Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Can financial institutions loosen the tie, roll up their sleeves and show some personality?

One of the biggest fears that people like me face is dealing with the financial aspects of their life. From getting a basic understanding of their investments, buying the right insurance to filing tax returns - this is a task all of us love to avoid or at best, postpone as much as possible. Indecipherable jargon, pushy salesmen, multitude of paper work are some of the reasons which make us want to stay away from the world of the financial institutions, however well meaning their approach may be. 

Ironically, it is a challenge that most financial services organisations face too. It is a constant challenge for them to  get a grip on who the person behind the account number really is. This perhaps emanates from the the fact that thus far they never considered themselves to be a service industry and  never really needed to know their customers as people.  Relationships were transaction based. Their key efforts were to develop great products and to ensure the transaction process was as smooth and painless as possible.

But somewhere along the way, the game changed. Now they suddenly find themselves in the chasm between a service industry and a product manufacturer which requires them to view their customers from a human angle.

Here is where social media comes in. Some simple steps could help to bridge the gap and create a greater affinity towards one another. In this article I would like to illustrate a few of them.

# Being the 'person' people want to connect with
Held back by regulatory constraints, financial institutions find themselves challenged in spaces like Facebook.  but here is where they can loosen the necktie , roll up their sleeves and show some personality.

Understanding the fact that Facebook community wants to connect with brands at a personal level rather than for product information, a few financial organizations have taken the bold step to portraying a 'cool' personality which people can easily identify with. Once the human connect is established, people will  more willingly want to share data, endorse the brand and shower the brand with attention.

Citi does a great job of  creating conversation which interest people and sharing content which is exciting. Sometime ago they hosted a special Beyonce video which could be viewed only on their facebook page.

HSBC Students‘ Facebook Page, the bank’s first foray into the social network, launched alongside a major scholarship competition in summer 2010. The bank invited students to submit 90-second videos about how they intend to make their mark on the world. The effort was rewarding. The posted videos got 3000 comments and 40,000 likes. After rounds of community and official voting, the bank awarded eight students with £15,000 toward their university studies.

J. P. Morgan's facebook page offers career advice to industry hopefuls and new comers. These posts strengthens the banks image in the eyes of the potential employees and their peers.

Most financial institutions do a lot of social or charitable work through their philanthropic arms. These often  go unnoticed. Facebook is a great way to share their good work and seek participation - bolstering the company's human angle.

#Listening in 
With proliferation of online identities, people are more freely sharing what they do, who they are and what they desire. This could be a valuable source of insights for the financial world. When people go through a life change (get married or become a parent) or career change, they share it online. These are great triggers for financial services discussion and this is where financial institutions can reach out to them in a meaningful way.

It is a great place to 'listen in' to figure out how consumers make important decisions by reaching out to their 'connections' and 'friends'. The questions they ask, the challenges they face, the solutions they seek etc. The success lies in moving away from the product sell perspective to observing how people are using various products, what are they doing with it and most importantly, what are they saying about it.

#Bringing forth the 'expert' imagery
Most companies want to position themselves as the guru or expert. By sharing original and insightful content about what people care about and solutions to people's daily financial life, brings them a step closer. Blogs, webcasts, white papers on Slideshare, being a part of popular forums are some of the tools used to create the expert imagery. The key is to find the niche that will appeal to the target segment and content that is differentiated from the competitors.

#Being present where it matters 
People like to aggregate information from various sources when taking a financial decision. Being present in multiple places with relevant content for the platform helps to inch in closer. For example, blogs provide a fresh insight, forums allow expert advice and twitter helps to provide 'fresh up to the minute' content and customer care.

Most financial services companies have a lot of valuable content but they do not have a strategy to distribute this content beyond their own boundaries such as the corporate website. With RSS feeds and Twitter gaining popularity, people want content to reach them and not go looking for it. Organizations would do well to step out of their comfort zone of the company website and be present where people are most likely to discover them.

Simple tricks like adding a share button like the facebook or twitter button and RSS feeds to websites and blogs ensure the people who discover the content, easily share it with others - creating greater awareness.

While these are just a few illustrations, there is a world of possibility even for highly regulated industries such as finance. All it takes is a sound knowledge and a good understanding of the medium to maximize its potential.

With 48 million social network users in India, majority of who are aged below 35 years, social media provides tremendous upside in terms of building a bridge with their current and potential customers. Also since increasingly it is becoming important for  companies and specially the ones in financial services to put forth a face that people would like to connect with, they will soon have to inculcate social media as a culture of the organization rather than simply view it as just another marketing channel. 


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Twylah is the new me...check out all my tweets in the twylah website.

Oindrila Roy Twitter | Oindrila Roy Trending

Rise of the networked advocate

As the control of brands is slowly moving to the hands of the customers, the economic value of customers is being calculated by their ‘influencing power’ rather than their ‘purchasing power’.  

With the democratization of media, the most valuable customer today is the one who has the power to influence the decision of many, using the web in their daily interactions.

The referral factor is not a new phenomenon. It has been around ever since the first salesman came about.  Only the tools to influence have evolved and strengthened with the rise of social media and emergence of the  referral economy.  

With increasing cost of reaching millions through traditional advertising and the diminishing returns of every rupee spent, brands are relying  more on authentic word of mouth through social media to drive awareness and purchase.

The networked advocate has the power to influence not only the brand’s bottom line by saving precious marketing spends but also establishing quality connections with the brand. Research has proved that customers who come in through referral are more loyal, spends more money and are more likely to stick around.  

However, despite the availability of sophisticated social media tools to analyse their fans, are brands adequately tracking their most networked advocate? Do they know their online habits such as where do they hang around, when are they most likely to talk about their product or service, what is of value to them or most importantly, are they adequately informed?    

The referral factor is not a ‘luck by chance’ deal but has to be a planned strategic process. Brands need to sift through their millions of ‘fans’ to identify their most profitable advocates and enable them to share information with the more number of people using multiple touch points if they truly want to leverage the potential,  

Monday, 13 August 2012

Insights from Social Media

It is interesting how brands monitor what we say on social media. Each part of of what we say is analysed to arrive at an insight. Watch the video for a vivid example.

Insights from Social Media Monitoring and Engagement Tools -

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Can Social Media be the bridge over troubled water?

Read an interesting prediction by Gartner today. (They are a leading information technology research and advisory company). They say that by 2014, organizations that refuse to communicate with their customers via social media will face the same level of wrath as those companies who don't respond to customer's emails and phone calls.

I wonder how many of you agree with them. I do.

If companies are looking at strategies to plug in product information using the social media, it is just fair that people expect a response on their complaints or other assistant which they may require, via social media.

In India there are 48 million social network users. What could be a better way than to publicly show them that the brand they have a relationship with, actually care. Care enough to solve their problems, answer their queries and even at times, apologize for their failings! After all, we would like to believe brands too are human!

This is a good time as any for companies to put down a simple strategy which answers 3 basic questions - as per the Gartner report:

Which posts should they respond to
Since it is impossible to comment on all, there has to be a cohesive strategy which provides a guideline regarding responses - what, how and when.

Who should respond
Each type of comment / posts warrant could warrant a response from different individuals/ departments. It is essential to identify who should respond to what rather than having a standard answer.

What should be done with the comments/ posts
This data is a rich source of insights. Companies will do well to analyse the data and  use it for creating further engagement in the social space as well as disseminate the information across the company for use across touch points including product development.
"Developing a means for acting on social data will provide a competitive advantage by providing exceptional customer experience through increasingly significant social channels."  -  Gartner report. 
I would be interested in hearing from you, the reader, what do you think?


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

With the explosion of mobile usage, it isn’t business as usual.

Mobile phones are slowly becoming a shopaholic’s favourite conduit.  This convenience packed smart little gadget is helping shoppers across the world enjoy a completely novel shopping experience.  

Mobile is fuelling the ‘consultative shopping’ behaviour.  
When shopping offline, shoppers are using their phones to seek peer set’s / user opinion, compare price with other sites and stores and also quickly read a review before a purchase.  

Making payments even for an offline purchase  
With offerings like Airtel Money and Google wallet, it’s a matter of time when people will prefer to lose their wallet to their mobile phones not only for online purchases but for the off lines ones as well. 

Most deals and discounts reach people through their mobiles
With increasing use of smart phones, most mails are read on phones and mails regarding discounts are availed by jabbing a few buttons. Additionally there are those which are received through text messages. These do act as magnets for purchase, mostly through the mobile, making it an important channel. 

With the mobile phones increasingly gaining a centre stage among shoppers, seems like a matter of time when M Commerce will shoot past E Commerce. Are marketers gearing up their mobile strategy to ride the impending wave?

Sunday, 5 August 2012

In our world of 'NO's

Marketing fundas practiced by Kantaben

So if the internet and the glitzy malls have made you come to expect a lot more from your service providers, in suburban Mumbai, the hub of entrepreneurial spirit -   the local vendors have adapted this better than any big brand in the country.

With just a mobile phone by her side, my local vegetable vendor, Kanta, is practicing brand building, lead generation, swift transactions and even enviable customer relationship management! 

Kid you not, the ingenious lady has built a strong network of friends among the neighbourhood building security guards who casually let the residents know about the extent to which she goes to ensure she only sells the freshest vegetables that too delivered at your doorstep!

Once she rings your doorbell, she is not hesitant to ask for contacts of your friends who could use her service and bingo - leads generated, goes on to make the next necessary call!

She is willing to give you gossip about the neighbourhood, pass on numbers of other important service providers such as the fruit vendor and even a good plumber. God forbid, if you find yourself without a house hold help, she can even organize one. This is one relationship you will not easily give up on, even if she charges a little extra, will you?!

While she goes off to deliver vegetables and build new business leads, her husband mans the little stall they run at the end of the lane.

All this and a little more with no education but with just survival instinct and unshakable faith in god.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Decoding India's Digital Consumer - A video presentation by A.C. Nielsen

The numbers are changing everyday as are the consumer's habits, consumption patterns and device usage. But are marketers taking a closer look at new ways to reach this digitally connected audience as yet?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Optimize the digital medium for an effective lead generation strategy

The digital medium provides scalable cost effective approach to generating leads for new business.

While working on a lead generation exercise, it is tempting to go after anyone with a wallet. But, a generic plan like that works out to be more expensive and also has a lesser success rate. For a successful lead generation activity,  it is important to have a sharply defined strategy based on  an understanding of your most profitable customer segment.

Here is a simple 6 step model which may help marketers who are grappling with their digital lead generation efforts.

Step 1 : Know whose time you are after 

Get a sharp understanding of your potential customer and their behaviour in the online space.
A segmentation study in the digital space will help you to get a grip on various segments and you can
choose the one which will be most profitable for you in the long run.

Profiling your customer segment will help you with information such as their interests, surfing habits, nature of their social media interactions, their device usage habits and most importantly, a fair idea on what what would motivate them to share their personal data in the online space.

Step 2 : Know your competition
What is of supreme importance in a war is to attack an enemy's strategy. Monitor closely all the actions taken by the competition and keep that in context while formulating a strategy.

Most good digital strategist have competition tracking templates which help you collect, collate and analyse relevant data to arrive at a differentiated lead generation strategy for your brand.

Step 3: Pin point the bait  
There is a famous Chinese saying ' if you would take, you must first give.'
The digital medium is all about give and take. Online customers are used to sharing only in return for something. And the 'something' has to be of great relevance and value for them.

If you want the customer to give you time, attention and data - first make an offer they cant resist.
The segmentation study will also help you to find an offer which will resonate with your audience and what they value most. This really is the starting point of the conversation.

Step 4: Draw up an engagement plan

Answer 3 simple questions :
#1 : What do you want to say  - Have a clear strategy on how you want to communicate the offer to get the data in return.

#2 : What are the various medium options - web banners on sites they visit,  pay per click campaigns  or SEO using relevant key words, emailer or partnering a mutually beneficial partner.
Consider all  pros and cons before allocating your resources. There are some which will work better for your business than the others. But if you a first timer, layer your strategy with multiple choices and narrow down on the ones which work better for you as you go along.

#3: Where am I most likely to engage them most : Like traditional media plans, based on the understanding of your customer's interest and sites where they are most conducive to share information, draw up a media plan. the caution to exercise here is  to not fall for what's trendy but base your decision on facts which stem out of good customer understanding.

Step 5: Lead capture mechanisms  
1. Device strategy : With multiplicity of screens, it is important to know what device your prospective customer is most like to use to provide the data so you can tailor make the form to suit the device. (You should get this information as well from the segmentation study.) For example, if your strategy is a click through banner ad on a news site which is most often visited via a tablet, ensure your lead capturing form is tailor made and tablet friendly. Only a good user experience will get you what you want.

2. Provide a toll free number. Just in case the customer chooses to call, instead of filling up the form

3. Evaluate and re-evaluate the form multiple times to retain only the critical fields. Briefer the better.

Step 6: Monitor your efforts  
Every marketing initiative should have a separate landing page. Each email, banner , Pay per click or SEO should have it own landing page so you can track page visits to these dedicated pages with an analytic tool such as Google Analytics which is a free service.

For a more detailed presentation on effective lead generation strategies, write to us at 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Navigating the technology madness

The role of Digital technology in marketing is evolving every fifteen minutes! We are getting blinded by the speed of the change. However, most companies do not view technology as an integral part of marketing though technology is affecting consumer behaviour and their decision making process in a big way.  

Digital technology plays a key role in solving complex marketing problems by adding science to the art of marketing . It provides the intelligence and the instrumentation to leverage the full potential of the interconnected audience. 

As lesser and lesser consumers believe what the companies have to say, the traditional sales funnel is giving way to the influence loop. It is  no longer good enough for the marketer to just create awareness and lead up to an intent but it is becoming critical to influence  reviews, recommendations and feedbacks - which forms the core of the decision making in the purchase process today.

But providing compelling content which has high viral potential is only half the story.

The role of the marketer today is to also make available friendly user interface and technology enabled conversation mechanisms in the consumers' devices of choice. The easier it is to discover, blog, tweet, post, share or just 'like' your content, more the chances of it making it to the conversations and the influence loop.

Nike just did it!

They did it yet again. While Adidas is the official partner and have spent in the region of 100 million pounds over the last 4 years on Olympics marketing, Nike hijacked the show!  Their 'find your greatness' campaign captures the spirit of Olympics without mentioning the word or any other related word!

Since the beginning of the Olympics last week, 'Find your greatness' landed at No.1 on the viral chart with 4.5 million views while the official sponsor's 'Take the stage' campaign ranks # 3 with 2.9 million views!

Just to refresh your minds, they had done the same thing at the world cup a couple of years ago with their 'write the future' campaign. It will be interesting to watch what Adidas might do at the Rio Olympics in 2016 where, if the rumour mills are to be believed, Nike will be the official sponsor.

Nike: Find Your Greatness.

Jan Chipchase: "Nine trends shaping the future of social interactions"

Watch the video for an erudite articulation of the following 9 points :

1. 'Pocketable' technology leading to behaviourial leakages
2. Sharing as default
3. The distance between the questions and the answers are shrinking
4. Serial solitary interactions
5. Real time associations about people through all the stuff around them
6. The gap between the social norms between generations will grow with technology
7.  Blurring of boundaries between work and social life
8. Speed at which 'pocketable' technology is being adapted
9. 'Pocketable' technology is moving to seemingly 'invisible' technology