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Tag Archive : Marketing

How to sell anything to anybody

I did several part-time jobs while in college but the only part-time job that I held for all the four years of my degree was as a salesman in a jewelry store. The managing partner of the store and still like an elder brother to me, Haresh, gave me this book, How to sell anything to anybody by Joe Girard. Haresh considered this book to be his bible on sales, and once I read it, it was my sales bible too. However, this book is not about sales.

This book is about creating a systematic approach to

  • Recruiting new customers without burning a hole in your pocket
  • Getting your customers to like you
  • Getting your customers emotionally attached to the product
  • Attaining (and maintaining) a high closing percentage
  • Engaging with your customers even if they don’t buy right away
  • Engaging with your customers after you have made the sale 
  • Getting referrals from customers, friends, family and service providers (including your barber!) to grow your business
  • Creating a team around you to ensure you get the highest return for your own time

Joe Girard sold 13,001 cars in his sales career. That is a staggering number because his sales career ended in 1978 i.e. way before the internet; WhatsApp or Facebook made it easy to reach out to a customer.

Joe was profiling his customers, listening to their needs, adjusting his approach to sell his customer. He also made several sales by reaching out to his customer just at the time that their car was ready to be replaced!

How did he know when to call? He kept all this valuable information on his customer in a physical CRM i.e., way before Salesforce, Dynamics, PipeDrive, etc. made record-keeping infinitesimally easier. 

It is for these reasons that this book is a must-read for all founders whether they handle the sales function or not because as I had mentioned before this is a book about creating systems. Therefore I recommend that every founder know how to support the sales function whether they sit in tech, operations, HR, or fundraising.

I have re-read this book several times in my career. Most recently, I re-read this book to create a system to approach, engage, and recruit LPs for my fund. The system ensured that only 13% of the 115 crores we have in commitments came from distribution relationships. Therefore, in the remaining 87% of the cases, I utilized Joe’s system to recruit, involve, and close LPs. My team used a CRM to manage follow-ups and we created new content to reach out to our LPs.

This approach saved us almost one crore a year in paying out fees to distributors, which is a massive cost saving for a MicroVC fund like ours. What is the investment?

Rs. 280 and 8 hours of reading time.

You don’t require a finance degree to explain that these are fantastic returns on your investment and time.

Now it’s up to you…

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My PR Experiment

Yesterday was an interesting day. I started off by tasting different blends of single shot coffee made by a start-up that we have been eyeing for a while now. They have been some gaining significant traction and the tasting culminated in the issuance of a term-sheet. In my next appointment, I visited several branches of a food aggregator that provides home cooked meals in an IoT enabled device. The heavy dose of caffeine from the morning helped me stay awake after an extraordinarily heavy lunch, but I really liked what the company was doing, and so we issued them a term-sheet too. In the last meeting of the day, I was with two entrepreneurs who are looking to fill the niche left open by Bira in the beer industry, and so I ended up tasting their different beers. Their product, taste, packaging and brand positioning are all unique and I’ll be honest, we are contemplating issuing them a term-sheet too. But no, this blog isn’t about tasting and issuing term-sheets, it’s about the commonality I observed in all three funding outlays, which I asked the founders to rectify i.e. instead of outsourcing it to an external agency, build an in-house marketing team to manage social media channels, PR and internal-external communication.

I used to erroneously advocate outsourcing PR and media management, but that viewpoint was permanently altered. I conducted a yearlong experiment in which I discontinued the services of our external PR agency and brought those functions in-house. Not only did I gain more control on what Artha (and I) wanted to communicate, but we also got more media mentions, got covered by the top journalists and were invited to renowned events around the globe. We also started publishing separate monthly and quarterly newsletters for our LPs and well-wishers.  All this effort has paid off through a marked increase in business for all the Artha entities, but most importantly, we achieved all these objective at 60% off our previous costs.

All of our PR (yes, all of it) was organic and genuine i.e. unpaid for. We did not sponsor events, pay for advertising in publications or authored articles. Things are moving so well that this year we are expanding the internal team by bringing in a Social Media Head that can move us from prose to video. Since we understand that the entire process isn’t a one-man job, we are allocating him/her a budget to recruit a team to facilitate this transition.

This massive cost saving got me questioning the PR/Media management agency model and whether it really works for an early-stage startup. I am afraid it does not. It takes many months and a lot of effort to get a brand new startup relevant and unpaid media attention. Unfortunately, early stage start-ups do not have the budget to compensate top-level agencies for their effort or even tier 2 or tier 3 players (unless they can secure a strong referral). Therefore, start-ups end up working with PR firms that themselves are starting up.  These PR firms overload their staff with multiple projects, to make ends meet, distributing the employee cost over the projects to make operations profitable. However, that divided cost also means divided time and focus on each project – a situation that does not bode well for start-ups trying to make a dollar for every penny invested in marketing. In fact, I have seen PR agents pitch 4-5 ideas to the same journalist in a single bid hoping to get any of them published. Is that really how you want your start-up to be pitched?

Another issue that works against the interest of the start-up is when a PR agency works hard to meet the KPIs they have promised and manages to do so in the first 15 days of the month. Having met their KPIs, they go radio silent for the rest of the month. This essentially means that their promised KPIs are the limit and not the base on which the agency works – completely opposite to how founders set KPIs for their internal team. After all, you can only create value for your company when you get more value than you pay for, isn’t it?

Therefore, I have come to a conclusion that PR agencies are useful for short sprints or Big Bang announcements, but the marathon work of building an image and brand for your startup should be done by an in-house team. In fact, even the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing recommends the same!

37/2019

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

There are some books that instantly connect with me because they take various vantage points I hold and put it together in a single coherent narrative.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing has it all; good research, umpteen number of examples that are woven into a compelling narrative and an easy to understand explanation of marketing rules that any and every founder must follow. I found this book so engaging that I just couldn’t put it down. I finished reading it in a day (which could’ve been done in a couple of hours if I wasn’t so busy underlining or writing in the margins).

The book was written in 1993, by two marketing gurus and best-selling authors Al Ries & Jack Trout, so most of the examples they describe are dated. Yet, it amazes me how accurate their predictions about the decline of brands like New Coke, GM, IBM, 7UP, etc. were and how they pinpointed the exact laws of marketing that these brands flouted that got them there.

In fact, I can easily identify present day companies that are underperforming due to flouting a marketing law and companies that are winning by meticulously following one. It is extremely engaging stuff.

What did I like about this book?

Its simplicity. The laws are extremely easy to understand, and the marketing rationale is explained using real world examples. The authors avoided being verbose and have kept the book concise and engaging.

I love the way in which they’ve given the laws because if I ever find myself in a quandary regarding a marketing decision, I can simply just open the relevant chapter and read it, to guide my thinking. In a way it will be my personal bible for marketing problems.  

My favourite laws?

In order of preference:

  1. The Law of Sacrifice – this one hits close to home because I have seen how flouting this law has hurt several of our companies i.e. when they tried to do everything and ended up becoming nothing.
  2. The Law of Leadership – learning that a leading brand is perceived as the better-quality brand was an eye opener. It answered the question on why investing in a challenger has (for the lack of better word) challenges.
  3. The Law of Category – This taught me that when you cannot win a category… you should create one!
  4. The Law of Focus – the most successful marketing teams are pros at associating their product or service with a single word – a word that they’ll always own.

Who is this book for?

This book is for anyone who is involved in making marketing (digital or otherwise) and branding decisions for the company that they founded or are employed at. It can be helpful to adjust their marketing efforts to work for and not against their company.

This book should be in the purse, bag or back pocket of any founder or marketer – it just that relevant!

35/2019

Video of the Week: Sell in 60 Seconds on Coutloot

The awesome team of Jasmeet Thind, Mahima Kaul and Vinit Jain have been making serious progress at Coutloot, a C2C fashion re-commerce platform.

This is a recently started online video ad campaign that alludes to the simplicity of selling on Coutloot.

I’ll let Jasmeet explain what Coutloot does.

Disclosure: Coutloot is an AIV portfolio company

78/2018

Learn from Elon Musk: be Careful of What you Promise Publicly!

The fiasco around taking Tesla private has dwindled Elon Musk’s credibility, making it hard to believe anything that comes out of his mouth. This brilliant piece of journalism aptly titled “Private’ mess: Elon Musk’s credibility goes from bad to worse” explains why this badly handled episode in Musk’s history can be considered a harbinger of worse things to come.

In fact, it is an important lesson for any founder who makes public statements of bravado in the pitching room or to the media- only promise what you can deliver because once that promise has left your mouth… it cannot be taken back.

…and by the way Mr Musk, I want my $1000 deposit on the Model 3 back!!!

71/2018