Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Convergence Marketing

Peter Drucker wisely said that there are only two critical tasks for an organization - Marketing and Innovation. Only Visionaries can mean it so true.

A project is a delivery that brings in top line to the organization. However the true bottom line is recognized through the innovation that brings about the freshness in the current as well as future projects. Creation of various product/service mix at various price points enable the benefits of the organization multifold and beyond the transient nature of projects.

At the same time, any task or activity that is done to get a sale, can be considered a marketing effort. For example, cold call can be argued as the first sales step. Widening the perspective, we can consider it a marketing program, since it is the first touch point in getting a feel and setting an expectation with a prospect. To get a sale, you need to go further in creating needs/desires, gain confidence on solution, may be give a sample POC, get to convince stakeholders on the investment and then seek permission to make a sale.

Since till the time a sale is made and closed, the main task is to get the prospect closer to us. This requires creating/understanding the desire, configuring a product/service that best addresses the needs and show a working model, based on which a sales person can ask for the sale and discuss the commercials.

So more and more I read the statement of Peter Drucker, the more I am convinced that be it delivery, support, sales, administration; innovation and marketing are the key catalysts in division or organization sustenance.

Related Posts:
1. A Best Marketing Program
2. Make it Visible
3. The way to market an IT solution
4. Brand building by Project Manager
5. The best Marketing Tool - Projects
6. Evolution Story - Power of Need

* I took the Drucker quote from Marketing practice blog.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Highs and Lows are the real Middle Ground: A good principle to "price" services

Many times over, people say, "good is the evil for great" and "mediocrity is least desired path for growth". I had my moments earlier too and the realization hit hard today.

In talking to my project team about a proposal, I realized that we had offered a low entry cost to break the barrier. Now when upgrades and maintenance is to be undertaken, we ourselves cannot come to argue with the fact that this should be lower than the initial price. Many arguments and points were floating around on how much could be a desired range and how much can be a climb down.

At the end, one of my colleagues said "You know we suffer from median syndrome. We never have a high-low or low-high price model. Take a look at product companies. Initial cost is high, while upgrades and maintenance are at a high discount price. We should follow a similar model or a reverse of it." A person who considers real estate business his forte said "Right. Either make it clear at start or keep a tight mix as in housing loan EMI: Initially a high premium + low principal which reverses as you move along years.)

True, either keep a higher price point for fresh work (consequently deliver equivalent value) and charge significantly lower for recurring services or keep an optimum price point for fresh work, but make it clear that the same price would be maintained in case of recurring services as well. (In analysis, low entry price and same price for recurring services means higher price for significant perceived low value of maintenance and support.)

Keeping middle ground is a difficult business. Have a high-low/low-high price mix in your arsenal to make good business sense.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why should I care to respond

You give me Wiki, Blog, Twitter, Free webinar links, Forums, a chalk and talk or any medium of expression, why should I care to respond ?

If 1% is the contributor in social internet market place and just that the numbers are good enough to sustain the supply-demand balance, what do the 99% do? As a fact, it is accepted that this ratio is the reason why social media in workplace is a long shot away from main stream business benefit solution.

Should we ask the question Why do the 99% care not to contribute ? Are they introverted consumers, or careless/carefree personas who want more than give away or just lazy to express or suffer the "starter" block failing to overpower it?

Well, I too grapple these questions without answers. :( However, some pointers are showing up in interaction with my customers.

1. People who contribute tend to be known for it. In big meetings, you know for sure that a chosen few will start talking neverthless the subject. The same people do not miss the opportunity in the web medium. May be the 1% team.

2. Many of them make a start and expect a reaction. This is where many of the flops happen. To respond, we send automated messages without context as the reaction. This is a let down. Further a commitment is missing the other direction. Their feedback may be tangential. Still they need to be recognized as a valuable feedback and ask them to give more ideas.

With one of my customers, we were given the challenge that the sign off would be given to us only if 50 users certify their usefulness of the e-Learning course. We provisioned a feedback button to prove our worth. The customer brought the team who commented in the feedback in the room and asked what they meant in their feedback. The results were dramatic. Post the meeting, each of them met me individually and gave me enough feedback (offline) to
  1. explain how they work,
  2. what we need to rewrite,
  3. analogies to explain.
In fact, more than the sign off, the customer got an evangelist who is going out in the field to propogate the word. May be 1% higher conversion rate right ?

3. Cynics Feedback into account: "One more task in my plate. Whew!!" ,"How much should I handle?", "What is going on is atleast ok." The majority of the team, will fall in this arena. They cannot be brought their way into the fold. They would continue to be so. However, they must be the best people to tear apart the exisiting structure and suggest an alternate and better one. They need a story to let them know how useful their earlier feedback was and what improvements were made. Cynics can remain the same. Just that, they should be your alibi and not a liability.

4. Rule Followers: Some people will start to attempt only if a rule is made. It is better to follow a rule than spend time in what is not mandated by the society. Hence make it part of KRA, give some bonus points or any thing that is documented. You would see followers seeking results.

5. Determine Levels of contribution: It is long tail that matters as good as Top contributers: The person who occasionally respond is equally important as top contributers. However, levels are important to establish a motivation level to move up the ladder to encourage more contribution.

It still matters that contributors will be small % of the consumers.

"Why should I care to respond" is important consideration to address to get a good collaboration solution in place than a technical solution.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stand Up: Your Identity, Your Recognition or ...

In recent incident and many incidents in past, I realized that project teams take seriousness on their heads to the extent, that the output is stripped out of the emotional attachment.

In what then seems to be the cause, would mostly have been an overpowering voice that is dissented but yet silenced to work and deliver what was said.

This is painful and helplessness...would agree that the ruthlessness is deserving for such teams.

What I teach my team every time in such incidents is this:
  1. Stand Up: To lose the fear of finding another job sitting at your desk. You will eventually get one.

  2. Stand Up: To speak the right thing, the right time, the right way. No point in getting angry, hurling abuses, cursing to self, feeling sorry to have missed the bus. If you are not comfortable, say so and carry along what you need to do. If forced, document that " I abide by your suggestion and request you to be responsible for the results. In future, if things may change, would request that my points be given a consideration." or something like that...

  3. Stand Up:Walk over and say you need to talk things over. Many escalations are solved in this way, without need for emails and CC lists. And it goes off in minutes.

  4. Stand Up: Cross over and Talk the bitterness you have. Never write bitterness, escalate bad blood in emails sitting at your desk. They will haunt you forever.

  5. Stand Up: Be led yourselves. Don't be led. If you are not presented the choice, better to say so and work than just work and feel so.

  6. Stand Up: Speak out when given an opportunity in private or public. Never miss a chance. Popularly known as "Chance pe Dance".

  7. Stand Up: It shows your personality. Your Identity, Your recognition. Don't miss it.

  8. Stand Up: To say sorry when you dismiss suggestions and demand a certain compliance without appealing to common sense. You do exactly what you hate others doing it to you. Isn't it ?

  9. Stand Up: To listen to any one standing and speaking to you. 1. In India, it is respectful, 2. You would be more keen, 3. You would feel free to relax and hence absorb new ideas. My dad used to tell me to walk and read to beat sleep and energize the brain early morning. If only, I listened...
Practice and let me know, if you felt otherwise.

And #10, re read #9. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One way Proactiveness does not work

How many times, you have went to a management review or parental advice and received back the advice: "Why don't you be pro-active?" Have been wondering, whether it is a sage advice?

To me, each of us have to be active, proactive and reactive at the same time for energy, enthusiasm, positive vibration and co-exist in a healthy social set up. The social setups, can be friends, college, schools, organizations, housing societies, religious orders, parties and similar ones.

Being active, is a state of self readiness, while pro-active and reactive are a perception of the community about your activity level.

It is important calibration that we need to be proactive and reactive with the community. Any pro-activeness needs a matching reaction from other party. Similarly any pro-active need immediate reaction from your side. If not, it is a shake up of a dormant state to shift a position and get to slumber mode again.

My understanding is this: Any human being needs to be active and work pro-actively and reactively with the surroundings to have an energized life. It is better to quit the place, when the desired exchanges are not available for you.

Better advice than saying "be proactive" right ?

Breaking a Plan: Creating a Decision Support System

  1. What happens when you break a plan: Chaos, distaste.
  2. What happens when you look at past decisions and crib at them: You lose the taste of enjoyment of present and look towards future with disdain.
  3. What happens when your patience level needs to be more: Get back to planning with a future date in mind.
  4. What happens when you experience a positive turnaround: A fresh perspective, with young energy and a sense of accomplishment and purpose to live through current

Plan, Calibrate, Action are the 3 ways to keep the path of positive reinforcement training. This is how, I would prefer Decision Support Systems Training to focus than treat it as a glorified multiple choice assessment sequence.

Typical methods are to provide a scenario, give few options, provide feedback or a changed scenario and showcase the end results. But they just live in realm of education and once out in the world, more forces, more people, and more variations, do not equip the trainees any further than they were before the training...

Instead could a Decision Support System,
1. Provide a Case
2. Ask the users to write a plan
3. Make them navigate the plan through various choices they have in the support world
4. Help them revisit it at a point and ask them to Calibrate it for better future.
5. Make them navigate the revised plan through various choices in support world
6. and continue the cycle for the number of times, they would like to see how a break in plan forces them down the alley of darkness and hence make a plan to stay on course.

In essence, to me, a good decision support system training is one that enforces the fact that I should Plan and Action it according to the plan. If I break a plan, I should have learnt my lessons not to shove it off, but to calibrate it as a revised plan.

Possible? Searching for good references on above... Can you help, please?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Signs of Authority: An important Presentation Trait

I have seen number of presentation from junior to senior management teams. In many of them, which obviously have improved better in terms of slide quality with 2007 and lot of intelligence shared in web, the delivery mechanism has always not excited me. When I see TED Talks and compare my own experience as presenter and audience, I realize that authority and command generate and shape the presentation than slides themselves. Few areas that I find useful to concentrate during a presentation are:

1. The sign of authority on subject: When you know what is on slide, you would present a take on the slide and not read the same. You would avoid phrases like "What this slide means is...", "We have put this slide to tell that ....", "As this slide states..." etc.

Instead the audience should be able to scan the slide, make their impression and wait for you, the presenter to elucidate it further. That enables you, the presenter to have a meaning on the stage along with the presentation.

2. Command over flow and language: My dad used to say this in my child hood, that this is the most critical skills you need. Indeed he was a professor who could lecture without a break for an hour on a chosen subject. Of course, in that age I got to neither oppose nor follow.

But this is a take from politician and film speeches. They never falter. Some demand silence when they speak. They pause long enough for accolades, over powering the audience. Some intersperse with questions, for people to answer it and answer the same in their voice. This affirms their status and get more buy-in. In some presentations which are extempore in nature, the flow is so structured and still so malleable depending on the audience interest.

So some points to remember are: no hums ("uh", "umm"), no stammer pauses (like "so so", "like"), no generic, wayward phrases (like "that thing", "you know what i mean", etc).

The sign of authority on the subject is realized by the audience only in the ability to make an easy flow and flawless language.

3. Control over TIME: In some of the presentations, I have been told that if audience can stay longer than fixed time, it is a sign of attention, attraction and success. It is easier to accept this as a fact, as this line of argument too make some sense.

But counter intuition also seems to have a good argument. People who tend to stay longer, either are polite enough to let you hang around or have made their decision much earlier and hence are tuned off or have got nothing to do with the presentation and it was just an experience for them. It is like we do not antagonize a friend when we don't bother or are in a mood to pay attention any longer. We do not care for switch off point as the time limit has exceeded the attention span.

Control over time, has always been a critical skill to provide audience with a pleasure of utilizing their time craftily. This keeps them on their edge, since they know there would be something missed if they are not around at that time.

The authority that you mean business and exactly know what you are talking about gives the sign of authority, a respect and perception frame of reference.

4. Contribution: Instead of measuring audience attention, attraction through the time they spend on the session, it is good to measure the involvement through contribution. Contributory audience is a rare form of group that you could ever get. Better still, you have a couple of people who can chime with you on questions, topics, supportive statement, the better the session jives in the presentation. I make it a point to always take a supportive person alongside, to one de-risk any stage frights, I might get and to enable a tango experience that provides a relief to the audience.

Believing in user intelligence and generating user contribution in a live session, is the highest form of love and respect that a presenter can command from the audience.

5. Analogies, Stories and Queries: Let it be a good strategy presentation or a presentation of a case which is not in a good time or shape. Analogies, Stories enable the presentation better.

A few months back, I was on verge of a breakdown. Sales front was down, repeat orders were drying up and projects were coming to an end. Recession was felt all around. To keep head high required lot of inherent motivation.

In this time, my senior management wanted to know what is happening. It would have been easy to provide the facts as bullets, prepare for the worst and await their decision. The other alternative, that I chose with my bosses advice was to present a story on where we see windows of opportunity flowing in. In the last part of slides the facts came out that we are caught in storm. But the initial analogies and stories of positive turnarounds in other areas, our helplessness yet the efforts we are putting in with all our abilities helped present the case without a hard blow.

In the last review this month, my senior manager told my immediate bosses that this could be used as a case study on how to keep track of a service and ensure a fast turnaround. The slides used to present had a marked story to speak about themselves.

Not only in such instances, I have found a presentation with careful, meaningful and relevant analogy and story helps get the attention, attraction and more importantly the message across. Having a follow up call provides the stickiness factor that we all strive to attain in every engagement.

Would love your comments on more traits that you would like to contribute to help me stand up for the next presentation as a better presenter ?

Top Agile Blogs