Saturday, November 24, 2012
Real Charity and Group Buying
Give till it hurts
By Harish Bijoor
Q: What is charity to you? And how much do you give to charity?
-Shaili Sampath, Hyderabad
Shaili! Oops! This is a very personal question. A question I have always avoided answering. I nearly didn’t want to answer it this time round as well. But will.
My belief is simple. True charity is what you contribute without telling anyone what you contribute. Every cause I contribute to, I get one assurance back from the guys I send my cheque to. They will apply the moneys to the advantage of the cause, and they will audit the effort and report back to me when done with. The next contribution will happen only when I am personally satisfied that every rupee has been used well, and used to the cause. I do not represent any of these causes myself vocally as well. Attaching my name to causes is not important. That kind of giving is not for me. I do enough of that in my work. Why should I do the same when I wear my "giving” hat? That would be insincere giving!
True giving is giving till it hurts. I am yet to get onto that mode. Today, I give what I can afford to give, and what I think is surplus to my bread, butter and jam needs. I am not sure whether I am capable of giving till it hurts. Some nobler souls are. And I admire them. Few as they are.
Q: What’s with the wave of customization hitting marketing? How far will it go?
-Rohith P Kesavan, Chennai
A: Rohith, at one end of the marketing spectrum is the movement of massification, and at the other end lies customization.
Customization is a personal-delight oriented movement in marketing. There are hotels and hotels. And then there are hotels that will let you customize your bed, your pillow, your coffee, your hot-spa requirement, your menu, your anything literally. Hotels are the first ones to offer this. Services start the customization race. Products follow. With the intervention of technology and the Internet at large, customization of products and services is that much more a reality.
Marketing moved from 1:1 to 1: Many, to 1: Very Many and finally to 1:All. When 1:All does not work, one gets back to 1:1. That is exactly what is happening. People get tired of ration-shop options. People get tired of wearing clothes that make them look like uniformed soldiers of a brand dog tag. That is when you wake up and demand the custom-tailored outfit. Look at it this way; ready-made T-shirts and jeans are certainly creating clonal looking people on the streets. If you want to stand out, get something tailored. Get something deigned for yourself. And flaunt it to stand out from the mass of uniformed brand evangelists.
A time will come when people on our streets will look like the walking-talking advertisements for Levi's or Bossini or Reebok or Adidas or Nike. That is when the tailor and cobbler will rise from the ashes they have gotten into. Mass branding works when customization is the sea. And customization works when Mass is the sea.
Q: Where is group buying headed? What can one expect?
-Rohini Devassy, Kochi
A: Rohini, group buying is going through nascent days in India as of now. At present, the deals range across restaurants, health and beauty, recreation, services and events.
The early low hanging fruit in this business opportunity is essentially from businesses and enterprises of the local kind that do not indulge in advertising. These are the restaurants and spas and resorts and adventure clubs that exist with huge inventories that mostly go un-used. Most such outlets use such group buying as initial promotion efforts that will act as a sampler.
The real meat of this business is yet to be explored. There is opportunity that lies in every FMCG, consumer durable, home solution, personal care and categories of their ilk. This is when bigger players start offering group buying incentives on such sites for their oldest and most antiquated models for a start. Companies also do have the opportunity to launch exclusive brands for such portals. These would not be available in the market at all. The Private labels in every category have a similar opportunity staring back at them. There is just no glass ceiling to such activity.
If Mercedes Benz could sell 150 cars in Aurangabad on a group-buying format, imagine what else could be sold through such efforts of an intermediary clubbing together the group-buying might of the consumer.
Things will fall into place slowly. The first challenge for these intermediaries is to establish credibility and build a large base of regulars who shop through them. Wait for more action in this space.
Q: What is the benefit of After Sales Service to the marketer?
-SS Sharma, New Delhi
A: Sharma-ji, most companies are very good upto the sale process and terrible in after-sales. These are companies that do not understand where the sale really starts and where it ends.
In reality, the sale begins when companies embark upon the process of making a consumer aware of the product offering. This then continues, as the consumer is made deeply interested in the product through the hard-selling process. The desire is then stoked. This is also selling. Most of the time this is done through advertising. The action of buying and selling is the real selling-in process. And after this, in comes the after-sales process. This is the point when consumers and their product dissonances are managed. This is a critical phase. This phase could lead to good word of mouth for the product or bad, depending on the efficacy of after-sales service.
After-sales service actually helps bring in repeats as well. Sometimes of the same customer, or more often than not, repeats from consumers referred to by the satisfied customer. The importance of after-sales service cannot therefore be under-estimated.
Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.