The Curious Case of Amazon Coins

November 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Amazon Coins debuted among much fan fare in May this year and have mysteriously kept a very low profile since the high profile launch.

I am not sure if this is a deliberate strategy on part of Amazon or is it that no one noticed its presence (or maybe absence) in the past few months. The only time that i heard about Amazon coins is when they launched a promotion to give out 20 free coins if one downloaded a certain set of apps. Really?

Are these coins being used at all? If yes, how much is their usage? Or is it that we (including Amazon) are not willing to call it a failure yet?

What do you think?

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Categories: Innovation Tags: ,

So, What Drives You?

November 13, 2013 3 comments

Last week, I completed 3 years of blogging on wordpress. When I started on this journey three years back, I did not realize where this will take me. However after 3 years and 246 blog posts, I feel that I have only started to warm up. There is still a lot to talk about and a lot to learn and discuss.

As each milestone that passes does, this one made me to sit down and think about what keeps me going.

I would like to think one of the most important thing that keeps me motivated to keep writing blog posts is the fact that with each blog, i get to learn something new, about the topic and about myself. This discovery process is what keeps me motivated and helps me continue to on this journey to self discovery.

Unless we know what drives us, it is very difficult to do work that matters.

So, what is it that drives you to get up and do what you do every day? 

 

Categories: leadership, Uncategorized

Whats Your Contribution?

November 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Yesterday, I was running a workshop to introduce the concept of design thinking to a bunch of college students with the following as the challenge that they needed to solve by the end of the workshop

How might you make teaching interesting, fun and effective for teachers

We all had a great fun day and learnt something very important. All the ideas that the students came up to help teachers were to do with things that assumed that the teachers inherently were not competent people who can teach well.

I ran a similar workshop a couple of months ago with a set of 30 college professors with the following challenge:

How might you make learning interesting, fun and effective for students

And the results were very similar. All the ideas that the teachers came up with assumed that the students inherently do not want to learn while in college.

This made me thinking and I asked the students in yesterday’s workshop, to list out things that they could do in their classes (right away), which could help the teachers have fun while running classes. Collectively, they came up with about 44 different things that they could do in their classes to make them fun & effective not only for the teachers but also for themselves.

I guess this is human nature. We believe that the problem is with others and forget our contribution to the problem. Makes me question my contribution everytime i start to complain about anything.

So, what are your complaining about and what is your contribution to that?

This is the Time to Re-design Your Sales Planning Process

November 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Right now is the most important time of the year for a sales leader. Its the time when you not only are trying to support your teams to meet their annual quotas, but also supposedly need to be in the planning mode to make decisions on the sales quotas for the subsequent years.

If you are like most sales leaders that I have known, you are finding it difficult to maintain a balance among both these activities. And in most cases, the closure of the year takes more precedence than planning for the next year, which would be best to avoid by better planning at the start of the year.

So, how do you decide what sales figures you want to aspire for and how do you allocate the sales quotas?

Do you decide on a % increase on the current year sales figures as the aspiration? Say 15% year-on-year growth in top-line. Is this handed down to you by the CEO or the board of directors? Do you then add some cushion and divide this among your direct reports based on the markets and volumes that they currently run, who in turn do the same to their direct reports and this continues till you have reached the sales executive and communicated his quotas. There is always some negotiation at every level. Since both the parties know that this is a given, it loses its validity and people plan for these push-backs in the original quotas being suggested.

Now the sales executives are left to create a sales plan that can help them achieve their quotas. Smart sales executives create a plan for atleast 40% more revenue to ensure that there are no surprises at the end of the year and starts executing the plan with his set of accounts.

Now imagine that you also do the following exercise at the start of the year:

In November, you get your sales teams to take a day or two off and block it for planning. You could get the entire sales team do this on the same day or spread this out for different days for different teams. You inform all your sales executives to look at the accounts that they manage and come up with sales plays with each of these accounts. Then they identify the potential revenue from each of these sales plays. They create 3 estimates – Best case, Worst Case and Probable case. Based on the sales play, current macro conditions and the relationship with the customer, also estimate where they are in their buying process. Repeat this process with all their customers. Then you add the revenue potential for all the three scenarios from all the sales executives and also know the stage in which each account is in the sales process. This gives you a good idea of your pipeline from your existing customers/prospects. You also ask each one of your sales executives to come up with a list of 10-15 accounts in their market whom they would like to do business with and what would be the potential sales plays for those accounts, if they could come up with one. You would need to then take this list to your marketing teams and get them to create a plan on how they could support your team to get these customers interested in your products and services. You then set the quotas of the sales executives based on the worst case scenario and if you have to set sales quotas for the sales managers, set them based on the most probable or best case scenarios. Alternately, you could set the sales quotas of your sales executives based on the most probable scenario and measure your sales manages based on the % of their direct reports who achieve their quotas.

If your organization is like most organizations that I have come across, you would find that the revenue potential is much higher than any percentage increase in revenue that you had originally planned to achieve. In addition to that, you now also have a sales play defined for each one of your existing customers and the prospects already in the pipeline.

Now, it is very important for you as a sales leader to do this exercise in the last quarter of the year so that the entire team realizes that the planning process is as important as the sales closure for the quarter. This is the cultural shift that you could effect. Also, this ensures that the entire team is involved in the planning process and not just the sales leaders. This entire process will also ensure that you hit the ground running when the year starts. This process also ensures that your sales executives will not just concentrate on customers where there are current deals being planned but also continue to build his relationship with all his customers.

These are my thoughts. What do you think? Is this level of planning achievable? Do share your thoughts by commenting below or by tweeting your thoughts to me at @rmukeshgupta.

The Most Important Decisions That we Make as Leaders

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

In 2006, I was being interviewed by Saint Gobain Glass for a role in their customer service, production planning and logistics team. I had to go through 2 levels of screening by the HR agency, followed by an aptitude test, an interview with the hiring manager, the HR manager and then finally by the MD himself.

I was told that the final interview for every employee hired in the organization was done by the MD himself (it was a 250 employee organization when I was being interviewed), irrespective of the role the employee is being hired for. That did not make sense to me at that time as the role for which I was being was too insignificant for an MD to conduct an interview for.

However, I now realize the importance of his actions. It is easier to hire people for their fit to the organization culture that you want to build as a leader than to change the culture later. No wonder we had a culture of high performance all around us and at the same time we all enjoyed working together in that organization.

So, one of the most important task as the leader of an organization is to ensure that you are hiring people whom you trust to be a good fit for the culture. Equally or even more important is for you to be decisive and quick in moving people out of the organization if they turn out to be a bad fit.

I understand that this can be a tough ask in a fast growing organization or an MNC with hundreds of employees being hired every day. However, in that case, as a leader, we still need to find time ourselves or hand-hold the local CEO/MD at the country/department to ensure that they meet and talk to every person that is being hired to ensure that there is no cultural conflict.

This is one of those activities that in the face of it doesn’t seem very significant, however in the long term there is no other action of the leader that can have the impact this one action can have.

So, in my opinion, the most important decision that we make as leaders is “Whom to Hire” & “Whom to Fire”

So, what is your hiring mantra? Do you hire for attitude or for culture? Do you know what is the culture that you want to cultivate in your organization? Do you know what kind of people will thrive in such a culture?

IF the answer to any of the above questions is a “NO”, now is a time for you to start thinking towards finding an answer. In the long term this is what will make the distinction between a good leader and a great leader.

In your opinion, what is the most significant action that a leader could do and why?

PS: Watch Tom Peters Talk about hiring the last One Percenters

Categories: leadership Tags: , ,

As Leaders, We all Should Follow Rule No. 6

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

In his book, “The Art of Possibility“, Ben Zanders offers pearls of wisdom. One of the most important piece of wisdom that we can learn from the book is what he refers to as “Rule No: 6”.

 

  • If as leaders, we follow this rule, we could potentially make less mistakes and learn much more from the one’s that we do make;
  • If as parents, we followed this rule, we create the possibility of a long, well nurtured and meaningful relationship with our children;
  • If as spouse, we followed this rule. we can create the possibility of a much more deeper and meaningful relationship with our partner;
  • The authors recommend that if we make a mistake, we should say out loud (& hence mean) “How Fascinating” and learn from the mistake. Add this to the Rule No 6, and we could have a lot of fun along the way

So what is Rule No 6? IT simply states: Don’t take yourself so god damn seriously!

So, what are the other rules: “None”

There are no other rules!

As parents, teachers, spouses and leaders, we take ourselves and our position of power too seriously and lose our ability to laugh at ourself.

If there is anything that could dramatically improve our quality of life and the ability to lead in uncertain times, it this this ability to not only laugh at our own mistakes and learn from them. This rule also suggests that you could learn from everyone around you as much as they could learn from you.

So, let me follow Rule No 6 and “How Fascinating” this is !

Do share your thoughts about this approach to life and leadership.

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Some Possibilities for Re-inventing Video Advertisements

September 20, 2013 4 comments

One of the most sacred piece of consumer advertising in the past was the 6 second spot in Television. Advertisers qued up to buy the spots and display their advertisements. Ad agencies and spot buyers were in vogue as they were the levers that enabled brands in their quest for more consumers.

All this is about to change and the advertising agencies are in for a disruption. This opinion of mine is based on the following trends that I see playing out in the markets:

  • Despite having changed medium (Television to online streaming videos), video advertising did not change. They still play advertisements either at the start of the video or in the middle of the video, just as in Television, maybe with a little more control on the target audience.
  • Compare this with the evolution of online advertisements. From the old banner ads to targeted, contextual advertisements even within your email client (Gmail) or promoted tweets in your twitter stream.
  • Most brands have now become content creators and act more like media houses online. Most of the brands have their own content team and continuously generate content.
  • Recent announcement of no-cash deal between Kit Kat and Google to name their latest Android release Kit-Kat.
  • More and more brands want to create original content to get the attention of a specific niche of the consumer market. From streaming content created by the studios to creating their own original series, Netflix has come a long way. Same is the case with Coca Cola. The amount of original video content that they develop and share online has increased multiple fold.
  • Advertisement free content (ad free HBO) is becoming more prevalent now than ever before.

All of these trends point to a future of video advertising which is very different from the current 6 second or 20 second ads.

I think that based on the existing trends, we shall see the following:

  • More brands will come together and plan joint campaigns. For example a washing machine brand, a detergent brand can come together and do joint campaigns. IF brands can tie up with other brands that can be logically coupled (same consumer, part of the same “jobs to be done” family of tasks, similar positioning, etc).
  • Brand placements inside of the movies and Television series has been around for a long time but never became mainstay. This will change. We shall start seeing more and more brand placements in original content.
  • This could then potentially lead to original content being created around these brands. For example, there could be a series like Friends, where every time the friends sit together and share memories, they do it with a can of Coke. Every time they speak on a phone, they use an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S4. It the story requires them to go out for a trip, they could visit India (of course sponsored by the Indian Tourism Industry). You get the point. What is even more interesting is that It might even cost much less to create these content than to pay for a six second spot during the program for the brands. This also enables the brands to have control on the audience segment that they want to create the content for.

So, you can see a host of original video content being produced by some of the leading brands.

Is that good or bad for the brand, I don’t know. However, this is great news for all the artists who have ideas and want to convert them into original series. They will have a lot more people willing to invest in them to create good high quality content.

As a consumer, I don’t mind who creates the content as long as the content is interesting and engaging and I am not interrupted in between the program to show some advertisements.

So, this does create a positive cycle for everyone involved.

Do you think this is what we shall see in the near future or if my understanding is totally flawed? Lets discuss this as comments on this blog or on twitter.

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