Archive for December, 2012

Building an effective marketing strategy..

December 31, 2012 5 comments

I am surprised at the lack of organizations with good marketing strategy. Doesn’t matter if they are  large MNC’s with millions of dollars of marketing budget or a start-up with minimal budget.

I am sure that everyone in the marketing world understands the importance of having a solid strategy!

Most marketing efforts fail in the face of unclear strategies. Good strategy can not only improve the effectiveness of your efforts but will help in reducing the total cost. But most importantly, it will help your customers to buy more from your sales teams.

With the emergence of new media, more and more marketing teams seem to forget that they are still media. They still need a strategy to market their products and a media strategy will only be a small but integral part of the overall marketing strategy.

Let us take an imaginary organization and try to  build a marketing strategy for them.

Imaginary Organization:

  • A Large MNC in a B2B scenario.
  • A Large base of existing customers.
  • A large & varied product mix.
  • A big sales and marketing team.

Now, if you have worked in an organization like the one I describe above, you would already know the various pressures involved.


The first step in building a marketing strategy is to the decision around segmentation – Market and customer. I would prefer a customer based segmentation as it helps the marketing team to always know whom they are trying to market to.

There are 2 kinds of customers:

  • Existing customers
  • Prospects

Developing strategy for Existing customers:

I would further segment existing customers into different categories based on a “Jobs to be done” metaphor.

A lot of companies prefer to segment based on industry, geography, size, etc. However, in my opinion the best way to cluster companies is from a “Jobs to be done” metaphor (more information on the “Jobs to be done” metaphor defined by Clay Christensen).

Examples could be like the ones below:

  • Customers who are on a growth path and focus on top line growth. 
  • Customers who want to focus on reduce cost and hence focus on bottom line growth.
  • Customers who want to bring new products to market faster, cheaper and with more success.
  • Customers who want to improve their cash flows.
  • Customers who want to focus on reducing debt.

Segmentation like this means that you can tailor a message that will resonate with all the companies in a segment, irrespective of their industry, size or geography.

  1. Decide on the segments that the marketing teams would focus on.
  2. Design the messaging for these segments.
  3. Design activities around these segments.
    1. Build a media strategy (incl. social and traditional media)
    2. Build a contact strategy
    3. Build a content strategy
  4. Explain & Align with the respective accounts team.
    1. This strategy can only succeed if every account team handling existing customers understands the segmentation and are able to tag their accounts in the CRM system based on the segmentation that marketing has defined.
    2. Also, this segmentation information can help the account teams to identify the products/solutions that they want to position to these customers based on the customer priorities, which, in-turn, makes it far more likely that they will get the sales.
    3. Third step is for the account teams to identify the contacts at these customers and tag them in the CRM system as the stake holders for the specific segments that they have classified. For example, if the customer is classified in the segment “Improve inventory turns”, then the account teams identify the key contacts in the manufacturing, finance and controlling functions of the customer organization. Marketing can then use this information for their contact strategy.
  5. Execute & adjust the strategy as we go along.

Developing strategy for prospects:

The only major difference in defining the strategy for existing customers and prospective customers is for the marketing team to define a persona for prospects in each of the segment that they want to focus on.

  • By persona, I mean, define the characteristics of the companies that you would want to prospect. This is a very important step that many marketing teams miss, thereby, leading to low conversion rates and high cost for customer acquisitions.
  • Once these personas are defined, the marketing teams can then decide to work with the market research organizations to identify companies that fit the persona and map the individuals.
  • This also helps the marketing teams to design specific messaging that will suit the respective personas.
  • Media strategy is key in this case as the importance of branding and building relevance in the markets. Positioning is much more effective in this case.

One of the most important part of the strategy is also to set-up clear measures of effectiveness which can then be used to monitor progress and course correct if required.

Key metrics Marketing effectiveness: Just as the strategy is defined separately for existing and prospective customers, the KPI’s also will need to be defined separately for each of these segments.

  • For existing customers:
    • No of additional deals done with each of the existing customers
  • For prospective customers:
    • No of net new customers added in the pipeline
  • Changes in Brand equity

If you understand this strategy, it is clear that in order to work, this strategy needs your marketing teams to work closely with your sales and business development teams, lack of which is a topic for a separate blog post.

How do you develop your marketing strategy? Have I missed something here? Do let me know by commenting below or tweeting your thoughts to me @rmukeshgupta.

PS: Clay Christensen’s talk about Disruptive innovation and about Jobs to be done

Categories: sales Tags: ,

Great resources to create sticky presentations

December 29, 2012 4 comments

Each and every one of us in the profession of selling, end up presenting (either about the products or solutions that we are selling, or about the company we represent or to showcase ourselves).

And most of us still struggle even after years of delivering presentations for a living.

Hence, the term, death-by-powerpoints.

This is a key skill and something that we need to continuously  work upon. In Stephen Covey’s words  -“Sharpen the saw”!

After having gone through a lot of reading, listening and presenting, I have realized the following:

  • I deliver great presentations if I don’t use the standard slides created by our organizations. I use these slides at most as my back-up and only use them when I have to dive deep into a topic which one of the slide covers. 
  • My best presentations are when I am able to weave a story. Even better when members of the audience are the protagonists of the story.
  • When I can’t avoid using pre-built slides, I do best when I am able to use these as anchors and engage the audience by getting them involved.
  • The best presentations are when I have practiced a lot, but still deliver free style. 

There are two parts of delivering great presentations:

  1. Creating great presentations. 
  2. Delivering these presentations.

The resources that I always turn for creating great presentations is – Garr Reynolds has also written a book by the same name. Its a great book to refer to when in doubt and creating a presentation.

I also refer to the research done by Nancy Duarte and her dissertation of what makes great presentations to decide on the flow of my presentation.

Brothers – Dan and Chip Heath have written a great book about Making Ideas Stick. They talk about a simple metaphor to remember if we want to make an impactful presentation (SUCCESS – Simple, Unexpected, Credible, Concrete, Emotional and tell a story. You can find a lot of information on this at their website (

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

What resources do you turn to when you want to improve your presentation skills? Do let us know by commenting below or tweeting to me at @rmukeshgupta.

PS: Some information that you should check out when possible are:

Nancy Duarte’s TEDx dissertation of what makes a great presentation, both in terms of flow and content:

You can  hear Dan Heath talk about making sticky presentations here.

You can also listen to Garr Reynolds  TEDx Talk – Story, Imagery, & the Art of 21st Century Presentation:

Some of the before/after slides that Garr has created is as below to serve as an example for all of us:

Leadership lessons from everyday acts (part 1)

December 24, 2012 5 comments

Leadership is like riding.

– you need to know where you want to go.
– you need a fair idea of how to reach there.
– you re-route yourself if you face a traffic jam or any other situation which might stop you from reaching your destination.
– you decide on the route based on the type of vehicle that you are driving. The routes that you can take while driving a bike is very different from the one that you can take while driving a car, which could be very different from the one that you can take if you were driving a huge 26 tyre truck.
– if you want to reach a specific place at a specific time, you plan to leave at a specific time based on facts like which vehicle are you driving, what route you will be taking, the traffic conditions on that route at that particular time, etc.
– you know when, where and how much to re-fuel.
– you also plan for maintenance of your vehicle.

All of these are the same qualities that a leader needs to exhibit while leading an Organization or a nation:

– they need to have a vision or know where they want to lead to.
– they need to have a fair idea of how to reach there (a plan).
– they should be able to recognise when things are not going according to plan, and be able to change strategies to be able to reach the goals.
– they design their strategies based on their understanding of the people whom they are leading. Strategies that work while leading a start-up will be very different from the ones that will work while leading large scale Organisations.
– they also understand the resources that will be required to reach their goals and find ways to get these resources at the right times.
– they also understand that people and organizations need overhaul and maintenance on a regular basis to weed out inefficiencies and straighten out cultural issues.

So, if you know how to ride from one place to another, you already know more about leadership than you will ever need. The only thing that you need to do is to be aware of these and put them in action.

What do you think of this comparison between driving and leadership. Do let me know by commenting below or by tweeting me (@rmukeshgupta).

PS: you can also watch Popeye’s leadership lessons:

Popeye’s leadership lessons

Categories: leadership Tags: , ,

Are large Indian retailers battle ready?

December 11, 2012 Leave a comment

In their current state of operations, Indian organized retailers are in no way equipped to compete with the likes of Walmart, Tesco or Target.

Let me re-count to you my experience based on which I have come to this conclusion.

Last week, I went grocery shopping with my wife to a large format retail store in Bangalore. I was appalled at the thoughtless design of the store and the lack of the willingness to serve the customers in the entire staff.

In my opinion, there are 2 key performance areas which are critical for a retailer to succeed in a market like India:

  1. Supply chain efficiencies
  2. Customer’s shopping experience

This retailer failed on both counts (to provide the goods at the cheapest price or to provide a high class immersive retail experience).

Before we move ahead with this line of thought, let me share my impressions  from my visit:

Customer Experience perspective: 

  1. Store design: This store was spread across 2 floors. The layout of the store was such, that you need to go to the 1st floor (non-grocery items, a.k.a, high margin items), walk all the way across to the other end of the floor, then come down to the ground floor for groceries. What this meant was that, even if I only wanted to buy groceries, I am still forced to walk through the non-grocery floor, hoping that I shall be tempted to pick something based on the promotions offered. Though this helps the retailer try and maximize the revenue per shopper, this leaves the shopper in a bad taste.
  • Cart design: The only shopping cart that they have for usage is a large size cart. There was no option of a handbag or a smaller cart. Though not bad by itself, this was a problem with the way the store was laid out. I had at least a dozen customers bump into me and me bumping into another half a dozen customers, as the space between ailes was so narrow.
  • Motivated and trained employees: The store had minimal support staff. There was no one to help. I had a few questions on the placement of a product of a particular brand. There was no one present to help. The staff whom I did find, were not able to help as they were as clueless as me.
  • Check-out experience: Now that I had collected everything that I wanted to buy in my cart, I went to the billing counters. There were about 16 billing counters. However, there were about 6 – 7 customers already waiting for billing in each of these counters. What this meant was that I had to wait for another 45 minutes to get my items billed and get out of the store. The billing clerk tried on his part to be as quick as possible, but to the dismay of the customers, he was not able to scan the bar-codes of 1 out of every 9 or 10 articles. This meant that he had to manually type these codes (I think about 16 numeric characters each) in order to complete the billing. Also, there was no separate counter for fast track billing (maybe for 5 items or less or cash billing). So, even if you only had to pick one item, you still had to go through the entire grill.

After such an experience, I doubt if I shall think of going shopping in the store  again, as I have a myriad of options for where I can go (including online stores) shopping for grocery and these options will only increase with FDI in Retail cleared.

Supply chain efficiency perspective:

  • Stock-outs: From my list of groceries, there were 3 items (cooking oil, a specific brand of Jam & a specific kind of spice) which were in a stock-out position. This was on a Saturday evening at around 6PM. Now, it is very well known that the biggest lost opportunities for retailers is lost sale due to stock-outs.
  • Price: I happen to go a mom & pop store near my home to buy these 3 items that were not available at this store. I also saw the retailer selling a couple of items (a specific brand of whole wheat atta) to a customer at a price that was lower than the price i bought at the store earlier in the evening. So, not sure if they will be able to compete on price either.

This is not just the state of this one retailer in India. Most so called organized retail stores (multi-brand, multi category stores) have more or less similar problems. Some more serious than others.

Now, the question is,  if and when players like Walmart, Target or 24×7 arrive in India, will these retailers be able to compete with them? I am not suggesting that these retailers will get all of this right. However, if i were an Indian retailer, I would not bet my survival on the assumption that they will also face similar problems. I would be ready with a strategy to compete/co-opt with these retailers before they can hurt me.

What next? 

So, the next question that beckons is the following – what can retailers do to counter this threat?

Strategically, they need to pick a field where they want to be the best. Whether it is  competing on

  • Cost (low cost or luxury or premium)
  • Customer experience
  • Speed (how fast or slow do i get new products lines on the shelf)
  • Niche (define and win the niche)

It doesn’t matter, what strategy they adopt; they will need to improve on both the supply chain efficiency and the customer experience part, as these will be the necessary battle conditions, without which, you will no longer be in the competition.

These are my thoughts on the state of organized retail in India. Do you agree with my assessments?

Please do post your thoughts as comments below or tweet your thoughts to me on twitter (@rmukeshgupta).

PS: Something extra for all you people. Watch this prank by the Improv  team at a Best buy store

3 qualities of a great sales manager

December 6, 2012 8 comments

The three things that makes great sales manager are ability to

  • Coach
  • Absorb pressure
  • Build a team

I got this insight when I ran into an old friend late last evening. He currently works for a sales organization and was completely stressed out. When i asked for the reason for his stress, he indicated that the sales pressure being exerted on him by his manager is actually freaking him out.

When I dug deep, he indicated that their organization follows the Jan – Dec sales cycle, which meant that they are in the last fortnight of the year and there is enormous pressure to close deals and achieve their sales quotas and he has not been able to achieve his quota.

He indicated that there were no deals in his pipeline that could be closed in the next fortnight. He indicated the same to his manager, yet, all the manager says is that, it is not acceptable and that he  needs to bring in a few more deals so that he comes closer to achieving his quota and his boss to achieve his stretch target.

Now, this had me thinking. What can the sales manager achieve by doing this. There can be only 3 results from this:

  1. My friend goes out to some of his prospects, provides additional discounts, persuades the prospect to buy. This is not a great thing for his organization. 
  2. He is unable to do any further closures, which will only add to his anxiety and pressure. I am sure that my friend would leave that organization at the first opportunity, which is also not a good outcome for the organization.

So, this made me think what could the sales manager have done differently. I could think of the following which could have made a positive difference to my friend achieving his quota and staying loyal to his manager and the organization:

  • Coach: Any sales manager’s first responsibility to his team is to be their coach. In all probability, he has already been there, done that and has been good at this, which led him to his current position. So, how can he use his experience to coach his team members (depending upon their individual needs). Every sales executive has some are of the sales process, where he could appreciate some coaching. So, a sales manager needs to identify the areas where individuals in his team need coaching and use every conversation, opportunity to coach. As in any team sport, a good coach can inspire any team to achieve success, previously thought impossible.
  • Absorb pressure: In any sales organization, there will always be pressure to achieve quota. Can a sales manager absorb some of the pressure when he knows that his team is giving their 100% and there are genuine reasons for not meeting quota or closing deals. Common practice is to put additional pressure on the team to achieve their quota rather than provide a cushion. A great sales manager needs to be able to gauge the situation and provide cushion or exert additional pressure accordingly. In any case, if the teams knows that their manager can and is willing to absorb pressure, they will go all out to avoid such a situation.
  • Team: A great sales manager builds a team and not some individuals who compete with each other. It has been very rare that a sales manager gives more emphasis to the team doing well together rather than pitting each member of the team against each other. With selling becoming more and more complex (simple sales models are disappearing and moving to the web), it is critical that you work as a team to succeed in this complex selling world, learn from each other and support one another.

These are my thoughts. I would like to know your thoughts on this topic. Do you agree or disagree? Are there any other qualities that make a sales manager great?

Do let me know by commenting on the post below or tweeting your response to me on twitter (@rmukeshgupta).

PS: I thought that the article in HBR , “To build a great sales team, you need a great manager” was very well written and bring forth the importance of having a great sales manager on your team.

Categories: leadership, sales Tags:

Customer engagement vs customer centricity

December 5, 2012 3 comments

As an employee responsible for customer advocacy at a software vendor, I often receive requests from colleagues in the development teams requesting me to help them connect to our customers and seek feedback on our existing products or solutions and validate new product ideas.

Having been in this scenario so many times, I realise that there is a big difference between customer engagement and customer centricity.

In one, you work with the customer, together to achieve common objectives (which is so rare). This activity can only succeed if both the customer and the supplier have deep skin in the game. Even if one is not committed fully, it is likely that the time spent together not yield much benefits to either. In the worst case, it could even cause negative sentiments among the customers and the suppliers.

A customer working with the development team of an ERP vendor to identify and help fix key functional gaps that is required to fulfil the requirements, not only of this customer, but also all other customers in his country, region or industry. This is a great situation where you could actively engage your customer over a period of time to seek their inputs and feedback.

In the other, you need to empathise with your customer. You try to live her life, feel what they feel, without actually asking them about their feelings or feedback. You become the customer.

A classic example that comes to mind is a story I heard about the designer of the first true full functional PDA, the Palm Pilot. It is said that before the design of the pilot, the designer actually carried a block of wood in his pocket everyday for a long period. He imagined this block of wood to be a PDA and would take it out whenever he had a use for the PDA, imagine how he would use the PDA and out it back. By doing this, he got 1st hand feedback on the key aspects of his product, like the ideal size of the PDA or the functionalities that it needed and which one of these would be needed the most.

Now the most critical question is to know when to engage and when to empathise.

How do you bring your customers feedback into your organisation? Are your customers willing to spend time with you to help you improve your products or services willingly or with restraint? Have you trie empathising by role playing as your customer? What were the results?

Let us know by writing a comment below or by tweeting your thoughts to me at @rmukeshgupta.

Best product demo ever

December 4, 2012 1 comment

I chanced upon this demo of Sony Xperia Acro smart phone today.

This is the best demo of a product that I have seen in a long long time…

In my opinion, the following aspects makes this the best demo ever:

  1. It is contextual & experiential (with all the aura of the legendary James Bond, complete with the Bond music).
  2. It surprises! Not just the one’s who won the phone, but the entire audience..
  3. This is the stuff that the people in the audience will talk about for sometime to come.

And most important, this makes the point which is at the core of the product – water proof smart phone, delivered in a glass of coke!!!

Kudos to the team for the concept and execution!!!

Do you know of any such product demos? Do let me know by writing a comment below or tweeting to me at @rmukeshgupta.

Categories: Uncategorized