Is ad free internet a good thing?

So who doesn’t like an Ad free internet world? I am sure you would simply love that banner free environment in your mobile, or that billboard free road, or the commercial free programming feed on your 40 inch Plasma? It is truly fascinating to think about a world which is devoid of Advertising. The issue however is surely debatable in a larger context. I really loved some of the points mentioned by the author of this article, the most critical was mentioned towards the end i.e. Lack of Advertising can trigger a social disturbance because these ads are kind of navigation points that help us make rational ( sometime irrational ) decisions about the world around us.

Someone may argue that we were doing well even before advertising came into existence, people (and I mean humans) were transacting for a long time in the history, and it was entirely on the word of mouth, to which an adman would counter argue that the world was doing well before chronic consumerism hit our shores, and now since we have this consumerism at its peak (and climbing new heights), we would need a tool like advertising to help us navigate our way out of this madness. It (advertising) is our only chance to make a choice, and in this case the choice is not between a red or blue pill only, there is a purple, orange, green and many more pills to choose from.
The choices have become increasingly complex, not just because there is too much advertising but also because there are too many products. It is almost like the age old debate of chicken vs egg, whether advertising opened the floodgates for consumerism or vice-versa. In either of the cases, advertising has opened the doors into a parallel world within human consciousness. The ad-world is planting or rather incepting ideas & thoughts into our heads which is defining who we are. You may even look at it as a detour in the human evolution but now it is very much an integral part of our collective social experience.
Coming back to the point of whether ads are intrusive in our day to day living experience & I would actually like to be neutral in my reply here, there is no doubt that we all get bugged by these adverts every now & then, especially now when the world has gone digital & nobody wishes to spoil their experience on their personal devices like smartphones or tablets but there are few equally critical sides which cannot be ignored:
  • Commercial viability of the content / product consumed. Consumer cannot expect the content to reach them free of cost all the time. Even if it is user generated content, the very platform on which it is getting served has cost overheads & needs to
  • The benefits of having an informed consumer.
  • Making shopping an engaging social experience which opens up various new dimensions in human behavior.
  • Fear of void due to socio-political-cultural instability which needs a balm like advertising to bring some positive energy around us.

I am sure there are many more points that can be added to the above debate but for now I am signing out in order to let you contemplate about it a bit deeper.

Startup should madly chase Customer Retention

Startups are often associated with mad race for generating more and more leads, prospects, opportunities, fight for higher conversions & maximising quarterly revenue figures.

No surprises there.

And if you ask any startup CMO, he would tell you exactly the same thing, that customer retention is least of their worries, especially during early stages of their business.

As digital marketing professionals, we all are trained to look ahead and think about “what’s next“, once the sale is completed.

Of course, this race for customer acquisition is never ending. And it should not stop either.

But what we also need to look at is, how we monitor the growth of our existing and new customers?

In my digital career , I’ve been fortunate to work in the SMB marketing team of Microsoft. For the first time, I understood the meaning of digital B2B Marketing. And this is something extremely important for a startup founder.

The thing is , nothing is constant in the technology space, and almost every SAAS product has a very short lifespan to make an impact.

Sooner than later, a better technology or platform will out-manoeuvre the older tech and market trends will respond to it almost instantly due to ever so fast & evolving Digital-Socio-Mobile ecosystem.

The importance of keeping a firm control over your existing customers is indeed a daunting task. Today, on one side, companies like Adobe & Google are adding thousands of customers everyday, but they are making even bigger investments in retaining older customers because their bulk of revenues are coming from the existing customers through the up-sell / cross sell and license renewals.

In a world where every upcoming technology is converging to the cloud, changing platforms and tools would be as easy as changing your mobile carrier because everything (including your company’s data) is on the move.

Interestingly, the talk about data portability is already heating up in the tech sector.

A customer is all the time looking for the best value proposition for his business to optimise his own margins. He would not take a split of a second to change his IT priorities.

Therefore, in order to build a customer retention strategy, tech companies would require to put tremendous effort & investments into customer research, training these customers and helping them create a path to their success by utilising those tools more effectively.

The Zillion dollar question still remains, how to retain your customers?

5 Customer Retention Strategies any startup

Product development life cycle plan

It allows you to outsmart your competitors every time. I know it is easier said than done but only if your product life cycle is truly evolving & dynamic to market changes, you can expect your customer to stay with you for longer duration.

Forecasting

But not just revenue but customers expectations from the product. Repackaging the product into a more current looking avatar. Everybody likes to change, a customer always have this expectation that if their business have grown, the tools they are using should also grow with them. Perhaps this is one of the key reason, open source technologies have better adoption than proprietary softwares. Though, a lot of their updates are full of bugs but it keeps the connection going.

Customer Training Program

Draft a calendar of training programs for your customer and feed him with all the necessary tools to master your product & technology. This could perhaps be the most effective marketing tactic, which if landed properly can fetch millions of extra dollars, not just by up selling your product but by creating a fantastic word of mouth.

Customer is your product manager

Making your customer feel like a product head who is not just using the software but also adding value in its future developments. As a business owner you would realise, that your research cost is approaching towards zero.

KYC – Know Your Customer

Follow your customer’s digital footprint by helping him gain more insights into his business by pointing towards the right resources.

As a startup CMO, you should only think from a customer’s point of view, no customer wants to keep changing the things upside down, if for once he finds faith & value in what your product has to offer, he will become a part of your family.

Digital Marketing Strategy for B2B

Getting your basic digital marketing strategies in place is always a challenge for any product marketing team, especially if it is targeting a niche B2B client. Most of the marketing managers, follow the tried and tested approach of generating leads through various sources like Tele-marketing, events, digital, BTL and pass it on to their Sales force (in a hope for conversion).

During this entire process of lead generation, though the Chief Marketing Officer would be extremely happy with the end result, the Sales head would be dying to kill the Marketing manager since he has fed his sales team with huge amount junk prospects.

Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why a lot of tech companies hire Project/ Program managers who can put some method to this madness into the Marketing process. Here’s one such simplified ready-to-use approach which can be used by all B2B Marketing teams, Sales force of SMBs, Product Marketing and Independent Consultants.

Choosing your Audience

Targeting the low hanging fruits, laser focus on customers that can highly benefit from your product due to the very nature of their business, e.g. for an organisation who sells Cloud solutions, companies/ individuals who have decentralised operations, distributed organisation, require remote access to information & have need for collaboration would be perfect bet because your product can answer their core business challenge.

Preparing the Marketing-Cum-Sales Pitch

Sell an experience to your customers not a product, demonstrating that your product is tailor made for them. At no point your marketing/sales messaging should imply “buy me because you need me“, instead it should be “buy me only if you like me after you experience me“.

B2B Partner Marketing

All Marketing teams should get one thing clear, your sales force knows more about your audience than any Market research report. They are the true brand ambassador to the customer and know each & every pulse in the market. Before you freeze upon your marketing plans, always try to include your partners & sales teams early on in the marketing process leveraging their business expertise dealing with the customers and through that make your communication more relevant.

On the other hand, one of the best ways of marketing your product to the customers is by making your partners & sales teams an extended marketing force. It should be one of the key talks of marketing team to helping your partner to sell better through effective communication & by using latest technology & tools.

Digital Marketing through B2B Influencers

Imagine if a CEO of a company has 3 products in front of him, all of them answers the same problem, one of them is yours, what would you do?

In this situation, often people trust referrals or live examples.

    • Play by influence, along with your product demo, provide your sales force customer specific case studies in which product already benefited to people in same business that they drive.
    • May the most popular brand wins, make sure your social media efforts are firing on all cylinders, all the time.
    • Optimise your social campaign, such that your customer has heard about your product through some social forum.

Digital Marketing Automation for B2B

A lot of business & marketing teams may not realise, that now your website is lot more than just a URL on your visiting card. It can become your virtual salesforce, but only if you would want it to behave that way. Your website should not just talk about your product but also about scenarios in which your product is beneficial to your customers. Increasing engagement on the website by showcasing more business relevant & audience re-usable content is super critical in today’s digital era.

Remember, your offices may be closed, your telephone lines may be down, but anyone can find you from anywhere through your website and when they stumble upon you, your website should behave as a good host. A lot of Marketing automation tools like Eloqua & Marketo would empower you to create a virtual marketing manager available 24*7 to churn quality prospects for your sales force.

Digital Marketing through Social Media

Reciprocate your efforts on the social media channels by creating discussions around the key challenges faced by your customers and how you are working together with them to improve upon your product.  Create an environment, where customers can talk their heart out about their experience ( good or bad ) with your product. Trust me you will be lucky to find 100 such customers who are willing to talk about you without purchasing your product. Keep sharing ideas with your customers around how to get the best out of your product.

Digital Marketing for Maximising Closures

Minimise the # of steps between lead generation & Opportunity generation, I call it Marketing optimisation. Think about it, what’s the point of doing lead generation if it lacks any intent to sell to the customer. In demand generation, we capture the intent to purchase and not just a lead.

This is possible only if you have the necessary intelligence about the prospect customer from the experience he had about your product during marketing, which you can pass on to your sales force. Just passing the customer info details for cold calling would not suffice.

Marketing manager should also capture customer inputs like level of interest in the product, product experience ( if any ), customer’s key business challenge, knowledge level about the product etc.

If all this can be handled at the level of demand generation, sales would be able to maximise conversions by customising their conversations to suit the client’s requirement.