY ENTREPRENEURS CAN BE FUN OR CAUSE YOU TO HAVE A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
Entrepreneurs are different from the rest of us. I'm not an entrepreneur, but I've co-founded a company and I understand their psyche. They're risk takers, they're willing to give up most of their life - family, reputation, money, to make their concern viable. They're focused on a particular idea that means something to them personally. Other entrepreneurs pick their moment, building a company in one direction, nimbly changing their entire strategy when they see things aren't going to be successful. They make hard decisions, calculated risks, shared their office space to make payroll, anything to keep their business profitable. I admire these gentlemen (and they've always been gentlemen for me) because I'm not that type of risk taker and I'm jealous of that, because, while I have an entrepreneurial bent, my personal situation (being a single mother, lack of financial resources - I know - all excuses) compels me to work with my heroes throughout these long years. I'm a good partner for them because I'm completely in tune with them. I want to help them succeed and have the track record to prove it. Since 1991 or so. But you have to be flexible. You have to be able to work in chaos. I am sometimes called the Goddess of Chaos. I can handle it. A lot of people can't. These guys can be ferocious, temperamental, and abusive, but also highly creative, engaging do-ers. It also helps if they have personal charm and a sense of humor. :-) They'll need it to make it past Mistake #1.

1. DEALING WITH EMPLOYEES
I've worked with maybe 100 companies overall, in the U.S. and India, and there is a distinct juncture where I've seen them fail, and it has to do with employees. They started their companies by themselves and did everything. They think they know what they're doing and feel they know best what is good for their company. But now that they have employees, it's not just them anymore.

They fail when they don't take the leash off their senior staff that they hire. They need to trust them to do their jobs effectively. Good entrepreneurs aren't ego driven. They hire the best, and as my first CEO said to me, "You'll get enough rope to hang yourself." He threw me into a job I did not have much experience in and learned while running. We did great work and he has always been the entrepreneur that I compare all the rest to. He was a serial entrepreneur. He wanted to sail the world with his family on a beautiful Finnish sloop call Tekla and I helped him get there. He wanted to sell the company in order to make this dream happen. We succeeded, but as all people know during an acquisition, your internal Finance and Marketing people go first. Everyone who buys a company wants control over finances and the marketing strategy. They always think they know better. I know, when this is the CEO's exit strategy, that this is the death of my future for the company and it's okay. He protected me and I survived another year beyond him. I love that guy to this day.

Entrepreneurs need to hire the best possible people as their second-in-commands across their company, Finance, Operations, R&D, Marketing. they need to trust these people, who typically are experts in their fields, with experience beyond the CEO's companies, to provide strategies for growth, containment of costs while producing the maximum return on investment. They've learned best practices. They know how to hire the right people to meet objectives. Even with an MBA, an entrepreneur can be a fool. They can be total control freaks, focusing on small purchases instead of the big picture. Focusing on introducing new product lines that that don't work with all the investment in branding done over the previous years.

2. FOCUSING ON EGO INSTEAD OF THE BUSINESS
I've had CEOs who wanted speaking engagements on the world stage that could not speak proper English in a heavy accent. They did their presentations as sales engagements, angering the people I convinced to add him to their agenda. They were unfit for this limelight, yet insisted on being the voice of the company in spite of it consistently hurting the company's image. What do you do with a boss, who was once described as "just a farmer in a fancy suit"? He's your boss, he's ego-driven, surrounded by sycophants who tell him he's always right - there is no way to constructively discuss his personal issues.

Other entrepreneurs leave people in positions that they're really not capable of accomplishing and this has to do with longevity and loyalty, which are probably the hardest aspects for a CEO. If a person comes on board as your first employee, sharing your risk, believes in you, wants to do their best, but doesn't have the experience to take the company forward, it's hard on all sides. CEOs are loathe to replace these people, but they have to consider it a business decision. Businesses have no emotions. They look at the numbers. They look at the skill sets. If the CEO doesn't have that particular skill set to mentor them in the position and the person hasn't taken formal training to move themselves forward, it's time to part ways. Many people in India rely on this, and stay successful while impeding the progress of the company.


3. SHORT TERM THINKING
Entrepreneurs are best at making it happen and sometimes, when trying to make payroll for example, they'll take on a customer that is not part of their core business. While in some instances, this can create a whole new revenue stream or radically change the company's core business, it usually backfires in the long run. It ends up using valuable resources of the company in areas of expertise that may not be on par with customer expectations. 

Whenever cash flow becomes an issue, many entrepreneurs cut back on marketing programs that support the sales staff. Sales is the life blood of the company. Without sales revenues no one has a job for long. Marketing needs to support that sales funnel and ensure a healthy flow of qualified prospects are coming in. Sometimes Marketing has to work smarter, think differently, approach prospects in a different way at a lower cost. Work with your marketing staff before canceling that trade show or that film piece. There may be compelling reasons to keep that in the mix, while discontinuing printing 100,000 40-page catalogs every year.

When going IPO, CEOs can focus on the short term gains in order to "make their quarters". In the States, going IPO meant a series of quarterly growth showing continuing gains. I spent a lot of time convincing CEOs that we need to take a hit now and focus on the product development before we do another marketing thrust, because "you don't want to invite people to dinner, in a dirty home with no food to offer." These CEOs ended up in difficult situations, lots of bad press, SEC warnings about their communications during the "black period", all considerably hurting their initial offering price. Sometimes they need to wait, fix what's broken, then move forward, even if it means taking a bit longer to achieve their dream.

4. KNOW-IT-ALL SYNDROME 

As I said before, entrepreneurs started their companies by themselves and did everything. They think they know what they're doing and feel they know best what is good for their company. At some point, with some companies, they've lost focus, started facing month-over-month decline, watched newcomers enter the market and gobble up market share, or the industry itself starts to change in unanticipated ways. Sometimes staffing is an issue  - too many, not enough. They come to a point where they have no clear answer and they need outside help.

I come in as a game changer. It's a tough job. Restructuring teams and companies is probably the most difficult job you can have in business. Entrepreneurs need outsiders, advisors, people not inside their company, that can look at their business without any emotion. The company will tell me their goals and challenges, which is what I have to work with, and I need to put the right people in place across the teams to ensure we meet those goals. It's never pretty. It's always tough saying goodbye to people you genuinely like and wish you had a place for. You have to thank those who accepted positions that were less than they had before and see them become stellar in those new positions. You have to strive to be the best and be that role model for your teams and respect your entrepreneur. He took the most risk. He made this happen. He's responsible for your job. In the end, if he trusts you, it can be very, very successful. It's all up to him (or her!).

Why I'm in Love with Sarah Lacy and How to Improve Pando Daily

Sarah Lacy came to India for research on her book about entrepreneurs, Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos. I was fortunate to meet her and take her to visit villages in Rajasthan where we met people who were benefitting from VNL's solar powered GSM and broadband equipment for rural networks. I think she's great and her work at TechCrunch was phenomenal. When Michael Arrington decided to sell Tech Crunch to AOL, my first thought was "Oh, no, tell me this is not true." I knew TechCrunch would never be the same.

Some time later, Sarah Lacy left TechCrunch and started a new venture called Pando Daily, which I love. It's TechCrunch, but even better. (You have to read this inspiring post from Sarah on why she started Pando Daily.) The writers and executives she's gathered together make for a formidable team and I can only say good things about their future. I joined and get regular updates in my email of valuable content that I can use in my daily life to improve the work I do. I find it that valuable. Really. 

However, I do have a few concerns. How will they monetize their valuable content? Will I pay for it? Probably not. Do I visit their site often? Not as much as I should because the emails come to me fast and furious every day and I read all the complete posts as emails. I suggest they give me one paragraph and a link to get me back to their site. Their reader comments are good though, so I tend to visit on more interesting posts to read them and engage, but there's no like button. I'd love to be able to rate great comments that add to the story. Her readers are just as valuable as her writers in many ways. It's that awesome.

I'd also like a home page that lists the latest posts. I find the navigation to be cumbersome. I want to read more, feel more involved, but I have to decide between deals, people, companies, or culture, when I want to see all. It's not intuitive...

I encourage you to visit Pando Daily today. Sign up and get the posts in your emails. They're a fascinating take on the tech world from a global view point. Because Sarah has traveled everywhere, she understands that Apple in Silicon Vally equals China and beyond and it shows. I'm a huge fan and wish her the best in her new venture.

Do's & Don'ts When Moving Into Emerging Markets


1. Do Your Research
Each market is different and has its own personality, culture and potential for growth. Your first impression needs to match what the market expects and requires. This involved preliminary travel, researching local market trends, making introductions to their equal to a chamber of commerce, local authorities, and government officials to determine how to proceed. Ensure you start test marketing your product or service to get a feel for how the market will respond. You may how to change your offering to fit local needs.

2. Do Hire Local
While your senior staff can initially be foreign, taking advantage of talented local staff, mentoring them while providing them with support and training will provide them with the tools to enable the local staff to lead and grow their market best. Identify partners, cultural exchange specialists, "introducers" who can facilitate meetings for you locally. They're worth the price. Understand that a "marketing executive" in the U.S. means something totally in markets like India and Myanmar - they're usually customer service representatives in these countries.

3. Do Trust Your Local Staff, But Maintain Strict Oversight, at Least at First
Communication and expectations need to be extremely clear. Talking to someone face-to-face, with a head bobble here, a bow there, a gift here, a "yes" meaning "no"… cultures talking English to each other is still a mine field. There will be a LOT of frustration at first. Even emails can be misconstrued, especially when you never get a response when the local staff don't have anything good to tell you - they may avoid to save face. You need to be open but not necessarily direct in your demands for reports, meeting sales quotas, etc. Some markets don't work that way, others handle it well. It's your job to find the right staff on your end to liaison with your overseas staff. Once the language is clear on both ends expectations are usually met.

4. Don't Expect Countries Next to Each Other to Do Business the Same Way
Three words: India, Pakistan and Myanmar. All three are distinctly different. Brand activation, product marketing, business styles are so different as to seem to be from different planets. Burmese are very direct, yet impeccably polite. They are facilitators and will out of their way to help you build your business. They understand partnerships, and in my experience are extremely fair. Indians never do business directly and are only outmatched by the Chinese as negotiators. They can kill you on profit margin to the detriment of the relationship. Pakistani's are primarily relationship-driven. They need to know everything about you as a person, and more about your company, before they'll entertain a meeting with you (and far preferable that you be male).

5. Don't Be Arrogant and Think You "Know" the Place. 
You never, ever will. Expats, foreign MNCs - they all work separately from the culture. We can't be "immersed", no matter what anyone says, unless we spend our formative years here. This is absolutely true and I can show you my son's experience here. An average American living in the midwest until the age of 13, he's come to adulthood here in India, speak brilliantly fluent Hindi and counsels me on etiquette here. I've made big mistakes in my communication. He'd function here similarly to an Indian national. I never will be able to function here with that level of understanding.

With that in mind, emerging markets are changing where the money is right now and that will continue to evolve over the next twenty years. As global companies advance into new territories to take advantage of these markets, they need to act smart, face that the way they've done business in the past may not work in new markets, and stay open and nimble to adapt to developing markets. It's how you'll change the world.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Global Selling 101

Many Indian companies try, and some succeed, in developing markets overseas, but they face stiff competition and outdated stereotypes (sometimes not so outdated). Indian craftsmanship has made considerable improvements over the past few years. More and more companies are being certified as ISO-9000 companies. Their quality can be comparable to anything manufactured in America or Germany. However, their outdated sales style and interpersonal interaction can be intrusive and unpleasant to may foreign potential customers.

Interpersonal interaction is the greatest challenge, something I work on daily when traveling overseas with my Indian colleagues. Some are complete teetotalers, other vegetarians, which makes networking a challenge to say the least. Others, who have servants at home bristle at the idea of serving themselves and treat waitstaff as they would at home. None tip. Very few say please or thank you and most don't understand personal space.

As an American, if I can touch you and you are a stranger to me, you are too close. That's why I can always identify the Americans at international events - they're the ones with their backs to the wall. Canadians can tolerate a little less space, Europeans even less than that, but Indians are used to being up in your face. They'll wait for days in your lobby to get an appointment to meet with you face to face. They rarely use email, and prefer to call, which never gets past the executive assistant. They rarely get straight to the point, wasting the prospect's time. Most busy executives want to know what they want now, not after a series of questions devoted to developing a relationship. They're never going to go on vacation together.

As a rule, Indian companies should hire "introducers", people who know the people in their target audience and understand the cultural standards for the country who can counsel them on the best approaches, and strategies to achieve their goals. For example, as an American, my sales style would not work here, I'm aggressive, do not get to know the person's family and his background - I focus on the product and its benefits and how much money we can make together. I want to close TODAY. The system is completely different here. It's a relationship game here first, who you both know and reputation. As your "friendship" grows, so do the contracts. I focus on minimizing risk for the prospect, making sure he'll look good to his colleagues as I would back home, but saying this out loud is definitely a faux pas. I'm also extremely honest. If I think the product he wants is not the right solution, I'll tell him so.

But what I have found that works is developing your individual sales teams in each country by hiring in-country. Find staff that not only speak the language, but have a history of selling your types of products in your industry. Trust them to do their jobs and provide the right structure for each team that matches the incentives expected in their country. In the US and India, it's money and recognition. All sales people need quotas to reach to justify their salary and overhead. With individual and team incentives in place, your foreign teams will do the best they can to reach them, including supporting or pressuring underperformers.

In an Indian company I worked with, one sales person was bring in 70% of the revenue, yet he was on the same salary with no commission as the guy who never brought in any sales. He had no incentive to bring in the sales, but he had a sense of pride in knowing his value in spite of no recognition for his work. He's planning on leaving the company anyway. In another Indian company, the sales people went on a rampage when their salary was going to stay at the same level while they introduced commissions. This was a good idea, but if your sales staff have not been responsive in the first place, only wanting salary, it may be time to replace them with those who understand and value performance-based compensation as a way to make more money.

Good sales people should be paid as much as you can afford. In two companies that I worked for in the States, the highest performing sales staff made more than the CEO and were worth every penny. Supporting these sales divas can be a whole bucket of trouble, but they pay everyone's salaries and people need to appreciate that. They may not be the easiest people to work with, but they get results, and ultimately, isn't that what you pay them for? One CEO I worked for used this rule of thumb: "Never hire a sales person that you'd want to marry your daughter."

Early in my career, I once had to change the commission structure for one company because the sales staff were focused on a few companies that were easy to sell into and I knew there was going to come a point when these companies had concluded all the training we had to offer. We needed new accounts. On a Friday afternoon, I met with the sales staff and introduced the new commission strategy which provided higher commissions on new accounts and lower commissions on upsells within existing accounts. One sales guy quit immediately. Another threw his policy book at me. Everyone was pissed off. I explained the reasoning behind the scheme and told them all to take the weekend to think about it. The guy who quit was back on Monday and we had our largest spike in business during the next two quarters. My boss was so pleased, he was able to sell the company to a competitor (who unfortunately decided he knew how to manage the marketing and sales team better than me). They're not in that industry anymore. :-)

In conclusion, sales drive your company. You need people that can reach the right people wherever your business prospects are, so be cognizant that your particular sales style and process may not suit the etiquette of the country you want to sell into. Treat your performing sales staff as well as you can because without them, there are no revenues. Do whatever you have to to keep your overachievers - find what makes them happy (money, recognition, liquor, company car, whatever) and overdeliver. You won't be sorry.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How To Market Luxury Goods in India

SO HOW DO YOU MARKET LUXURY GOODS IN INDIA?

Internet

Affluent customers are particularly heavy users of the internet for both gathering information and purchasing online. Globally, up to 90% of them regularly shop online (India's #'s not found.). The internet is their primary source for locating information on a luxury brand. In India, most people access the internet via smartphones and other handheld peripherals, like iPad and Galaxy Tabs. The digital programme is required to match the brand requirements on these items to the rest of the digital offering.

Many of the American and European luxury brands that are making huge profits in India are failing to deliver an online experience that appeals to an increasingly technologically savvy Indian market. In order to make the browsing and buying experience as engaging and appealing as possible to consumers, brands are going to have to bring newer technology into stores, on mobiles and to people’s homes. Luxury brands are going to have to be innovative, creative and at the cutting edge of technology, or they risk being left behind.

Web Site: Content strategy should be to communicate the mythology of your brand, using digital as a piece of the entire marketing programme. Tell the story of your brand's rich history, its craftsmanship, design and the history and background surrounding each product as they are introduced. Position the brand as a cultural tastemaker, and act as a trusted guide to lifestyle enhancement. Encourage a spirit of competition through exclusive online promotions and activities. Talk to younger affluent audiences to convert them to lifelong purchasers of the brand. Offer flawless online service and support. Finally, promote exclusivity via a closed extranet, available only to those who have purchased their products through the company. Within this, provide a Personal Shopping service that can alert them on product availability based on preferences they provide, e.g., a customer may prefer green, love organic materials, and only use a particular product type. With this information, the sales cycle is shortened when a product fitting all these parameters is introduced. (You could also provide this as a virtual personal shopper service on the public site as well or instead.) Users could provide profiles if they wish, and contribute by posting photos of their collection of your products. Offer members-only exclusive content, promotions, and contests that further reinforce the brand's image.

Blog: the focus should be primarily on lifestyle issues and fine living, essentially making the brand an arbiter of taste, recognizing and guiding consumers to cultural refinement. This content can be a valuable way to engage with the brand by associating it with other luxury products, events, etc. You can also provide ongoing educational content on how to care for the product, storage, cleaning, etc. adding value to the web site. Another section can be a virtual museum of your brand's technological breakthroughs and innovations - what makes them special.

Online Advertising:
Top Indian Lifestyle Sites

  •   lifestylehub.com
  •   cscout.com
  •   shopping.indiatimes.com
  •   lifepositive.com
  •   ayurjeeva.com
  •   sify.com
  •   lifestyle.rediff.com
  •   3to6.com
  •   living.oneindia.in
  •   imagesfashion.com
  •   Luxe Lore and Justdial- Lifestyle

Top Indian Travel SItes

  •   makemytrip.com
  •   yatra.com
  •   cleartrip
  •   expedia.com
  •   indianrailways.com


Social Media: Facebook Fan Page, Linkedin Corporate Page, and Twitter accounts should be deployed to act as intermediaries driving traffic to the web site and calls to action, including invitations to exclusive events, new store openings, new pen launches, etc.. Constantly updated content (daily or 3x/week) will include links back to the web site, exclusive content, and links to external sites that fit into enhancing the consumers' lifestyle. Twitter is essential for on-site reports, tweeting backstage from events, posting "live" photos, etc. These tweets enhance the brand's image by providing insight into exclusive events, particularly powerful to the Newly Rich segment and aspirational buyers. Campaigns can be reinforced through posting on social media and enable consumers to respond directly. The online engagement between the consumer and the brand is particularly powerful when these conversations take place publicly, enabling us to address issues and questions once and distributed to many. It also enables us to provide a digital archive of the history of our activities within India for those who missed them. This strategy ties in with building up younger, aspirational buyers and making them lifelong purchasers.

Email Newsletters: Weekly or Monthly HTML newsletters segmented to existing customers, existing leads that have yet to make a purchase, and one-off list rentals introducing the product.

Webinars

Rich Media Posts (Youtube)

APIs: Building phone apps that work with GPS location to identify locations closest to you in any Indian city. Later this can be expanded to included "(Your brand) Selects" - lifestyle-related selections of stores, restaurants, and other locations recommended to our audience.

Outdoor

  •   Billboards (Hoardings) 
  •   Airports
  •   Hotels


Partnerships & Sponsorships

  •   High End Sporting Events (Horse racing, Formula 1, Polo, Golf, Regattas, Sailing)
  •   Fashion Weeks (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata), Tie-ups with Indian Designers
  •   International Film & Fine Books Festivals
  •   Classical Performing Arts Festivals
  •   Gentlemen's Clubs (ex. Tollygunge Club, Kolkata)
  •   Hotels, Spas, and Resorts: 80% of luxury POS resides here, however, it is a restricted environment with limited footfalls and visual impact.
  •   Airports: Newer, modernised airports are creating dedicated retail space for luxury items.
  •   Upscale Shopping Malls (eg., Emporio in Delhi, UB City in Bangalore)
  •   Guerilla Marketing
  •   Special Events - Exclusive, invitation-only events with special guests and celebrities
  •   Launch Parties
  •   Store Openings
When producing marketing aimed at the luxury target group, ensure your unique voice as a brand establishes you as an arbiter of taste. The people with money travel frequently. They've experienced European and North American service levels. They know what the purchasing experience is like there. They can't get it here, even in the finest malls in the most expensive cities here. You need to define, as part of your marketing strategy, how to differentiate yourself from competitors and provide service levels and purchasing experiences on par with what these customers have experienced elsewhere. Otherwise, you're toast.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

India's High Potential Gold Mine: The Luxury Market


Luxury marketing in India is a conundrum. With a booming economy, India is the newest and most challenging target for luxury goods manufacturers worldwide. Indian luxury goods market which was valued at US$ 4.3 billion* in 2007 has grown manifold. The Indian economy has one of the highest disposable incomes and 126,000 HNIs (High Networth Individuals) and another 3 million households earning above 10 lakhs also ready to consume luxury. The base is huge and the market ripe.

According to Forbes, India has the fastest-growing population of millionaires in the world. But for Western luxury brands operating in the country, grabbing a piece of the market has proven more difficult than anticipated and many are in the process of re-conceiving their India strategies. Part of the problem is that Western luxury brands don’t seem to understand Indian consumers. When they first entered India, they created splashy advertising campaigns targeting the old money elite. But the results were poor, largely because this customer segment consists of frequent international travelers who overwhelmingly prefer the experience of purchasing Western luxury goods abroad, where brands offer them wider choice, better service and more competitive pricing than what’s currently available inside India. This plan aims to counter this finding.

* According to India Luxury Review
** Thomas Kastgen, Chairman, Leading Brands of the World

Across all segments, the Indian consumer is always seeking value for their money. The customer is typically very demanding, expecting to be pampered with personal visits to their home or office, and wants to get extra value adds as part of the purchase. These are the segments of consumers you need too look out for:
  • Luxuriented. Primary consumers of luxury goods. Source of affluence is largely traditional and inherited wealth. Most importantly, they have high levels of exposure and awareness to world class living. Increasingly showing a preference for European goods. Exclusivity, brand invisibility, and product quality are all important triggers for purchase. They are typically urban, and travel internationally a great deal, from 3 times a year to every month. Prefers to shop overseas for two main reasons: price is lower overseas, and the purchasing experience and surroundings are vastly superior. (e.g., picture the buying experience in Tiffany's on 5th Avenue in New York City to buying the same pen in Colaba Causeway, Mumbai or Connaught Place in Delhi.)
  • New Rich. Adequate spending power. Acquiring orientation to luxury. Brand visibility and flamboyance are important, yet price point can be a barrier. Looking for aspirational labels - wants to show peers that they are successful and powerful.
  • Getting There. Acquiring spending power. Spends mainly on high end white goods, education of children, better housing and larger automobiles. 
  • Mid Affluents are also acquiring orientation to luxury, however unlikely to indulge beyond a limit.

Market Growth


The growth rate for the industry is 14.6 per cent. India’s luxury goods market of Rs 717 billion is set to expand dramatically over the next ten years. India’s total retail market has been estimated at $160 billion or Rs 7,170 billion, covering eight million consumers. Of them, one million are considered to be in the luxury brands segment.

There are over one million luxury consumers, which is only a fraction of the eight million plus consumers who have HNW disposable incomes but are unfamiliar with the luxury segment. The growth rate for the industry is 14.6 per cent. India’s luxury goods market of Rs 717 billion is set to expand dramatically over the next ten years. India’s total retail market has been estimated at $160 billion or Rs 7,170 billion, covering eight million consumers. Of them, one million are considered to be in the luxury brands segment.

According to Mr Sanjay Kapoor, Chairman, CII Luxury Goods Forum and MD, Genesis Luxury Fashion Pvt. Ltd., "The luxury industry in India has shown very promising growth over the last couple of years and is set to grow at a minimum of 25% per year over the next few years with India emerging as a luxury shopping destination. We have the right environment in place for international luxury brands to have a retail presence across our major metros. I feel we are at the threshold of a great expansion and it is indeed encouraging to be part of this new drive."

Electronics is growing at the top end, growing at 25 per cent. The fashion industry, cars, and jewelry segments are growing at 20 per cent. Growth in the luxury pens segment is assumed to be similar to the growth pattern seen in the jewelry segment.

Critical Issues

Brand awareness activities should be commensurate with not only this year's middle and upper income group’s spending power, but must also develop their products and their brands so that they can meet the demands of a local economy which will have outstripped many European economies within 10 to 15 years.

Market microsegmentation will be required to ensure the appropriate products are offered to the correct buyer. Messaging, materials, distribution and approach need to be segmented to address their triggers to purchase.

The single most important reason for luxury retail not taking off in India is the lack of luxury retail environments. It is important to see how this segment will evolve in the future considering that existing retail formats in India are in 5 star hotels or as stand-alone stores. I've spoken with a number of high net worth individuals in India who say they'd rather go to Fifth Avenue in New York to purchase because a) the price will be lower and b) the purchasing experience is far better. Stay tuned for my next post on How To Market Luxury Goods in India.

What is 360 Marketing and Why Most Fail at It

Like "Social Media Expert", "360 Marketing" gets bandied about like marketing's prettiest girl at the dance, but she ain't that pretty when her makeup's all smeared, her dress is torn, and she's drunk as a sailor.

This is what happens when your integrated marketing program really isn't one. In my last post, I discussed the importance of branding, and the essence of that branding has to carry over to everything else you do in your marketing efforts.

When I was first training Indian teams on effective social media campaigns focused on Americans, they had the mistaken impression that swearing was necessary in all posts (probably my fault - I am typically the only American they know personally and I swear like a trucker). When you are spreading the "voice" of your brand across all sorts of media, everyone developing that media needs to match that voice consistently, otherwise subliminal feelings of mistrust start to develop in the receiver.

For example, when most Americans buy their new Dell laptop and try to figure out how to configure their Wi-Fi connection, they call tech support. With all the pressure to buy American these days in the States, reaching a call center in Mumbai, with people speaking a distinctly different English, will immediately put most Americans in a bad mood, affecting their impression with the brand.

Another example would be putting your twitter feed into the hands of an intern, who uses it for her personal tweets at the same time. No one wants to know what she had for lunch or about that hunky new guy she saw at Barrista's yesterday and how much she hopes he'll call. If I'm following your tweets, I won't mind hearing about the hunky new guy working in tech support (with a pic, please!) IF the brand has that "voice". If you're a law firm, that would still not be appropriate.

But brands have personalities, just like people, and bringing that personality across everything (including your 404 page) can significantly increase engagement. Facebook pages, Linkedin groups can be places to crowdsource ideas, test marketing promotions, get feedback on your products. Engage, engage, engage, people. Ask lots of open-ended questions (ones that can't be answered yes or no), like, "How would you deal with (insert situation of frustration here that could possibly be associate with your product)?" Use polls as well, like "Would you rather get a 10% off coupon on your next beverage, or a free beverage after you purchase 10?" Making your fans feel included, part of your brand will go far. Expand on this by building promotions that refer friends or make them ask to vote on your fan's contribution on your page. An example of this is to make a contest for a new tagline or product name and having people vote for the best. Have badges for frequent contributor stories. Have people vote for best story of the year - depending on the brand, it could be the craziest thing that ever happened to you while drinking that tasty beverage, or voting on the weirdest story they've read in your newspaper.

Now, for those companies that are much more formal (see: law firms), your "voice" will of course be different, more formal, announcing court wins and new clients, but you can also offer free legal advice (with your disclaimer), post profiles of your newest staff members and their practice groups, etc.

THE KICKER - WHY PEOPLE FAIL
360 marketing also includes print, TV, radio, billboards (or hoardings as they're called here in India). Your interaction with the press and industry analysts also need to use the same "voice". When working out your messaging, it should stay consistent regardless of the source, with minor tweaks to fit said source.

Many companies outsource this because they're not sure what to do or how to do it and they have no idea how to measure success. Using multiple companies will give you a headache - they need to be integrated as well, so go back to your branding guidelines and ensure all companies you use are using your unique "voice" across all media. Sometimes it helps to put all your work in a room and look at it. If something doesn't match, it will immediately stand out. Time for a redo.

Many companies are afraid to engage themselves because they're nervous a staffer will "go rogue" and embarrass the company, or a disgruntled customer will flame mail your social media endeavors. I actually welcome the flamers. For every one that complains, there are ten more out there that won't and you can bet your last dollar they'll tell a friend how badly you treated them, losing you more potential customers. By actively engaging in your authentic voice and over delivering beyond their expectations, you build a fan for life, who will share how you corrected their problem.

For the staffer, it may have been a drunken late night tweet they thought was going to their personal account. A quick apology, maybe retraining or re-assignment for the bad tweeter, and you're good to go. Most bad social media encounters are quickly forgotten (well, except for some very memorable exceptions) as you continue forward. Even a little bad press can get you visitors to your web site, where they may still be converted to customers. As long as you continue to speak in your authentic voice, make a sincere apology, and engage with the people who are upset, you'll win more than you'll lose.

It's these challenges in life that make it fun to get up in the morning. 360 marketing really is da bomb. :- )