Monday, 24 March 2014
My tryst with the online Bandana man
Waiting inside CCD Belapur, I was the only guy who got the opportunity to meet that man who’s invariably been a part of my life for the last 3 months. I may sound a bit selfish, but it really seemed as if this opportunity was almost planned just for me. Always the one to reach before time, this time I reached even before the café opened up. I decided to wait. The shutters went up. I settled and started thinking about what all can I quiz him about. It was about 11.47 when Prof. Ratan KK walked in. Punctual. And with his signature style bandana on. He was wearing his usual disarming smile and humble approach that immediately put me at ease as we shook hands.
We exchanged pleasantries and he looked around hoping to find few more buddies. I assured him that they are not hiding under the table. I also reminded him that it is a Monday morning. And we’re not even in Mumbai. We laughed and we got started.
Professor stayed true to his agenda. He didn't waste a minute and didn't even waver away from the real stream. He did not ask me what do I do. All he said was, “So I’m all yours. Please tell me how can I help you?” I have rarely felt this mentor – learner bond in my professional life. And here I was ready to open up in front of someone whom I have been staring for the last quarter. He was all ears. I discussed about what I do, why did I really do this course, and the confusing thought of standing at a crossroad where expertise was having a quarrel with experience. And I wanted him to help me understand who will win. Sounds a bit confusing right? You see, as an entrepreneur, you often stand at these crossroads. Any entrepreneur will validate this. After doing this course, I am in two minds, whether should I do a job and learn the ropes. Or rather experiment with my current set of clients who are more than willing to bet their buck on me. He heard it all. With utmost patience. And I realized that’s what mentors are made up of. My contentions were put to rest as soon as Prof started speaking.
I’m sure you will understand that I cannot really replicate our 1.5 hour chat (which by the way went on non-stop, leaving aside, 10 minutes water break). But here are few excerpts that somehow revolved around entrepreneurship and its mantras. I have listed them under topics and I hope it inspires and encourages all my other buddies as much it did to me.
This was something that few dare to say. But he said it. And convinced that the only way to keep a client is to help the client believe that his business matters to me as much. Own the responsibility like its your own baby. And see the magic. Honestly speaking, I always judged my clients with their sales figure. Give them what they want. Then move out. But after listening to professor’s starting mantra, I realized that clients who’ve stuck with me are those, whom I never treated like clients. I kept giving them ideas as if it were my own business. And it all started making sense to me. This doesn't just apply to entrepreneurs. It can apply to business managers too who often complain of why their clients left them for some other vendor. Because subconsciously the guy was just an account. You never really owned the business. So guys, do things, suggest things, implement things that makes your client believe you are in the driving seat. Not them. I can pretty much see my clients staying with me for a long long time now. Incidentally, for professor, he was actually shown the door for doing a job so well, that life became hell for mid management guys. It’s a long story and I’d rather keep it to myself.
He’s been harping this all along. But he knows that very few actually practice this. Well I’m glad I impressed him showing him all that I have done. And that is when he pressed on the point once again. Digital Marketing is a dynamic process. You can only learn by doing things. Being a Digital Marketer is all about walking with the ever-changing face of technology. If you think you can do it by seeing things, then you’re in for a dead end. Do it or stay behind.
You may be technically sound, but if you mix up your sales and marketing technique with your technical skills, then its house on fire. This is when we disclosed that he has skills to work on almost all codes and languages. He even told me how he created a furor in India xe23 office by simply asking one simple question:
“Why is there a cookie that is valid up till 2147?”
He got a lot of guys reprimanded for that silly cookie. And guess what? He got invited to head the brand’s digital marketing division.
So knowing how to sell and a little knowledge about what’s going under the hood can make you rise above other rats. Rather than race with them.
(I made that up. Just checking that you guys are still reading this)
One thing about Digital Marketing is to know about your customer. This research is as vital as deciding where you are taking your girl out on a date. Or what are you buying him this birthday. These decisions cannot be taken casually. They are critical and can lead to great damage if you don't know your mate well. You get the picture.
When you spend time researching about your customer, you end up understanding their likes and dislikes. Their passion. Their sentiments. And more. What does this lead to? Engagement-intensive rabbit hole experiences. Every rabbit hole is different. So each time your brand changes, your market changes (or a factor as idiotic as a time zone changes), sit down to create a new ever-engaging rabbit hole experience for your customers. It’s the only way you can create meaningful and willing conversation. Which in turn leads to conversions. So the next time you think about your customer, think about what kind of engagement have you planned to lead out from the other end of the rabbit hole.
This is pretty funny. It’s actually built around a story he told me. Don't want to pull this one too long. To cut a long story short, if you want leads to convert, talk to them right after you get a ping on your phone. Which means you may need to ask your clients or customers to keep their eyes and ears open, when you are working hard running a campaign that is getting them leads. What happens is, that you may be doing your job well. But if the marketing team doesn't respond to your customer’s lead request soon, it’s all lost. So guys, if you want results out of what you do, ask your client to stay as responsive as you are. It can change those sales figures and make your digital marketing efforts look good.
This was something I was struggling with. I always wondered if I’m quoting my clients the right price for all my efforts. As an entrepreneur I wouldn't want to scare them away with an exorbitant rate list. But then neither do I fancy being exploited only because the price was too low. The question was starting to bug me to a point, where I started giving advice (quite valuable ones) without charging a dime. I didn't know what was my advice worth of. Until Prof. walked in with his gyaan. This problem in a way is very me-specific since I’ve just started a digital marketing company (once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur). But I’m sharing it with everyone since I see a lot of entrepreneurs in my buddy list. And some who are getting ready to become one. He told me that my price should be based on what kind of value am I bringing to my client. Monetary value. If I think, I am increasing his business by 50% then sit down and do the math. That will help you understand the kind of profits he will make through your efforts. Compare it with the figure you had in mind. And bingo. Things will be lot clearer in your head and your estimate.
I just tried this with a new client and let me tell you this works. Of course there is a bit of homework involved (like knowing your client’s true sales figures and his expectations). But then nothing comes free, right?
This touched me. I thanked him for coming and sparing his valuable time for me. And this is what he told me, “Vikram, I am not doing it for you. I am doing it for myself. When I call someone my buddy, I mean it. And I will give as much time to mentor my buddies as required, to ensure that I become a worthy competitor to YOU, in times to come. That will be my best achievement”.
I didn't know how to respond to that other than saying a humble thank you. I really hope and pray that my other buddies too get this opportunity to meet him and take inputs face to face. Let me tell you, he’s even more engaging personally.
My only regret after he left was that I forgot to ask him that one question that intrigued me the most.
“What’s with the Kenya Safari Holiday example you give everyone?”
I guess I will reserve it for until we meet next.