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2017

When a company launches a product and someone purchases it, a relationship is formed between them. Due to this engagement that happens regularly, people, more precisely known as ‘customers’ are connected to the company. Undoubtedly the businesses solely depend on these customers as they become a very important part for the company’s existence. Any company’s success depends on their relationship duration with their customers; the longer the better and much desirable is a lifetime relation. This interpersonal relation between the customer and the business is the most important marketing strategy for a company. Through various channels, the company makes the engagement with the customers last long which also helps them be aware about the customer and their overall experience with products.


Why is Customer Engagement Needed?


Companies these days have increased their stability and growth through their customers. Through them businesses satisfy the engagement of the customer services that it provides. Engaging with customers through various methods is crucial yet difficult to understand. With priorities and wants that change every day, it is necessary for the company to stay in touch with customers. From the first step of the customer buying the product till the end result, the emphasis on the customer has to be well maintained.


Why it is important for a company to have a great customer engagement policy:

  • Loyalty
  • Excellent service
  • Trust
  • Strong customer relationship
  • Set behavioural triggers
  • Better communication
  • Customer specific needs
  • Future model planning
  • Enhanced customer experience


How does one understand what customers need?


Any business has to keep their primary focus on customer satisfaction andalso know and understand their needs. No business can survive long if it fails to engage its customers directly with the company. Customer needs is quite a point of focus as Apala Lahiri Chavan states, anything that is deisigned is based on some hypothesis about human behaviour. A company cannot have any other alternative apart from researching deeply about its customers. Doing a thorough research, knowing and understanding customer needs is quite crucial for a business’s survival.

An understanding of customers is rigorously data-driven for which the companies should be prepared much in advance. Also, valuable feedback and informationis what the company would require to maintain customer engagement and loyalty for years to come.

 


Given that there are so many channels for customer engagement, how does one decide which channels to use?


Customers these days prefer to stay in direct contact with the company; this makes it difficult for the company to choose channels and methods to keep the engagement ongoing for long. From acquiring feedback on the latest purchase and informing the customers about the new best products, the company has to first focuson understanding their customers. It’s as though where customers go companies follow. Apala says that in the customer ecosystem, the omni-channel strategy is the only way to maintain customerrelationship. Through this strategy, the company will be able to provide consistent experience across channels and will be able to race the strengths of each channel since each channel is relevant for solving a specific set of customer needs.

 


Certain points companies need to keep in mind while deciding the multi or omni-channel strategy:

  • To know from where the maximum number of customers are being engaged.
  • Understanding customer mental model, usage and preferences.
  • Tracking customer traffic on the various media channels.
  • Depending on the brand, product or service the business deals with.
  • Creatingan effective marketing strategy.


Is it necessary to model the future of customer experience and engagement?


With the internal and external changes that businesses exeprince every day, business models also shift and morph frequently. Technology brings much change to how customers interact with digital channels.Therefore, organisations should be prepared for changes that will help them keep pace with customer expectations and even perhaps be the pioneers to spot a trend and act on it early.


How can customer engagements strategies help in creating an easy buying experience?


There are various customer engagement strategies depending on the desired customer sector and the company itself. Since customers are no longer just using brick and mortar stores, online platforms have more advantage than offline stores. To create and attract more customers towards the product and service, the design of it should be the main focus of the company. Apala is of the opinion that using cognitive and behavioural psychology to deeply understand customer needs can be very effective. By using persuasion engineering, a company can design and deliver the most appropriate and delightful customer experience.

 


What should be an entrepreneur’s priority - to engage customers or create better product experience?


Behind every successful company is their customer whoenables the business to thrive. Customers know that there are many options outside but it is the company that keeps the customer engaged with its brand.Customer engagement is necessary for the company’s stability in the long run. It’s the company’s priority to create a product and service to engage customers with better product experience. It is a blend of art and science mentions Apala. Therefore, considering engagement as a priority, the company should focus on designing, engaging and thereby providing better experience with every product.


NASSCOM got in touch with Apala Lahiri Chavan, President of Human Factors International (Middle East, Asia and Australia) to have a discussion on “effective customer engagement strategies” which “is the need of the day to build a sustainable business model.” An expert in the customer engagement sector who has a passion to study the changes of users across time, Apala shared her profound knowledge on the subject with NASSCOM.

Go-to-Market (GTM) strategy is the plan of an organization, utilizing all of their resources - internal and external, to deliver their unique value proposition to customers and achieve competitive advantage. With the end goal to enhance the overall customer experience.

 

Some of the questions that comes to our minds are:

  • How to derive a good GTM strategy for your products?
  • How have the successful marketers been able to achieve what is desired for growth of business?
  • What are prevailing practices that has helped new age entrepreneurs in achieving their business goals?
  • Where can we collaboratively pick up some of the best practitioners’ minds to drive our custom GTM strategies?
  • Ways to deal with challenges faced in implementing a strategies in place.

 

To address these, NASSCOM Product Council concluded a successful session with industry folks: Keynote by Mr Jagdish Mitra, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at TechMahindra followed by a panel discussion with three prominent industry leaders - Mr Mitra, Piyush Madan, Director and VP at Vinculum Solutions and Rajeev Saraf, CEP Lepton Software moderated by Sumeet Kapoor, Founder & CEO, EmployWise.

 

 

 

 

The views captured included not only GTM strategies but pricing best practices, brand building, hiring a good team and a lot more. The leaders shared their insights and experiences on what worked and did not work with them as they went about building their products/enterprises.

 

Mr Mitra in his keynote stressed that key to derive an effective and efficient GTM strategy for any business lies in answering five (5) VERY TOUGH but THE MOST IMPORTANT questions. Any founder/ entrepreneur/ marketer must find honest responses to these question with as much precision as possible backed by their learnings and experiences in their life and from the encounters with their prospective customers, in-depth market studies and secondary sources of professional research insights:

 

Some of the questions for which you must have an answer before you market your product are:

  1. Who is my customer and why s/he will buy my product?
  2. What value I am provider to my customer and how will it benefit her/him?
  3. Where can I find my right customer and what is the best way to reach her/him?
  4. Where do I want to be and how can I reach there?
  5. How can I keep my customer engaged and leverage that association to explore newer opportunities?

 

The follow up panel discussion brought out live-in learning from experiences of the leaders in their entrepreneurial journey.  Here are some of the key takeaways

  1. How to approach the GTM strategy and a GTM Plan: A marketer needs to take decisions around the markets to address (international v/s domestic, regions etc.), Market segments (industry verticals and size horizontals). These are the key elements of strategies that must have been deliberated or driven by where opportunities comes up. Research, anecdotal evidence, past personal experiences and mentor advice plays critical roles in making right decisions. There could be mistakes made, identify them at right time, most importantly accept and admit those. Do changed course and pivot strategy. Even if you have change the whole business model.
  2. Recognizing the Market Eco-system: Establishing credibility and getting the first few customers is the blood to the heart of your business to stay in market and grow. This repeats itself every time you enter a new markets (geography), verticals and horizontals. Right partnerships, association with influencers and the power of digital market in generating buzz becomes very important to achieve this.
  3. Evolving your GTM as you Growth: Founders are first salesman of the product. They have to go to market, meet prospects and close first few deals themselves. As business grow, they would require to build a full sales and marketing engine. What are the challenges? How do you know it’s time to transit from founders selling themselves to creating independent Marketing and Sales engine? ‘Independent’ is key word. Founders should chose a team that can sustain a successful GTM strategy, improvise it as and when time demands and uphold the changes that may be disrupting.
  4. Sustaining growth and holding fort: We will discuss how you handle competition especially from start-ups? "Understanding "Cooperation-Competition". Building a brand, engaging. It would be great to talk about getting the timing right on these decisions/actions and the role of funding (both or having/lack of it).

 

The panel was followed by a “un-conference” session wherein the delegates were asked to come up with 4 key areas that they wanted to have a more in-depth discussion on. They were then divided into four teams to discuss on their respective areas and finally present the key highlights of their discussion to the full group.  Here’s a synopsis of their discussions –

 

  1. Hiring – When should a start-up start hiring? 
  • Depends on the stage of the venture
  • First few customers should be engaged by the founders
  • Hire when you are out of capacity
  • Some hire seniors first, others build the teams ground up. Both strategies work.
  • Scope of each new hire/contract should be well defined before engaging

 

  1. Brand building – How to go about it? 
  • Segmentation key to effective brand building
  • Brand to key segments first before going broad
  • Identify effective branding options (events, conferences, meetings, channels, etc) for your segment and don’t try to focus on everything
  • “Bittu Tikki wala” was cited as an example where Bittu sells many food items but is known for his Tikkis; one should find their core focus areas and be known for that

 

  1. Product revamp – Should the GTM strategy change post major product revamps? 
  • Unless change in terms of focus to untapped market segments, larger GTM strategies don’t change due to a product revamp
  • When moving to a new segment, leverage what you have for other segments and build on top of it
  • Handholding existing customers key to successful product revamp
  • Use power users as allies for GTM for new segments

 

  1. Pricing strategy – How to price the product right? 
  • It’s key to identify the core value proposition for your offering
  • Pricing to channel partners should not only compensate for their efforts but also keep them excited for future prospects
  • Pricing to technology partners should account for the relative contribution from each partner
  • Don’t get excited by list price as the partners would sell at discounted rates
  • Typical monthly SaAS fee is Licence Cost/36 – Could be different in specific situations
  • White-labelling product could be a valid business strategy in specific cases; example of Foxconn – key strength in large operations capacity coupled with massive supply chain capabilities

 

*This blog is an outcome of the session on Strategisizing Go-to-Market on 21 Apr at Gurugram organized by NASSCOM Product Council.