Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Selling to the Unaffordable – Part II

Posted on: April 11, 2008

There is a basic problem in selling to the masses here in India. In most cases, the idea is great, the business model and most importantly the revenue model seems quite clear, but its the channel to the target customers that is non-existent.

Take the case of amazon.com. You wouldn’t believe me if i told you how many companies and teams that I am personally aware of who wanted to become the “amazon.com of India”. I look around and cant find most of them. Some of them are still around, battered and wounded and are confused about where they are heading and most of them are dead skeletons on the ground. So where did they all go wrong?

Selling to the unaffordable especially becomes very tough, because in most cases, the right channels to reach them do not exist. And even more scarier is the fact that people place very little value on the channels who possibly could get you the audience to the customers you are targeting. No man is an island they say, and if everyone is connected, then there surely must be a way to get to them, right? The smarter ones probably have already figured out where I am heading with this.

In my previous post on this, I talked about how pricing defines everything – or atleast one major element of it. The second aspect that I think is crucial is the matter of trust, and the existence of channels to reach your audience. My analogy to Rural India, and Startups still holds true. I am mighty impressed at myself so far, I must say.

There are probably a few folks, who live and breath social networking who are possibly jumping the gun here and wondering if social networks are the cure to all our problems. Hmm. They aren’t. I think most of the social networks themselves are struggling towards this very end – Let alone for them to help other companies. Not yet.

There was a recent marketing study published saying that the best of infuencers and those who will probably be the most radical advocates for your company and product are probably in the mid-level – the excited, slightly above-average user if you may say so; they are neither the geeks and hackers, nor the every day soccer mom, but the everyday user and consumer who is just excited about finding something new, and yet is not eccentric enough to go hide himself in a closet, but rather shares that information and drives new converts to you. The summary and conclusion of the study was that, at times our target of the market, and those we aim as key drivers, probably are the wrong targets.

Let me get in with a bit more solid case. Pluggd.in has this interesting article on how to do guerrilla marketing for your product, and the example that he goes to quote is that, the best means that worked for one of the cited companies which was working on a web-based Instant Messenger, was to call up a system administrator of a big enterprise and tell him how easy his life would become now that he can let his users to use instant messengers without having to loosen up his air tight security protocols. The result, he says was an “avalanche”.

I do agree with him on that.

If you haven’t figured out by now, Marketing is one of the most crucial aspects of selling to the unaffordable. Unfortunately the traditional means of marketing, by putting up stalls in exhibitions, or putting advertisements over bridges or flying a hovercraft with a sign on its tail is not what is going to drive adoption. Trust-worthy and verifiable word of mouth strategies is what will drive it. The adoption will be agonizingly slow in the beginning, but if you have invested in the right set of channels and messengers to take forth the word about your product and have given them a reason to tout what you are offering, you can most certain rest assured that you too can have an avalanche in your hands – just be prepared to handle it when it shows up.

This Post is the second to a series on the title “Selling to the Unaffordable”. For Previous Post, click here.

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2 Responses to "Selling to the Unaffordable – Part II"

Good Thoughts.

If we have to identify the right channels or for that matter right anything we need to ask the right questions.This can be done in a

a) Asking the questions from an Internal perspective
b) Asking the questions from an external perspective
c) Asking the questions using boundary conditions(defined by our Market Segment/Idea Spectrum).

The first method is abhorred while the second method is given undue respect. The third is not that commonly used.It’s found that people bring out a lot of innovation using this method(remembered reading a HBR article on this).

In the case of startups the bandwidth to explore this option is rarely there. It’s time some effort is taken to help them define boundaries and identify the right questions.

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