Disruptively Customer Centric B2B sales – Tools for Crossing the Chasm

B2B sales has been under major disruption due to content marketing and automation surge. I am a big believer and practitioner of these tools and methods my self and I’ve been convinced that this is the way to create naturally supporting customer journey towards a happy end and the results have proved how well it works. Now I have to admit that you can go way beyond.

Let’s  consider the B2B buyers and procurement and their process:

TOP OF THE FUNNEL has to do with planning and designing the change. This work is mostly done with internal stake holders, consultants and designers. The buyers are exploring options, pondering their current solutions and how they fit with the change. This stage is really about learning and defining what would good outcome look like.

PROBLEMS:

  • The buyers don’t engage with vendors at this stage, although they are likely to use vendors’ content marketing materials. Most of the buyers’ time is spent searching on Google.
  • Buyers have hard time finding relevant content because the market is quite cluttered with generic content that doesn’t really support buyers’ process. What customers really need and look for are: Solution facts, Business Cases, White papers, Success Stories, Reviews… Tangible and concrete tools for their process. These are not easy to find!
  • Customer would benefit from dialogue with the vendors, but they don’t do it because they don’t want to get harassed by sales. Buyers want to drive the process and manage it efficiently. Active sales is considered disturbing.
  • Large vendors dominate the space, because they have resources to produce content, they have strong page ranking and their brands pull customers to their resources. This logic and dynamic will enforce status quo and buyers don’t find NEW, INNOVATIVE AND MORE COST EFFICIENT OPTIONS. These vendors are not known yet and they concentrate on their product and service development – not in content creation. Their page rank is low and Google doesn’t find them. The buyers interest is to find the best solutions but they have very hard time finding them.
  • When the logic of top-of-the-funnel goes like that, it influences the request for proposal (RFP). The RFP and vendor list that will get that RFP will consist of well known players and leave very little room for innovative approaches
  • You don’t get trustworthy reviews from B2B companies anywhere, really. It’s difficult to compare sales pitch with actual delivery experiences. Success cases underline success, but hide failure.

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.06.45

MIDDLE OF THE FUNNEL is about engagement with 3-10 recognised players who will get the RFP. This is the first time for the buyer to allow vendors to ask questions and study options with them. Vendors have experience from multiple customers and they can reflect previous cases and their results which could potentially lead to better outcome than the one outlined in the RFP. Connecting customers challenges to vendors solutions could create a new solution, which would be the best case

PROBLEMS:

  • Most innovative and best solutions are not the ones to get the RFP and the customers will probably choose solutions that are established, expensive and quite similar to those that their competitors are using
  • The most innovative people don’t get to influence the buyers thinking and the buyers don’t get the kind of edge to their operations that would have been possible
  • The market logic will enforce status quo: innovative SMEs don’t get to grow and once their technology is proven the entrepreneurs will make an exit and sell their company to big players years after the development of better solutions and at that point the big players will introduce the solutions to the market and scale them. At this point buyers don’t get such benefit from their choice anymore and they will pay much more than they would have paid a couple of years earlier

I met the Founder and CEO of SpendLead Fabrice Saporito last autumn and their solution really impressed me. SpendLead is an environment where the optimal buying process has been made possible and allows the most innovative players to engage with buyers early. The founders have their history in procurement and they have developed a dream environment for the buyers to realise the optimal buying process!

SpendLead founders have their history in major companies buying processes, which has allowed them to get these buyers in. There are already major companies procurement departments which have combined buying power worth more than 200 Billion/year using SpendLead which gives the service a unique value proposition. eg. BBC

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.36.28

The service has been built around these buyers interests, which means that they have embraced it and adopted it rapidly. It’s now time for sellers and marketers to take advantage of this possibility. How it works for marketers promoting their services in SpendLead? You publish exactly what the customers are looking for:

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.43.23

And you get tools to do you engagements and lead generation:

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.43.40

For an SME this environment gives full toolkit, allows very easy publication and enables anonymous engagements with buyers who want to learn more at the top of the funnel. This will speed up and strengthen the innovative solutions adoption. This environment magnify solutions and their impact, not brands. That’s why I think that SpendLead can disrupt the market logic over the next couple of years. The service is completely free for buyers and the business model is based on leads. Their pricing is very affordable, 1,99USD/lead and it will probably disrupt the lead generation market also in case of bigger brands. At least it is great way for SME’s to scale their sales reach. I don’t think that big companies can afford to neglect this kind of player in case their buyers adopt the service.

SpendLead is definitely worth trying and their thinking is solid. I’m really interested in seeing how this kind of disruptive new service will change the way we do B2B selling and buying!

In case you have experiences about customer dialogue and sales process inside SpendLead I’d be very interested in hearing actual experiences from both buyers and marketers point of view

From Loss to Profit – Turning Around Domino’s in Pakistan

It’s the classic story of supply meets demand. On the one hand, Domino’s was losing its grip and brand recall among Pakistani consumers. And on the other, Pizza Hut’s GM of Operations, Ahsan Ahmed, wanted to be the Jack Welch of retail industry.

In May 2012, he signed a 3 year deal and joined Domino’s as its CEO in Pakistan with the goal for helping the company achieve its first ever month of positive P&L in 9 years. Not only did he manage that, but also 70% growth over the previous year. The question is how.

What did this experience teach you?
Domino’s grew because talented people got together. I just stumbled to their presence.

What was wrong at the point you took over?
International brands use our people, facilities, ingredients, our brains – yet sell under their own brand – leaving a fraction of the income and take another fraction back. Domino’s was struggling for 9 years – no one knew who was running the company or growing it. We can easily create good concepts, have a lot of creative people that can create kick ass brands.

How do you identify talent with leadership potential?
Anyone who has to make a decision is a leader. At times, the rider is a leader. You reached the customers house and showed them the order and you realize the order is damaged. Rider has to make a call and say “Please have this and I will get you another one.”

But people don’t do this because brands are wary of employee theft.
Are you happy when the competition steals the customer? When you don’t change the product, you will lose the customer. If you haven’t put in a monitoring setup that prevents people from stealing, its the HQ’s fault. People in the head office don’t know what happens in the field. They have never filled the forms.

So how many riders are now at HQ, calling the shots?
A lot of decisions are being made by operators. They are strategic and tactical. Not 100%, but certainly a higher % than our competitors. Our goal is to fill every department with an operator. Food companies think that riders are replaceable. But the customer interacts with this so called lowest denominators.

Can local brand achieve similar success?
There is money to be made. I better be ready to take it. In Pakistan people eat out or order in at max 3 times a week. In Dubai, its at max 6 times a week. When Pakistan transitions to this, the market will explode. You better have that inverted triangle.

What sets a good operator apart from the rest?
I want a group of people who have handled (and retained) irate customers. Brands mistakenly send their weakest team member to handle irate customers when in fact the strongest must go and create a long lasting bond. Every complaint is a gift, its a great chance to connect with people.

How do you operate?
We introduced a system wherein hiring focused on operators with successful backgrounds. We taught them time and people management. We created a decision making unit. Its the group that runs business for Domino’s. They set the goals to chase. We hand them projects and P&L management. They make their own budgets and gain approvals by BCM (Budget Control Members) and me. Its made in the 3rd week of the month to prepare and execute.

Why the third week?
It leaves ample time for planning. In the fourth week, they need to translate this into KPI which is linked to the budget. In the first week of the month, you need to sit and review your people side – how strong is your bench? Are you covered for the growth that is anticipated? Also see customer complaints, who has to be trained, hired or fired. Only then will people side be strong.

In the second week, we sit and review the marketing plan. If things are working, what is working? This is where we decide what stays and what is removed. Then comes to process of budgeting for the next month. Its an easy four step approach for meeting financial goals.

Why not quarterly like the MNC’s do it?
The mantra of the food business is ‘expect the unexpected.’ If you set financial goals every quarter. you only get 90 days to reach it. With our monthly approach, you are giving 12 chances. If you can improve the planning process and make it simple. Our growth is 45-50% growth, index to last year, most of which is thanks to the teams own planning.

Doesn’t that set up the team for feeling overwhelmed with the targets?
You have to make sure you’re setting the right kinds of targets. Then break it down – baby steps – into small achievable steps. People wait for exit interviews to ask people why they’re leaving. People miss the budget because its the case of wishful thinking.

Why did you close the North Nazimabad outlet?
There is no way to predict problem child’s. What works today may not work tomorrow. Irrespective of whose brain child it was, if it hurts the P&L, you must shut the facility. We’re looking at a third facility for DHA, ideally in Phase 2 extension. In order to service Karachites in 30 minutes of less, you need 70 locations.

Is this turnaround an outlier?
Turnarounds are possible in Pakistan. Because we have a fantastic bunch of human resource. Anyone who says otherwise should look in the mirror. Domino’s was able to make a come-back because the customers were very forgiving. The key is that you fill the HQ with operators. And give them a simple mechanism to do their jobs. It Alhamdulillah worked in our case. If it can turnaround for Domino’s, then it can for anyone.

What would you like the future applicants of the QSR industry to know?
My boss from Pizza Hut used to say that every problem has two legs. I have learnt that every success has two legs too. The problem is that we find the problem legs and shoot them, and forget to recognize the legs doing a good job. I hire people for their body language. You can teach them QSR and customer service, you cannot teach body language. I’m going to hire people on their ability to handle politics. QSR industry aspirants should

  • Have the decency to inform the customer if an order will be late.
  • Remember that somewhere in the system, a boss does not care how you get the job done, but wants it done.
  • Finding a coping mechanism to help them take stress positively.

Why do you think most people shy away from QSR?
High stakes players in the country are coming in for some economic interest. Making money legally is the easiest thing to do. If you are making a lot of money and someone’s wants a cut in an illegal manner, you can find a way to be proactive and find a way of co-existing.

You and I can’t change Pakistan overnight, but in the mean time, we have to be practical people. When a food authority seals a premises, its because impractical and idealistic people have rubbed them the wrong way. Look at the other side. Batha earnings are far less than what QSR’s steal in evading taxes. So when you don’t ethically feed the regulators, they will eventually strike back. Business owners are bigger thieves for tax non payment. They think of this as the chicken and egg problem. Fix the paradox, you have the brains and resources to ensure accountability and make public those that steal.

What’s your key advice for QSR industry CEO’s?
Don’t manage people, lead them. Managing people makes them unhappy. Unhappy people get your store closed.

Making millions with pennies – BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS

Growth and productivity

When I think about board member’s day to day life and board meeting’s average content, I know it’s full of big decisions. What is our growth strategy? Are we willing to invest millions of euros/dollars in technology in order to enable customer relationship strategy and automation? How can we reduce our churn? How can we lower over all costs and increase productivity? Thinking big is important, but I’ve come to conclusion that thinking big also makes board members blind to potential that is at their reach with minimal investments.

I’ve been working on direct marketing, sales development, customer journey analytics and customer experience-  and customer interface design since 2004 and learned that the potential is amazing. Realizing the potential often only cost pennies, but requires new point of view and strong experience. So what is this really? It’s BEHAVIOURAL ECONOMICS. Using BE in order to rapidly create major changes has to do with Choice Architecture and Nudges, leveraging behavioural patterns. It’s very much like Service Designing, but doesn’t necessarily require total make over, just adjustments. I decided that I collect and publish some of the actual outcomes that I’ve discovered with my clients so that there is tangible proof of what I am talking about. These cases are anonymous and from multiple market areas including both B2B and B2C cases:

Conversion: Sales increased by 240% by only re-designing the way the product was introduced and how customers actually were steered to made the purchase. Investment level 5000€ – sales value in millions
Sales: Changing messaging order and starting marketing by allowing own members to buy first, before others. Creation of momentums inside the campaign. Sales index was 200% in a first year and 260% in second year compared to the original target budget. Investment level – no change. Double profitability impact:  higher margins and stronger sales. The sales impact was + 20 millions.
Churn reduction: By changing the way how the company did invoicing, the company’s churn reduction was almost 1/3. Investment level in thousands – savings/improved loyalty > 1 million
Customer service cost reduction: Changing the way invoicing was done, we were able to cut contact center calls to half and allocate that free capacity to proactive contacting of customers who had given critical net promoter scores. Multiple impacts: NPS increase, higher loyalty, higher ARPU, lower cost to serve. Customer feedback also gave insights to overall service and product development. Investment level in thousands – impact in hundreds of thousands
SEO/SEM improvement: Cost of acquisition is often a critical profitability factor. In one case I analysed company’s current reach of SEO and SEM and came to conclusion that 1) Their all key words were targeting the last moments of decision making = most expensive 2) They completely missed the contexts that made their service interesting and valuable = high reach, low cost. Also, they renewed their website, which cut their lead generation to half. The solution: conversion fixes on website with minimal cost, new approach to SEO/SEM. Investment – re-allocated current marketing budget, projected impact more than 200% sales increase
Proactive service messaging: Sending customers service messaging with automation multiply their frequency to use service, increase spending and reduce churn. Investment apr. 100K, sales increase impact in millions.
What board members should consider:

We already have technologies and on-going spending – can we improve their impact
We already have thousands/hundreds of thousands/millions visiting our customer interfaces. Can we improve conversion to sales?
What is our level of contact center costs? How many contacts is there? What is causing those contacts? Can we do something about it?
What is our churn level (leaving customers)? What does that mean in euros/dollars? Can we do something about it?
We have tons of data. Have we really understood the value buried in it? How can we transform data into money (operational improvement with current offering – potential for new businesses and offerings)
One case I am currently working which is special for one major reason, its public, is Kela (Finnish pension insurance company). KELA is government managed and doesn’t have competitors, which means that I can talk about the case without breaking any NDA’s. Due to a legislation change, Kela is going to take over a new service area in the beginning of 2017 that currently employs 600 working years in employee resources. I have a privilege to analyze how customers are currently using Kela services, how and why they use office- and call center services. Based on this data I am looking for ways to increase self service level and decrease cost of servicing. The goal is, that by changing the customer interfaces and service processes we can decrease the service need so much, that Kela DON’T need to hire 600 more people to fulfill the new responsibilities. Since I started analyzing data, interviewing customers and customer service people, we have already found improvement points that allow Kela to cut hundreds of thousands and eventually millions of calls or manual applications. Very little user interface element changes alone can reduce costs by 1,5 million euros in one single service segment. These findings are now in process to be realized with lean UX workshopping.

There’s one specific finding that I just have to point out. In every application context Kela gives an average decision making time. The idea to give an average time is natural and intuitively right way to approach the customer need. However, there is a problem. Giving an average time for decision will create expectations. Giving an average time actually means that HALF of the applicants feel they get below average service, get worried and call. The number of such calls is +200K in total. What can we do? We can change expectations by changing ONE LINE across all services.

“The decision making typically takes AT LEAST xx time”

The change of this one line has very meaningful benefits:

half of the customers feel that their service EXCEEDED expectations
The other half is more patient
The projected saving for this very simple change is at the level of +1 million euros. The cost to make that change is 0€. When scaling all improvements together the savings will be calculated in multiple millions.

What is that KELA case really about? It’s about recognizing why people get worried, feel anxiety, what they don’t understand and how can we improve their feeling of confidence that things are going well. In practice we improve customer experience. In a commercial context this means higher NPS, stronger customer relationships, higher demand, higher conversion rates, lower cost of acquisition… the list is endless and it’s full of direct profit impacting factors.

What I suggest for your next board meeting is, that you take the board consideration list above and put it on  your agenda.  Then honestly consider if there is room for improvement. My experience is, that there always is. Then contact a person who has real experience about recognizing improvement points, analyzing the data for potential and capacity to create insights and design changes that make millions in ROI.

This is what I do.

Here is a short introduction to my offering and how does it impact company’s customer centric transformation, management, culture, infrastructure and processes: Behavioural Economics offering


Let me know if you want your company to take a leap to a whole new level of productivity. Let’s have a chat and see if we both get excited :)

Toni Keskinen
+358 50 55 222 76
toni.keskinen@futurecmo.org
http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen/
@Toni_Keskinen

The Evolution of Pakistani Real Estate Marketing

If housing bubble’s have taught us anything, its that real estate has a direct impact not only on home valuations, but also on a nation’s mortgage markets, home builders, real estate, home supply retail outlets and foreign banks.

According to The State Bank’s Quarterly Housing Finance Review, Pakistan’s “housing units’ shortage can be estimated more than 9 million units” in a nation where property prices average USD 480,000 and buyers have weighed down by a GDP per capita that barely brushes the USD 2,000 line.

Local and international players have convened on Pakistan to solve this problem, the first of which was Zeeshan Khan and his brother in 2006 with their online property portal Zameen.com, a site that educates, informs and empowers nearly 1.3 million visitors every month. The brothers have dominated the property portal market place in Pakistan ever since.

Rocket Internet’s entered Pakistan in 2012 with eCommerce start-up funding for electronics, fashion and apparel verticals, and further invested a year later with Lamudi.pk, a property portal with strong brand recall, footing & trust in northern regions.

But Pakistani’s don’t just live in Pakistan.

Overseas citizens send around $10 billion back home each year and most of that money goes into real estate. Sadly, they are often misguided about property prices by real estate agents and at times by their own relatives. While Zameen.com and Lamudi.pk fill this need for locals, the nation needs a property evaluation and consultancy service to help the millions of Pakistanis abroad as well.

Enter Arazi.pk, a property portal (founded by business magnate Umair Sheikh) that aims to revolutionize the user experience for real estate customers in Pakistan. It’s the first (and so far the only) Pakistani startup to be recognized as a disruptive startup by WebSummit and was also selected for the upcoming RISE Conference.

Apart from having similar features and services to Lamudi.pk and Zameen.comArazi.pk is the first property portal to introduce virtual tours, panoramic views and floor plans. To ensure a much safer experience, advanced security features include the automated account verification system (activated via a short messaging service).

Property evaluation services for Pakistani diaspora can help settle family disputes that are often caused by misunderstandings rather than bad intentions. The only components of this missing is a a value assessment service for foreign embassies (immigration services) and commercial banks as well. Corporate customers of real estate demand access to a map showing the recent value assessments in a particular area, ensuring transparency and accuracy. Time will tell which new player will bring this to the fold, or whether existing players will add it on.

In Conversation with the Director of Engro Eximp

The 2008 meltdown is a difficult point for investors who are stuck in the past, because it will serve to remind them of the trouble they lived through rather than focusing on what has happened since.While the population of scared investors has dwindled as the bull market has gone on, plenty of people have overcome their fears only to a point of dipping a toe back in to test the water temperature; seven years later, the anniversary will remind them of why they won’t believe experts who say “Come on in, the water’s fine”.

I sat down with the Isfandiyar Shaheen of Engro Eximp to learn his take-away’s from the crisis and ideas for prevention of another.

What did the crisis teach you?
Varies for most of us. It has taught me that we need practical wisdom. I engage daily with the world of financial models, KPIs, rules, performance management, deals and board reporting materials. The crisis has taught me we don’t need more rules, we need deeper discussions about the merits of doing the right thing. Because smart people will always figure a way around more rules.

Is there anything that we’re still doing that we should stop?
In completely nerd language, we need to stop adding an IF statement on top of an IF statement to get a model to “balance”. What we need are elegant solutions. The thing with elegant solutions is that they require us to internalize many guiding principles which aren’t necessarily found in the world of economics. By economics I mean the study of resource allocation popularized during the mid 1700’s post industrial revolution. It would be naive to think that more rules will get the job done. Just to drive this point further. In the 1970’s, wild fire fighters in California used 4 guiding principles. This was changed to 48 well defined rules by mid 1990’s. End result was more deaths and poorer performance.

What did the crisis boil down to in your opinion?
In my view, it was a crisis of information asymmetry that was consciously propagated by a few members in the real estate finance value chain. Today the same asymmetry exists around valuation of tech companies. They quote big headline valuation numbers. Which gets used by retail investors to justify pricing when such companies go public. But rarely people talk about the terms of a subscription agreement in private deals. Whether it’s what’s app getting 19 billion or slack getting 1 billion in valuation, no one is talking about the actual terms and protections built in. This asymmetry might hurt some people.

So we’re on the verge of a second dot com bubble?
I’m not saying that, just saying that the crisis has taught us that we need to kill information asymmetry. We must do it because capital allocation should not be the privilege of the few. By engaging more minds in the process of making capital allocation decisions I think we can make better choices and hence access some practical wisdom.

So what needs to be done today?
In the end I think people get pissed off when they feel misled or taken for granted. All financial crises misled someone and someone got hurt. I don’t think we’ve learned how not to do that. We haven’t because we are still thinking rules and regulation. We need to give guiding principles a chance. We need to give practical wisdom a chance. I think more money going into the world of big data will solve that issue though. So overall I’m optimistic.


Further reading:

CEO of Cosmopolitan: “Digital Is The Best Medium”

After food forums exploded with chatter on their diverse breakfast menu, I reached out to Mohsin Ihsan and Danish Ishtiaq, the co-founders of Cosmopolitan , to learn about their quick success.

Of all the names, why Cosmopolitan?
It was a well thought of name. We witnessed a generation exposed to cultures all over the world, be it London, Tokyo, Paris etc. Cosmopolitan is a culture choice, commonly adapted by the fashion centric audiences. The name was suggested by Ahmed Ali Shah, CFO of L’Oreal.

So you’re from well off families. Why did you start the business?
Initially it was the economics. The demand was high of this concept. We haven’t had much entertainment in Karachi. All you can do is go out and eat. In the middle of the project there were major challenges. As of now, we can call it passion and true love. We started the concept in June 2013, with talks with Realtor. This business is people oriented.

What can you cook now?
I can make breakfast, eggs and all :)

Doesn’t that backfire?
It has once or twice, but our focus is always on professionalism. We have not compromised on anything in between.

If you could go back to the day you started, what would you do differently?
We always believe in developing the team. We would have done more training sessions for ourselves and the staff. We assumed the staff were versed in team building and its an avenue we would have worked. We would want this to be stable right now then slowly fix our work schedule. We’re balancing between this and our family businesses.

How is this unique?
We want to be the epitome of hospitality. It’s lacking in Pakistan. When we opened up there was just Xanders in this lane. The quality and variations go out the window when you’re hospitable. From back end to front end staff, they should have the guest on their mind.

How many guests do you serve per day?
We average 215 guests per day. Our model was 3 course meals. We started breakfast 3 weeks ago. We planned for breakfast for 30th August, fifteen days after launch. We realized that the market needed something unheard of. So we changed the concept of breakfast completely.

How did you market the business, and what was the logic behind the mediums utilized?
We capitalized on social media, primarily Twitter and Facebook. As three partners, we belong to different backgrounds on affluence, so that helped too. It was mostly digital. For the first 15 days of run, we invited people from various social settings, for a pilot test run and that created a positive buzz. We are currently purely digital and its the best medium.

From a brand strategy perspective, how do you think people feel when they hear the name of your business?
Honestly it was supposed to an upscale eatery, a sort of boutique rest. We want people to feel elevated when they come here. We want them to leave with the experience. We want customers to experience international cuisines, as if they are enjoying them abroad.

There are some food business that use non verbal cues to pressure customers to leave early. Why don’t you use them?
Sure, it hurts our top line, but we want people to experience comfort and ease. We belong to the same social setting that expects an extraordinary dining experience. If people are craving for such experiences, they can always go to BBQ players.

You may have seen the maids issue on KFD. What’s your take on it?
It’s very sad on both parts. Not just by the people dragging their maids along, but also by the eateries that stand by and do nothing. I think its the eateries job to at least ask the customers if they would like to order for the help.

What do you think food businesses can do to ensure traffic law obedience by delivery teams?
Honestly, the food business should but the impact will come to the customers. Then again 35,000 people on KFD bash you for a 20 minute delay.

What is that balance between penalizing for late and rewarding on time?
The right balance is the motivation and encouragement of the staff. We penalize the staff on punctuality. We make sure that if a guest complains about not being looked after. We do not tolerate the idea of a customer leaving unhappy.

What’s your top performing food item?

Breakfast as a whole and the all time favorite is the pamasan chicken since day one. Everyone has it and its normally fried with crumbs because its run of mill. We do it, how it should be – baked and topped with crumbs and pamasan cheese differently. We have greater portions.

A recent post of KFD alleged that food business owners should play a role in improving the area surrounding their outlets. What’s your take on this?
We fixed our road ourselves. The authorities that were supposed to do it were delaying it. We payed a private contractor to get it done. The general issue is the disposal of trash. When you go to the back, you’ll see the area cleared of waste. We have a contract with someone that ensures safe transit of the trash.

What do you think about businesses that opt for positioning under Shariah compliance?
Positioning for the heck of it is something anyone can do. If they follow through with it, then it matters. I think they are doing it just for conversions on that segment. This is Islam of convenience. Music are okay but movies are bad. It’s easy for us to play music but not to serve alcohol. We say no to 45-50 people only because of booze. We want to be focused on our core business.

What’s the most absurd reason someone has given your food a bad review?
Couple of months ago: a group of 35 ladies and their host wanted us to lie to 32 other households about what was and what was not on the menu. Our slogan is “House of Yes”. She threatened to write a negative review on KFD and SWOT if they didn’t comply with her demands.

Any plans for an eCommerce focus or loyalty system?
We’re currently considering a mobile app that allows for ease in transactions and serves as a reservation system.

What’s the growth plan for the next quarter?
Consistency. We would like to retain our guests and provide consistency. We now have ramps for the elderly customers, who are now frequent customers.


Further reading:

In Conversation with the CEO of BeautyHooked.com

At the third Startup Weekend event held in Lahore, Sahr Said‘s idea was crowned the winner. Within a week, she secured an incubation with the LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship and has embarked on a mission to make it incredibly easy for every woman to be beautiful.

We reached out to her to learn about what the company will look like in a year, from the perspectives of  product, people, team, revenue and number of customers added.

How has your mission evolved?
Who doesn’t want to be beautiful? BeautyHooked.com’s mission is to provide ease of discovering and booking the ideal beauty service or beauty product with very personalized product recommendations. To that end, we aim to constantly evaluate our product market fit and refine our offering to best fit the market and its requirement.

Where do you see the venture a year from now?
Within a year, the company’s goal is to bring the very segmented beauty salon and spa industry online, making it more accessible and transparent to the end users. It will provide a simplified online booking process, so members can schedule their monthly maintenance, discover new beauty services and destinations or find a last minute appointment, 24/7.

Team-Picture-712x540

What’s the big picture goal?
We envision to be the search tool for all things beauty; where customers can discover vetted beauty spots, read expert editorial reviews, and book appointments instantly with just the touch of a button. The product will allow women to seamlessly search, discover, review and book beauty services in close proximity, saving time and enabling them to make more informed decisions about their beauty needs and choices. At the same time, it will serve as a tool for the beauty services industry to connect with customers, generate traffic, get market feedback and promote their products and services to those women who need and want them the most.

How much are you charging users?
We’ll launch the MVP in mid-July 2015 and it will be free to use for all users so that they will be able to maximize this service at no cost to them. We are in the business of Beauty made easy, and within a year, our goal is to connect our customers with the beauty services they need, anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

Further reading:

Bridging the Agency-Client Relationship

For whatever reason, there is – and has always been – a massive divide between clients and agencies. Creatives and brand managers don’t just sit on the opposite sides of the table in boardrooms, they sit miles apart in terms of expectations, ideologies and understanding of each other’s roles.

Brand managers are unable to harness and direct creative efforts just as creatives are unable to understand the many practicalities, restrictions and real-world risks that come with managing a brand. The solution is teamwork. The best results come when the lines between the agency and client are blurred; when an agency becomes as involved in brand management as a client becomes in brainstorming and ideation.

Brand managers should be as involved in the creative process just as creatives should involved in understanding the dynamics of budget allocation, marketing strategies, and target audiences.

Agencies should spend less time working in isolation and more time working alongside brand managers to understand the brand from its core instead of from a brief – that is of course, when time and resources allow that to happen.

Further reading:

 

Business Design and Transformation process for growth

I have been privileged to be part of some major enterprise transformation processes over the past decade that have taught a lot about how do you actually enable and enforce change for customer centric, holistic, agile and innovative corporate culture. In the business world we are living in today, brands are created with customer experience and corporate culture. The capacity to serve customers in an omni-channel world the way they want to be served is becoming a competitive requirement instead of being an advantage.. This can not be done with silo organisation with responsibility barriers, split budgets, strict hierarchy, fixed roles and waterfall development processes. Those things are true status quo traps that will eventually kill any business sooner or later.

Just like Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, the authors of Lean UX -book, I got fed up with cases that were perfectly planned but never implemented or the implementation was too far from the plan and naturally didn’t deliver as expected. I’ve also grown out of creating strategies and roadmaps and moved to actual change making. I really love Lean UX. Lean Start-up- and design thinking adjusted to established enterprise environment. Solving real problems, creating customer insights, direct applications and implementing them asap is much more rewarding for everyone involved than just designing the change. Getting results fast accelerate learning, inspire innovation and motivation beyond anything else. The gradual change is also much easier to manage than a complete turnover at once.

The key rules for success are:

  1. Outside-in > understand customers and markets first, then look at your offering, customer interfaces, brand, invoicing, agreement processes, up-sales, cc etc. Be honest and learn.
  2. Bottom-up > The need for a change should be recognized at the board level, however the change learning should start at the bottom – with people who are directly communicating with customers and know their frustrations and understand company’s challenges. Most often they can directly tell you what needs to be changed. Once you know these, you can take it to the board room and be honest again and learn more
  3. Do and learn fast, adjust and improve. Don’t try to get everything right before releasing something. There are no watertight facts before there are real life results. Most things can be tested small before scaling or making major investments before proof of concept. Stay curious and lean even in case of larger enterprise

Based on my experience, this approach works every time:

customer centric management transformationIt is crucial to work you way bottom up in order to obtain actionable insights

Bottom-up strategy creation and implementation

1. Create customer insight. Use customer data, analytics, scoring model, online data, research and any available data sources in order to understand who the customers are how do they behave. If you don’t have enough data, get it, make 1-2-1 interviews or research and mash-up other datasources. Create a customer journey map based on these findings and engage with people who work in direct customer interfaces like sales, retail, call center, research, support, invoicing, credit negotiation, specialists, etc. By connecting these two realities you can see a couple of things:

  1. Who are the customers, what are they doing, how and why?
  2. How does this customer behavior show in your customer interfaces, what are the most important pain points and frustrations customers have and what can you do about it. Once you have the facts, you can see how you can extract painpoints by re-designing the customer journey experience across customer interfaces and how that will reduce costs to serve while also improving NPS. That has a direct bottomline impact. Also, you can recognize opportunities that will help you sell more effectively, improve conversion rates and thus drive marketshare and sales up.

When you have understanding about the customers and you can define Customer relationship-, Customer experience vision, set goals and recognize their impact to revenue and bottomline. The Customer interface and customer analysis becomes the roadmap for better and enables a shared language thru organisation. Everybody can agree with the facts and understand their own role in the customers’ process. The discussion is around customer behavior and going forward, it’s not about blaiming anybody for their decisions in the past. The mandate for change comes frome the customers and dictates what needs to be done. This is why everyone can agree with it and don’t lose face or feel the need to defend prior decisions. In every single case this first part has been capable of igniting inspiration, trust in own capabilities to do meaningful changes and realize them. Insights and understanding create momentum that makes it possible for a company to change fast in a meaningful way. This change is done because people love it and their hearts and minds are burning to make an improvement. It’s not done because management has told employees to change or because the management team has come up with new organisation chart… This route to transformation can be rapidly implemented and the results are quickly at hand. These results justify futher improvement.

It has been interesting to learn, how much silent knowledge, un-tapped knowledge and supressed passion can be found in any given organisation. This capacity can only be realized by deploying the change within the organisation. This is why outsourcing the planning is not a good idea in my opinion. Carrying light inside with a bag doesn’t help, you need to light up the people. Once you release that passion and knowledge in constructive way, it will change the organisation permanently. The way of working will change, it will improve job satisfaction and willingness to push the limits further. At best, it will create a positive cycle for competitive advantage and growth.

2. The next stage is about turning insights and understanding in to systematic Way of Working. This is actually very practical consideration about recognizing responsibilities, ownerships over larger entities, creation of KPI’s and information flows or designing the approach to commercial management in general. Often there are factors like scorecards and conflicting interest in the organisation that need to be fixed, rewarding mechanisms or silo cultures that just need new perspective and solving. Very often dysfunctional organisation has everything in order on the surface, but multiple little things that paralyze the operational engine, innovation, productivity and motivation. Sometimes management isn’t even aware of such issues that could be historical relics that should have been solved ages ago.

What ever there is in the way of working, the new perspective gained in the first stage will help in finding solutions to them. The work is done gradually case by case and the excitement and positivity for change gradually take over the entire personnel. At this point, the company should reach a positive cycle that feeds winning mentality, job satisfaction and capacity to innovate.

3. The first two stages have already revealed the challenges that can be found from systems architechtures and platforms. While the first stage already enables major improvements with UX design and coding, the platforms enable strategic development and automation. This naturally takes more time and is different kind of project, but by this time the needs, benefits and requirements should be selfevident. As the learning has already started at frontend level, the understanding about available business benefits should also be clear for decision making and investment planning.

This kind of change can improve efficiency and productivity very fast without showing anything outside yet. However, when the company is really changing it should also show outside. In my experience advertising is actually very effective mean for internal change communication. The promises that the company gives outloud enforces the internal resolve to follow thru and deliver as planned. Advertising is about communicating the core values and that goes to own personnel, customers and the market. There’s just the question of timing that must be carefully considered. If the advertising starts too early and the personnel hasn’t really got on board, it might have double negative impact:

  1. internal feeling of disconnect between promises and capability to deliver and
  2. customers feeling that there isn’t enough substance behind those promises which could damage the brand and destroy the momentum that would have been available.

Like anything that has to do with people and emotions, these are delicate matters and require consideration. In order to do things successfully you need to have a clear plan but it has to be flexible enough so that it can be deployed in right order.

These transformation stories are truly interesting and educating processes. I’d love to hear your stories and experiences about them. Please comment and share :)

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About Author

How GLEE Hospitality Built & Grew Rice Creamery

With an outnumbered Emirati population and growing influx of expatriates, Dubai has had to adopt to fresh imports of tastes, traditions and styles. The latest addition at CityWalk last year came with Rice Creamery, an innovative dine in concept inspired by multiple cultures and preferences found worldwide. We sat with the MD of the food group behind this and other successful ventures.

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How did you get into the food business, and what was the “aha” moment behind Rice Creamery?

I have been in the food business for over 20 years and that’s after having completed my hotel management education. The”aha” moment came when a friend (now partner) in the business had the idea but lacked the “know how” or the where to attain financial backing. The idea went dead for almost a year then I came back to him telling him let’s do it via GLEE Hospitality.

What was the rationale behind the decision to have the flagship outlet at CityWalk?

Finding a prime location for a new brand isn’t always easy especially if it’s not a franchise. Preferences are always given to international brands. The site came available quiet late in the development of the mall and we jumped on it. Being a neighborhood location with relatively reasonable rent was a prime factor, and it faces the kids play area.

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What is your personal philosophy and that of Rice Creamery behind customer satisfaction?

Rice creamery is a simple product which most people are familiar with in one shape or form. The customer most importantly must appreciate and enjoy the product / flavours, after that the rest is manageable. So far the response has been very good, as the flavours have been very well received. In some cases people told us we should increase our prices, which is a good sign of value for money vs quality vs service

How did you navigate the venture capital investment process?

Our financial partner approached us for another project after which we presented RC. She immediately loved the idea, and before you know it we had the location secured and we started the recipes trials

When can we expect to see franchises of Rice Creamery cropping up all over UAE?

For the time being we have decided not to franchise in the UAE. We are about to open Abu Dhabi in Dalma mall and soon in Sharjah. We have franchised in KSA , Bahrain and Kuwait.

Should someone be interested to build their own food business, how can they contact you or your team?

I’m easy to reach and quick to respond. They can email me on aboudisaadi@gleehospitality.com or call GLEE Hospitality’s office on 04 4503775.

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