Riding the Podcasting Wave

Of late many marketers are realizing good audio can be equally effective as a great picture or video. Companies in B2B and B2C markets are using podcasts to engage customers using good old Radio chat format or just plain talk. Podcasting, simple put is audio records that can be accessed from anywhere. Podcasts can be around a product or service offered, talk about company’s culture or credibility building with case studies and experience sharing. Marriott Hotels, Shopify, IBM, GE and many more have successfully used podcasts as a means to reach out to prospective customers and differentiate their offerings.  Podcasts are a great means to reach out to customer who may be more aural in their learning orientation. Podcasts are also useful vehicles to build communities of consumption for fashion, hosiery, education and advisory sectors.

Podcasts can come in many avatars. Most common ones are solo, co-hosted, interview, documentary, and round table format. Solo Podcasts have only one narrator who anchors the podcast. Keeping the narration peppy, interesting and experience or insight led are keys to successful solo podcasts. Co- hosted is the most widely used format wherein host(s) and guest go over a particular topic. $100 MBA, with its tongue in cheek banter, is a classic example for a co-hosted podcast. Co-hosted can be successfully used to position the experience of your company, its capabilities, share client stories or product innovations. Interview format typically has a senior executive interviewed by a host(s) and couple of specialists pouring ideas over a cup.  Marriott Hotel’s “Behind the Design” is a classy and successful podcast where the hosts interview a variety of people, talk about various issues and contextualize the experience around hospitality. Interview formats work best when the objective is more about reach than substance. It also works best for user-driven content generation campaigns. Roundtable format is a large size replica of interview format, best suited to showcase multiple perspectives around a product or service or a topic. Documentary type podcast is usually used to trace the historical roots and expansions of a company or a product.

Whichever format is used, some common rules make a podcast sail above the rest. Some companies use an external artiste with a baritone voice for professional speaking, often to address company of origin effects. Others play authenticity as a card showcasing their senior executives presenting their products and services.  A strong story telling experience with nuanced voice modulation and little theatricals work wonders. The general length of the podcast depends on the topic, but on an average it should range anywhere between 2 to 10 minutes. A Podcast will generally require more than a $50 USB Microphone and hosting plans that cost less than a sandwich. The Title, content and the length of a Podcast too are important factors to consider when you look at the type of listeners you are targeting. While scripting a podcast, ensure you have a great mix of emotions: humor; drama, and mystery. Chisel words carefully for effect, especially the closure. The Podcast can be hosted on popular platforms including: SoundCloud, followed by Podbean, BuzzSprout, Lisbyn, etc. Each have their own advantages and you can choose the one which best suits your needs. Podcasting platforms also come with analytics that can help you get finer insights. The content creators can now track more granular information including device level, city level and time of consumption.

Although Podcast won’t go viral like the images or the video, it surely can generate a sizeable number of downloads. To increase the virility of podcast companies may employ following strategies. Put a picture or a video with the Podcast. Example, Adam Carolla uploaded American images and videos so that Americans could beat the Brit. Secondly, put write SEO worthy content around your podcast. Titles play the deciding factor when a person wants to listen to a Podcast, so it is necessary to have a title that brings about interest in the topic being narrated. Distribution plays a major role in success of your podcast. ITunes has about a billion podcast subscriptions it would be a wise move to host your podcast as many people would end up seeing your content and this is a chance to get your content to go viral. Use other social media like Pinterest and LinkedIn to increase the reach and interest in your podcasts. Cross promotion with other Podcasters is also another way to draw traffic to your podcast. Finally, working with influencers, mostly paid is an approach that could be used to increase number of listeners. Sites like “Influence.co” lists the Influencers who could be actively engaged for this purpose. We can only brag and drum about our content for a certain while, and likes and feedbacks may not be helping you much. Succotosh, The Timbre and other sites offer 3rd party review of your podcast and fine tune your overall content and its packaging.

Podcast is an affordable and simple medium that works best for companies which do not have major investments into visual mediums. Combining Podcasts with other social media assets enables a company to pursue a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Vijay Krishna J, Junior Consultant (Marketing)

Identifying an emergent online influencer

Social media has is ubiquitous. It is not only influencing how we consume information, but also what we purchase online. Amongst the many hooks brand have in reaching out and influencing our purchase, Influencers are emerging as key players. They not only help narrow search towards a brand, but influence its purchase and advocacy of its consumption. Influencers are key trust enabler online. A Nielsen study shows that 99% of people trust peer recommendations over direct advertisement in online. Surprisingly, these influencers need not be successful Formula 1 racers or Movie celebrities. Segments such as Young adults and Teens seem to more dispose to influencers rather than celebrities. These are men and women who the online community can relate to. Their pole opinions, informed pokes, encouraging likes and re-tweets and acidic flares draws eyeballs and friends and foes in equal measure. Influencers come in many forms. Some may bring their credibility as industry watchers, experienced geeks or some just being the gate keepers or conscientious conscious baiters. Loads of their online actions that build on latent commonality and explicit posturing makes them unique and relatable to other online consumers.

Working with influencers can be costly proposition for brands. Identifying and continuous engagement with influencers requires investments and efforts to realize the benefits. Influencer aggregate sites like Tribe prove effective for large brands that wish to hire an influencer or growth hacker.  Growing brands can pursue an organic approach to influencer marketing. Smarter companies pursue a smarter strategy of catching larvae early before it transform to a beautiful butterfly. They gain a larger traction and higher return on investment on influencer marketing by creating a portfolio of “emergent stars” rather than “shining stars”. Investing in emergent influencers is a cost effective solution.

So how do you choose an emerging influencer?.  It is somewhat similar to how VC’s bet on startups and Horseplayers betting on the thoroughbred. Three common rules rule the game. First, check their online actions and sprints. Details of actions such as likes, poke, flares and comments serve as a useful DNA print of the likely influencer. Tools such as Buzzsumo, Social sprout and LinkedIn can be used to identify emergent influencers based on re-tweets, action ability, comments, likes and flares an individual can gather and create. A certain Facebook brand has around 2,500 likes on its page, but its engagement is very high. This person can become an Influencer even though he/she has less than 10,000 likes. Through this we can concur that anybody with a potential can become an Influencer.

Influencer identification based on metric alone has its shortcomings. Check for the background, their online persona, their grunts and groans, and huzzah and hoorays. Evaluate whether there is a fit with your brand and its personality. what is alignment with their values and your brand promise.  Check for the type of content, its originality, and  how his/her comments are perceived by the people. If his comments are aligned with the audience or do they bring about “online rage”.

Next is their scalability, will they be limited to an industry or a micro-group or have potential to be relevant across different segments. Remember both micro-influencers and global influencers have a role to play in your social media strategy. People with a penchant to engage with broader meaningful topics that cut across geography, race, religion, interest and consumption have a high potential to scale across segments. Smarter companies distribute their investments on multiple emergent influencers to de-risk their investments and maximize influencer ROI.  Select across sports, across regions, industries. Ensure industries with high market potential and addressable market get preference in investments.

Finally, how malleable the Influencer will be open to working with your brand. A budding influencer can embrace many roles. She could use different approaches to help peddle your brand. She could span a whole range of content influence strategy, right from basic inform approach to referential, comparison and endorsement types. The latter show a higher disposition to align and embracement around your brand and hence the influencer moves beyond inform stage to influence to advocacy.  Define appropriate win-win gains to quickly traverse a likely influencer move from on-the sides information provider to an insider. Brands get value from Influence based Marketing activities over a considerable amount of time. Unlike a brand advocate the market planning horizon is long term oriented. An inflexible yet high potential emergent influencer may not be as valuable as a malleable co-partner.

Vijay Krishna J

Revive = Restructure + Rebuild

In a VUCA world, it is not uncommon to see many companies tumbling down the aisle. Mismanagement, poor decision making, commoditization, radical market changes, leadership exits, founder’s demise or even a maverick competitor can make a sure step company loose its steps. Reviving near death companies not only needs restructuring but simultaneous rebuilding efforts.  In our experience of working with companies across verticals we find management may pursue common interim strategies to revive the company.

Firstly, revival plans have to be more directional and dynamic, rather than grandiose. Board and the CEO must have a broad 6 quarter plan, but ensure your planning windows are smaller just 3 quarter rolling plans, and feedback is continuously used to quickly respond to market cues.  View 20,000 square feet but eye what is happening on ground simultaneously.  Assess the product lines, identify core one to invest and drop the “me-too” products. Identify what minimum variants are required to cover the market and limit the variety. Better ensure about 70% of parts and processes are common to gain from procurement and production economics. Identify approaches to become asset light including facility sharing, outsourcing, partial-sell off.  Evaluate options to tap overseas markets including acquiring bankrupt or going out of businesses to gain access to key markets and newer models. Define partner ecosystem that can help increase market reach, and product improvements on a success fee model than investment model. Evaluate methods to shorten supply chains so that they could be served faster and with quality products. Assess methods to lower freight costs including assembly at site options and associated changes that may be required across the company.

On the finance front, conserve cash and invest in quick cash generation activities that may not need any investment (services and spares), cut unproductive capex and cost. Develop a cash management system and forecasting system to manage short term liquidity and efficiently manage working capital. Implement cost reduction and operational efficiency improvement activities. Discover the money your companies is leaving from post sales service and parts on table. Invest in a small team to sell services and spares. Work on your existing customer base and devise campaigns to upsell mandated parts and services. Integrate your post sales process, ensure parts and services are monetized effectively, first call responses are high and customer feedback on services has a positive impact on sales. Identify methods to reduce inventory including parts substitution, supersession or sale.

Identify process bottlenecks and operational inefficiencies. Devise simple systems to improve quality and response.   Investing in customer relations to build relationship capital, but also defend your territories from your competitors. Shed away from centralized hierarchical decision making to flatter organization and an empowered sales team that not only covers the market, but also scans the flourish of ideas and friction at the customer end.  Focus on doing more for less on sales front. Pursue a G5 customer strategy, largest five customers who offer multiple revenue monetization opportunities. Reorganize regional and product specific sales teams. Cross train, consolidate and upgrade sales skills.

Prune marketing costs and direct low cost social media and community branding efforts that help in dampening the negative vibes associated with the products and company. Build a simple reporting system that help in addressing how various units are delivering to mission, whether they are getting the maximum impact they from their expenditures and how effectively they are utilizing their budgets. Discard monthly or bi-weekly published reports and review, instead resort to open oral discussions on subsequent days or weekly that keep information flowing where it needs to go and cutting down the time on review prep work.


Team reconstruction is the heart of rebuilding the company. On the leadership front, what is needed is a firm hand with a gentle approach. Be focussed, direction obsessed without being overbearing. Soliciting perspective and opinions is welcome, but it must not paralyze decision making. A quick turnaround requires associates who can take challenges, unlearn, learn and re-learn skills. Team reconstruction is the heart of rebuilding the company. To succeed in turnaround, you need associates who believe the rewiring and can commit the requisite efforts. Ensure rumour wagons are derailed, communicate why things did not work earlier and how things are going to be different now. A tough call, but one required is to sidestep or ease out Smart Alec ‘s who can’t own and drive a team. Re-invigorate the team and ensure you have got the right people in the room to make things work.  Focus on achieving short term results that will have positive impact.  These small wins are essential to rebuilding the company. Rebuild the team by anticipating associates fears, anxieties and expectations. Avoid focus only on sales and numbers, invest enough to rebuild morale. Restructure with re-motivation.

Dr TR Madan Mohan and D Balasubramaniam

From furrows: Independent directors in unlisted private limited companies

Most companies in India are promoter-controlled and promoter-managed. Private limited companies are the most prevalent form of formation. Often the promoter and family constitute the board. In this kind of a set up the largest shareholder also holds management reigns and agency problems that arise in investor led companies does not arise. However, as these companies expand, promoter led companies realize a need for formalization of board not so much from regulatory requirements, but more so develop a mechanism to mitigate self-serving interests and bounded rationality problems.  Management realize while there is no shortage of advice on how to run their companies there is a need to seek our professional, unbiased and consistent inputs to improve the way of doing business.  On boarding independent directors is seen as a first step in improving corporate governance in these companies.  Industry knowledge, prior board experience and networks that can open doors is what unlisted companies seek in their independent directors. The expectation of unlisted companies is apart from the code of conduct laid down under the Schedule IV of the Companies Act, 2013, is that an independent director would:

  • Support board for promoting success of the company
  • Engage deeply in developing and sharpening the business goals, strategy and implementation plans
  • Critically review company’s progress towards the set objectives and revise directions wherever necessary
  • Financial and non-financial process are compliant and fair

From our experience of working with unlisted companies the key contribution of independent director apart from what is listed above is in three areas. Firstly, unleashing the leverage points of the company so it can realize its true value with incumbent resources and capabilities and realign growth plans. Independent director must contribute to redesigning of the strategy, how solid are the products and services, threat of commoditization, revenue streams and new offering.  While strategy on products and services front is the easiest, the challenging part is the articulation and execution of strategy to wean away promoter or management from execution to strategy.  In our limited experience, we see two kinds of dilemmas here. It is not that promoters are unwilling to let go, it is just identification and transition to an outside senior management does not always end up as expected. In some cases it is simply the core rigidity and NIH syndrome, especially in partner led companies. Business development and enhancement is another area unlisted companies seek help from Independent directors. Companies expect independent directors get actively engaged in business development by making right introductions to prospective clients. Connecting to the ecosystem of vendors, OEMs, government agencies, labs and professionals is another area independent director contributes for business expansion. Independent director plays a key role in reviews. An independent director must scrutinize the performance and risks of the business. Other than financial information, Compliance, controls and systems are key areas to review.  Independent director must advice in simplification of reporting (say from an aggregated cost head such as Salary & admin costs to broken down independent cost heads) so that efficient controls can be brought it.  Profitability, de-risk and sustainability form the fulcrum of reviews for independent directors.  Independent directors must evaluate the business model, areas to improve including automation, non-linear options, outsourcing, productization of services and new revenue streams that could be realized by unbundling services and products.  Prodding on reducing people side cost is another area that independent directors can drive innovative hiring and engagement programs. Questioning the dependencies and exploring options to de-risk the company from market, customers and technologies is an area independent directors must contribute. G8 or G10 strategy to focus on few top customers may be a good strategy from reducing cost of sales, it may not be a great approach from scaling up an innovation. Independent directors must help identify standardization of services, scaling up of an offering from a group of customers to market or even help productize. Ability to visualize scale and connecting the dots are key characteristics Independent directors must hone. Independent directors must also prod the company in evaluating the dependence on key people or limited management bandwidth. Independent director also has a key role in dispensing with status quo, i.e., sustainability. By constantly asking for extending the reach and newer offerings, they must prod the company towards recognizing newer friction areas and associated revenue monetization opportunities.  Key to fulfilling the role of independent director in unlisted companies is to consciously remaining in independent zone and prioritizing the change process. Independent directors must share their apprehensions and views freely and be open to receive feedback that helps them to refine their views. Finally, independent directors must learn to stay away from Pal syndrome, staying on the surface and yet unconnected with roles and internal conflicts.

D Balasubramaniam and Dr TR Madan Mohan


SFDC Implementation: ways SME can make the investment impactful

Many SME adopt SFDC to drive transparency and efficiencies of their sales operations. They initiate the roll out with a lot of pomp and gusto, but do not witness the outcomes they have envisaged.  The implementation process goes awry, frustration creeps in, staff loose motivation and despite all the right start SFDC implementation loose its mojo. Reasons for this are plenty. Based on our experience we find seven deadly sins listed below are the major ones.

  1. DIY woes: Often, companies with 5-10 licenses believe SFDC is easy to roll out and they know all that is required to about SFDC fall into a DIY trap. SFDC is simple, and yet can be daunting to the founders and management of SMEs if they are new to such software. The complex functionality and features of SFDC need deeper understanding of not just the software but how it would be used to extract value for their company. Companies pursing DIY route end up with broken process and demotivated employees. This creates confusion in process design and leads to low adoption and utilization in many organizations. Also, does not force fit your time tested sales process to SFDC. This not increases the cost of customization, but actually impairs adoption of best practice.
  2. Whammy Cycles: In our experience, many SME choose to pursue SFDC without due considerations of their business cycle faced stability and adoption challenges. Salesforce or any sales software is best to be implemented during lean periods not during the high tide quarters. SFDC roll out requires sufficient training and hand on experience to gain adoption and depth of use. Drawing sales resources away from the market during high tides affects revenue recognition.
  3. Double timing: Whenever salesforce is rolled out, companies need to plan how they would pursue the sales planning and review in their current format and also planned adoption of SFDC. Companies need to adopt a business as usual data capture and review process, till the SFDC adoption is complete and stable. Maintaining sales administration around both BAU and new process is key for sales management.
  4. Data Despairs: Generic tools like excel spreadsheets are used in company for data collection and reporting at various stages of the sales cycle. Data is crucial to glean historical insights. Different formats are used during sales planning, sales activity, sales review makes data migration a tough task. Unfortunately, many SME do not realize the time and efforts to clean up and migrate data and they believe SFDC roll out must wait till all historical data is ported into the system.
  5. Rush Hour drive: SFDC like any other software necessitates change management. Start with a broad 90 days adoption plan, with intermediate milestones for team training, leadership absorption, salesforce administrator review and beta roll outs. Without planned schedules, emphasis on compliance and rush jobs, companies end up pressurizing their resources, but end up with poor adoption. This is a primary reason for disillusionment of SFDC roll out.
  6. Misaligned teams and incentives: Many sales teams discourage sharing of information about networks & influence of client organizations across team members. A particular sales person may be approaching a client organization in a certain suboptimal way without privy to alternate courses. Other colleagues may have prior experience of the account and/or situation to tide over the apprehensions. Bereft of multiple perspectives, the sales cycle would linger, and eventually the sales resource will lose interest on the account and drop it from his hunt. Incomplete sharing of information and inadequate planning for a particular opportunity is another challenge sales team face. Weak alignment, between inside sales and direct sales teams or KAM teams with others is another area that leads to sales inefficiencies.  Role conflicts and tensions may also arise due to operational and personality issues.  Poor policies on account transfer between direct and inside sales team, weak sales operations, and ineffective review can exacerbate drop rates. A salient issue in solution selling companies is lack of comprehensive involvement, poor alignment and ineffective role management between pre-sale and sale teams across various stages of a customer acquisition. Diffused and selective ownership without a complete coverage of customer experience management leads to lengthy customer requirement cycles, protracted customer sign off process and potential financial loss.
  7. SOC Underinvestment: For many companies, sales operation is an additional expense. Usually they would have a personal secretary or a junior clerk do the data management and generate basic reports. Sales operations also need people person with enough tact to obtain information without stepping on the boot. SME do not recognize SOC has key role in ensuring data availability, data integrity, support and monitoring of the resources. Sales leaders in SME sometime don the role of SOC without dilution of their priorities.
  8. Measurement errors: One of the key problems in sales is to choose the right metric on which sales resources are measured. The metric chosen are often not in alignment with the sales objectives set by the management. If the objective of the business may be sales improvement by up-selling a new product to existing customers, then the metrics chosen must be aligned to this. Measuring coverage or addition of new customers to the pipeline because we always did so is a classic case of misalignment of metrics and objectives. Many SME measure their lead generation team by number of mails sent and calls made in a day. Lead generation representative earned their incentives irrespective of whether their efforts were meaningful and delivered any tangible outcome. Measuring performance against the wrong metric results in ineffective incentive calculation. Beware, you may be setting up your sales to loose, not win.
  9. Parsimonious Training: Sitting on shoe string budgets, SMEs take train only a few people or let leader train approach while implementing SFDC. With leaders juggling multiple roles, if only leader is trained, people on the field are ignorant of the features and purpose of SFDC implementation. Learning and adopting is seen as tedious and time-consuming by the busy sales force. On the other hand, if the sales resources are trained to use SFDC and no training for management, the roll out may not get the visibility required to make a difference. Either way, the lack of training hurts the overall purpose of achieving sales improvement through CRM.
  10. Acrimonious Reviews: In many SME reviews turn out to be generous expletive session which leaves an acidic taste for the participants and satisfy the ego of leaders. SME also suffer from data itch at inappropriate levels. It is not uncommon to see balance between big picture and details lost at several layers of sales organization. Functional focus and sales objectives get messed up and review meetings end up meandering around specific accounts or a customer at the cost of overall funnel.  It is not just what is reviewed, but how often it must be reviewed is another challenge for SME leaders. Some SME leaders resort to daily review meetings even when they are not in run rate business.

What must SME do get their SFDC roll out return higher moolah than what they have invested in terms of money and efforts. Simple, plan in advance, manage roll out and keep it simple. Here are the tips to get the best out of SFDC implementation.

  1. Work with partner ecosystem: SFDC ecosystem hosts partners from around the world who have experience and expertise in implementing SFDC. Involving partners will bring industry best practices to the company and help maximize ROI. Process design and training services are also offered by SFDC partners. Partners make a huge difference by bringing industry best practices and insights on salesforce administration and review.
  2. Blending Times: The management should understand the business cycle and choose a time when the sales force is not pre-occupied for roll out of CRM. If the company sees higher activities in Q1 and Q4, our recommendation is to roll out SFDC in Q2. This would give the sales team time to understand, absorb, and adopt before the start of the crucial last quarter.
  3. Parallelize rollout: In our experience, SFDC process roll out and existing process must be running in parallel for at least 45-60 days. Parallelizing the process addresses adoption challenges, especially the front end sales resources. In our experience, the ease of use and simplicity of the process is vital for SFDC adoption.
  4. Plan Data Migration: Encouraging the sales teams to clean up current data by provisioning some time for this activity eases post-implementation challenges. Outsource data migration activity to third parties, the cost is abysmally low and keeps your staff engaged in most value impacting sales activity.
  5. Planned change: Implementing SFDC in the relatively quite periods during the sales cycle gives enough time for the sales resource to understand the working of new software. We recommend a 90-120 day period before the company can achieve maximum utilization of the CRM. Providing time initially can go a long way in acceptance of the CRM tool. Setting a date for going live and working back from that day in a 3-4 month time frame can help achieve better results upon implementation. Setting milestones for data clean up, data migration, training for staff and leadership, designing sales process on SFDC and finally going live makes the process more efficient. Stage gating also gives agility to the process. Review at each stage helps the management identify any possible challenges and suitable alterations can be recommended. This reduces the chances of major upsets once the process is complete.
  6. Gamify metrics: As discussed in the earlier section, if the objective is to up-sell new product, to the existing clients, metrics like revenue growth from key customers or % of deals progressing in key accounts must be measured. Many CRMs like SFDC have gamification capabilities. Gamification is the process of creating a game experience in a non-gaming environment. It helps improve sales by rewarding and recognizing the individual or team performance against the metric chosen. Gamification can be used at various stages of sales cycle. If the objective is sales improvement by up-selling a new product to existing customers, creating a gamified experience which rewards the sales force every time they meet this objective can motivate the individual or team to perform better. Points can be awarded for collaborated efforts from members within a team leading to faster closure of deals. This will instill the spirit of collaboration. Hence, business result and behavior improvements can be achieved by the right use of gamification.
  7. Copious training & Ownership: It cannot be emphasized enough that educating all concerned about the purpose and use of the CRM is the key to implementation success. It can be argued that with proper training, all the other challenges that organizations may face can be negated. It is critical to enable the sales resources to use the technology provided to them. Unless the people on the field enter the data, mangers use it to review and plan; management cannot expect high ROI on the CRM. Through training, the sales department should be made aware that SFDC, will be their ‘single point of truth’ for all their data. Management’s forward looking aspirations must be clearly communicated. The sales force should know that SFDC is a tool to help them perform better and not to create a sales accounting system. Compliance through ownership of the process must be the goal of training. Reinforcing the idea of giving support and training them to use it should lead to success in CRM implementation. Decentralize teams across product lines or focus (hunting vs harvesting), define broad contours of ownership & tactics.
  8. Invest in SOC: Sales operations centre or coordination has different meaning for every company. In some, sales coordination does number collation and crunches data. In some they are responsible for system, programs and process. In some they are responsible for pricing and participate in large complex deals. Fundamentally, the role of sales coordination is to capture the data related to sales activities, and help sales team to make decisions based on data rather than subjective assessment. Sales operations more than just being a data sink, helps integration benefits to the organization by linking various sub-sales motions, right from inside sales to direct sales. While many sales resources may have love/hate relationship with the sales, creating and sustaining the sales coordination and review operations is a must for successful sales improvement plan.
  9. Focussed Reviews: SME leaders forget the sales review is to evaluate the direction (market and offerings), pace (movement between stages), and behavioural correction. Erudite sales strategies can only yield result if they are embraced and executed with right breadth and depth at various levels. Encourage your team to share the presentation in advance, keep the review period short, and stick to the set agenda. Leaders must come prepared with areas that need to be addressed and use the podium to invite suggestions and solutions. Effectively engaging and connecting with sales team at strategic and execution level is a must to see the intended outcomes. Sales leaders must demonstrate their ability to take tough decision based on data. Reviews must involve sales, marketing and product teams, and bring visibility across the company. Finally, reviews must go beyond sales activity to know what is working and what is not and how to improve it.

Peter Seller’s, Being there (1979) Hollywood film, has an interesting message. In the movie, US President asks a simple and sheltered gardener whether growth could be simulated through temporary incentives. Sellers who played the gardener makes a profound statement, garden needs to watered regularly, weeds needs to removed and roots supported to run deeper to survive across seasons and witness growth. Companies adopting SFDC must understand CRM is a cultural change and requires investment, management efforts and patience to yield results.  Sales team members must experience the trust and openness to share everyone view and the collective decision making.  To get the best out of your SFDC, keep the focus beyond template, keep the migration simple, involve all concerned and reap the benefits.

Bhavana S Kashyap and Dr TR Madan Mohan

Why Sales enablement is key to SFDC led sales transformation

It was interest meeting sales leader of a two decade old furniture manufacturing company that serves primarily office and industrial segment. In the course of the discussion what he mentioned brought old demons back and it seemed world has not moved. The company has rolled in SFDC with all earnest but was finding poor adoption by front line staff, data management was a challenge and resistance to change at mid-senior levels. Reports usage was far and few and sales operations patchy. What transcribed was they had seen SFDC as IT tool and not used this to recast their sales operations. Even after roll out of SFDC, company management had not aligned their marketing and sales. From our experience this is not a one off case. Many CRM roll outs do not seem to have met the expected outcomes.

In our experience CRM tools like SFDC yield significant impact when companies create the right environment, define expectations and encourage ownership to adhere and improve outcomes. People involvement is the key to outcome. Training, incentivizing adoption by gamification and other principles is important to drive adoption. Resistance to change can be addressed only through education and enablement of sales teams. Sale roles whether acquisition or account mining have their own nuances and challenges. Sales review templates is a major bone of contention. Address their fears and apprehensions, educate them how transparency is critical for sales and their organization. Direct, partner or inside sales team require customized sales training for functional improvement, but also broad based training to appreciate cross-functional integration. Invest in training to lock out legacy issues including why move beyond call list and Excel sheets.  Let the sales resources realize SFDC will help not micromanage them. Let them discover the value of managing out-of-date sales funnel data.

Ensuring sales leaders at all levels demand compliance with set standard is important to drive adoption and breadth of use of SFDC. Consistency and rigour in SFDC can be brought in by bringing on board a sales administration during SFDC roll out. Creating a dedicated sale operations centre is must. SOC will ensure all forms of waste is eliminated; all states and faults are visible and equip the company to correct quickly. Adopting suitable process whether SPIN, or SPENCO others that suit the organization brings standardization benefits.  A salesforce administrator ensures sales processes are not disjointed and workflows are all over the organization. Salesforce administrator also plays a key role in expansion and scaling up of SFDC roll out.

Sales teams must also be trained to use different marketing assets at each stage of sales process so that right assets are deployed at right stage. This is important for many solution based organization as the predominant approach is to use demos even when qualification is not done. Sales teams must use assets including blogs, SEO, Media placement to create brand awareness at qualification stage. Need analysis stage may need case studies, white papers and explainer videos to convey experience and expertise. Negotiations stage may need ROI or TCO templates, presales led demonstrations and product walkthroughs, product testimonials to address credibility, references and case scenarios. Thought leadership, product manuals, user tools may be required at closure stage. Marketing must work hand in hand with sales to create content that can create opportunities for sales team and help them closure better. Marketing team must consistently use feedback from sales team to create content that they actually use and create content around sales pipelines. While papers, frameworks, blogs, Infographics, videos all have their own value, cost and time to create. Sometimes, a goliath of an asset is what is required and hence marketing TAT’s become crucial. Similarly, sales resources must give inputs on user behaviour, competitive programs and what is working and what is not from door opening to closure.

 ROI of the SFDC increases if it is kept simple.  Take care of people (including organization parameters like structure, who owns what), technology, processes and add a dose of common sense, that all is what you need to ensure your SFDC roll out rocks.

Dr TR Madan Mohan and Bhavana S Kashyap

Teen turfs: Effective marketing for a successful Innerwear Brand

Why should brans like Nova, Bodycare, Softy, Red Rose, Shalini, Sonari, Ragini and others care about teens, young customers in the age group of 12-17. There is a lot at stake in selling and branding for teens. According to recent census 2011, Teens form about 9.2% of the youth population. Teens form about 12% of ₹9,100 Crore women inner wear segment in FY2016.  Teen brands are the most underpenetrated with highest growth rate amongst all segments of the women innerwear market. Teen innerwear is about 21% of the unorganized women innerwear market.   Surprisingly, the price differences between unorganized and branded innerwear varied just about 15-25%.  With value engineering and smart distribution, an organized brand could easily gain market share from unorganized segment. What is more alluring is that an average teen today spends 7% of ₹1000 on innerwear, on average buys 6 pairs in each year and expected to experience 3 sizes in 4 years.  Rural teens in average brought 3.2 pairs per year. Young girls develop at different ages and everybody’s experience is unique. Teens also lead and live a busy life. Teens juggle between studies, sports, Dandiya and Dance floor with aplomb. They participate in NCC training and retreats, volunteer as traffic wardens and lead their houses in major events.  They hop and jump out of buses or ride bicycles or two wheelers with gaiety.  This means a ton of possible fashion and usage environment to take into consideration.

Teens are important to brands because they tend to be early adopters and often their brand preferences are yet to be formed. However, unlike the teens of yesteryears, teens of today are most active user group on online. Teens today are scanning trends and deciding for themselves. The first thing they are likely to ask the host is whether the Wifi in their house is on.   On an average a teen spends 3.5 hours a day and an average, teens send 1480 messages and receive 2170 messages per month. Studies have shown with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, teens seek immediate gratification and thrill. They are expected to exhibit more impulsive behaviors.  Well, it seems like it should be pretty easy to market to teens. So one would think it is easy to create and slip into a niche teens innerwear brand. Not so. Marketing to a teenager is a labor of love.

Studies have shown that peer pressure is big for teens.  Acceptance and belonging to a group is paramount for their psychological wellbeing. That is why branding, especially of community branding works best for teens.  In fact for most teens, social media is just that a platform to express traits and seek out others with similar leanings.  So what must be the marketing strategies one must adopt for a teen innerwear brand.

First, choose your online platforms to engage them actively and direct your time and efforts towards the most relevant platforms.  Popular opinion is that Instagram, Snapchat and What’s App appear on the top with Facebook and Pinterest up the rear. If you are pursuing a low cost viral strategy, creating tiered gaming campaigns using Snapchat or Instagram may work well.  If you are just looking to widen your reach to teens targeted Facebook campaigns may work better.

Social media campaigns targeting teens is also about brevity and personalization. With shorter attention spans, teens are likely to respond more positively to short text posts and links. Bite-sized post with Big feet You approach works best.

Teen’s major sources of information about innerwear are opinion of friend (22%), store display (18%), social media (17%) and celebrity endorsement (15%).  Where most brands fail is the poor execution of store display. Standees and banner ads are passé and so are the garish looking mannequins.  Teens seek out more touch and feel experience and likely to lean more towards technology led experiences including AR.  A less tech savvy salon experience also satiates exclusivity positioning and works well for exploratory or label lioness.  Teens are less influenced by Bollywood stars, but certainly a swash bucking Cricketer or a badminton champ certainly gets more eye lashes.

From a marketing perspective teens not only consume information, but are also effective co-creators and distributors.  Teens tend to use online media to share, create their own by-lines and funny one liners about the brand. For an innerwear brand it is best to emulate social engagement models that are espoused by companies like HP, Microsoft or Oracle in Open source arena. Involve teens to voluntarily create content, create a consumption community and turn ambassadors.  Gamification tools involving rewards and recognition including Badges, Angelhood, High Princess work best for an innerwear brand. A low cost rural consumption focused innerwear brand can adopt gamification principles with multi-level marketing to reduce distribution costs and gain viral visibility.  Volunteering is another platform that works best for teen innerwear marketing.  Companies can create smart campaigns that can bundle social messaging on CSR programs and reach target populations. Incentivize them to comment, retweet, mention or getting involved in creating awareness about your innerwear brand.

A key point to remember is teens abhor preaching and explicit advertising. They may skip an advertisement if seen as an interruption or pushy. Communicate to establish relationships and association.  Authenticity is what they seek and story selling works best.  Humor and human-centered stories work best to build relationships with your brand. Communicate they are special and your brand blends with who they want to be and what they wish to be leads to better marketing outcomes.

For an innerwear brand it is imperative to remember teens are not completely independent consumers. Their parents open the purse and indulge in their purchases. Cultural sensitivity in campaigns and functional design over intimate one are keys to teen innerwear sales. You can’t afford to ignore them in your innerwear campaign and design. Finally, keep your marketing as fluid as possible. When tide turns, you must have the flexibility to turn quickly.