Today (October 27, 2009) at the first day of the NASSCOM Product Conclave and Expo 2009, it was good to see the level of interest in startups and the product ecosystem in Namma Bengaluru. Participants were a mix of start ups, large corporates, evangelists, VCs, academicians and of course The Press. I also met entrepreneurs who had come from outside the city to attend this programme.
Guy Kawasaki, MD, Garage Technology Ventures delivered the keynote address. I missed some of it, but caught the tail bit where he said that "experts" could also go wrong. He gave examples of how the telephone and computer were not initially seen as useful inventions. He also gave his own example of how he also did not see value in a startup several years ago … FYI..this company is a leader in its space today. The learning/inference from this: Experts/advisors/consultants/mentors are all very well… but sometimes they could be wrong and the entrepreneur could be right… particularly when there is something very unusual and different in the picture. Of course, this can happen some of the time and not all of the time.
The next session I attended was the "Workshop in Marketing and Branding Strategies for Product Organisations."
A point made by Sridhar Ramanujam, CEO, Brand-comm was that first impressions are the best impressions and last impressions are the lasting impressions. You need to impress a community which consists of investors, customers and employees (current and potential)
Professor Venkateswaran, SDM Mysore showed a clip of a race where there was practically no difference in the finishing time of 3 contestants and the others were also not far behind. His take away… what you sell needs to go beyond the product.
Another point made was that customers may not even know what is available; you need to often educate them about what is available and what technology can do for them.
Samir Kumar, MD Inventus Cap gave some examples of what they would like to see in a business plan and what they would not like to see. What they would not like to see is no customer focus and only a tech focus. What they would like to see is marketing specifics, not a laundry list of all things they could do if they had money to spend for marketing.
Professor Venkateswaran had an interesting point to make… he said selling happens to the area of dissatisfaction, not to a satisfied customer.
Samir Kumar also spoke about ROI on marketing spend. One of the suggestions was to look at marketing spend per customer and compare this with the revenue per customer.
There was a question on adverse comments in a blog posting or twitter and how one should address such negative publicity. Aruna Schwarz, CEO, Stelae Technologies gave some insights on this. She said it is not just about responding, you should be consistent in what you say. You need to work on multiple aspects such as handling feedback and responsiveness to customer queries. Do you call back and revert to customers? Do you listen to them.. not just talk to them?
A couple of other points by the panelists:
- Try to be consistent in what you say and what the customers see
- To keep the brand alive, you need to understand that customers can keep changing and new customers can walk in, so you need to keep a handle on this constantly changing profile
- Pricing is to be carefully thought through, there is no point in giving away something free and expect that someone will pay later
These discussions highlighted the fact that it is not just a product being marketed, but the entire experience that the customer has …from purchase to after sales to using this product. Successful companies manage this complete ecosystem and do not just see the product or technology as a single dimension to be marketed.
One additional point I made towards the end, after listening to the two start-up presentations, was that raising Venture Capital money is not automatically a license to advertise. This was made in response to both presentations mentioning something to the effect that “We’re not VC funded, hence have not advertised” 🙂
Thanks for the great summary. I missed some of these sessions and its good to see a gist of these.
I completely agree with the idea of customer centricity – and developing products only after a customer is willing to pay for it. For instance, we didn’t develop anything until we had customers willing to pay for our product.