Category Archives: marketing

You don’t have a marketing/growth problem(YET)

Originally published on Medium

I often come across folks who are getting started with their startups. Many of them are looking for advice and their is one question that almost everyone of them asks without fail.

How can we scale up marketing for our startup?

Make Stuff That People Want

It’s like they’ve figured out everything else and the only thing that is to be solved for now is Growth. First time founders are particularly prone to this line of thinking.Typically in most such cases, there are a few things that seem to be working.

Some Traction

  • The site is getting a bit of traffic or their app is getting a few downloads.
  • A few users are signing up or leads are being generated.
  • There are a few active users.
  • Some revenue or repeat usage of the product.

To the founder’s credit, they’ve built a product and figured out some stuff in getting their product in front of the potential users. However, more often than not they end up jumping the gun in thinking that all the basic groundwork is done and all that remains is reaching to more people.

But incidentally, there’s more to it than meets the ‘optimistic founders’ eye. Let’s dig a little deeper.

A startup’s life comprises of multiple stages that need to be sequentially navigated.

Two Major Phases in a Startup’s Life

  1. Pre Product-Market Fit (Pre-PMF)
  2. Post Product-Market Fit (Post-PMF)

Understanding Product-Market Fit

In layman’s terms, achieving Product-Market Fit means

You’ve figured out a way to solve a problem that enough users care enough about (to pay enough for).

This definition covers three core aspects important to any startup

  • Market — You might solve a problem for a handful users but are there ‘enough users’ that feel the pain/need for a solution?
  • Product — You might have come up with a solution but does it ‘really resonate’ with your users?
  • Monetisation — Your users might be using your product to solve a problem but are they willing to ‘pay reasonably’ for it(or is their a different way to monetise like Ads and such)?

While the above mentioned might seem obvious, I’ve seen more entrepreneurs mistake confusing getting a Pre-PMF with a Post-PMF 
(You might want to re-read the points in quotes above).

Amidst all the buzz around fundraising, press-coverage and exists, the urge to ‘grow fast and kill it’ is understandable. However, before worrying too much about the non-existent growth you absolutely need to understand if you’ve found a product-market fit.

Important: A vastly important point here as I’ve learned over the years is that Market > Product. “Which market to operate in” could be a great heuristic to work with. More on that in a later post.

Why is Product-Market Fit Important?

Product-Market Fit is the Holy Grail of Startups

Nothing kills a bad product faster than good marketing

Premature Scaling or spending effort and money on marketing a half-baked product to solve a half-thought through problem is potentially dangerous.

It requires a significantly harder push to market a product that claims to solve a problem most users don’t realise enough(they have) in a way that doesn’t make sense to them. By resolving to spray and pray marketing you might acquire some users, a few of which might translate into paying customers but more importantly, it will give you an illusion that you’ve figured out what people want.

It’s this precise illusion that’s the biggest problem. Most people who find themselves in this illusion end up adding more features into their product, continue their spray and pray efforts to acquire users, trying to raise funds and more often than not reach the woeful end of “Running out of money”.

Contrast this with a situation in which you’ve found Product-Market Fit. In which case, every single step mentioned above will seem like a breeze (ok, almost like a breeze).

Also, it’s worth noting that one important and often overlooked factor that seems to add up to the illusion of figuring out PMF is the founders psychology. While things begin with a sound footing, many a times the empathy to truly solve a customers problem and delivering a wow experience is quietly taken over by a personal insecurity and need for validation. Once in this zone, the founders tend to look and even gloat in any metric that confirms their illusion. So, being self-aware about your psychology is a must for course-correction.

What does Product-Market Fit look like?

Marc Andreessen on what PMF Looks Like

In essence,

Having a product-market fit means it’s much easier to convert users and retain them

Let’s refer to the user funnel to find more. Here’s what a typical user funnel for B2C/B2B startup looks like

User Funnel

Whether you have found a product-market fit drills down to two metrics really

  • Conversion Rate — 
    (No of engaged users/No of users) or (No of customers/No of leads)
  • Retention Rate — 
    (No of repeat users /No of engaged users) or (No of customers/No of repeat customers)

And out of these two also, I’d prioritise Retention over Conversion as it’s a definite indicator of PMF

Retention vs PMF


If these two metric are reasonably good, chances are you have attained PMF 
and can now focus on scaling growth. On the other hand, if these two metrics, especially the Retention Rate are in single or early double digits there’s a problem. It’s likely that you are yet to find a PMF and you need to go back to the drawing board and figure that out.

Let’s take an example of an app that lets you improve your health by connecting with you a nutritionists or fitness coaches. To check the PMF status we will have to look at the user funnel numbers.

Sample Funnel Data for a Health App

As visible from the data above, it looks like a case of Pre-PMF as both conversion rate and retention rate are weak, therefore they are better of trying to first find a PMF and then worry about growth.

PMF Discovery Tip: Go through your user data and see if there’s some segment of users that has significantly higher retention than others. This just might be the niche for which your offering makes perfect sense. Next, you can double down on sharpening your offerings further for them and then get to finding more such people

I’d like to conclude by saying that at an early state of your startup while you must continue to feed top of your funnel by acquiring some users (more data to analyse the better) but don’t be too eager to press the gas pedal on marketing or growth till you’ve figured out a set of users (around 100 for a B2C business) that truly love what you are doing.

Till the time you’ve found out those users, improve your product offering or consider targeting a smaller niche with your existing product.

Thanks to Sameer Guglani, Navneet Singh, Monica Jasuja, Aditya Sahay and Lakshay Pandey for their feedback.

E-commerce Customer Lifecycle Management: Metrics and Goals

This is second part in a series of posts on ecommerce customer lifecycle management. In the first part we discussed an overview of CLM and in this post we’ll discuss how to identify, measure relevant customer lifecycle metrics and define goals to improve them.

Basic E-commerce Customer Lifecycle.

Pic 1: E-commerce Customer Lifecycle (Basic)

To improve progression of users through the lifecycle we will look at the corresponding funnel as funnels are great to measure stage wise conversion

Pic 2: Customer Funnel (Basic)

Quick Definitions

  1. Total Users: Users with email id/phone number/apn or gcm id.
  2. Total Customers: Users that have ordered at least once.
  3. Total Repeat Customers: Customers that have ordered more than once.
  4. Total Loyal Customers: Customers that have ordered more than Z times.

We’ve mapped the lifecycle into these four basic funnel stages because they represent a user action based milestone. This grouping of users is important because users in each stage share a lot of similarities in their experiences(or lack of) with the product and the kind of nudges required to help them move to the next stage.

Spray and Pray is not a Strategy

A mistake most marketers tend to make is to send the same communication to all users. It’s wrong to assume that the same communication will work for both ‘Non Purchasers’ and ‘Repeat Customers’.

Identifying Key Customer Lifecycle Metrics

The key metrics to be used have to be leading (or input) metrics i.e they are influenceable or directly actionable. In this case, the relevant metrics are the conversion rates from one stage to another. Let’s take some sample data

                           Pic 3: Overview of Customer Funnel

At a high level, this table above tells you all there is know about the business and the levers to improve things are the conversion rates that correspond to each stage.

                                        Retention is poorly understood

Key CLM Metrics aka E-commerce Vitals:

                                     Pic 4: Key CLM Metrics
  1. User Activation Rate
    = (Total Customers /Total Users) * 100
  2. Repeat Customer Rate
    = (Total Repeat Customers/Total Customers) * 100
  3. Loyal Customer Rate
    = (Total Loyal Customers/Total Repeat Customers) * 100

Loyal Customers = Users * Activation Rate * Repeat Rate * Loyal Rate

                                   CLM Metrics are Ecommerce Vitals

These Key CLM Metrics are E-commerce equivalent to the human body vitals.

As a growth guy, I lay extreme emphasis on these CLM metrics because they help me understand the current state of things and point towards directions that need the most work.

             Pic 5: Each Metric Tells A Story and Suggests A Direction to Work On

Defining Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) Goals

With these three metrics identified, the task ahead is clear

Customer acquisition is just half the battle won.

                   Pic 6: Overview of Customer Data and Key Metrics

There can be 3 broad goals for improvement from here

  1. Increase User Activation Rate (Biggest Improvement Area) — An improvement by 5% here will translate into 20% increase across Customers, Repeat Customers and Loyal Customers
          Pic 7: User Activation Rate — The biggest lever of retention

Since User Activation Rate impacts the top of the customer funnel and a small improvement here will have the maximum impact in both customer count and revenue, it is paramount to improve it ASAP.

                  It’s important to fix User Activation Rate at the earliest

2. Increase Repeat Customer Rate (Toughest Improvement Area) — This is the second biggest improvement area. An improvement by 5% here will translate into 20% increase in both Repeat & Loyal Customers

       Pic 8: Repeat Customer Rate — The second lever of retention

If there are a lot of folks who are placing orders but aren’t coming back to buy again this could be a serious problem. This metric needs to be looked from multiple perspectives — Product Quality, Post Purchase Experience, Post Purchase Communication and such.

3. Increase Loyal Customer Rate (Easiest Improvement Area) — An improvement by 5% here will translate into 25% increase in Loyal Customers.

           Pic 9: Loyal Customer Rate — The third lever of retention

In my experience I’ve found this metric easier to influence than the repeat rate. Customers that have made multiple purchases are comparatively easier to retain & re-activate. You also have the most behavioural data about them.

Here’s a quick summary showing the impact of a 5% improvement in each key metric on One Time Purchasers, Repeat Customers and Loyal Customers.

Pic 10: Impact of a 5% improvement in each metric on Customers, Repeat Customers & Loyal Customers

The table above summarises the impact pretty neatly. In case, this is looking exciting, let me add to the excitement by showing you the improved numbers in a case where you are able to increase each key CLM metric by just 5%.

      Pic 11: Impact of 5% improvement across all three Key CLM metrics

Not only the % of people in each lifecycle stage looks quite better, the increase in loyal customers by 80% is fantastic

With these three broad CLM goals defined and projections explored, we have a task cut out for the marketing/growth team to make plans around.

In this post we’ve focused on identifying the Key CLM Metrics and Defining CLM Goals. In the next post in this series we’ll discuss some strategies to achieve these goals.

If this is the first post you are reading in this series, there’s a prequel to this post on introduction to Ecommerce Customer Lifecycle Management here

Thanks Navneet Singh and Saurabh Tuteja for their feedback

E-commerce Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM): An Introduction

This is the first part of a series of posts on e-commerce customer lifecycle management. In this post we’ll discuss an overview of CLM (The What & Why) and it should be useful for a marketing/growth person in designing their CLM strategy

A few things to note:

  • Analysing data only makes sense once you have a sizeable amount of it.
  • In this post we are only covering user and customer engagement.We will cover visitor data in a separate post
  • For sake of simplicity in this post we are only looking at linear movement across different lifecycle stages.

There are a lot of lenses to look at e-commerce customer behaviour data from but Customer Lifecycle Management(CLM) is at the core of it all. I believe CLM is the fundamental element that needs to be in place for you to drive good ROI on your marketing or growth efforts. Once you have a defined CLM framework, you can start focusing on other aspects. Let’s dig a little deeper


What is Customer Lifecycle Management?
Customer lifecycle is a term used to describe the progression of steps a customer goes through when considering, purchasing, using, and maintaining loyalty to a product or service.

Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) is a framework to facilitate a smooth movement of users(non-purchasers) from acquisition towards loyalty (repeat active customers) by maximising the value delivered at each customer engagement touchpoint and removing all friction in conversion

                                    Pic 1: E-Commerce users’ Journeys

 

Why is it important to manage Customer’s Lifecycle?

  1. With limited customer acquisition channels, the customer acquisition costs will continue to rise unabated
  2. It is much easier to convert and retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one
  3. A happy customer will not only purchase more, they will also spread the word for you and bring additional customers.

Or put it other way,

You can’t build a sustainable e-commerce business without repeat customers

The Scope of Customer Lifecycle Management

Let’s briefly discuss what all does a CLM framework entail. We can divide the scope of work for CLM into the following

  1. Defining lifecycle stages, identifying relevant metrics and data
  2. Conceptualising categories of customer communication to nudge users from one lifecycle stage to the next
  3. Designing campaigns and creating content for categories defined above
  4. Executing various CLM campaigns and iterating on them to improve their efficacy.

Designing The Customer Lifecycle

While there’s no standard way to define a customer lifecycle for an e-commerce/transactional business, in my experience I’ve found this flow to do the job well.

                                           Pic 2: Customer Lifecycle (Basic)

This basic version of customer lifecycle is useful to get a high level overview and is easy to get started with.

                                        Pic 3: Customer Lifecycle (Advanced)

For the mature growth/marketing person, this advanced version of lifecycle will be beneficial. The advanced lifecycle is particularly beneficial for mid to large sized businesses.

I find this representation useful because it gives a more in-depth view of what exactly is happening in each lifecycle stage (Pic1). Also, by splitting various lifecycle stages by their purchase activity you get a better sense of how many customers are active, at risk of getting churned and have already churned.

Defining Lifecycle Stages
Before we jump to the metric, let’s quickly understand what each stage means.

                                     Pic 4: Definition of Various Lifecycle Stages

In this content, a couple key definitions one must understand are

  1. Risk Window — Number of days for which if a customer doesn’t purchase they are at risk of churning (X days).
  2. Churn Window — Number of days for which if a customer doesn’t purchase they are churned (Y days).

A churned customer is one who hasn’t purchased for long enough that we can consider them to be lost.

Repeat and Loyal Customers
There isn’t a definite way to define repeat and loyal customers. For sake of simplicity, I’ve defined repeat customer as anyone who has placed more than one order. Similarly, Loyal customers can be defined in multiple ways (orders/revenue etc) but I’ve defined them on the basis of number of orders (Z orders).

Depending on the nature of business, you can decide values for X,Y and Z

With the Customer Lifecycle in place, we now have to define our goals and make plans to achieve them. We’ll cover those in the remaining parts of the series.

Update: You can view the part two of the series in which we cover CLM Metrics and Goals here

Thanks Navneet Singh & Nitish Varma for reading the drafts.

Myntra’s End of Reason Sale in 7 images

# 1: A week or so back

The Build Up

YT ads promoting the sale
#2 Midnight on the day of sale

Midnight of Offer DayAs per Myntra’s twitter account, they were updating the offers

 

#3 Morning of the day of sale

Morning of the day of sale

Front double page ad on HT Delhi

#4 Minutes after the sale begins

Minutes after the sale began

 

Push notification to their app base (along with emails and sms)
#5 Few hours into the sale

Few hours into the sale

User Accounts (some say IPs) on both app and web were blocked for 30 minutes from making any request to the site

#6 Less than 12 hours into the sale

12 hours into the sale

 

 

#7 A little over 12 hours

end_myntra7

If the sequential order numbers of Myntra is anything to go by, the order id increased by over 1L  in the first 2 hours of the sale.

Time – 9:42 AM, Order id: 70303245

Time – 11:42 AM Order id: 70425987

Run rate: 60k orders/hour (16.67 orders/sec)

 

Inside the mind of an Indian online shopper: How & Where I spent my money online in 2014

Last year, around the same I time I posted a quick analysis of my spends across various e-comm sites. Thought of repeating the exercise again and see what all changed

1) Split of orders across sites

Split of Orders Across Sites

 

Not surprisingly, I placed the most orders in 2014 on Paytm (close to 70%), followed by Freecharge (8%), Flipkart (4.3%), Amazon & Bookmyshow. Various cashback schemes run on Paytm are the reason behind the skew of order count

Talking about physical goods #1 was Paytm (Aggressive offers early on), followed by Flipkart, Amazon & Jabong

 

2) Split of spend across sites

Split of Spend across sites

 

The story starts to clear up a bit when we look at split of spend across various sites

While 70% of orders I placed were on Paytm, 52% of the money I spent online went their. Flipkart (17.6%),  Jabong (14.1 %) & Myntra (3%) came next. The ticket size for Amazon has been quite less

3) Split of spend across categories

Split of spend across categories

This is quite revealing for me. While last year I spend considerable chunk of money (spent online) buying books, this year books formed a very small piece.

35% of money I spent shopping online last year, was spent on buying Electronics (mostly mobiles) & related Accessories. 25% was spent on recharges/bill payments and a significant change towards Fashion with 22% of my spend went there.

Some Interesting Bits:
1) I spent more ordering food online than buying books (Still can’t believe it or Maybe I got better deals at books 😉 )
2)  I spent more on Cab rentals than movies ( I don’t take cabs as much) and almost the same amount as I spent ordering food online
3) Between Fashion & Electronics – 57% of my money was spent

Purchase Summary
Orders placed: 321
Digital goods (recharges, bill payments and movies): 252

Money Spent: Rs 1,72,448
Money spent on Physical goods: 1,24,621

Closing Thoughts/points
1) I’m not the most savvy online purchaser but I do tend to compare prices before buying stuff and have started using mysmartprice and more recently  buyhutke (Chrome plugin)
2) Online mega sales trigger my purchases (super surprised to find out, I ordered on Myntra this GOSF after a break of 1 year from last GOSF). Made purchases on Big Billion Day and even Myntra’s “End of Reason” sale today
3) While I preferred purchasing on desktop (ease of selection, multiple tables, price comparison etc). I’ve started buying stuff straight of mobile. While for many purchases mobile still serves as the initiation point of my purchases and the same happens other way around, I add items to cart on web only to order them later on mobile when free
4) Most of my purchases (especially Fashion) are impulse (discount driven If I can admit), while Electronics etc are kinda planned
5) I’ve jumped the ship completely when it comes to paying by card. Almost, all my purchases (90% +) are pre-paid now.
6) Myntra and Jabong have spoiled me with their super easy return/exchange policies and flow. I don’t think twice before ordering stuff from them as I know I can always get the product returned/exchanged if I don’t like it. They also have superb delivery timelines (24 hours is a regular)
7) One thing I miss shopping online, is “Lack of Price Protection”. What you buy today for Rs 5000 can be available for say Rs 4000 and Rs 3500 the next day. As a buyer, you obviously feel bad about it
8) Newly caught trend of using wallets to pay on various sites to get discounts and cashbacks is a good incentive to use them. I’ve used Paytm, mobikwik and Payumoney, depending on the offers they are running.
9) I’m yet to order specs, furniture, grocery, health & wellness and things from a lot of these categories
10) Product wise – Wishlist and Rating/Reviews are by far the most useful features. Also, I love the feature to sort/filter using discount/offers (or the lack of them).

Hope, this post would help folks working in e-commerce get “some more idea” of their *Customers*

 

10 ways to hire great guns for your start-up

Just like “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”, for start-ups

Hiring is too important to be left to the HR department.

In the previous post I talked about ‘Who to hire for your start-up‘. Many of you agreed to most of what I shared so the next question that comes out is how to hire these guys. As @mohak put it brilliantly

Recruitment is marketing. If you can’t hire well, you can’t market well 

If like most others you are finding it incredibly hard to recruit your A team here are some obvious and not so obvious tips

HowSuccessfulStartupsHire-poster

      1. Be Involved: Unless you have someone really well in the team who can handle this for you, be involved in hiring. Another pro tip is not to hire a standard HR professional to do the hiring for your start-up. I’m yet to see a regular HR person turn into a great start-up HR pro. Most of them just don’t have it in their DNA. To avoid bad hires, stupid hiring processes and missing out on some exceptional talent its best suggested to be on TOP yourself for as long as you can afford to be. Founders set the culture of the company and the people they hire initially defines it.
      2. Brand: Be it your founding team, your VCs, the cool tool/service that you are developing or the world changing impact you are going to have. The easiest and surest way to get talent is to be remarkable. Unless your company’s mention people go WOW, you’ll always have a tough time getting smart people to work for you. PR/Social Media/Customer Care or what ever it takes, make sure you have a plan to create a brand around your start-up
      3. Recruitment begins at home:  This bit is so obvious that most start-ups tend to forget it. Every start-up should try to leverage their existing employees to hire more people. This is applicable as much to a 10 member start-up as to a 100 member. No one is better suited to spread the word about you than your existing workforce and you never know which one of your employees gets you whom.  What’s needed for this to worka) Happy & Empowered Employees – Unless one likes their job/company they won’t spread the word and as a founder you need to make sure that your employees aren’t just having a great time working for you they are actually so proud that they’d shout out to all their great friends as invite them. However you at your end need to ensure that they are empowered enough to do this and don’t have any bad experience about the whole thing/process.
        b) Incentives (Icing on the cake) – $$ or mobile phones, might just do wonders.Keep asking them for feedback about hiring/referral process and keep getting it implemented
      4. Customers/Partners/Investors/Vendors: The second best source to get smart folks to work is to leverage the people who do business with you. Keep them in loop about your openings and you never know who they help you hire. They might not even need any incentives and would be just happy to do some matchmaking for you (Assuming you have a healthy relationship with them and serve or pay them well). A power user/customer is a great hire(obviously they need to be talented and not just power users), they’d be obsessive about the product and would already have some ideas on how to make things better. I’d given an arm to have a passionate customer join my start-up
      5. Promotion on Your Website: Sounds too obvious again? Trust me it’s not. Far from what some of you think. Only a handful of hundreds of start-ups use their website to promote their job openings. How many of you(founder) have an updated jobs page on your website? Here are some of them that “Get This”slideshare_hiring
        Visual Website Optimizer
        Heroku
      6. Social Media:
        a) Sponsored ads on Facebook
        Sponsored Updates
        b) Company Page on LinkedIn
        linkedin_twitter
        c) Email Lists
        google_groups
      7. Content Marketing: Content is King” so to speak, for it has a life of it’s own. You can leverage content  to market yourself and attract relevant employees. Interest content will find its way around layers of social media and reach places you can’t. Here are some examples
        Brandologistakosha
      8. Start-up Events/Meet-ups: I know by experience that most start-up events are as (or even less) than the websites/blogs that organize them but even those events attract some bright people who are just out to explore interesting opportunities. You should be checking these events every once in a while. Also, you can consider organizing some meet-ups/hackathons to attract enthusiastic folks.
        has
      9. Internship portals/Start-up Websites: Some of these portals provide access to ambitious and talented people. Also,the sheer fact that some is following them means they are already a bit ahead of the curve
      10. Random Pick-up: This one is as nasty as it sounds. Like somebody’s blog post on tech architecture? Find someone’s slideshow amazing? Follow this amazing sales person on twitter? Stumbled upon a script on github that you found useful?
        GO ahead and make contact. Start interacting with these folks and see if they’d like to join you in your journey.
        The entire kwippy team was hired for Mpower Mobile(in 2008) like that

These 10 ways should help you with your hiring. Do share what you think about them and if you have any experiences around start-up hiring that others can benefit from

Update:  Here’s another super geeky way to pick up nerds

BUEDhMsCcAEHmEA

 

 

Empathy: The Secret Sauce For Mind-blowing Customer Experience

I am a sucker for remarkable, awe-inspiring,  mind-boggling customer experience and can’t think enough about it. The more negative experiences I have as an end user (with consumer goods companies, mobile operators, eating joints etc) the more determined I am to offer the best possible customer service for my business. Obsessing about customer service has had its share of good and bad realizations and continue to help me in connecting the dots. It was in one of these moments that it occurred to me that Empathy or the lack of it could be an indicator for good/bad customer service.

Sometimes while taking care of Dial-a-Book operations I find myself in a situation where I have to deliver an order (because of urgency of the situation and unavailability of other designated resources). Last such case happened 4-5 days back when a student ordered a book in afternoon on a condition that it should be delivered the same day as he had an exam next day afternoon, Fair enough. There was however a little problem in this, we didn’t have the concerned book in stock and it had to be procured locally. After a few hours and towards the end of our office hours when we managed to procure the book, we had no one left in the office to deliver it. Now came the last resort, for me to deliver them personally, when I told this at home that I’ll be at home late as I had to deliver a book, pat came a reply, “You can get it delivered tomorrow by your delivery team”. While in normal course of action that’d have been except in this case it was urgent as the customer had an exam due next day and thus wanted the book the same day.

The reason why I shared the above mentioned case was because I felt I could take care of this case because I could relate to the customer and their problem ( a student needing a book desperately for an exam scheduled next day) . Empathy with the customer had the power to drive me to go out of the way and make sure that the book is delivered the same day.

Isn’t this how this generally works?

If everybody from product designers to the customer service executives could empathize with their customers they would be in a position to offer much better solutions to their problems.  On the contrary if the person in question can’t feel the pain of the customer they might not be able to offer exemplary customer experience.

What do you think?

Memeology

It happened yet again. Facebook saw yet another meme apparently meant to promote ‘Breast Cancer Awareness‘. When I logged into Facebook day before yesterday I was unpleasantly surprised to see some female friends put statuses like these

I was caught off guard and didn’t realize for a while and it got confirmed when I saw this

If you are a regular user of Facebook you might remember a similar meme that surfaced earlier this year. While this meme is apparently all about places where women would like to keep their *purse* and not where they’d like to *do it*, the last meme was about women sharing their *Bra Colour*. I’ll not get into the discuss if such memes actually help spread awareness about Breast Cancer or not but what interests me more is the the “how & why” of these memes.

One of the first Memes I encountered was during my early days of Blogging a few years back was probably “10 things you don’t know about me” or something similar. The sheer fact that a trend needs to grow viral in order to become a meme is an interesting thing and it is worth exploring what makes a meme a meme.

A meme is in a lot of ways like a viral (forward) email/sms as it has the essential elements required to sustain and grow itself. Going back to the ‘Made To Stick’ check list for an idea to spread, a meme should also have certain features for it to go viral. Ideally a meme should be

  • Simple (To ensure maximum participation. For ex: Colour of your Bra, Name of your first Crush)
  • Unexpected (One of the parameters for a meme is also how unexpected/weird/double meaning/out-of-the-ordinary it is. For ex: Where would you like to “whatever”)
  • Emotional (It should be able to elicit a connect emotionally. For ex: 10 Things you didn’t know about me, 5 Things I can’t live without  etc)
  • Direct/In-direct call to action(A direct call like tagging people to do the same on their page/blog etc or an in-direct call to join them in the cause as in the case of Bra Colour meme)

Memes are a win-win situation for most users and the platforms(or the causes?) they spread in with users getting something different to talk/show off and the platform seeing more activity. However as someone interested in marketing I wonder if brands can leverage the meme phenomenon.  Your thoughts?

Customer Development Design

I’ve been a regular follower of Seth Godin’s blog and like almost all his posts. However there are some posts of Seth that I like way more than others. A couple posts that really caught my attention a few weeks back were on choosing the customer and training your customers respectively.

Posted at an interval of two days these two blog posts taken together offer a nice(different?) perspective of looking at things when it comes to Customer Development. Against the common notion that you should try to attract all kinds of customers Seth suggests that you choose your customers. Yes, you choose your customers for your business by your brand value proposition, pricing, customer experience and other things. All aspects of the way you run your business attracts or repels certain kinds of customers. You might wonder, why is it important to choose your customers?

It is especially important to choose your customers if you have a perspective/vision and you want things to happen according to that and not according to the terms defined by the market. For example sake, consider two product companies, one of which is very choosy when it comes to picking their customers and would rather prefer a smaller set of customers of the kind that they’d like while the other company is not really that choosy and is open to catering to all sorts of customers, the more the merrier. Assuming they both start from the same point, it won’t be difficult to imagine how differently would shape up after an year into the business. Company A which focuses of select customers will emerge out to be almost on the lines of the founder(s)’s vision while Company B which wants to get as much customers as it wants will have significant difficulty living up to the varied expectations and might just give in to the (un)reasonable demands of the majority.

Not only this, Seth suggests that businesses should also train their customers. Yes, training the customers by encouraging certain type of behaviour by rewards etc and discouraging certain type of behaviour. For ex: If you’ve priced your product slightly above the market standard then there’ll be lots of customers complaining about your price and trying to negotiate their way down(in terms of prices). Now there are two ways to go about it, one that you let customers negotiate and other is to don’t bother. Over a period of time if you follow the don’t bother policy you’ll observe how some price sensitive customers will move out and the remaining customers will get used to the higher than market price and stop complaining (This assumes that their is something that the business  offers to offset the high price).

Another interesting effect that this has is that it helps in building a culture among your customers that’s decided to a large extent by your terms and not the markets.

Using Facebook to find the Hero

Facebook Ads are something despite trying my best I find myself unable to ignore. In fact I think  my eyes are now always on a look out for conspicuous ads while I am on Facebook, and that’s how I noticed this ad

Buddha Ad on Facebook

It’s not often that you get too see an ad like this one “Ashutosh Gowarikar is searching for an actor to play Siddhartha/Buddha. If you are male 20 to 30 years of age then audition now!”. This sure looks interesting. On clicking the ad you are taken to http://www.buddha-movie.com/

Buddha Movie Website

where you can find out some basic information about the film and fill up a form to apply for auditions.

This is a really simple and innovative use of using the online medium (mostly Social) to solve a problem(finding new talent) and generating a good buzz long before the movie gets on the floor

Buddha the movie is also on Facebook and Twitter