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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Stemming the flow of tech start ups???

With new government in town, industry associations and clubs are vigorously raising the ante on many issues of significance to technology start ups. The most recent one being that of Indian origin tech start up’s of Indian origin registering in USA or Singapore or other markets. Are Indian start ups reaching out to these countries because they are endowed with quality research-intensive universities and institutes and availability of highly skilled manpower?. Or it the “country of origin” effect that tilts the scale in favour of developed countries, especially in enterprise application space?. Or is it the special tax exemptions, tax holidays, export and import based incentives, losses against future profits and accelerated capital depreciation as claimed by VC clubs and industry associations?. Is it the exuberating wait of two weeks to register a firm (which is a very insignificant activity considering the host of activities and challenges the start up has to face later) compared to two hours that tilts the decision?. Are these good enough reasons for a product start up to move lock stock and barrel from India and move to these far away shores. Proponents of global trade and one with knowledge of how VC’s cohorts work recognize this has got nothing to do the efficiencies of these regional market but more with how perception of valuation and network work in their favour.
Industry groups and clubs have are recommending government to create a large corpus and invest along with VC’s in the start up, a very laudable “Le Las Vegas Model”. Sherlock would have wanted industry leaders and association representatives who probably had a ring side view of the lacunae and lopsided policies seek more elementary logic. What do Indian technology start ups suffer from, access to high quality infrastructure or access to funds or access to scale up?.
Infrastructure policies including SEZ (often in far flung areas from CBD) can be great vehicle to attract service companies, they have seldom looked at access to high quality infrastructure meeting the requirements of small teams. In many national level institutes, while there is large tracts of space available, ease of access for not so well connected entrepreneur is a challenge. Unscientific spread of costly tax payer money into duplicate incubation facilities has impacted scale of available infrastructure. As often many successful start up’s find their relative flats in Residency Road or small office in Basavanagudi coming to their rescue. Fortunately, infrastructure is a surmountable problem and does not limit the innovative output of technology start up’s, at least not the software products.
On the access to funds front, there are many prizes and awards available for technology start ups, a back of the envelope calculations indicate close to 1400 Crores across several Central and state government schemes. Many are lost in the myriad of departmental allocations and silos, and thus unable to support world class interdisciplinary technology start ups. There are also collateral free schemes like CGSTME which are supposed to fill in the viability gap for an early start up without encumbering the entrepreneur. Unfortunately, most CGSTME loans in reality require collateral and the limit of Rs 1 Crore may not be enough to support the start up beyond 9 months. Another reality check, most bankers would be happy to allocate CGSTME loans only if a VC has already blessed the start up with some investment!. Financial additionality (FA) referring to availability of funds to start ups that would not have been available in the absence of the scheme needs a relook. Many of member lending institutions (MLI) of the scheme including SBI, Canara Bank or RRB have disbursed less that 40% of their budgeted allocations. Over 50% of the disbursement of the funds is for less than 2 lakhs!. Imagine building world class software products with such a large sum. Fortunately, most find raising money from wife, extended family or friends easier to start and hope they waddle trough service revenues to sustain their technology product dream.
Even when technology start ups survive the harsh infrastructure and funding conditions, what really breaks the bone of these businesses is the limits to scale. In most of these “start up destinations”, a major push for domestic technology companies comes from their respective government. E-governance, defence and education sectors are where their respective government not only set-aside markets for their domestic technology start ups, but actively protect this turf from any encroachment. The generous act of their governments helps these companies to assiduously gain scale and build robust products. These government also extensively use their export-import mechanisms including lending institutions to actively promote these technologies in other countries. Many such generous acts carry Singapore or USA products into Middle East or African markets. Imagine what would happen if there are 10-15 domestic technology products that could be used in accelerated power programme or public health or government distribution, all enjoying an adoption of 3 -20 million users per year. That scale is sure to salivate whichever coast VC. Imagine if 5-10 Tally’s could be taught at the government colleges and the exalted institutes of excellence, all gaining a user base of 5 Million per year. If Microsoft has found more enthusiastic raiders in India, it is not for any other reason, but its marketing muscle and reach. Do you wish the stems of technology start ups grow stronger and emerge as trunks, then Watson, it is very elementary support them to grow. Give them space, nurture them and prune them to spread. Very elementary.

Dr TR Madan Mohan

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Rename & Rebrand for Success!

A good book always needs a catchy title to get the attention of roaming eyes of onlooker and induce him to buy and convert him to a reader. At the same time the name should also be relevant to the plot. Not all books can have “no branding” strategy as successfully exploited by author Naomi Klein. No name strategy is unlikely to fly if you are a company or product. Legal and differentiation require one to embrace a name.  Like books, the name of a company should also be easy to recall and must create an interest in the minds of the people. Even in the ancient era, Kings named and also created symbols for their Kingdoms by which people recognized them and identified them for generations.

In this Start-Up era companies have come up with the most creative names which are easily recognizable. The etymology of names for a business makes the impact in the minds of the customers. Most common and famous etymologies used in names recently are the removal of vowels (Flickr, Quikr, Scribd etc.), use of most common words with unique suffixes (Spotify, Mashable etc.).  There are many famous companies which have become extremely popular only when they renamed themselves. Few examples would be, Andersen Consulting which is now popularly known as Accenture, Lucky and Goldstar which is now known worldwide as LG, Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation is now the famous SONY, Blue Ribbon Sports which later became the one of leaders in the sports wear industry – Adidas.

The most common reasons why most companies opt for a name change are

  • Renaming dictated by merger
  • Name associated with failures
  • Name not appropriate for NEW world markets when it comes to GLOBALIZATION.
  • Difficult to remember
  • Name changes according to Vaastu and Feng Shui
  • Name is outdated in terminology  : Name has to appeal to a NEW & more affluent market
  • Name has negative connotations in the new markets they are serving
  • Name need to reposition & new the corporate brand
  • Name is against cultural norms in different states
  • Name is geographically restrictive
  • Name is limiting in range of operations
  • Name no longer fits in the businesses they are in
  • Name is in trademark conflict
  • Name is misleading to customers
  • Difficult to pronounce
  • Name is Too long

The various steps to be followed in renaming a company is 1)Define the purpose for renaming 2)List out various names according to the purpose 3) Shortlisting of the names 4)Select a winner 5) Validate the name with existing companies and domains 6) Repeat from Step 3 if validation fails.

Think both creatively and strategically when naming/renaming a company. Cool sounding names don’t always become a winner. While selecting the name, firstly the company should measure the emotional value or sensitiveness of the existing name in the minds of the customer. Secondly, check for compatibility with the product or service provided by the company and whether a customer will be able to relate the company to a product or service when he/she hears the name. Thirdly follow the basic naming rules like keep it short, unique, easily recallable and easy to pronounce. Renaming a company can open up new opportunities in the market for the company. It’s like coming in for a second innings but only to play it better with the proper strategy.

Kaarthik Shakthi R

Junior Consultant – Marketing

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OEMs/Dealers; Get Your Basics Right!

While aftermarket revenues could contribute an upward 30-50% of existing revenues, many OEMs are not prepared to gain from it. Most OEMs fail to meet their service level agreement which subsequently leads to decrease in customer loyalty and negative word of mouth. Why does this happen? It is simply because they do not manage their weakest link in the chain, dealers.

The major reasons why dealers fail to deliver an effective after-market service. One is the lack of agency and incentive alignment. Dealers find managing post-sale operations cumbersome and are just happy to skim the revenue from fresh sales only. Many dealers lack the necessary skilled resources, inventory but just gloss over service commitment. Secondly, Lack of comprehensive supply chain management, and ineffective SOPs from OEMs compound the matter further. So it is quite common to see customers waiting for a free vehicle pick up promised by OEM and also an unreachable dealer service desk. Customers planning to drop their vehicles at dealer showrooms and catch their Monday morning work schedule, beware! You may end up waiting in the lobby for hours. Dealers of many world class OEMs are woefully short of qualified human resources. Spare parts unavailability or delay in shipping spare parts is a common problem. Lo, that is not the end of agony, even after getting the vehicle well past the promised delivery date; customer must be prepared to see recurrence of earlier complaints or some new larger issue surfacing after the service.

What is the way out for OEMs? Incentivize service and parts business for your dealer. Invest in basic training and evaluation of dealer staff across after-cycle process. Invest in your own resources not just at sales cycle but at after-service cycle also. Manage parts availability and protect grey market penetration.

If you are a dealer, bring down the walls within your organization. Too many departments working at loggerhead with each other does not help you. Ensure information flow & communication happens seamlessly and data visibility is high. Adopt SOPs as they help you to know the productivity and revenue generation opportunities you may be currently missing.  Training and employee engagement is very crucial to effectively gain cost advantage. Drivers, technicians, bay engineers must be incentivized for ownership, initiative and quality of outcome.

Banu Priya P
Junior Consultant – Marketing

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GOCO pill for efficient running of government hospitals

With over 12,760 hospitals and over 24,000 primary health care centers, public health care forms the backbone of India’s health care services. However, many studies on utilization of health care facilities indicate that citizens prefer private health care over state run public hospitals for the cost and quality of services provided. Research studies indicate that over 80% of citizens prefer to use private sector facilities for minor ailments, even when higher quality doctors are available at public hospitals. Studies also highlight 78% of household prefers to go to private sector to private sector for their cleanliness and professional handling of patients. Several studies indicate while many state run hospitals are staffed with better quality and more experienced doctors, it is the infrastructure and service issues that turn many patients away. Dismal sanitary conditions, long waiting times, lack of basic HMIS, high infection rates, and substantial clinical care are some key issues that force the public health care facilities out of choice set. The other significant factor is rude behavior of staff and functioning of the hospitals. While cost of treatment in government hospitals may be free, bribery, insensitive behavior, limited working hours dissuade the use of public health care systems. CAG audit reports also point out to inefficient use of public funds. Many hospitals had Digital X-Ray, Pet scan machines lying for years in open and rusted, as they could not hire competent staff to man the job.  One eminent government administrator mulled about 40% of funds go unutilized and about 30% of the instruments including OT end up as scrap as preventive maintenance is given a go by. Political interventions, inbreeding and bureaucracy precipitate inefficiency and apathy.

Several state governments in India have recognized the need to bring in efficiency, affordability and higher reach of state health care system. States of Karnataka, Gujarat, Kerala have introduced novel PPP mechanisms, including insurance schemes to cover the economically weaker sections. While exceptions like Jayadeva Hospital, Bangalore and Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Research Institute, New Delhi may exist, many suffer from poor infrastructure, lack of motivated staff, poor sanitation and hygiene issues. State governments have brought in concrete steps to address service quality and implement continuous quality improvements. While insurance and other related PPP interventions have certainly improved the access to better quality health care to underprivileged population. However, the fundamental issue with improving the hygiene and service quality of government run hospitals has not been addressed. Governance, management of efficiency and effective utilization of resources has been given a go by.

Should state governments adopt a proven PPP approach used in military complexes to efficiently run the hospitals. Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) model is a proven model where industrial, academic and non-profit organizations manage government national labs.  A GOCO model enables each partner to perform relevant duties. The government subsidizes the healthcare mission, increases reach and use of affordable healthcare, while private sector implements the mission and manages using best business practices.  Several state governments, Karnataka, TN, J&K, Maharashtra have tried limited GOCO approach by letting 3rd party private players run and manage the diagnostic facilities. Private firms (install) or manage the machinery, maintain and offer the services at prescribed government rates to reach out across various segments. Below poverty line (BPL) families benefit from affordable diagnostic services and public funds are effectively used to primarily serve the healthcare mission and generate revenues.

While this limited outsourcing has brought in technical efficiency in only one department, overall management and effectiveness need further exploration. State governments must explore complete GOCO approach to allow private partner to run the hospital efficiently. Many challenges like insufficient doctors, inability to attract specialists, lack of appropriate rewards and recognition systems to motivate employees, that currently affect state run hospitals to achieve greater heights can be rightly addressed by GOCO partner. The GOCO partner a trust or an academic institution or an industry partner can bring managerial efficiency and high quality delivery focus, while state governments can successfully pursue appropriate investment and high impact mission goals.

However, switching over to the GOCO model is not going to be easy. State governments need strong political will, transparent and efficient process to identify the right partners and importantly the right structure and process to manage the GOCO contract. Creation of an independent board under the chairmanship of district administration with members consisting of prominent citizens, elected representatives, members of Medical council, GOCO partner is a must.  GOCO operations must also be aligned with the health mission using performance frameworks such as results based framework (RBM).

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Privatization of national scientific organizations

Scientific organizations are a crucial part of national innovation system (NIS). They create a pool of scientific resources who are employed in creating relevant scientific innovations for the nations. These research organizations help in technological advancement of the industry by transferring lab-proven technologies to commercialization. They may be engaged in development of civilian technologies such as agriculture, Food, or IT or defence and related technologies.  In developing countries context, these research labs help in accessing and developing trade restricted technologies. They also help increase the nation’s bargaining power at international technology negotiation tables. However, one fundamental flaw with these organizations is that they are designed to fail and falter in long term. Their structures are too bureaucratic, they have low flexibility to hire and disengage talent as the need be, have administrative challenges in matching salary and other benefits to attract the best minds, contribution and engagement with industry is arms-length and have very few sources of revenue generation. Most of the organizations, even those involved in applied science and technology areas, become too dependent on federal grants to survive.

In this background, governments across the world are trying various approaches including privatization to bring in competitiveness and sustainability into these organizations. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has reduced its total number of labs from 42 to 38. The federal government defence lab establishment, DRDO is leveraging the business expertise of the private sector by partnering with FICCI to market 40 of its most promising dual-use technologies. 26 of its 50 laboratories are participating in the venture, and the DRDO intends to consolidate and reduce its number of 50 laboratories to manageable less than 10 labs.  Governments have also pursued complete divestment of R&D labs, for example Centre for development of Telematics (C-DOT) has been acquired by Alcatel.

Privatization enables organizations stemmed in the “science and commercialization push” regime of the past to embrace and deliver the “demand pull” of business engagement with markets and customers today. Privatization can yield several benefits. The elimination of bureaucracy allows selective hiring and retaining of manpower, raising overall productivity.  PPPs also enable cost-sharing, while preserving the expertise of technology transfer processes and commercialization techniques. These are areas where the private sector is likely to possess a strategic advantage, both in experience and business acumen.

What are the necessary elements of privatization that set the tone for success? The experiences of other nations in R&D partnerships offer valuable insights. The United Kingdom has been especially successful in privatization of its government-owned R&D entities. Through a structured approach, identified labs are driven to satisfy a set of defined goals, typically consisting of cost recovery through sale of products or services, cost reductions and meeting task deadlines within allocated budgets.  Labs are exposed to participating in the market-based tendering process and are gradually moved away from their association with the government. Post privatization, labs continued to receive government orders and obtain funding through statutory government processes for a limited period.  The United States has approached privatization of public research labs through direct private participation in R&D consortiums, or by adopting a Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) model. European nations such as Norway, Sweden and Finland have pursued some hybrid models of privatization, mostly preserving government ownership but with significant private sector policy adoptions.

Given this diversity in the approach to privatization, what model has works best for countries like India?. While there are no informed analysis on the approaches the outcomes yet, successes and failures of privatization is salient upon: (1) a clear objective to facilitate the building of necessary capital, after evaluating market potential (2) creation of a collaborative environment conducive to the sharing of technical know-how (3) attraction of the greatest minds with top class talent across the country (4) a smooth technology transfer process across establishments to enable successful commercialization of a product or proprietary knowledge. Certainly, there is no ‘cookie cutter’ approach to be applied to all R&D facilities owned by the government. Each entity should be evaluated for its contribution to the technology pool of the country, and more importantly, assessed on whether conversion to the private sector will possibly make the entity more productive and efficient.  An additional factor to consider is the uniqueness of the lab in terms of human resources, processes and infrastructure. A government R&D lab with unique research resources and facilities is likely to have a network of research relationships that extends beyond government agencies. Increasing the competitiveness of the R&D sector will determine whether India can sustain its S&T advantages over time, while catering to our national interests of security and economic development.

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Elementary, Mr Watson, “Focus”!!

Polaris announced separation of its products and service divisions. Infosys also announced separation of its products and platform division from the rest of services. So why are Indian software companies rushing to redefine SBU? What is the grand strategy in creating separate divisions?  Has this happened in other industries too?

More than a decade ago, World class manufacturing (WCM) companies, realized the value of focus and dedication. Companies like Toyota, Copeland corporation (part of Emerson group) and others have implemented simple 3 link WCM method to ensure their SBU’s are profitable. First, these companies separated the production lines that required high customization and low volume from those that were high volume and highly standardized ones. Second, the management process focused on efficiency and utilization in one group, while the other was aligned to capturing customer requirement and eliminating rework and waste.  Manpower resources with different skills are aligned for different SBU. High customization and low volume require resources with significant experience, often with ability to work independently. On the other hand, younger workforce may be better suited to high volume, standardized production set-ups. Finally, the incentive structures will be aligned differently for these two groups. More individual, piece-oriented incentives for high volume set-ups and group based for low volume customization set-up.

Service businesses, including hospitality, have adopted similar strategy. Hotel properties have been grouped into business, leisure and luxury with separate branding, customer experience and resources. Indian IT industry, which has enjoyed the benevolent market friendly years till now, is at cross roads. Companies understand product business with higher EBITAs, longer sales and implementation cycles and higher investments in terms of people and expertise is much different from service business. Unlike service business, the product business is sticky, monetization and protection of services is much higher and highly scalable. Product business require not just good software engineers, but also people who can bring years of domain experience to help you  build state-of-art products. Partner ecosystem can help in increasing the reach, entry barriers are high and complementary strategies can be effectively deployed to grow business. Service business, are high on “commoditization” axis, suffer from lower EBITA’s, have higher receivable cycles and associated working capital woes. If your company engages with government, additional Bank guarantees (BG) and approval cycles test the nerve of CFO.

Indian software companies have to quickly realize the intrinsic value of each business and see how they could be cut loose to grow independently. Indian companies have to quickly learn to move beyond “Business as usual (BAU)”, and adopt sensible strategies to defend and grow business. Expect more companies to streamline operations, bring dedicated focus in SBU, and align tighter organizational process and measurement systems.

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Make customers own stories around your product/services.

Creating a memorable experience for customers is what makes a customer come back again. Unique products and experiences make a customer talk about the product and the company. Designing and creating this unique experience requires “sensemaking”. It is all about understanding how the customer would be consuming your product/service, what associations trigger when consuming it and what settings drive “stickiness” and loyalty. Both online and offline business are finding ways to involve the customer in creating their own stories of association and personalize the experience better.

The best examples are from street food stars. One such joint allows customers to customize the topping on dosa (Pancakes), in fact they claim to be a 100 dosa joint. Customers regale how they recommended the variety and some of them are named after their customers. Another unique joint, is Tom’s restaurant in Bangalore, which allows you to create a product, taste it and approve it for others to consume. Kapil 65 is a good old chicken recipe that has been created by a customer in the euphoria of Indian winning the world cup and it is still a crowd puller. Tom’s has a wall where the customer’s name is inscribed with the dish and experience. Consumers as co-creators and idea generators is well understood and Eric Von Hippel of MIT has done ground breaking work on user-led innovations.

Hotels & resorts design unique interfaces for customers to share their experiences and influence decision-making of others. Vintage hotels benefit largely by actively persuading their customers to share and post their experience. However, the major challenge in customer stories is the authenticity of user and their experience. Most website, only have text recommendations and many of the names may look suspect or sponsored. Creating a platform for authentic customer stories requires to understand what people may like to see in the content and how they can relate to the experience. One of the most unique examples for building customer stories is They have a separate section called “Customer Stories” on their social media page where a customer can upload a personalized photo of the product (furniture or décor) at their house and they also write their experience of shopping and how helpful was with their purchase. This personalized form of review would not only help the business grow but also ensures the loyalty of the customer for their next purchase.

Kaarthik Shakthi R

Junior Consultant – Marketing & Social Media

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CSR audit and management through RBM

Recently the Government of India has promulgated an order as per the Companies Act 2013 that stipulate companies with a turnover of Rs. 1,000 crore or more or net worth of Rs. 500 crore or more or net profit of Rs. 5 crore spend every year at least 2 per cent of their average net profit over the preceding three years as a part of CSR. According to the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, of the 1.3 million companies in India, about 6,000-7,000 companies are covered under the new CSR rule, expecting an annual CSR spending of Rs 15,000-20,000 crore by India.CSR is the commitment of businesses to contribute to sustainable economic development by working with employees, their families, the local community and society at large, to improve their lives in ways that are good for business and for development (World Bank). Companies realize CSR can be successfully used to 1) create brand awareness, 2) increase employee participation and bonding, 3) improve community relationships and 4) ensure corporate accountability. Many companies are pursuing CSR as an obligation rather than focussing it as a strategic program with long term benefits. Most common statement one hears in the corporate corridors is that they have engaged an NGO to distribute food or plant trees or blood donation camps. Managing CSR must start with what are your corporate objectives?. What social activities are consistent with your founding principles and business?. What values do your want your employee want to enshrine and be associated with?.  

We suggest companies first do a CSR audit and then use RBM to manage the CSR process incorporating the best of GRI G4 and ISO 26000:2010 guidelines. CSR audit can be done by internal resources or external consultants. The first step in CSR is to assess your current practices and any violations from your CSR charter. Start with your mission statement, and CSR mandate and check whether any of your vendors, employees have violated any of the principles. Do an RCA and identify approaches to stem the outlier. Evaluate how your customers and employees think about your company, competitors and how your business plans are consistent with the mission mandate. Assess positives and negatives, the trends and directions to chalk out the next steps. Once an CSR as-is evaluation is done, share it internally to get feedback on the status and what areas could be improved.

Next, do a benchmark analysis covering industry-wide ethical practices, corporate code of conduct best practices, what social cause programs have yielded the best results and why, what have not worked, what are the trends, etc. Forecast the next 5 years investments set-aside for CSR activities, what CSR activities can add value to the society and the organization in terms of impact and branding. Identify which NGO activities and plans align with your short-term and long-term goals. Use Result based management (RBM), a strategy management tool for planning and performance evaluation to align the investments across various projects of different NGOs. RBM helps to measure the result of the activities periodically and emphasize more on what is to be accomplished. RBM has various dimensions. Results are realistic, risks are identified and managed and appropriate indicators are used to monitor the progress of the expected results. These indicators help the organization in assessing whether or not the activities are yielding the desired results. RBM helps to bring clarity on the purpose of the programme and the desired results from the very beginning. RBM captures the progress of activities in short, medium and long term, thus helping your company know how CSR is working, what activities are yielding the most and what partner activities are most promising. CSR is an important element to just outsource, own and manage it to see better business impact.

 Pratibha Sharma and Deepesh M 

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