10 Innovative marketing  techniques for todays business landscape

This article appeared in Arabian Business-Start Up Magazine in Dubai May issue. Here is the article in text form.

mktg

The current business landscape calls for a rethink of your marketing strategy. As CFOs tighten budgets and question marketing spends, CMOs have to still meet targets and ensure the organisation is continuing to grow. Marketeers are faced with the quandary of continuing efforts in increasing the visibility of their brand and staying top of mind with their consumers while working with reduced marketing budgets. Reduce your marketing efforts and you face the threat of losing market share or helplessly watch a new entrant capture mind share of your consumers immediately.

Given this scenario, marketing today requires a blend of innovation and imagination. The key is to take on the challenge and find new ways to create demand and interest in your product or service. Here are 10 innovative methods that can help businesses market their business, connect with prospects without increasing marketing spend.

1.Word of mouth

“Do what you do so well, that people cant resist telling others about you”

-Walt Disney

Word of mouth is one of most powerful mediums of marketing because it comes from happy customers. Creating evangelists for your business needs to be engineered right across every department of the company. If the goal of the organisation is to deliver a customer experience thats so spectacular that it surpasses the client expectation by a mile. A delighted customer will shout your name from rooftops. Mapping the customer experience step by step of the buying process and studying ways to wow them at every interaction ensures this. Do the unexpected and don’t just meet their expectations- shock and awe them with delight. Apple has customers who are evangelists converting everyone they know into the fold and will never ever move brands regardless of whatever option comes their way.

2.Increase conversion rate

“If content is king, then conversion is queen”

-Jon Munsell

Time needs to be invested to relook at the complete process of client acquisition. What steps can be put in place to double the current conversion? If you are at 25%, can your big hairy audacious goal be 50%? Its a good time to relook at your website, what you say, your SEO, first meeting, marketing presentations, quotes, pricing, negotiation strategy and even what rituals can help build trust. Mapping the clients decision process in detail and juxtaposing what you can do the influence the decision your way can help. Think out of the box, think funny, think values, think persuasion and go ahead and implement it immediately!

3.Social media

“Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like baseball cards “

-Jay Baer

Social media today has democratised marketing and client engagement. It means that the person with the best ideas and client engagement wins and not the one with the biggest ad spend. Even the smallest companies can easily create compelling viral content that can interact and emotionally attract a consumer. Its not about the number of fans and paid followers, its about the engagement and building brand loyalty and eventually converting to a sale. Social media is the most cost effective way to reach out and seek to your consumers on a one to one basis. Once the brand DNA is established, the brand needs to be humanised to connect. Based on your demographic and target there is a right medium or a combination of social media platforms that reach out and build bridges with consumers. Social media is also a double edged sword where customers will shout from the rooftops if they are unhappy and a company needs to have a clear and authentic method to combat and resolve issues immediately.

4.Existing and Past Clients

“Customer service should not be a department, it should be the entire company”

-Tony Hsieh

Acquiring a new client is 7 times more expensive than retaining an existing client. It’s even more important today to ensure that your existing clients stay forever. Calculating the lifetime value of a client to the company and then focussing all efforts to retaining them. Every department should know the importance of an existing client and alarm bells should sound if you lose even one. Reconnecting with clients who have done business with you in the past is another way to focus on a target segment and win business with someone who already knows you. Make those phone calls, dust that rolodex and reconnect. Ensure you have a drip marketing system in place to inform your past clients or your current achievements and activities without reaching them spam or junk mail.

5.Get out of the office!

“The magic to a great meeting is all of the work thats done beforehand”

-Bill Rusell

The best way to increase conversion is to meet more clients. Increasing the number of clients you meet is directly proportional to the number of new client acquisitions. Plan meetings closer to each other so you can do more in a day. Create systems to reach out and meet prospects. All your marketing efforts should be engineered to connecting with your target clientele.

6.Public Relation

“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on Public relation”

-Bill Gates

PR tells your story and instead of you professing your strengths, this allows other people to speak about you. Having a clear strategy on what strengths and stories you want your consumer to hear is the first step. Listing which mediums you want to be heard in and what stories can enhance your expertise is the next. Engaging with a specialist company ensures a clear strategy and a consistent effort which is long term. Many companies make the mistake of expecting immediate results. PR is brand building over a long term and will not result in an immediate sale.

7.New geographies

“If Opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”

-Milton Berle

When the going gets tough, looking at markets which still have demand and a growing consumer base is a great idea. This is a tougher and a more expensive prospect but it balances your risks. Investing in new and emerging markets bears fruit in the future. New markets which don’t have long flying hours, that don’t have much competition, have low set up costs and have potential demand for your product or service are good parameters for selection.

8.Networking

“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing”

-Tom Fishburne

Connecting with potential customers and partners on an ongoing basis is critical to grow your influence as an entrepreneur. Join business networks, industry associations and conferences to grow your bandwidth of contacts.

9.Showcase industry expertise

“You must become an expert on a product, service or anything you write about to really be effective”

-Joseph Sugarman

Speak at conferences, write articles, blog, lecture and position yourself and your organisation as an expert in your field. Assume expertise in your subject and ensure you are one too. Educate yourself, keep track of trends and devour information on your subject field. Become and influencer and a voice for your industry and this will convert to business eventually.

10.Reposition the brand

“Its time to reset, rethink, reposition…”

-Hunter Hayes

A challenging business scenario is a good time to relook and rethink what your company is, what your weaknesses and strengths are, questioning if you really have a USP or an edge over your competition. This is the time to get better at what you do, improve and look within. This is a good time to rebrand, redo your image and express your differentiated strength clearly to your consumer and target clientele.

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs”

-Peter Drucker

The author Sajith Ansar, is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm that has helped 1000s of brands innovate and market themselves internationally.

Magazine cover

Magazine

Yet another inspiring book on entrepreneurship !

Chanced upon a life changing book in Kinokuniya yesterday. “The Startup Playbook” by David S.Kidder is a sum of stories and secrets from some of the fastest growing start ups. Their CEOs share their wealth of knowledge in these pages. The book simplifies the process of business and will inspire fence-sitting-want-to-take-the-plunge entrepreneurs, it will share nuggets of wisdom to CEOs in business already.

The format is great. A few pages for each entrepreneur and their story, the company story, their advice from their mistakes, what they do for fun and their vision for the future. The end of the book has a best advice section across all aspects of business, from hiring to culture, to customers and marketing.

This is a must read. Personally I am loving the format, the ease of reading, how every page is reeking of inspiration, the publication design itself.

I particularly found this review of the book perfect and apt

I love this book. It’s like having a virtual advisory board of some of the best entrepreneurs in the world. You will discover valuable insights or a good idea on every page to add to your own Playbook. -Brian O’Kelly. Founder, App Nexus

The book features CEOs and founders of companies like TED talks, Spanx, AOL, Flickr, Blurb, LinkedIn, PayPal, jawbone, mimeo etc so the information and inspiration is very relevant and current.

20130611-101035.jpg

20130611-101041.jpg

20130611-101108.jpg

20130611-101114.jpg

Design Secrets: 5 things a client really wants in a branding project

 An article I recently wrote for a design journal which looks at the design and branding process from a client’s point of view.

 

Clients who require branding and assigning in our hands the one thing that’s closest and dearest to them-their business venture.They breathe and live the concept and are completely committed to that success and will do whatever it takes to take the business idea to the next level.

This is what I have learnt are the critical areas of concern and conflict  for a client and what needs to be addressed to ensure a partnership model for branding.

 

 

shutterstock_73555528

 

1.See the project from the client’s point of view

A client is looking to create a brand that speaks their story, that packages their USP and tells the world why they are so good. They need a visual depiction of their offering that emotionally connects their business to the consumers, sets them apart from the competition clearly and helps them stand head to head with large multi national firms that are coming into the fray. Clients who walk into the door and connect for a branding or a rebranding are usually ambitious and visionaries in varying proportions. They are looking for a firm and individuals who are creative and can translate their vision. I have realized that when you  stop viewing the conflicts and issues along the way as client versus designer and instead reflect on why they are saying what they are. Is there a fear of losing existing clients? Is it against their philosophy? Are they superstitious? Have they had a bad experience before? Then working keeping their point of view and thinking like them has always helped the process.

 

2.Understand their business as well as them

Clients are always seeking a branding firm that will understand them, their capabilities and craft a language that will become a catalyst for their success. They are expecting a thought partner and a strategic thinker that will relieve the strain of the next steps and guide them through the process. They want someone who will understand their business, be great listeners, ask them their dreams and soak in their ambition. They are looking for a firm that will get them from where they are to where they want to be.

 

The moment a client hears questions which want to understand their business, queries which are inquiries into the nature of the trade, the customers and a genuine need for knowledge before imparting ours. Clients are looking for a design company who want to know where they want to go and illicit enough information that allows the company to know the clear objectives of why they are meeting a branding firm. It’s important to know the history, milestones for success, team, operation model, future plans, diversification plans, HR policy, sourcing policy, CSR initiatives, succession planning, marketing plans in the past and a host of information if the company is already existing. More importantly, these need to be a conversation and not a questionnaire. A conversation which is industry trade talk where you can hold your own wows a clients and earns respect for the effort you have put in. The beauty of running and working in a branding firm is finally the exposure and expertise we have over time in so many businesses and the curiosity to learn more and more.

 

3.Make their consumer your client

Over time, I have learnt that the client respects a branding firm which is not trying to please him or the firm but is focused on the company’s objective. The due diligence of a branding firm is to work for the client’s consumer and not the client. Design work done for pleasing a client at the cost of what the right thing to do always backfires. I have also seen that design decisions explained logically and scientifically as opposed to retro fitting a reason is best. When a client sees that color, type, font, paper, textures, forms are all selected for a specific reason and his consumer is the target, decisions are easier.

 

For a good branding project there needs to be mutual trust and a partnership along with the client and his team. For this to happen, an in-depth knowledge of the clients consumer is paramount. Research, conversation with the consumer, observing decision making, seeing trends, influences and finding a clear segment in their mind is the most important step.

 

4.Differentiation, differentiation, differentiation

A great branding project is borne by having a distinct product or service. Without that, a business will rarely sustain or grow. If a business has been existing and they are successful they probably have one but they don’t know it yet. Speaking to their current consumers, vendors, employees and partners will highlight why they work with the company and what it stands for in their mind. When a start up business is being branded, its important to know the brand differentiator or create one with the client, one they can fulfill and embody effortlessly. I would go as far as saying, if the business doesn’t have a differentiator don’t do the branding, it is eventually going to fail and your equity with it.

 

A branding firm has to partner in breathing life into the success of the venture by communicating this differentiation to the world and help the business stand apart in the crowd, attracting more consumers than the client can imagine.

 

5.Make it your business

Once you sign a client, their business is yours.

Every decision needs then to be a business  led thought. If it were your business, would you print the visiting card with that stock? Does the brochure really need to be 80 pages? Is there a more value based alternative? Is this idea franchiseable? Can the concept be copied easily? Clients love a firm that becomes their thought partner and goes beyond the brief and does whatever it takes for them to succeed. Not a design company thats just interested in the design aspect and the look and feel. When their business becomes yours, and every designer and related members of your team know that, the chances of a successful outcome are heightened.

 

When the process is a thought partnership all along and the business flourishes you get a client who then becomes a friend and client for life and tells the whole world about you.

 

-Sajith Ansar

Sajith is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm with 5 offices around the world and has worked on creating over 1000 home grown brands from startups, SMEs and destination brands.

 

The 7 forces of business mastery

I read this insightful and inspiring article in the Entrepreneur magazine. It featured an interview with one of my favorite authors and thought leaders, Anthony Robbins. These simple pointers are home truths and there are so many nuggets at very nook and corner. I took away truckloads of ideas and I wanted to share the complete interview.

This is a must read:

20140317-083648.jpg

Robbins: They’re the seven parts of any business that have to be consistently managed to consistently grow and succeed. Most people know that 50 percent of all startups are gone within the first year and that 96 percent of all business fail after 10 years.

Why do so many business fail?
Because even a small business requires consistent improvement in many areas simultaneously in order to compete and win. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs have some core skill sets — perhaps they’re extraordinary at writing code or creating extraordinary products — but their marketing skills are low. Or, their marketing skills might be off the charts but their inability to make effective financial analysis in the end destroys all they’ve built. They make poor decisions, and decisions shape our business destiny.

So, for a quick review, it’s best to start with the end in mind.

The seventh force and ultimate outcome for any business is to create raving fan customers and culture. Satisfied customers leave you when somebody gives them a better deal. Raving fan customers are loyal, they know who you really are and they stick around even when you screw up because you’ve consistently added value to them in a way that nobody else can.

After that, the first force that will shape a business is knowing where you really are and creating an effective business map. The biggest challenge for business leaders is that they’re not honest about where the business really is. They often see it better than it is, which keeps them going but it causes them to have blind spots that inevitably undermine or even destroy the business.

Knowing what business you’re really in, or what business you need to be in long term is critical. Knowing why you’re in the business and ultimately what outcomes you want the business to serve is critical for a business owner. Then, you have to know who you are and who you need in order to have long-term success.

You also need to know where you are. Every business has a lifecycle, just like a human being. Is your business in the toddler stage? Is your business in its prime? Is it aging? What to do in your business is completely controlled by where you are. Then you can decide where you want to go.

The second force of business is strategic innovation — finding a way to meet your client’s needs better than anybody else. Some companies innovate so often that they put themselves out of business because they are not being strategic about it.

The third force of business is world-class, strategic marketing. That just means having a process that gets a mass number of people to want to do business with you. Or, more importantly, the ideal client you want, to seek you out. It’s something I call “value-added marketing.”

The fourth force is sales mastery systems. It’s great that your marketing strategy is attracting clients, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you produce continued growth and sales.

The fifth force that business leaders must understand is the power of both financial and legal analysis. If you aren’t able to understand and analyze the financial condition of your business on an ongoing basis, you’re like a pilot of a plane who doesn’t know how to read the gauges in front of him. It’s easy to fly when there are clear skies (i.e., a good economy), but when you find yourself surrounded by storms and fog, if you can’t read the gauges, you’re going to crash. It’s only a matter of time.

Finally the sixth force is where you can create explosive growth in your company. Most people think in order to have explosive growth they have to make giant changes. In reality, if you understand the force of optimization and maximization of your people and processes, you can grow your business consistently while others are taking wild risks that don’t always pay off.

Entrepreneur: How can a business owner grow his or her profits by 50 percent in the next 12 months?
Robbins: The key to making documented, explosive profit gains is optimization and maximization. The goal is to make small, incremental changes that all together make your entire business significantly more efficient and profitable. If you’re not doing this already, you’re working hard every single day and you’re still not at the level you deserve. The secret is, little things aren’t little — they’re everything. Those little details — every lead you generate, every margin you increase, every promotion you run, every transaction you make, every sales person you hire — if you don’t measure it, you’re not managing it. So you’re not managing the driving force of what comes into your business to get those profit levels you deserve.

We’re treasure hunters. We know there’s treasure in our business, no question, and we’re going to find it no matter what it takes. If we try something and it doesn’t work, we’re going to try something else, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll make another change, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll shift something else until we get the result we’re after.

Entrepreneur: You say that looking through “a new filter” can help entrepreneurs uncover solutions to business problems. What do you mean by that?
Robbins: There are basic keys that offer entrepreneurs solutions, keys like finding a way to get more clients, and finding ways to increase your average transaction value. But beyond those basic keys, you need fresh perspective, or what I would call a new filter.

Take pricing for example. I did my first seminars for free. I advertised, I marketed, I did everything. I showed up in this room, I expected 500 people. Seven people showed up. Guess what I did for them? I dumped everything I had on these seven people. Can you imagine us in a room for a day? It was like Shallow Hal stuck in the elevator. But then I changed my filter. I changed my pricing, and I changed the size and venue for my seminars. Instead of intimate sessions in my living room, we were doing events at Madison Square Garden and people could learn from everyone else sitting there, which added even more value and reshaped the entire experience of the service. In many ways, it’s the same core product, but a different filter can make massive difference.

Entrepreneur: How can an entrepreneur become a better person in order to become a better business owner?
Robbins: People may come to my events to change their business, but I’m also here to help them change their lives. We all want to take both our business and our lives to the next level, and your business is a beautiful vehicle for doing that — it gives immediate feedback whether you’re in the right state, whether you’re telling the right story, whether you’ve got the right strategies. And it can provide a vehicle for your economic freedom and an expression of what you value most.

It’s important to remember that most people spend more time in their business than they do with their children, or with their spouse. For most business owners, the business is just an extension of their identity. So when we can help people make a shift or a dramatic change in their own psychology, that spills over to impact their business and every other area of their life.

If you’re able to meet your top needs in a positive way, then your life will improve. Similarly, if your business is able to first identify, and then meet, your clients’ top needs in a unique way, then you will develop a raving fan culture. Whether you’re becoming a better person or a better business owner, it’s really all connected.