Successful Succession in Middle East Family business…………

80% of businesses in Middle East are family-run or family based. According to Middle Eastern Business Insights, over 41% of the business plan to pass the mantle to next generation. More than $1 trillion is expected to be handed down to next generation. However, less than 40% of business have shareholder agreements in place and about 40% have no plan to deal with conflict that may arise between Faraid’s, Asaba and Arham claimants under Shari’s succession laws. What is distressing is that if business history of other families is any indication, just about 1/7th of business will survive intergenerational transfer and other family business may just perish.

Even though Middle Eastern companies are different in size and governance areas, one central element common is the overlapping role of family, ownership and management. The family firms have brought few competent outsiders to lead and manage their business and resolve the issue around succession. In many cases, in-laws and relatives are appointed as leaders or key executives. Hence, succession for many of these companies is not about family persons but also other positions.

How must the Middle Eastern businesses plan and execute succession. Few common elements of successful succession plans across the world can be pointers.

  1. Nurturing and mentoring are essential to sustain and extend founder’s entrepreneurial values
  2. Heirs well-prepared in terms of educational background and experience and having spent couple of years at different levels are better prepared
  3. Family must plan current owner characteristics and leadership style, current company situation, leadership development and successor characteristics and post-succession company structure and process
  4. Discuss the succession management within family and with Board
  5. Plan the role adjustment process for the founder and the next generation family member
  6. Exposure to various aspects of business at early age is important
  7. Training (formal or on the job) has certain advantages
  8. While mentoring from father is a must, complement with outside professionals
  9. Succession should be encouraged to build their own performance assessment system
  10. Gaining experience outside the system is a must for diversified groups
  11. Attempt transition when the business is health and markets are near normal
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Frugal branding approaches

How do companies with low investment attain High Impact!.  Companies are realizing there smarter ways to get noticed and generate revenue than blow tons of dollars on advertisement. Companies across the world are recognizing the value of going frugal, yet innovative.

Being frugal! in business means gaining higher goals with relatively lower investments and efforts. Frugal also refers to optimal use of means to reach goals.  Frugal is not just an effective strategy for new entrants to market, but also the incumbent. Frugal strategies for newbies is more to make noise and getting notices, while the focus of frugal for incumbents would be to increase richness and affinity of engagement.

Fremium is not just a customer acquisition strategy, but also a proven strategy for brand building. It is a strategy that not only works with IT products, but also with other physical goods. A good story here is Grand sweets, an Indian Sweets and Savories chain in Chennai India, which was the first to employ widows, but also shares a small portion of “Puliyogare” free for all walk-in in customer. Founder’s logic was children and elderly would walk-in for the freebie and the parents and other accompanying them would end up buying some items. This is also a strategy used by many Indian restaurants in USA and Canada where they offer free meals to deserving students instead of throwing out the left-overs. Lo, they have won a battery of converts who canvass for them whenever a white or native asks them for a reference.

The newbies can follow the experience sharing strategy. This can include sharing free info, case studies, videos, blogs or any content online. This is an effective strategy not just for IT intensive businesses but also physical products such as engineering goods, medical devices, etc.  Experience sharing can also be with respect to sharing an article about your brand\offering for free online or offline. The content in the article will be read and eventually might get you a free publication in the newspapers. Entrepreneurs these days become members of StartUp movements and fests which directly gives them exposure to media, even before launching their brands in the market.

Another approach well practiced by restaurants in USA and other parts of world, is what is known as Chinese Cab strategy. Chinese restaurants in these markets offer good food at reasonable price when they open and attract Cabbies, Guides and journalists because they are open later hours. Once they have established a reputation, these restaurants slowly start upscale themselves and price themselves out of reach of their old patrons. This sour grape strategy works well even in times of Zomato as many key informational sources fondly remember and vouch for the restaurant.

Some companies imitate a natural phenomenon, host-parasite approach, to grow their brand. Companies use industrial associations, church groups, Haj Committees or Pooja Pandals to get noticed and build a brand community. Choosing the host is an important element of this strategy. Most effective ones are when the products/services are unrelated or at best complementary.

While freebies by themselves may not work, exploiting sociological aspects like communities of interest or communities of work can quickly build +ve WOM and brand.  NIRMA, which created quite a buzz and competed with Unilever worked on a community approach to build attention and brand. They identified a specific user group in India, the washer-men community in the dhobighats of Gujarat and gave packets of NIRMA for free. This worked out well for Nirma as the WOM went viral among the Washer-men communities. With its competitive pricing NIRMA acquired a major chunk of 35% the market share in a shorter span of time.

Some brands pursue a any attention is good to build branding approach. This strategy works best in the creative industries, where controversies lead to promotion. Playing on greed is a good old strategy used by traders  and con artists. Some companies, especially in consumer goods have exploited this strategy. Classic case is an Indian Biryani group which advertised 1 GM gold coin in any of its packs and ensured the wins get advertised at their local stores attracted enough eyeballs and foot falls.

Sai Gopika

Junior Consultant

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Program for results” success depends on strengthening M&E function in donor countries

Outcomes and their quality of government projects is a hotly contested area. Many of the government projects suffer from overrun, inconsistent standards of measurement of evaluation, planning paralysis, greater reliance on ad hoc experts committee with little ownership and weak stake holder consultation. Development agencies including lending banks have embarked upon “program for results” approach with an objective of greater ownership and management by borrowing governments. The objective is quite laudable but comes with lots of assumptions and ignores ground level happening.

In a recent meeting of government officials involved in a project was an eye opener. The government agency had received a development loan and pursued infrastructure, policy and procedural changes. Rural roads have been tarred or cemented, self-income generating buildings such as shops have been constructed, primary schools equipped with better toilets and cultural infrastructure built across the nooks of the state. What was appalling was the governance and project management was weak in initial years. Transfer of a technocrat to head the division to manage the outcomes after two years of initiation of program set the ball rolling. Post completion of the project period the bureaucracy and the expert team guiding the program were caught in a peculiar problem. The lending organization was ready to roll out the next phase of the financing and the state machinery had no clue how to present the achievements in completion reports. Program for results is a results-based financing instrument, tied to prior agreed development indictors.  These indicators are identified by the borrowing agency and approved by the lender and often the indicators get changed after approval.  Another challenge is the borrowing agencies present a high level roll out plan and do not detail the low level indicators clearly.

A deeper discussion with the concerned officers revealed where the challenge was. Monitoring and evaluation is the key to successful implementation of any government projects. These projects, often spanning multi-years requires management of multiple organs of government machinery simultaneously. Program owners, are often senior bureaucrats who also carry additional burden of managing the day-to-day tasks and a program within its life-cycle can witness transfers or retirement of senior administrators. M&E is often relegated to a data management role, often managing post-hoc information. Project approvals, sequencing of tasks and projects and quality of outcomes is not a proactive function. While per functionary log frames or resultant frameworks are created, annual work plans (RAWB) are not detailed, resulting in diffused ownership and outcomes.  The lending agency’s officers need to clearly define the outputs, outcomes and impacts of the program. The government officials need to align their tasks and goals with the results.

Dr TR Madan Mohan

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Creating and sustaining Ownership-driven outcome-based organizational culture

Organization culture is an amalgamation of knowledge, beliefs, rituals, customs, values, hierarchy and social behaviour. A common grouse most CEO’s voice is their HR is unable to build and sustain the “intended culture”. Their intention of creating a thriving organization where every action has purpose, employees own the roles and responsibility and collectively the organization excel in their activities may not be happening seamlessly. The reason could be the HR is too caught up in mundane transactional activities or naïve and inexperienced to understand what exactly to do.  Many inexperienced HR seldom understand why the company celebrates diverse festivals or post host of photos on Facebook and other social media. The challenge is more pronounced in professional organizations wherein junior employees need to learn the rigours of the profession and ropes of vocation by observing, practicing and imbibing the values.  Limitations of collegiate education with rudimentary exposure to practice and real-life professional requirement add to the woes.

Another major challenge is when organizations undergo restructuring and a newer CTO or business leader may pursue short-term actions that impair the organizations existing culture. In a large IT organization well known for process driven and quality adherence, a newly minted CTO brought in drastic changes that expedited software development but at a huge cost to the quality and reliability of the development. Favouritism, lack of documentation, and poor process ownership resulted in otherwise well-knit unit fragmented and ineffective. So how does one go about building an organizational culture where outcome quality matters, customer delivery, professional ownership and development is the norm.

 Culture needs to be defined, practiced, communicated and reinforced.  First define the elements of culture you want to create. In a professional service firm environment the elements could be how would seniors review and guide the juniors?. How open and periodic would be the feedback.? How would incompetence and low quality work be tolerated?. How would job rotation be used to identify the hidden and right talents of the employee?. How would you handle wrong hire?. Would there be an automatic Performance improvement plan (PIP) pursued even when the employee is known to be ineffective?. Define what would be the right initiative taking behaviour? Would you want inexperienced employee to take decisions and react to customers without knowing the implications?. Loads of apologies and sorry may not bring back the customer lost or brand compromise.

One the cultural elements are broadly defined, roll out and practice with highest intensity. Do not take short cuts. If the objective is to create “quality outcome” driven culture’ do not promote “Chalta Hai” attitude. Curb it right away. Provide the feedback instantly rather than waiting for a formal review period.

While action speaks louder than words, communicating the results of actions is a must. Communicate positive results and behaviour. If an employee happens to be late always while reporting to work but prompt at checking out, communicate it rightly. If an employee’s quality of work is poor and does not meet client requirement, provide the feedback directly so that employee knows about it. If an employee is unable to justify the role he/she has been hired, communicate the alignment issues, and address the issue by allocating the employee based on their interest and competence.

Finally, a culture can only be sustained by continuous reinforcement in terms of its application and follow up. Handle transgressions with care, educate employees why adherence to rituals, participation in festivals and posting in Facebook is important.  If an employee is disgruntled for want of adherence educate him.  Remember the pain of discipline hurts far less than pain of regret.

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How to orchestrate effective viral marketing campaigns?

What do ALS ice bucket challenge, P&D Tampax, Unilever “Dove campaign for real beauty” Volkswagen: The Fun theory, Old Spice man aftershave or KLM surprise have in common. They are all good examples of how to plan and execute a successful viral marketing. Many believe viral marketing needs to have a whacky idea to attract interest/create suspense, and conversations amongst users and brand. Successful viral marketing campaigns go beyond these. Some common elements of good viral campaigns include: 1) surprise/interest element, 2) scalable idea unlimited by culture and religious restrictions, 3) persuasion by influencers, 4) exploit common motivations, and 5) market the marketing.

Surprise element is undoubtedly very important in viral marketing campaigns. The exhilarating moment packs the required spice of experience for individuals to stay connected with the campaigns. But the potential for disaster also lies within it. Toyota’s “the other you” game for advertising Matrix is a classic example. The rules of the game went like this; a person would sign up for his unwitting friend and then that friend would get stalked by strangers. The game not only scared the hell out of people, but also annoyed them. People felt that their privacy was infringed. Toyota focused too much on the surprise element while ignoring a very important factor – the emotions surprise is going to evoke. If the surprise doesn’t bring any pleasant emotions then the whole campaign goes for a toss.

ALS ice bucket or Volkswagen’s Fun theory campaigns like many other successful ones are scalable ideas that take an everyday activity and make it fun to positively affect people behavior. Volkswagen involved its targets/customer to series of experiments to find how these could make people healthier, environmentally conscious and safer, all the while creating a parallel experience with brand elements and the campaigns. Same goes for ALS which used a mundane daily activity of bathing into a ritual to raise awareness about ALS and seek donations through crowdsourcing. Co-creation where the company encourages users to become actively involved in the brand or product is a key component of viral marketing. This helps companies to stop selling to them, but instead market with them.

Persuasion by influencers, whether active or passive, is an important element of spread of viral marketing. Insights from social network theory reveal that “network central” influencers (one with many connections) are most effective to communicate the campaigns and if there is an element of persuasion, like invitation or challenge, people networked with influencers are baited to participate. ALS influencer invites are a case in point.

Social stigma’s of refusing a challenge or the need to be seen in the company of Page 3 is a “primal” drive which most successful campaigns cleverly exploit. The common motivations of Homo sapiens to be seen as the social animal, higher up in hierarchy helps people to donate and participate in events.

KLM using a similar surprise-and-delight strategy as Toyota identified irate passengers waiting for their flights ad presented them with thoughtful presents. The clincher in the campaign was actually the act being completely filmed live by a camera crew and that led to positive human emotional drama. This helped KLM use an effective marketing to connect and appeal to customers, but also market their marketing effectively.

Now onto some marketing campaigns that brought more bricks and bats than bouquets. The mistake of putting popularity above purpose is another factor. AT&T’s tweet had to face the consequences of doing it. AT&T uploaded a picture of a smart phone clicking 2 streaks of light at ground zero as a tribute to 9/11. The tweet had to be withdrawn immediately as it was considered offensive by a lot of people. Here the purpose was to pay the tribute but instead they tried to capitalize off of the emotions surrounding 9/11 for profit. A separate ad only for smart phone without linking it to 9/11 would have served the purpose. Well, they did get the popularity but only to tarnish their own image.

The marketers also seem to be overlooking the kind of conversations which are going to surround the campaign. Hyundai’s pathetic attempt to make suicide look funny created a lot of negative conversations. Some of the audiences could relate it to suicides of their closed ones and were tormented by the ad. It evoked bad memories and people went around talking about it which gave it a multiplier effect.

The 21st century audience is unforgiving as social media has emboldened them. Plan well to pursue viral marketing campaigns, ensure all elements are well packaged. With a small dosage of common sense and focus on objective, this aim is not unachievable.

Ajita Poudel

Young Dolphin Fellow

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Traditional yet Trendy, Marketing and branding insights from Paper Boat

August 2013, Hector Beverages forayed into the Indian juices and beverage market, dominated largely by MNC’s Coke and Pepsi, but with difference. It introduced two common irresistible Indian flavors ~ Aamras and Jaljeera, under the brand name of Paper Boat.  From a starry-eyed start up, Hector beverages has gained lots of fans and market. By clever dip into childhood memories of most average Indians, positioning itself as a health alternative, Paper Boat as captured the young and young-has been alike. How did they achieve this?

For a start, the brand name is unique and easy to remember. The name evokes the nostalgic days when one cajoled paper boats to sail through the rivulets or rain pods, with the feet kissing the wet earth and head covered by nothing more than a piece of cloth. The name ‘Paper Boat’ automatically recalls Childhood memories that subconsciously lead the customer to a ‘happier place’ or a ‘happier time’. Even though the brand name does not synch with the product category or the beverages industry, Paper Boat manages to create a Pleasant Experience with its unique combination of ‘Drinks and Memories’.

Second the product itself. As most of the ingredients are naturally available spices and condiments. It helps differentiate itself from the crowded aerated soft drinks with loads of sugar.  By going to back to “desi” roots and sticking onto natural bandwagon, Paper boat could very effectively play the health card. As the products can be used as starter drinks or post-meal digestives, “time of the day” were not a challenge. The flavors one sweet and other slat helped it to reach out to diabetic capital of the world and others at same time. Contrasting flavors found the plate of people with various palates. By keeping the taste closer to mom’s recipe the product endeared itself to ipad and no-pad generations.

Packaging also played an important role in accelerating sales of Paper Boat. With a unique and extremely appealing Packaging with sophisticated ‘matt finish’, the pack had a dignified and yet interesting look. The dynamically vibrant colors, cute doodles at the bottom and the Call out at the back recreates the Magic moments associated with every flavor of the drink served.

Most traditional drinks have bitten dust not because they got their milieu wrong, but the pricing. In a market dominated by Big sumo’s capable of quashing out competition through cheap product supported by heavy marketing and distribution, Paper boat got two things right. Its pricing of less than 50 cents (US) for a 250ml, and $2 for 1000ml, Hector beverages has cleverly positioned Paper Boat as a high quality and healthy beverage by setting competitive pricing.

Paper boat adopted a new style when it comes to distribution. It not only got shelf space for itself in local kirana stores to push the product into the market but also was willing to go that extra mile, well in this case a thousand miles perhaps. Yes, Paper Boats were served at around 10000 feet above sea level to the IndiGo Airline Passengers. Paper Boat also realized the need to as an aspirational brand and present in aspirational platforms like Coffee Shops like Barista and Star hotels like Trident etc.

For a company short on dollars, Hector beverages, cleverly used facebook posts to drive the product. With theme around bringing back childhood memories, connecting Paper Boat was easy. As bloggers and reviewers relived their first experiences of the two flavors with Paper Boats, taste buds were on fire and word of mouth raging.

It is a great story so far for a one year old. What lies ahead for Hector beverages?. What next steps?  To address these questions, I looked at similar upstarts in other markets. While there are many examples of traditional beers (most recent being Utah based beer brands taking on Budweiser), Adam Pritchard “Pomegreat” serves as a good example, what happens to a health brand that spread itself thin.  Launched in 2004,  it managed to get shelf space in Sainsbury and that is when the sales kicked off. It quickly moved from a £600,000 turnover company in 2005, to £15m in 2007. But the economic turndown in 2009 affected the company’s sourcing and revenue was reduced by over 20%. Recently acquired by Simple Great Drinks Company it is being rebranded as Simply Great.

The best Hector beverages must do is to imitate, a very successful brand in beverage market. Red Bull has built itself as a beverage brand by being frugal and focusing on functionality. With no significant investment in mass-marketing campaigns and endorsements, Red Bull marketing is largely community and WOM led. It carefully build customers for life, by allowing them to creatively interact with the brand, build their own “wings”. With no major investment in print media, banners or bill boards, promotions are amusement oriented. Its branding is deliberately “underground”, so that it can appeal to young people.  One size and one packaging has done wonders for Red Bull. Paper boat can become Beverage Partners for Events like Marathons or Run For a Cause etc. or even sport tournaments like IPL or the Kabaddi League.

To be successful and go international, Hector must also do some things Red Bull has not done. Since the Jaljeeras and Amras are all “utility” drinks, unlike Red Bull, Hector must focus on campaigns to reach out to convenience stores, Modern trade outlets (petrol stations, Pizza chains, Food courts at SEZs and IT Parks), Goli Vada pav (and other complementing players).  Product expansion into several “limbo”, “aam”, “seethapal” extensions is a must. Of the $6 Billion Indian soft drink industry (fuzzy drinks, juices, packaged water, 660 million cases by volume, packaged juices is just about 87 million cases. Of the remaining million cases, lemon segment is about 50%. Hector can use its increasing fan base to its benefits and come up with crowd sourcing ideas where they can set up an online social media campaign of people sharing their ideas and thoughts for Paper Boat. They must pursue “What’s your paper Boat story?” or “Introduce us to a long lost Indian flavour” strategy.

Hector beverage can also play a strategy that is more by accident than design. Paper Boats have found themselves into the shelves and kitchens of restaurants to be used for making Mocktails. Paper Boat Golgappe Mojto and Jaljeera Ice Tea are served in many restaurants. Can Hector exploit partners to increase revenue, popularity and visibility if the drinks are named after PaperBoat, just like McDonald’s Oreo Shake. That is worth pursuing.

Sai Gopika Ranganathan

Junior Consultant – Marketing

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Start-up success: whom not to hire

One of the common characteristic of most successful companies is the existence of a strong well knitted core team. The core team is the fulcrum around which the organizational learning, experience and knowledge gets ingrained. It is the team that ensures how ownership, initiative, overall organizational culture of the unit is defined and sustained over period. There are many articles written about what kinds of people to spot and recruit for core team. Some generic characteristics that must be avoided are:

Expiry date “selfie”.
They join a start-up not with the interest of gaining experience and be valuable, but join for gaining those stars that are missing on their jackets. Their primary objective of joining a start-up is to gain relevant experience required for completing a professional certification or gain employability in a newer field. Many of them have a definitive expiry date to work with, often coinciding with the professional bodies requirement. While they continue to hold their tasks and deliver results, they would abhor “ownership” and “leadership”. Once the expiry dates near, these associates may find issues with basic infrastructure or working culture and seek newer pastures.

Low integrity “partner”
Many a start-up break because the partners had their own agenda’s. Some would siphon off the revenues, overbill for expenses or spend on booze in Irish Pubs when their official commitments show they are at Down 0. Inflated travel bills, and oversized Pizza parties are early indicators of where the wind is tailing.

Dough only “Scamper”
While salary and perks are important, core team members like to take the challenge of building and sustaining a dream. Scampers may impress at interviews with their middle-class fire in the belly talk, but would dash for a few green ducks.

Sapping “Digger”
Most start-up trust their associates to contribute their might and may not have any formal review and monitor mechanisms. That is where some associates discover opportunities to run errands and businesses on side. Some join start-up to engage and formalize their life events like marriage and divorce. It is not uncommon to see an associate availing leaves for a one month marriage and on return promptly exiting the start-up.

Entrepreneurs building a successful start-up must consider what Dr Kurian, Father of Milk revolution in India, said of spotting long term associates. His mantra was simple, he would walk with them in the corridors of Amul Factory at Anand. He would spot who had picked up the trash he has wantonly thrown into a dust bin. Otherwise, he would accidently take the associate to an employee who has come with crumpled hair and attire and watch how the employee is addressed and motivated to come with better dress sense. His reasoning, love for a place, dignity of labour, sense of ownership and belongingness were all there to witness in that simple act.

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Jack at home but king abroad: How economy brands position as premium on international markets!!!!

From shy to outspoken, gloomy to vibrant, precocious to spontaneous, personality change is not only adopted by humans, brands also morph to a new environment. Be it Peroni’s success story in UK, Skoda Fabia’s repositioning in UK or Netflix in USA, companies have successfully pursued a strategy of premium positioning to command better margins and higher image from home markets. How do companies exploit this strategy?.

For Skoda, originally a Czech company and later acquired by Volkswagen what really worked was their promotional mix of TV and print campaign backed by direct mailings to the existing Skoda customers in UK. By imbibing the Volkswagen model, they were able to change the customer’s perception about Skoda from a “cheap” car to “value for money” car. Skoda’s desperation for rebranding was so extreme that they went as far as using “The Fabia is a car so good that you won’t believe it’s a Skoda”slogan in their ad campaign.Well, the desperation finally paid off because the campaign increased sales of Fabia as well as another model named Octavia by 29% when compared to previous year.

Peroni’s story is little different than that of Skoda’s. Peroni’s aid of “Golden Italian Days” in UK was the real spark behind the success. It gave the UK customers a feel of Italy by depicting the images of Italy of sixties. By invoking nostalgic feelings, Peroni was able to charge premium price for its beer.Netflix, has used “Playful Kiss” drama to attract viewers globally. Burberry of London, for Spanish markets created a premium positioning by adopting a strong classic element and improved fabric and other materials.

The strategy works when the customers are richer, but not well informed. Cultures which associate higher value to tradition, and heritage are the market where the strategy works more effectively, especially for hedonic products. Markets with colonial connections work best for some home brands and can actually lead to international success. British Dyson Vacuum cleaner exploited its British inventor origin and Britain connection to make an entry into Malaysian market and successfully compete with Electrolux and other brands. A grand old strategy perfected by many economy brands like Vichy, Thalion, Lancome in most part of Africa and Asian markets. 

The strategy also works when there is a culture wave. Take for example, Korean beauty brands which have discovered great internationalization opportunity in the wake of Gangnam Style shakes and hallyu. Korean companies with French sounding names like Mamonde, Laxara, Laneige have found a niche in China’s market by targeting people who like Korean Soap Opera or younger hipsters who croon to K-pop numbers.  What is common for all these brands is they have successfully used a local positioning global brand strategy, there by their marketing communication can reflect the local hues and required flavor. 

Ajita Poudel, Young Dolphin Fellow

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The relevance of B2B branding

Is branding required in the B2B context? In the B2C context companies like Coca-cola and Pepsi persuaded consumers that sugar water with some acids and coloring was better than water, and the in-thing to keep sipping all the time. If branding worked for them, it must have some relevance in the B2B context as well. At the same time, surveys have shown that most industrial brands are just labels and do not really have strong correlation with the qualitative attributes of the product.
Studies show that Business buyers are not necessarily value driven, but individuals in the Decision making units who aim to reduce risk and simplify evaluation by going in for brands that they resonate with. B2B decisions entail personal risk to the Decision maker. If things go wrong, their credentials in the company are at stake, and they could even suffer job loss. Hence a B2B brand not only needs to demonstrate business values, but also personal values. Hence the marketing message must have a rational as well as an emotive appeal. In fact, very few industrial buyers will change suppliers for small price differences. They would rather buy peace of mind. They may rationalize externally, quoting price, performance and features as important. But if we dig deep, they are actually buying trust, comfort. For example, when a corporate signs up with Taj Group of hotels, the decision makers in the administration department have a comfort that their top management will be taken care of at the hotels where they stay, and that there will be no reason for complaint.
Brands help as a means of communication of benefits and value. They help to set expectation on the product or service. The SERVICE QUALITY MODEL is of great importance here. Perceived quality of a branded product is higher than an unbranded product. In the B2B context, a brand achieves greater information efficiency and risk reduction, while in the B2C context there may be more of image value benefits.
However, B2B Branding approach needs to be holistic. There are two broad principles B2B must adhere to. Firstly, alignment. It has to message the right values to the customer as well as incorporate internal values and needs to be marketed within the organization, so that all are in sync. The spirit of the brand has to come across all functions in an organization and very importantly in marketing and sales functions. Consistent and effective marketing to build the brand on functional (like features, benefits), economic (price, time etc) and emotional parameters (like trust, peace of mind, solidity) has to happen.
Secondly, consistency. Often companies talk past their customers, and there is divergence between the core messages companies communicate and the brand characteristics that customers value the most. While companies may project a social responsibility angle, customers may be valuing efficiency or reliability. Hence a disciplined communication of values and messages is important.
When industrial companies benefit from business to business branding, it is often by accident rather than design. However, with a little extra effort and cost, the effect could be much improved loyalty, greater profitability and higher valuation of the firm. Finally, the most successful B2B brands have always kept it simple and stupid (KISS).

RM Sanjay, Director(Sales & Mktg Practice)

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Making your sales effective!!!

Many a times, the sales of a firm  starts off from the founder’s personal contacts and then expands into newer territories. As firms grow and expand, there is  need to diversify and derisk customer base, both in terms of revenue from a particular segment and percentage of contribution from a the top few customers. However, most companies find this desired state alluding, for many reasons. Sales structure, team reporting, carving of markets and sales measurements are the major roadblocks that hold back the company’s sales achievement. Many firms do not get the required ROI despite hiring more direct sales people, training them, and arming them with heavy technology & gadgets.  

How do you get your sales engine firing and delivering the expected results? Start with the basics of your sales strategy, what is the product or service, what would be the best channel to sell, is push or pull the right approach, commercial policies etc. Once your sales strategy is clear, evaluate the structure to see whether it is aligned to deliver the results. Do not just follow the herd by putting more direct costly sales resources, often a good combination of low cost backend and high touch direct sales force is not only useful but cost effective.  Identify systems that cane be deployed without much hoopla!. You do not need Bazooka’s to kill a fly. Do not buy overkill sales systems if you can keep your process simple and stupid.  Importantly, your systems must be able to allocate activities to resources, make them own and drive outcomes. Systems that require less monitoring and less control always work best. Keep away the burecarutic multi-report systems, they are just too much of file pushing, but no juice at the end of tunnel.  

The size and structure of the sales team is also important. The right account and territory assignments, the type of sales resources that you have, their effectiveness, the number of each type of resource, coverage of territory are issues to be kept in mind here.  Most companies make a cardinal mistake of allocating geographic regions interspersed with named accounts. This is a classical “falling between two stools” folly that one must avoid. Follow a simple principle – either geographic or account wise dedication, and stick to it for some time. Intelligent sales managers often rotate sales resources between the geographies to break the monotony and avoid the “familiarity breeds contempt” effect.

Most crucial, but often got wrong, is the issue of talent. Account mining is different from opening, hence characteristics of KAM is different from hunter. Having the right mix of hunters and harvesters is key to effective sales management.  Recruitment and selection of the right candidates, putting in place appropriate development and training plans for their sustained success is also a key component. There also has to be clarity on the sales culture that one needs to build and strengthen. If you want to create a group of interdependent collaborative sales teams, ensure the mining and acquisitions teams appreciate this aspect and are culturally attuned to this joint outcomes. Do not fall into the trap of aligning culture using incentives, it seldom works, especially in sales.  When high standards, clarity, transparency, teamwork and commitment are part of the culture and are followed diligently and imbibed in our systems, success is closer then imagined.

Finally sales can be only effective if it is fortified as a continuous and learning system. Systems to gather competitive intelligence, sales support, performance management, rewards & recognition and IT systems such as CRM, KM, BI etc., are all typical support systems that need to be aligned. Hence, building a high performance sales organization is not just about hiring more sales people, or using technology. It is about putting in place all the inter-dependant components in the system that will fire in unison. While the above list is by no means exhaustive, they are just some of the inter-dependencies that need to be built and aligned to have a reliable, consistent and effective sales organization.

 R. M Sanjay, Director (Sales and Marketing Practice)


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