Tag Archives: linkedin

Multi Channel Marketing – Distribution Expansion or Cannibalisation

25 Aug

Bricks and Mortar Retail

My young nephew Dhruv came home very agitated the other night. He is planner and brand manager in charge of the store experience of a leading lifestyle brand. They were running a promo and he had spent many hours planning for the activation – he is a geek, so has devised simple but interesting models for inventory optimization, repricing etc.

Problem – in classical copybook style, he had planned that all “unique”, limited stock, special merchandise would be sold at their own retail showrooms during their heavily advertised promo. Makes sense, right? This is where you plan your retail experience, where you keep your best trained storefront people, where you spend megabucks on displays and merchandising.

What happened — yes, you all know it! 2 days before the activation was to hit the market, he figured that the dealer network had already booked all of it, and before he could say “activate….”, that inventory had all vanished!

Gives rise to classical undercutting!

This is a common problem in all dealer network sales systems, specially in India. Long ago, when I was leading area sales for Mattel toys in one of the toughest markets in the North of India, we kinda had the same problem. There was a dominant “wholesale” market in the center of town, and one fat cat distributor who supplied to those guys. Because the wholesalers bought in bulk, they got higher slab discounts – infact, all the the distributor kept for himself was a small margin. The rest of the city got supplied by other distributors, and since the retailers were smaller, they got no/ lesser trade discounts. Prime ground for channel conflict. Many retailers, who anyway visited the wholesale market for purchases of other/ less well distributed products would then get our merchandise cheaper at the wholesalers, leaving their distributors high and dry. This ugliness climaxed one fine day, when we had invited all distributors over for a meet and greet, and many of them almost came to blows!

Barbie Wall of Pink

(We did resolve this – and fairly innovatively too! But it took great guts and a strong belief in the power of our brand’s consumer pull to implement the strategy! We essentially cut down the slab discount mandates to retailers – and made the distributors accountable and penalizable for any contraventions! Would this have meant a reduction in revenues? Yes, a temporary dip – but our theory was that given the fact that we were selling a branded product in a largely unbranded products’ market, anyway, our retailers stocked our products only as the “hook”. Also, kind of following a not-price-led-but-brand-led version of the bait and switch tactic, they always attempted to switch the customer to a non branded – higher margin product that relied on trade push and therefore incentivized trade heavily to execute! Which meant, that all sales that we were seeing of our products were actually happening DESPITE the retailers, and not BECAUSE of them! That was the strength of our brand! Hence, crossing our fingers, we took the HUGE trade discount rationalisation step, which almost made history in trade sales!)

Coming back to channel conflict – my husband was ranting about this recently in another context. Attempting to invest some of our money in some bonds (or whatever), he asked the relationship manager of the bank what percentage interest we would get. (remember, we are so called ‘HNI’ so we merit a relationship manager who, btw, calls me everyday to give annoying snippets like – NIFTY has crashed/ the blasted ruppe is at 65 blah blah…). Imagine his disgust when the RM quoted him a rate that was – hold your breath – LOWER than that quoted on the bank’s website!!!!! (That poor RM i think didn’t get sleep that night since he was probably nursing a wounded ear – post the blasting that Manoj gave him!)

This online sales or “own store” sales vs dealer/ brick and mortar sales is a true conundrum.

Kind of rubs off on marketing as well maybe. The biggest thing that brands and companies nowadays are trying to achieve, is Multi Channel Marketing. ( we saw many RFPs on precisely this task last year). This is particularly relevant in the digital world – so, your offline presence needs to be synched to each of your digital avatars – your website/ blog/ forum presences/ social networking pages or channels. Since this is still fairly new, most brands are at the entry level of figuring this out – which largely means making sure that the visual identity in each channel is more or less similar (not as easy as it sounds – since most of these channels evolved at different times, and were probably executed by different departments within the company).

But, the true test of, and resolution to this is when you can remember the main reason behind having different channels – just greater/ higher reach. You know your customer now doesn’t have the will, or the need to – try too hard to get what she wants. So, you have to go where your customer is! This is true of the offline/ bricks and mortar space and of course online. And of course, different segments on your customers will go to different places – that is after all, the raison d-etre of distribution! So, you expand/ diversify/ have multiple avatars. Then the real way to avoid conflict is – differentiate your offering! Have merchandise as well as communication specific to each channel/ that suits the channel’s peculiarities and also that segment of your consumer that visits that channel. So, LinkedIn needs to have a more professional orientation, while Facebook can be/ is gimmicky/ polls and freebies…Dhruv’s own store needed the one off/ special merchandise because consumers come there expecting the widest range, NOT the most common!

The dichotomy though – how do you standardize visual identities/ simplify SKU hierarchies/ rationalize pricing while at the same time customizing offerings for every channel??? The answer – you do a bit of both! Have visual identities that cue the same stuff, but adapt to the channel – but DO differentiate the offerings for different channels – respect your channel – there is a reason why it is different – recognize that difference! Only then will your channel give you love back!

conflict resolution

Advertisements

Facebook Doesn’t get Monday Blues? (Weekly Social Media Behavior)

5 Aug

social web sites

Its true! EVERYONE rests on the sabbath!

I just completed 7 months of blogging – fairly sporadic stuff, i must admit. In these 7 months, I had formulated some theories about days and day parts that are most amenable to posting. These were:

– Mondays are great for posting on Facebook (Contrary to what you would expect, most folks do NOT get to office all waiting to sweat it out! I get loaaads of posts on my timeline, and actually a fair number of hits on my blogs on Mondays)

– Facebook gives me greatest hits – after all, these are friends, and they are fairly varied occupationally (from my mom, to my daughter – see this old post on Facebook’s ubiquitous appeal; to ex colleagues, to batchmates from school and college..)

– Fridays are bad – both these are actually a bit counter intuitive, aren’t they? If you look at lunch places, they are more crowded on Fridays than other places – most “nice to do” stuff is typically kept for fridays – so, one would think that Facebook browsing should be on the rise on Fridays? Not true

– Weekends are worst! On saturdays and sundays, I guess folks don’t use laptops; and, despite mobile increasing as access mode, I get least hits on those days 🙂

– For all social media platforms, the beginning of the day is better than the end – this is true of all, except twitter – where BOTH the beginning and the end is better.

I thought I would undertake some analysis and see if my hypotheses were true. Just so you know, I typically publish my blog at night, and then post it on twitter. In the morning, I repost it to twitter and then also post it on Facebook and Linkedin (Ofcourse, after judging appropriateness! There are posts that don’t make it to LinkedIn and Twitter; just as some that don’t make it to Facebook. See another old post with my opinions on segmenting content according to the character of the social media channel)

So, here’s what the trend of visits looked like:

Blog Visit Analysis

This validated my hypotheses about weekends being days of rest, but threw out a few surprising winners!
Interestingly, on a cumulative basis, all weekdays had more or less the same no. of visits per day (average).

However, if you break it up into days when there were posts published and those when there weren’t, Mondays and Thursdays were best for posting blogs. (I did a further drill down where I removed the outlier posts – those that were wildly successful, and found that Mondays were certainly the stars by far)

But, for “regular” behavior, ie, that not triggered by posts – which further translates to organic / search type visits – Mondays were actually the worst (and Wednesdays the best!). My theory for this is as follows:

After a lazy weekend, folks get back to work but also to their social networks – this points more and more to social networks, even the “non professional” ones like facebook, being almost an adjunct to your productive work day! This explains the high visits on Mondays when new triggers (new posts) are seen. But, during the middle of the week, folks start actual “work” – I am talking presentations/ inspiration/ research 🙂 – and hence organic visits peak then! Makes sense?

Look at the sources analysis:

Blog Source Analysis

Again, much to my surprise, “search” almost equals “Facebook” – this is partially testimony to the (slow) speed of blogging, but does atleast endorse the cleverness of my tags 🙂

A look at a few other similar subject analyses can be had here and here

So, if you want to start blogging, you know what time of the day/ day of the week and which channel to do it on! Happy blogging!

Facebook Etiquette and Virality

11 Feb

network

I see these all the time – a photo or link posted by one friend and then another and then another…not “shared” btw, coz these friends don’t know each other – but obviously seen at the main source – and then posted on their own pages.

If I feel something for that photo or link, I “like” or “comment” on it (rarely, i also “share” it). But, that is the FIRST time i catch it on my newsfeed. Then, when the next person uploads it on his/ her timeline, I don’t repeat that action – but each time I do feel a stab of guilt – that friend of mine will never know that I DO like that post! (Afterall, self expression notwithstanding, its true that most of us check facebook multiple times after posting someone to see what reaction we got! – even my 7 year old Achchu, who has taken to posting “restront reviews” – her spelling and “ossum recipes” on my friend Shoma’s website, asks me – hey mom, who “commended” on my recipe?). So, that’s my question on etiquette – should I like again and again and again? if only to keep my conscience clear, if not to make my friends happy?

But see, its interesting – is that piece of content coming again on my timeline because:

a) It is a hugely topical post, and therefore of interest to all? I.e., is this going viral? – ofcourse, “what makes viral” is a whole topic by itself – from “let’s go to Tahrir!” to “Four more years” to gangnam style (on that note, have you seen the latest gangnam style video to hit viral – the sleeping baby one? Hilarious – not so much for the baby’s actions, but for her sister’s reactions! if not, watch here… to the story of the two girls who got their puppy when they got a million likes on facebook (see site) thus prompting many clones..

OR

b) My newsfeed originates from my “friends” who are all “people like me” and hence the same kind of content will appeal to all of them. This is an intriguing and scary idea – coz, networks notwithstanding, many of the folks I know and befriend really really have NO way of knowing each other, and yet they are posting the same stuff. So, 2 concepts arise from here:

b1 – STP – NO NOT the Sanitary Treatment plant for water!!! but “Segmentation Targeting Positioning” – thats what helps marketers cluster like folks similarly and then manufacture stuff to appeal to them – it really is bringing a set of people down to their lowest common multiple and deriving the commonalities amongst them. So, we are all the cluster of the funny stuff likers, the women rights upholders, the music lovers

b2 – Social connectedness, virality and influence. This is the concept on which all social networks are built – but I think Linkedin shows it more than others as that typically is not always friends/ family but professional contacts. This is the stuff of which “influence” algorithms like Klout/ Kred etc made. Its also the science/ art that manufacturers are exploring in a bid to get their messages out – specially in healthcare, where traditional marketing is highly regulated.

Maybe that’s the reason why “influence networks” and “virus” have pictures looking the same!

infnets virus

As Brian Solis said: “Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.”

Social Media Rank of India’s Most Desirable Brands

29 Jan

Today’s is a lazy blog. a) It’s a follow up to another that I’d posted a few days ago – where I’d said I’d run some analysis on this subject. Lazy therefore because I didn’t have to think of a new topic. b) Its lazy because it’s more information – that I just needed to collate from various sites – and not so much opinions – for which I have to think a bit, organise my thoughts, maybe run some parallel research, and then write. Interesting paradox – in sheer physical effort of the research, these kinds of blogs actually require more hard labour – so, let me say this is a mentally lazy blog – though its a physically active one.

The above also upfronts a rather interesting debate (actually nowadays not so much debate as positioning/ messaging) on “data” vs. “information”..”knowledge” vs. “intelligence”. At one time, we contemplated using a tagline for our company that said – “data tells a story” (then junked it on grounds that it was too commonplace). So, in this post, I’ve collated some figures and will comment on it – rather than the other way around – have an opinion and then build a story around it.

Well, to finally get down to the actual post – just as I had promised, I attempted to rank India’s most Desirable Brands on their Social Media Presence. Here’s how they stack up:

Indian Ranking For Desired Brands

Findings therefore:

a) Both Desirable and Trusted Brands don’t really care about Social Media presence – obviously, their status on trust and desirability has far preceded the social media phenomenon – so, yes maybe it’s arrogance.

b) There isn’t really a pattern in these findings – some have made fair amounts of effort to create social media presence, and some haven’t (again shows the lack of correlation between status and marketing atleast in new media for these brands)

c) The car brands, being in the consumer space, are obviously the most active – with adoption of even Pinterest – the most visual/ sensory channel – this is logic, and contrary to my findings in the Trusted list – where even the food brands didn’t have a Pinterest presence (maybe this underlines the difference between Trust (read higher arrogance) and Desire – far more sensory, and therefore also maybe ephemeral.

d) EVERYONE, but everyone has youtube channels – not a surprise again, but clearly shows the importance of the audio-visual/ animated rather than static medium

e) At first I was surprised when I didn’t see facebook page for Google – realised later they wouldn’t promote competition 🙂 – they do have G+ account linked from their page. The same is kind of true for Apple/ iPad.

f) Many brands use sub properties/ brands that are more powerful – again, makes sense from overall marketing strategy perspective – Adidas is one such – has Social Media sites devoted to various sports – adidascricket for example. Interestingly, clearly has a country specific strategy for this as well – so while the cricket site is India specific, the golf one is not (shows status of cricket in India – where it’s not a sport but a religion)

g) Most brands use common global Linkedin sites – again, given this is a recruiting medium primarily, it kind of makes sense. Interestingly here however, was the fact that IBM’s status in the “most desirable” list was really only as a recruiter (India is a large base for IBM) – and YET they don’t have an India specific site. A little contrary to my expectation, Microsoft’s status was NOT only as a recruiter – it got there because of products as well – and YET they DO have a Linkedin page dedicated to India – with the largest no. of subscribers in this list, and a link on their home page (Microsoft also has a large base in India)

What this really tells me is that
a) There is no accounting for people’s perceptions (hence we should all abandon marketing – just kidding)
b) Looks like the ivy league companies in India are resting on their laurels – Doomsday warning – This will come back to bite you – stay ahead of the curve! (more on that another time)
and finally,
c) Trust and Desire are probably opposite ends of the spectrum.

For a detailed look at what went in to the renaming, here you are:

Most Desired Brands

Treat All Your Social Networks the Same? Reasons why you shoudn’t!

7 Jan

This is a pet peeve – so treat it as a bit of a rant.

Don’t get me wrong – I completely “get” integration, convergence, all of that! I also, from an enterprise’s perspective, am a BIG proponent of sCRM (Social Customer relationship management). That this means an integrated, holistic look at your customer (or stakeholder) – and that this therefore allows you to mine many pieces of information about them, I completely understand, and root for.

My problem is with the “customer”, or in this case, the USER of the multiple social networks – I do not see why, a post on twitter has to be fed to your facebook profile, or your Linkedin ID (on this topic, though it drew many protests, power to Linkedin for “delinking” from twitter)
Is your friend list on Facebook the same as your contacts on Linkedin is the same as your “followers” and “following” on Twitter? No, right? And there’s a reason for this. The fact is – that all social networks have a raison d’être (as they should) and therefore, a very real and distinct audience and culture.
As an example, as we all know, facebook being originally founded for university students, has now become the premier “getting/ staying in touch with friends and family” platform – note – fnf! (sure, so its now being touted as a great brand marketing tool, and sure, the biggest revenue generating mechanism is now advertising, but the fact still remains that you in general KNOW most people on facebook). Linkedin on the other hand – is your “professional” self – you don’t post family pix on linkedin! This is essentially a job (or employee, depending on which side you are) hunting site – and the behavior is thus appropriate. Twitter again, is very very different – it’s still a self expression platform as are all the others, but to a “wannabe” circle of folks – it therefore acts more like a news medium, albeit abbreviated! Add to this instagram/ Pinterest/ Foursquare – u have a complex structure – reflecting the many facets of your personality.
Given the people therefore that an individual is connected to, it makes sense to modify behavior to suit the audience. (Marketing 101 – segmentation/ targeting/ positioning, right?).
So, on facebook, I have my “mommy” self primarily – mostly I upload pix of my kids, and ofcourse secondarily, comment on fnf’s content. On Twitter, it is my Social Media and Technology interests, my tennis interests and my general politics interests that play out – my “following” list and so my newstream reflects that, and so does the content I share. On Linkedin, it is my professional self that shows up, which, in the last few years as an entrepreneur made avid use of this network for business development ☺. And on Pinterest, it’s a combination of all these, but the more visual forms – including that which tickles my funny bone ! You take all of this together, and you maybe (just maybe) get a sense of “me” – social media enthusiast, soccer/ tiger mom, armchair tennis player, ex entrepreneur, appreciator of satire and humour!
The only exception to this is if you are a BRAND, where the reverse of the above advice applies!
So, friends, drop the “publish to all channels” function when you write/ share content, and treat each of your social networks with the individual/ customized respect they deserve. ☺
After all, why oh why should we as individuals/ customers/ prospects – make it easy for enterprises to “slot” us – let them deploy some more technology, and then understand us to play to our multifaceted personalities! Agree?