Thursday, September 28, 2006

Me in Campaign ME - The Link

There seems to be a problem in the link for the original article from the previous post. I believe one must subscribe to CampaignME and log-in before you access the article.
To make lives simpler I'm putting up here snapshots (taken from the CampaignMe website) of the Brand Healthcheck and Diagnosis sections.

Me in Campaign ME

I had written a letter to the Campaign ME editor on something I read in their September 03, 2006 issue.

They have a section called Brand Healthcheck. Here, they take a brand and discuss about its health in terms of how it is currently doing in the market and what its marketing plans are. At the end of which they have another small section called Diagnosis where someone from the industry suggests remedial action / course correction to improve the brands visibility / market performance.

This letter I wrote to the editor was basically a rejoinder with respect to certain remedial actions this person had suggested for Land Rover / Range Rover in the Diagnosis section. Take a look at the article here.

I am grateful to the folks at Campaign ME for having published my views in their September 24, 2006 issue.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A roundtable, coffee, biscuits and needless discussions

I have been feeling for a while that meetings are a waste of time. It only provides you an opportunity to sit around a table, drink coffee, nibble biscuits and have some directionless conversation. What makes this more sickening is the fact that one needs to waste more time drawing up a minutes for this wasted time.

I think emails and phone calls serve the purpose more than having a meeting in person.

This observation of mine doesn’t hold good when there is some real pressing need for having people across the table or when you are meeting a genuinely concerned person who wants a solution for his problem. For example an account review, finalizing a campaign, putting together the annual plan, budgets etc.

I wanted to validate this observation of mine by collating some data on the meetings I have been taking for the last one month. This includes the time spent on meetings internally as well as with the clients (leaving alone the joblist reviews and other trivial meetings).

Then figuring out the purpose of the meeting, how much time did we have the meeting for, did we come to any useful conclusion at the end of the meeting and most importantly was the conclusions reviewed and the action taken.

I found that I have taken 14 meetings in the last 31 days.

The average time I have spent on meetings is approximately 42 hours

Of this 42 hours only about 7.5 hours were productive. This means we discussed business only 7.5 hours of the 42 hours of sitting around a table.

So what the hell were we doing in the other 34.5 hours?

a) Waiting for someone to join us
b) Waiting when someone part of the meeting took a washroom break
c) Waiting for someone to finish a call
d) Discussing about biscuits, toffee and the coffee that was being served
e) Discussed about George W Bush, C Rice and Saddam
f) Discussed music, record labels and chart busters
g) Discussed countries and economies
h) Counting the number of mechanical cranes in Dubai
i) Discussing about the metro project in Dubai
j) Postmortem on the Football world cup and a curtain raiser on the Cricket world cup
k) Sharing some stupid jokes and pretended to be laughing
l) Meaninglessly digressed off topic
m) Worthlessly debated a non issue

Well, these are only some I could take note of. There were many other very important moments as part of this 34.5 hours.

Of that 7.5 hours, we had these two almost an hour long meetings. These are the ones I would remember from the last 31 days as meaningful meetings where we arrived at a decision and have actioned it since.

So, only 2 out of 14 have been productive meetings overall. Except for those few minutes of productive time from the others.

So what could we infer from these statistics?

1) Never gather a large crowd for meetings
2) Like a parrot keep saying “What we are discussing in this meeting is…” every 10 minutes
3) Try and close trivial things over phone or emails
5) Take meetings if and only if it is of extreme importance. Say, while starting something or closing a deal
6) Try and levy a fees for meetings. “An hour of mine costs $ X”

This is what I could take out from the last 31 days. Hope I learn from the mistakes I have committed in the last 31 days and correct them soon.

But I am sure I can never avoid this, but maybe I can try reduce the amount of time lost.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sharjah by nite

This is the view of Sharjah from my bedroom window.

It is Ramadan

Today is the second day of the holy month of Ramadan.

There would be very less or no activities this month apart from prayers and evening fast breaking get-together during the course of this month. That said all the marketers in the region would spend the month planning and would go full blast post Eid ul-Fitr or the festival of breaking fast, the day that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Why is the month of Ramadan considered holy?

Muslims believe that during Ramadan, the revelation of the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) began.

What happens during this month?

The Muslims fast from dawn (fajr) to dusk (maghrib). They don’t eat, drink or smoke during the fasting period.

More on Ramadan here

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Another interesting cabbie I met

This time, it is a Sharjah Taxi cabbie with whom I traveled from my house at Sharjah to my office in Dubai.

Mr Khan is from Peshawar in Pakistan. So, as usual the talk started with the Indo-Pak relations and ended with Cricket. The most interesting thing was to be told that he is Pak cricketer Shahid Afridi’s cousin.

It was nice talking about cricket (with special reference to Pakistan, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad & India – Pakistan matches) with Khan.

Good 2 hours spent.

Goodbye Croc Hunter…

We lost a famous son of Australia Steve Irvin to a sting ray barb accident starting this month. This one is a piece from his memorial service in the Australia Zoo. His 6 year old daughter Bindi Sue Irvin’s tribute to her illustrious father.

It is touching, her opening line sums it up all…

Steve was sure a hero to people like me who grew up watching him grapple with crocs, snakes and lizards.

Steve, Bye Bye. Rest in peace.

End of the hiatus...

Well it is almost 20 days since I wrote something.

I was looking for 3 good reasons why I was not posting, here they are...

1) I was busy with my office

2) I was busy with my office

3) I was busy with Anirudhha

Ok... Here I am back in action after the "post nelson" (the 111th post here) break.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Debonairs Pizza

On Thursday, me and a couple of my colleagues went to this joint in Dubai for lunch.

While we were amused by the name, Debonair which is quite unusual for a Pizza joint. The stuff they had to offer was great, and had a distinctively Indian flavor.

I was told that the owner of this joint is an Indian. The strongest possibility is that his name is Debo, a Malayalee “Nair” (a clan of people from the South Indian state of Kerala who are found in abundance in the UAE and the Persian gulf).

This is a list of what we managed to sample that day. Chicken Tikka Pizza, Mumbai Masala Pizza, Hot Chick Pizza etc. All these come with a generous dose of Indian herbs and masala.

We had a good meal for about Dh.70.

Thank you Mr Debo Nair.

God bless.

PS: I just found that Debonairs is a South African chain operating around the globe. Hence my wishful thinking about Mr. Debo Nair wouldn't be true. But Mr. Nair might as well be the franchise for Dubai!! More about Debonairs here

Genie in the cupboard

I snapped Anirudhha sitting inside one of our cupboards and enjoying himself while we were shifting houses. It was quite a sight to watch.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The role of software in a CRM program

In the last couple of weeks I have been part of many discussions on CRM programs and the scope of software in CRM. Being part of the industry, I think it is my responsibility to clarify (again) that CRM is not a piece of software as most of the people think.

Even some of my learned colleagues from the Direct Marketing & CRM industry think otherwise, such is their knowledge and awareness about CRM.

And hence I thought it would be useful if I tried clarifying the role of software in CRM and try illustrate what happens to CRM if we don’t have a software system with some examples.

Data collation

This is the first step of any CRM program.

The data helps us understand who our customers are and what their needs, wants & preferences are.

We used to fill in sheets of papers before technology made our lives simpler. Now we use online forms, web based data capture forms, touch screens etc.

Advantages of technology

1) The time and effort needed to decipher handwriting and collating all the data into one platform is minimized

2) Capture errors are minimized

What if we didn’t have technology?

There wouldn’t have been any change, except an additional few hours capturing data from a sheet of paper and standardization.

Therefore technology or no technology a CRM program can be initiated.

The technology is only meant to make our lives simpler.

Now that you have collected data and know your customers / prospects, what is the next step?

Using the data to offer what the customer wants.

And hence building a relationship with the customer.

What do we do? (some examples)

1) Send communications in the language a customer has requested for.

2) Send him the offers he had requested.

3) Leave those customers who didn’t want to be contacted alone.

4) Send the customer an invitation for the category he / she is interested in.

What if we didn’t have technology?

An office boy and an account executive from the direct marketing agency would be sorting all the feedback forms from the customers and arranging them up in piles according to preferences.

This sorted / standardized pile would be used for the exercise they are planning to undertake.

This is a manual process and hence the process needs to be repeated for every exercise the brand wants to do.

Therefore you don’t necessarily need a data warehousing or reporting software for a CRM program. You need two patient people with two good pairs of eye to do the job.

These are some examples to prove that a good CRM program would survive without any software support.

To sum up

1) Any CRM program starts with understanding who our customers are, without C there is no CRM.

2) A software program helps us minimize time and save costs.

3) Software is not and cannot be, the be all and end all of any CRM program.

4) CRM is a dynamic environment, you can’t have a one size fits all solution.

5) Software works on algorithms, a customer doesn’t . He relies on his experiences with the brand, his impulses and his needs & wants.

6) Customer Relationship Marketing, as the name itself suggests starts with building relationships with your customers. A software can’t build relations, only humans can.