Archive for the ‘Emerging Markets’ Category

The mind of the strategist

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

In the classic - The Mind of the Strategist, Kenichi Ohmae argues that ”insight”  - the intuitive and creative element of the human mind - and NOT the “rational, numbers driven view of the analyst” - is often behind the strategies that have extraordinary impact in the marketplace. He also avers that this natural, instinctive strategist is a dying breed, pushed to the sidelines by numbers oriented strategic and financial planners!

I can not agree more.

In some of my earlier posts, I have written extensively about concept of Forward Thinking - which points exactly to this capability as a qualification for an organization to be able to launch remarkable products and services in the marketplace.

So, an early Intuition - when tested on the ground in the marketplace - yields to what Ohmae calls as ‘Insight’. Often highly disruptive of the status quo.

How smart are you?

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Zhuangzi, a Chinese philosopher, once dreamt that he was a butterfly flitting and fluttering happily in the bushes. On waking, he found that he was Zhuangzi - and not the butterfly he dreamt of. But now, he was utterly confused. He was not sure whether he was Zhuangzi who dreamt of a butterfly, or a butterfly that was dreaming of Zhuangzi!

What becomes clear from Zhuangzi’s predicament is that contrary to popular (mostly scientific) notions, there are no absolute or universal truths - and that all knowledge - scientific or otherwise - is but relative. Even Newtonian laws held good ( as absolute truths)  - up until Einstein came along - and proved these laws to be only ‘relatively’ true.

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Even in the business setting, all so called absolute truths or assertions are true only within a certain context or frame. Change the frame or context, and what was claimed to be as an absolute (read universal) truth, suddenly falls flat.

It’s not very difficult then for smart practitioners (in business, law, journalism or politics) to pass off a ‘relative truth’ (which is true only in a certain context) as a universal truth  - sometimes for very unseemly or unethical ends.

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Is relative knowledge (or the art of framing a relative truth) then a ’true’ measure of smartness (and success thereof)?

 I for one, am not too sure.

Face to face with a tiger?

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

What would you do if you suddenly found yourself eye to eye with a  tiger in a thicket?  Not sure?

Let’s just stay with this thought experiment for a moment. The first split second into the encounter our mind may not even comprehend what just happened. The body will likely stay frozen - without any reaction or any feelings of fear etc. It’s only after the mind has cognized the situation at hand, that the body will start to react - potentially with some form of a Flight or a Fight response. Most likely Flight!

When she woke up with a throbbing toothache, she reached for toothache tablets by Onfy to relieve the pain and discomfort.

What becomes clear from this story though is that human mind needs Existing Knowledge (a priori) before Experiencing anything in this world (Also read my earlier post: No knowledge means no experience). So in the example above if the subject did not have any existing knowledge/ data points of Tigers ( or of wild beasts and their fancy for all kinds of flesh) in her mind, she might even be humored or at best pleasantly surprised by this whole episode!

Staying with the plot, let’s try replacing the Tiger in this experiment with a new (read alien) product or a concept - face to face with the subject (in this case the customer); Now, what do you think the subject’s (the customer) experience and/ or reaction going to be?

Moral of the story: If you haven’t experienced what it is like to be face to face with a Tiger, you might not do nearly as good a job of launching a new concept/ brand in the marketplace as our protagonist in the Tiger experiment!!

The McKinsey effect!

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Peter Drucker is supposed to have commented once - “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.”

Incidentally, that is also the difference between “making customers buy from you” and “you having to sell to them” - and the difference is much more than pure semantics. While the former is driven by outside-in thinking, the latter is marked by more commonly practiced, inside-out type sales work.

Top consulting firms such as McKinsey have traditionally marketed (in line with outside-in philosophy) their wares. While there are many well-chronicled studies on how top consulting companies have mastered the art of marketing - one thing that clearly stands out in how these firms have succeeded in having their target customers “find” and “buy” from them is: Content.

Availability of world-class Content in the areas of their focus. Tons of it.  White papers, research notes, case studies, web-casts, articles, panels, presentations, seminars, blogs - focused, thought provoking and actionable insights for helping their target customers run their businesses well; Insights that are easily accessible to their customers at the right forums (both online & offline).

Generating high quality content, day after day, requires not only sharp & incisive minds but also a passion for creating and documenting knowledge. Remarkable businesses (small or big) have generally made a habit of creating world-class content.

By now you must have guessed that putting out world-class content is not exactly a trivial endeavor. But it just might be the only choice you have - a choice between between getting relegated to the commodity hell (read having to sell) or having your customers call you to do business with them. And the choice is yours!

Does McKinsey sell?

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Imagine folks at McKinsey & Co making cold calls to the CEO offices of Fortune firms to get a meeting for a consulting gig! Not a chance.

Does that mean they don’t sell their services? Sort of.

McKinsey does not SELL their services, they MARKET them.

Which means instead of working the phones to get engagements, they wait for the phones to ring!

And ring they do.

So, how did McKinsey manage it? And what could rest of us possibly do to get the same McKinsey Effect  working for us?

I’ll continue with some ideas/suggestions on this theme in my next post(s). So stay tuned in.

Just do it!

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Too many marketers spend too much of their precious time laboring over a grandiose, cumulatively exhaustive, integrated marketing plan (!),  before they could do anything about it. In my experience, most of it stays on their spreadsheets without ever seeing the light of the day.

What might work better though is that once you have figured out a general sense of direction - then beat that inertia and quickly start running. Which simply means: run that email campaign, spruce up your brochure, make those calls, do that event, upgrade a webpage, round up some sales guys to chat about that new offering…however tactical it might sound. Because this, and only this, is your moment of truth - making touch with people who pay to keep you in business - day after day.

Seth Godin also has a one line advice on this subject. And I can not agree more.

So get over that vague feeling of “have I got it right yet” or “I am sure there’s more to it” right now - and just do it!

The thing about segmentation

Monday, February 16th, 2009

I was in the city of Kolkata last week moderating a panel for an audience largely consisting of Heads or Principals of the leading Schools. Among other things, I also noticed that most of the School Heads in the audience knew each other very well - fairly evident from the bonhomie and back-slapping in view during the coffee and lunch breaks.

If you were a business, marketing your story to the Schools in Kolkata, you don’t need an MBA to tell that as soon as you sign up your first client from this community - others will generally follow as long as you execute well on your story. Why? Because your story is so clearly and immediately referenceable in the context.

What if you went after schools based in another part of India - say Bangalore (in the State of Karnataka) with Kolkata Schools as your only clients? Would it be as easy to secure an entry into this group? I doubt that. For the simple reason that the Bangalore Schools have no way to get a “credible” and “immediate” reference of your story. But with some struggle (read good sales effort) you could still manage it as - however dilute it may be - the story is still referenceable at least from a cultural standpoint. 

But what happens if you train your sights on Schools in China? or the States? The model breaks completely. Your Indian story may not have any referenceability with the School community in these regions.

The ‘ability to reference’ then becomes a critical data-point for every marketer to test the veracity or the consistency of their ”target groups”. Which means if you find that a customer/ cluster from a certain target group can not credibly reference your story with some one else in the group, it could well be a red flag indicating a broken segmentation exercise.

Even In the world of Internet or online marketing, marketers typically use what is called as viral marketing  (using a sticky concept with a pre-designed hook/ idea virus) to ”zero-in” or uncover a high potential target group - which is nothing but a segment or community that is able to reference your story with each other! Same idea but a different application.

Human Frailty and Marketing

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

My young toddler asked me an interesting question the other day: “How can Lord Hanuman (a Hindu God and a Noble Hero) carry the whole mountain on his hand?”

It is not important what I answered him, nonetheless, here is an interesting observation: until he asked me this question or sometime before that, he was probably not aware of the fact that he can NOT lift a mountain - or that only a God can perform such a feat!

If he’s not already, very soon he will also realize that he can not fly without wings, walk on the water,  can not reach the stars…

For most of us growing up means - discovering our limitations and frailties every day of our lives…

Wonder what were folks like Graham Bell, Wright Brothers, Edison, Lincoln, Gandhi and more recently Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and President Obama, thinking when they did, what they did?

Great marketing or entrepreneurship always starts by challenging an existing point of view or a belief, and in doing so, necessarily transcends all the frailties or limitations associated with the human mind around that concept.

And that , by the way, is also the 101 for a course in performing miracles or doing great marketing!

Successful Product Introduction (4) - In Summary!

Monday, January 26th, 2009

This post is last in the series on successful product introduction. So here they are, the three key ideas/ pointers for successful new product/ concept introductions:

1. World-Views - we all live in our own independent worlds, with our unique set of predispositions (read world-views). But each new experience that we undergo has the power to shape/ color our existing world-views - resulting in a dynamic of constantly changing, evolving worlds.

So how do you Ms. Entrepreneur or Marketer, make your new product/ concept an integral part of these evolving worlds?

2. Forward Thinking - provides the answer. Fresh, unconstrained, outside-in thinking, resulting in a Remarkable Story framed in an existing world-view of (and for) a narrow group of customers. Envisioning , Intuition, Observation and Learning as You Go - are some of the operative phrases to build out your business scenarios/ use cases here - leading up to the creation of highly relevant and remarkable stories.

3. Shaping Experiences - the fact that how a customer chooses to react to a certain story/ concept can not be predicted beforehand…but a relentless and unceasing focus on & observation of these initial set of experiences (or satisfactions) can help you fine-tune your stories in a way that you start impacting (read ” training” and “shaping”) the experiences of not only your initial set of customers (read early adopters) but also the mainstream.

To end, here are some relevant questions highlighting each of the ideas indicated above:

What things (objects and experiences) ”constituted” your world 10 years back? 5 Years back? Last month?

What category or industry Apple Computers belongs to? Technology? Music? Media? And how did they choose to become a part of these industries/ categories?

What percentage (and demographic groups) of Americans were supporting President Obama when he started out as a candidate? And which key (demographic) groups joined in as his supporters in the months that followed? Why? What did he specifically do to make that happen?

Think about it.

Successful Product Introduction (3): Shaping Experiences

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Who came first - you or the world around you? Obvious answer is the World.

But that just might not be true after all. We Create (and sometimes with lot of effort) our own world around us - at least at the psychological level.

The fact that we tend to view the world outside of us through our own  “lenses” - colored by our conditioning and experiences - means that from a psychological standpoint at least, we all live in (and have created) our own private worlds.

Purely from a scientific view though - by design human beings behave like Perfect Learning Systems: we use our sensory inputs (the data) to train our minds (the system) on a continual basis - creating/ shaping our worlds as we go.

It follows then if we (read our sensory organs) are exposed  to an alien concept long enough - chances are that we will end up training ourselves (read getting favorably predisposed) in the new concept in quick time. And this “training” overtime becomes what we call as our Experience or - the very World we live in!

This truth is also the central idea (and also the Pointer # 3) for any new (and successful) product/ solution introduction.

So what can you - the entrepreneur and/ or the marketer -  do to ensure that your product/ widget is “in and an integral part” of the world your potential customers are “creating” around themselves?

The answer lies in the “Incessant and Singular Focus on (and Observation of) the Experience” of your customer when they are exposed to your product - and that only. Period. 

Successful marketers - always design their products (read messaging) to SHAPE the experiences of their potential customers. The exercise starts as an experiment with a “high potential” set of customers (also read my other post on Forward Thinking) - which keeps getting fine-tuned with an ongoing feedback collection from these customers - until the product (starts to) becomes part of the world (and of the repository of favorable experiences) of a much broader set of customers than you intially started with.

If you watched President Obama take his oath for the Presidency yesterday - with millions watching (with misty eyes) from around the world - you’d know what I am saying!