Marketing for start-ups, entrepreneurs and those wanting direction
Bengaluru in India hosts the third largest number of start-ups in the world only behind Silicon Valley in the US and London in the UK. However, as in other markets, a significant number of those fail. In fact, 90% of start-ups crash within the first five years.
Sometimes, despite how ground-breaking and advanced a business ideas is, it is worth considering the commercial basics. Nowhere is this more relevant to our industry than in marketing.
To quote from Telefonica chairman and CEO Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete, “Companies that do not understand that the world is changing, socially, technologically and economically, are destined to disappear. Companies that do not assume their responsibility in this new world will cease to be relevant in the short term.”
Telefonica is undergoing a massive transformation of its business to focus on its core markets, because, as the CEO explained to shareholders, “We must recognise that the model that has allowed us to get this far successfully is close to being exhausted.” The interesting question is what will it do differently?
For many years, no one questioned the marketing equation. Colourful newspaper and magazine advertising was supplemented with direct mail and outdoor advertising. If the company could afford it, television advertising was added to the mix.
Then in 2007 the world changed. The internet became efficient enough and populated enough to be useful, Google took off and the mobile phone was born. When this evolved into the smart phone in 2012 (yes, only seven years ago) marketing was turned upside down. Today it is influencers that hold the power. Airlines find out about problems from Facebook and Instagram. Tiktok is the fastest growing social media site on the planet, and its average user is a teenager or even younger.
So at a time when everything is being reinvented and questioned, maybe it is a good time to consider the new world order in the context of what people know already and have learned from trial and error. What is needed is a workbook of good practice especially when launching a new business or product.
VUCA – a period of change
“Marketing in a Digital & Data World – Getting to know your customer – a book for the start-up entrepreneur and millennial” by Walter Vieira and Brian Almeida is aimed at novices but it would be a good book to visit for anyone stuck for some directional ideas in confusing times and certainly if they are in an emerging market. The authors call this period of change VUCA – short for “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous”. It is a time, they suggest, when the emphasis on planning should increase energetically with the creation of ‘what if’ scenarios and identifying ‘Blue Ocean’ business areas to help de-risk the business to a great extent.
Vieira and Almeida have leveraged their extensive knowledge bases and their experiences to comprehensively address the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and executives when they introduce an idea to market in today’s digital world.
Explaining the predicament many companies running loyalty programmes have to deal with, they write: “The variables available to track and monitor have become complex. Let’s take into consideration the way the travel business has changed over the last decade. Airlines have had to battle the arrival of budget airlines and hotels have had to battle the arrival of Airbnb and OYO. Travel agents, hotels, airlines have all had to deal with the onslaught of travel portals such as booking.com, Trivago, Expedia, MakeMyTrip and Cleartrip…………….. Their advice? “Marketing professionals must look closely at the marginal profit products that tend to tie up a disproportionate amount of finance by way of inventory costs. Inflation exerts a greater impact on slow-moving, low-margin products than on those that have higher margins and are fast-movoing”.
This analysis of products and region of operation is exactly what the CEO of Telefonica is doing. Sometimes making the cull early, helps a company survive.
This book is aimed primarily at the Indian market, which is growing staggeringly fast in terms of customer loyalty initiatives. This doesn’t mean it is not equally relevant to people working in other markets, just that there are some welcome distractions, such as this: “It has become necessary for marketers to frequently reassess consumer attitudes. Higher laundry charges tempt consumers to switch to wash-and-wear fabrics. Higher taxi fares have encouraged a switch to autorickshaws (TukTuks) wherever they are available.”
It is also clear that the challenge for India is that marketing needs an ‘accelerated evolution’ to keep up with its mobile using customers. “Today, Indians are among the largest number of global travellers and have experienced foreign brands, services and infrastructure. This exposure increases the speed at which development takes place
The book contains useful marketing audit tables, it addresses Corporate Social Responsibility initiaties and their ability to switch and retain customers, and it contains a good glossary of terms.
Marketing in a Digital & Data World by Walter Vieira and Brian Almeida is published by Notion Press (price 450 rupees in India – £10.55 in the UK)