ads that make the cut

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We all hate advertisements. We all love advertisements. What differentiates those we love from the ones we don’t?

Most ads highlight what the product does. Some take the pain to highlight how better it is from the competition. What such ads achieve is make the prospective customer more knowledgeable about the product. Nothing more.

Is it enough that prospective customers just know the product is good? The problem is, knowing is not acting. Unless prospects convert to sales, its a fail.

Successful ads don’t just capture your attention, but force you to act. They give a compelling reason to buy the product. Compelling reasons connect to you emotionally, give you a sense of pride, make you think you are smart. Think of several Apple advertisements.

The best ads increase your affinity for the product. Every time. 

be your customer

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How often do you look at a product or service and decide it wasn’t worth your time and money? How many of us do that everyday?

That is the same fate your product will face. Unless you figure out the right product-market fit. There are practically unlimited ways to figure this out, but its about how efficiently and reliably you can – without wasting too much cash and time.

Talk to your customers. Read, understand and analyze what your industry leaders write. Look at your competitors. Look at services that complement your offering. Best of all, rather than assuming and predicting your customer, be and behave like your customer. There is no better way to understand them. 

need for an organization-wide dashboard

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As an organization expands, more and more focus is required to run each functional area of an organization – strategy, operations, engineering, marketing and sales. This is mandated by the ever-increasing need to expand and improve the processes and results of each of these functions. To successfully execute on the mandate, organizations staff key positions in each area with the right experts – in turn, increasing the strength and focus of each area. However, one disastrous side-effect of such an increase in functional focus is the loss of organizational focus. Each department operates on its own terms and timelines, often with conflicting priorities.

In successful organizations, the purpose of existence of each of these functions is tied to the organization’s vision and mission. The vision becomes the guiding light for the high-level strategy. The execution strategy of each organizational function branch out from the high-level strategy. Most importantly, the priorities are aligned across the entire organization. The engineering division has to work based on both the market and the product vision. The marketing plan should align with the release schedules of the engineering department. The sales force needs to be armed with the product knowledge before the product release. The go-to-market strategy should reflect the organization’s mission – what the organization ultimately wants to achieve / provide. The operations team should be able to support all these departments without losing focus on process improvements.

As with most factors critical to success, it is easier said than done. The need to educate and emphasize the big-picture across the organization is only a first step in the right direction. What is more important is to continuously track and realign the plans and priorities across the entire organization. How about something like a dashboard for every level of the organization, that maps the current execution of the unit against the overall organization’s plan? 

talking with your audience

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Its amazing what kids teach us. Talk to a kid about the latest political crisis, the ramifications of the economic downturn, or for that matter, even about the most selling product of Master Foods or Cadbury. You should consider yourself lucky if the kid simply walks away. In most cases, before leaving that place, you’ll be graced with an innocent confused rude stare.
None of us would be interested in listening to things we dont need to understand, or things that matter the least to us. To get the kid interested, you should replace “most selling product of Master Foods” with “chocolate”. Not that it is interested now because you are gonna gift a box of chocolates, but because you are atleast talking something that it can relate to – something it values. Even as adults, we behave that way. We dont care much about things that we dont value. The same for almost everyone out there.
When a large multinational corporation started selling its baby food in Africa, it used the same label that was used in America: picture of a smiling baby. African consumers were horrified: In Africa, the labels generally depicted what was inside the container, since most people can’t read.
The point is that whenever we communicate, it is very important to keep the target audience in mind. For businesses, its customer-centric. For software, its user-centric. For orators, it should be audience-centric. Unless we say things that will get the audience excited, unless we make them understand how they stand to benefit, unless we make the audience relate to our content, there is every chance that the message could be taken in unexpectedly adverse ways. It does a world of good to understand your audience and make it easier for them to resonate with your message. Remember, to effectively communicate, you should be talking with the audience, rather than talking to the audience.

Its amazing what kids teach us. Talk to a kid about the latest political crisis, the ramifications of the economic downturn, or for that matter, even about the most selling product of Master Foods or Cadbury. You should consider yourself lucky if the kid simply walks away. In most cases, before leaving that place, you’ll be graced with an innocent confused rude stare.

None of us would be interested in listening to things we dont need to understand, or things that matter the least to us. To get the kid interested, you should replace “most selling product of Master Foods” with “chocolate”. Not that it is interested now because you are gonna gift a box of chocolates, but because you are atleast talking something that it can relate to – something it values. Even as adults, we behave that way. We dont care much about things that we dont value. The same for almost everyone out there.

When a large multinational corporation started selling its baby food in Africa, it used the same label that was used in America: picture of a smiling baby. African consumers were horrified: In Africa, the labels generally depicted what was inside the container, since most people can’t read. [more here]

The point is that whenever we communicate, it is very important to keep the target audience in mind. For businesses, its customer-centric. For software, its user-centric. For orators, it should be audience-centric. Unless we say things that will get the audience excited, unless we make them understand how they stand to benefit, unless we make the audience relate to our content, there is every chance that the message could be taken in unexpectedly adverse ways. It does a world of good to understand your audience and make it easier for them to resonate with your message. Remember, to communicate effectively, you should be talking with the audience, rather than talking to the audience. 

leading from the bottom

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One of the most important achievements of the current economic downturn is that it has forced even multi-billion dollar businesses to re-think their strategy and execution. Only those who can adapt will survive the test of time – more so in a globalized economy. However, as humans, we are enslaved by our habits – which make it difficult to adapt to new realities. We are bogged down by the dogma of tradition and the comfort of yesterday’s success. The ability to be flexible varies from person to person and from situation to situation. This is what differentiates leaders from the rest.
The higher you are, the lesser visibility you have about the ground realities. This is especially true in a complex multi-layered organization. Irrespective of the field of business that an organization is in, chances are high that the results often come from the bottom of the pyramid: the people who make and the people who sell. The most important task in the hands of the management team is to ensure that productivity and efficiency is optimum at the bottom of the pyramid, where it matters the most. To generalize, at every level of an organization, it is very important to optimize the lower rungs of the value chain. Unfortunately, control, power of judgement and decison making lies at a different place than where it can be best made.
The most logical step to change this status quo is to empower people where it matters most. However, this cannot be done over night – and often, even if it is done, will prove to be counter-productive since it is difficult to gauge the bigger picture at that level. Thus, the need arises to find middle ground. Empowerment has to be gradual – and limited in such a way that it does not adversely impact other areas of the organization. Such a change should also allow more flexibility in decision making and foster frugal innovation.
However, the most difficult part for most leaders, is to go down the value chain and realize the need for such empowerment. Even more difficult is to understand what is happening at the edge of the organization. This is where true leaders and great organizations stand apart. Organizations that have chalked their strategy bottom-up will eventually come out of this downturn better and stronger, thanks to the attitude change from “leading from the top” to “leading from the bottom”.

One of the most important achievements of the current economic downturn is that it has forced even multi-billion dollar businesses to re-think their strategy and execution. Only those who can adapt will survive the test of time – more so in a globalized economy. However, as humans, we are enslaved by our habits – which make it difficult to adapt to new realities. We are bogged down by the dogma of tradition and the comfort of yesterday’s success. The ability to be flexible varies from person to person and from situation to situation. This is what differentiates leaders from the rest.

The higher you are, the lesser visibility you have about the ground realities. This is especially true in a complex multi-layered organization. Irrespective of the field of business that an organization is in, chances are high that the results often come from the bottom of the pyramid: the people who make and the people who sell. The most important task in the hands of the management team is to ensure that productivity and efficiency is optimum at the bottom of the pyramid, where it matters the most. To generalize, at every level of an organization, it is very important to optimize the lower rungs of the value chain. Unfortunately, control, power of judgement and decison making lies at a different place than where it can be best made.

The most logical step to change this status quo is to empower people where it matters most. However, this cannot be done over night – and often, even if it is done, will prove to be counter-productive since it is difficult to gauge the bigger picture at that level. Thus, the need arises to find middle ground. Empowerment has to be gradual – and limited in such a way that it does not adversely impact other areas of the organization. Such a change should also allow more flexibility in decision making and foster frugal innovation.

However, the most difficult part for most leaders, is to go down the value chain and realize the need for such empowerment. Even more difficult is to understand what is happening at the edge of the organization. This is where true leaders and great organizations stand apart. Organizations that have chalked their strategy bottom-up will eventually come out of this downturn better and stronger, thanks to the attitude change from “leading from the top” to “leading from the bottom”. 

how to get the work done

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At some point of time, either from our own expereince, or by listening to others’, we would have realized that expectations often lead to disappointments. The cause of the disappointment can be yourself or another person. One common solution most of us think of, and rather suggest, is that we should lower our expectations (or altogether avoid having any!) – easier said than done. For the latter case though, there seems to be a more practical solution.
It is natural that we expect something in return for whatever we do, be it at work-place, home, professional or personal relationships. Even if we are totally selfless and there are no tangible gains, the bare minimum we expect is personal satisfaction. Personal satisfaction of having done something right, or on time, or of value.
Often, we pass on instructions, without caring to justify them / highlight the value of the result. For the person at the receiving end, such a task is nothing more than monotonous – because it has no meaning attached to his needs. However, when one knows the value of the job at hand, it sets a target for personal satisfaction. The satisfaction of having achieved something of value.
So, the next time we actually expect something out of someone, let us also convey the value of doing it right. This not only sets clear expectations, but also reasons as to why he/she should be doing it – in turn setting the target for a sense of achievement. If we can make people feel the ‘need’ to do something, rather than just having to do something, its more than half the job done. The highest form of motivation is what comes from within – and what can drive it better than personal satisfaction?

At some point of time, either from our own expereince, or by listening to others’, we would have realized that expectations often lead to disappointments. The cause of the disappointment can be yourself or another person. One common solution most of us think of, and rather suggest, is that we should lower our expectations (or altogether avoid having any!) – easier said than done. For the latter case though, there seems to be a more practical solution.

It is natural that we expect something in return for whatever we do, be it at work-place, home, professional or personal relationships. Even if we are totally selfless and there are no tangible gains, the bare minimum we expect is personal satisfaction. Personal satisfaction of having done something right, or on time, or of value.

Often, we pass on instructions, without caring to justify them / highlight the value of the result. For the person at the receiving end, such a task is nothing more than monotonous – because it has no meaning attached to his needs. However, when one knows the value of the job at hand, it sets a target for personal satisfaction. The satisfaction of having achieved something of value.

So, the next time we actually expect something out of someone, let us also convey the value of doing it right. This not only sets clear expectations, but also reasons as to why he/she should be doing it – in turn setting the target for a sense of achievement. If we can make people feel the ‘need’ to do something, rather than just having to do something, its more than half the job done. The highest form of motivation is what comes from within – and what can drive it better than personal satisfaction? 

hail the ant

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Everything starts small, people say.. but certain things end smaller! One such thing is an Ant.
Today, when leaving from a close friend’s house, i saw some ants inside my shoe. For those animal entusiasts out there, they were red ants. Others, read on.
Well, I’m sure they weren’t yearning for attention, just that i had enough time to muse. Ants are pretty small, but carry things several times their size. They are almost weightless, but carry several times their weight. They are fragile and don’t have winter clothing, so they save enough to last a long winter. Their legs are microscopic, yet they walk a great deal. I’m not even sure if they have a nose, but they sense even if a few crystals of sugar lay on the floor. Their teeth is thinner than our finger tips, but its sting can hurt and leave a little cherry on your skin for over a day. No notion of time they may know, yet they can delay us by quite a while, just as they did to me today. Not because they are red in color, but they can actually get you angry or irritated or make you complain!
The point is that they aren’t as powerless as they seem. These little guys today, reminded me of several management fundas (aka jargon!), and some timeless principles of great value. They keep reminding that size does not matter – what matters is what you do with what you have. They work hard, save prudently, are very agile, make merry, take rest, are alert and if you get in their way, they know how to fight back. They do things that most of us can’t even imagine doing – can you carry something 3 times your weight and walk around? Most importantly, they are experts at planning, executing and looking forward to life. They know their limitations – they can’t come out during winter. So, they plan for their food and shelter. They don’t crib that they can’t find food for 6 months. They don’t worry about the tough times. Most of us do. They plan and prepare. We worry.
We, as elite creatures on earth, are used to having things our way. Even trivial things like crowed buses, credit card dues, bad roads, cell phone network coverage, traffic jams, shopping for a friend’s wedding, salary hikes, promotions, rising petrol costs, rise and fall of stock markets, etc etc affect us a lot. By making an issue out of all these perfectly manageable stuff, little do we realize that we are losing our resilience every day. Like Mr. Subroto Bagchi pointed out in his article ‘The Fallen Tomato Cart’, an average man, with a much tougher life than ours, does a better job of living it than most of us, the well to do, do. Most of us don’t even do as good as the little ant.
Isn’t it time we stop worrying about insignificant things around us, and start being more positive – rather sensible.?

Everything starts small, people say.. but certain things end smaller! One such thing is an Ant.

Today, when leaving from a close friend’s house, i saw some ants inside my shoe. For those animal entusiasts out there, they were red ants. Others, read on.

Well, I’m sure they weren’t yearning for attention, just that i had enough time to muse. Ants are pretty small, but carry things several times their size. They are almost weightless, but carry several times their weight. They are fragile and don’t have winter clothing, so they save enough to last a long winter. Their legs are microscopic, yet they walk a great deal. I’m not even sure if they have a nose, but they sense even if a few crystals of sugar lay on the floor. Their teeth is thinner than our finger tips, but its sting can hurt and leave a little cherry on your skin for over a day. No notion of time they may know, yet they can delay us by quite a while, just as they did to me today. Not because they are red in color, but they can actually get you angry or irritated or make you complain!

The point is that they aren’t as powerless as they seem. These little guys today, reminded me of several management fundas (aka jargon!), and some timeless principles of great value. They keep reminding that size does not matter – what matters is what you do with what you have. They work hard, save prudently, are very agile, make merry, take rest, are alert and if you get in their way, they know how to fight back. They do things that most of us can’t even imagine doing – can you carry something 3 times your weight and walk around? Most importantly, they are experts at planning, executing and looking forward to life. They know their limitations – they can’t come out during winter. So, they plan for their food and shelter. They don’t crib that they can’t find food for 6 months. They don’t worry about the tough times. Most of us do. They plan and prepare. We worry.

We, as elite creatures on earth, are used to having things our way. Even trivial things like crowed buses, credit card dues, bad roads, cell phone network coverage, traffic jams, shopping for a friend’s wedding, salary hikes, promotions, workplace politics, rising petrol costs, rise and fall of stock markets, etc etc affect us a lot. By making an issue out of all these perfectly manageable stuff, little do we realize that we are losing our resilience every day. Like Mr. Subroto Bagchi observes in his article ‘The Fallen Tomato Cart‘, an average man, with a much tougher life than ours, does a better job of living it than most of us, the well to do, do. Most of us don’t even do as good as the little ant.

Isn’t it time we stop worrying about insignificant things around us, and start being more positive – rather sensible.? 

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