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zMessenger, Sri Lanka’s largest mobile marketing solutions provider will bring together top brand leaders from FMCG, hospitality, banking and financial services to the Island’s first roundtable on mobile marketing scheduled for Thursday, 30th October, 2014

The event titled Embracing Mobile Mind Shift – Mobile Moments are the Frontline of Customer Experience will look at the impact of rapidly increasing mobile connectivity on customer expectations.

“Mobile phones are proving to be an effective and affordable marketing channel and in the face of this mobile boom, customers are in the midst of a total mind shift. Their expectations have changed. Whilst they have lost interest in a marketing message, they now demand utility and they expect it now. We thought its timely to focus on how brand leaders across different industries understand this shift and respond to it by creating mobile moments that would transform customer experience and supply them with mobile utility,” Jayomi Lokuliyana, Co-Founder and CEO of zMessenger said.

The roundtable will see expert panelists Siddharth Banerjee, Country Marketing Director – Unilever Sri Lanka, Tharanga Gunasekera, Head of Marketing and Communications – HSBC Sri Lanka, Mangala Wickramasinghe, Head of e-Banking Services –  HNB and Co-Founder of the Ministry of Crab and Kaema Sutra restaurants, Dharshan Munidasa addressing the gathering on diverse topics spanning from customer engagement to delivery of financial services through mobile phones and the power of mobile context to mobile services in the hospitality sector.

The mobile marketing roundtable will also highlight and profile various ground-breaking mobile marketing efforts of ‘new-age’ corporate such as Unilever Sri Lanka, a driver of effective marketing.

zMessenger is an award winning integrated mobile media company that offers a wide range of solutions from planning, creating and execution of effective marketing campaigns, branded communication applications and content distribution strategies.

zMessenger that first introduced SMS based applications to local media stations also enjoy a leading position in the overall ‘new media’ marketing space for digital. It is also the only mobile marketing services solution provider in Sri Lanka.

The company recently launched Bigbon, a mobile app that allows customers to pick and choose the best deals offered by credit cards, loyalty cards and favorite retailers and restaurants. Bigbon which is completely customizable allows users to explore the deals at a specific location by turning on the “Augmented Reality” feature which displays a list of deals in close proximity to the user. The app also generates a report offering merchants an insight into customer preferences.

“With the journey we’ve come so far, it’s only benefitting for zMessenger to hold the country’s first ever Mobile Marketing Roundtable. We believe that this endevour will help broaden our horizons and consolidate our position in the Island,” Lokuliyana said.

Event is invite only but will be live streamed via MMRColombo.

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All great things start with someone dreaming big about an idea. Experience of dreaming about such an idea is joyful and you soon realize it’s the next big thing. This state of mind gets shattered when this idea reaches the point of execution. Reason for this is the dreams are seen in perfect world mindset and execution takes place in real world.

This book helps the entrepreneurs to come out of the perfect world and accept the reality in making the business venture a success. Therefore “Reality Check” gives a pulse of the bitterness of real world when it comes to starting and nurturing a business.

“Reality Check” is an in depth explanation of Kawasaki’s “The Art of The Start”. Topics are discussed in greater detail by bringing in specialist opinion for related topics and diving in to technicality with greater detail.

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Continuing his style of breaking the topics based on the phases of a startup, Kawasaki explains the reality of many key milestones. Some of the notable elements from these chapters are as follows.

  • Conceptualizing and funding the idea of a startup are crucial as the entrepreneur is moving from a “The idea” mindset to a “Will it work” mindset. Kawasaki starts the discussion with the fairy tale of entrepreneurship. Then he provides guidance on how to overcome the shocks mainly in identifying the time to “commercialize the idea”.

The approach of educating the reader about investor mindset through his personal experience and expert opinion would be valuable for a reader who has plans of becoming a venture capitalist. He also introduces his unconventional “Venture Capital Aptitude Test” model which can be used as a tool to evaluate the qualifications to become a venture capitalist.

In an attempt to provide insight to venture capital law, Kawasaki has included an interview of Fred Greguras who is a specialist on the subject matter. As the legal explanations are deeply technical, attractiveness of the reader diminishes.

  • Planning, executing & innovating are the most critical phases of a startup. Also these are continuous processes which require high level of focus. Kawasaki shares his wisdom in these areas in a chapter named “Zen of business plan”. The most attracting factor is the link he bridge between pitching and planning, which would benefit the entrepreneur in many aspects including funding.

Advising on execution, he explains the challenging aspect of it and hence to make it a worthy effort. Then Kawasaki writes the best chapter of this book “After the Honeymoon”. This focuses on few highly practical issues faced by a startup immediately after the initial success phase. What makes this chapter special is the candidness of problems highlighted, it signifies the causes and most importantly it provides practical solutions which meet the reader’s expectations.

This also includes the story of building one of his startups “All top” presented in a very interesting manner.

  • Marketing, Sales& Communications are equally important for any startup to get the bucks to flow and spread the name across. This becomes a challenge with initial financial constraints and over spending can bring things to a grinding halt.

This section of the book stresses the importance of balancing market adaptation without trying costly, ineffective approaches to add numbers which hinders real market adaptation.

The reader would also come across guidance on startup focused branding techniques, aspects to be mindful in delegating marketing activities and importance of managing the extent to which the customers should be influenced in selling.

Many young entrepreneurs struggle when they are exposed to corporates in business development aspects. One of the main reasons for this is weakness in communication and lack of presentation skills. Therefore, Kawasaki has dedicated special emphasis to this sharing his own amazing techniques which he believes that would result in standing ovation, a chapter from Garr Reynolds and an in-depth analysis of Majora carter’s TED Talk.

  • Beguiling &Competing is important especially after the launch of a startup. Beguiling assists an entrepreneur to attract and influence people in network building and recruitment. In this chapter Kawasaki stresses the importance of capitalizing on networks an entrepreneur builds. He points out frequent mistakes done in following up with the built contacts and signifies how costly it could be.

When network building results in business partnerships, getting partners to deliver results become challenging. This often happens when the partner has higher bargaining power compared to the startup. In order to overcome this, Kawasaki points out the ground rules to be laid, how exit strategies to be put and how to drive internal acceptance to reap benefits from such partnerships.

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Focusing on competition, Kawasaki recalls his experiences at Apple’s Macintosh division where competition was at peak internally and against IBM. He guides the reader how to take the tide and how not to get carried away with competition. Emphasizing on understanding the mindset of competition, Kawasaki also lists down some of the best examples including how Virgin Atlantic took on British Airways in 1986 which proves that competition is best handled by tackling minds.

  • Managing HR &Operations would not be the task an entrepreneur will handle in the mid/long term. But the way an entrepreneur handles this at the inception would determine how it would be practiced as it would embed to the culture. Therefore, hiring, firing & managing day to day operations is been paid extra attention in this section. 

Kawasaki uses his experience with Steve Jobs to explain hiring which includes the famous “A players hire A+ players” example he initiated at Apple. Among other valuable points, presenting a challenge to the candidate is noteworthy. Kawasaki mentions the challenge Steve Jobs gave to John Scully when he was recruited to highlight the importance of this.

Continuing his style, Kawasaki turns the table to guide the reader in tackling these situations as a candidate.

Vitality of being responsible, firm and providing chances in laying are being discussed in greater depth to enlighten the reader of risks involved.

Focusing on business operations, Kawasaki lists out a number of tips covering many aspects to enjoy work and be productive.

Kawasaki concludes this chapter with some “Must Read” radical topics related to work place politics and also provides his unconventional models to tackle them.

Ensuring the completeness and relevance of this book to all types of startups, Kawasaki has written the final chapter Reality of Doing Good. This section gives insights in to challenges faced in social entrepreneurship and transforming corporations in to Nonprofits. He also shares his way of viewing life in a chapter named “My Hindsights in Life” and asks ten questions from the reader which he calls the “Checklist of Reality Check”.

Mentioned below are some views about this book from a holistic standpoint

  • In this book, Kawasaki’s attention to detail on key elements of a startup is commendable. Throughout the book he stresses the importance of developing simple and attractive customer interfaces to enhance customer experience which is a critical success factor.
  • Also, this is a book full of lies. Truth about lies that Entrepreneurs, Venture capitalists, Engineers and Lawyers tell each other when they play their part. These are real lies which you would tell/hear and hence provides guidance to how to be creative in telling new lies.
  • This book consists with number of chapters where technical experts were interviewed. In many instances these chapters are discussed in greater detail. This has negatively impacted on the flow as it dilutes focus from the core subject matter. Alternatively, a summarized version in Kawasaki’s own opinion would have added more value.
  • Another distinct feature about Reality Check is that it puts the reader in to many different tough situations and provides guidance to tackle those situations. Advising on handling situations such as founder not performing is a clear evidence for this.final1

In conclusion, Reality Check would gain a rating of 6 out of 10 for the validity of points mentioned above. Better selection and sequencing of sub chapters, less number of expert interviews anda much brief approach would have resulted in a better rating.

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Before proceeding with reading this post, just take a look at your email inbox. How many emails can you find there, promoting some product or a service? How many of them are actually relevant for you?

I’m sure if you are an average Sri Lankan who uses emails regularly, you will find a couple of dozens of Viagra promotions, another dozen of emails promoting Replica watches and quite a few from local email marketing agencies promoting one or more of their clients.

However, how many emails are there actually you opted in to receive? For sure, that is the least number of promotional emails you will see in your inbox.

I’m trying to get at the problem we are facing in using email as an effective marketing tool. Just as in any other form of media, there are “spoilers” who ruin the effectiveness of email marketing with their shortsighted activities on the cyberspace. Just having a technical understanding of ‘how to send a bulk email to 100,000 email addresses’ will not make you an eMail marketer, or give you the due qualification to start an email marketing agency. Sending out the email is just a one component of email marketing, but before getting there, you have to consider a lot more things to make your email marketing efforts effectiveness.

Email Marketing Defined

I define email marketing as “using email as a medium of communication to convey interactive messages to a highly relevant target audience who are willing to receive such messages from us”. Once I put forward this definition, I categorically label anything else as “Spam”.

My definition of eMail marketing contains three important basics you have to follow when carrying out email marketing.

  1. Relevant target audience
  2. Permission
  3. Interactive content

Relevant Audience

First you have to pick your target audience right. This is called prospect targeting. There are many strategies and tactics you can use when finding the right prospects to receive your email marketing. One commonly used tactic is to make your website visitors to sign-up for your mailing list. Someone visits your website, because they are interested in the content you publish on your website. That is an indication of relevancy of what you sell (product, service or idea) to the person who is about to sign up for your email list. You can directly promote your mailing list and give a voluntary sign up option on the website. Or else, you can give some ‘relevant bait’ like a free ebook, to encourage visitor to sign up for your mailing list. We use direct sign up method on www.petadivisor.org for signing up people for our ‘Pet Advisor Monthly – Pet Care Newsletter”. With this signup option, we make sure that people who receive our emails are actually pet owners and animal lovers.

Another method for making the audience relevant is by sponsoring related concepts. For example, a company in the travel industry can sponsor a “Travel Quiz” on a third party website, to collect prospects. There are prospect-targeting specialists who are specialized in conducting such contests, to collect prospective customers to your mailing list.

Permission

This is the least respected attribute of good email marketing practices. Getting the permission of the receiver is very important for increasing the effectiveness of your email marketing. Anyone who does not respect ‘permission’ are in reality, spamming the receivers even though they will find hundred and one excuses to justify their rudeness.

Permission consists of three elements.

  1. Opt in
  2. Double opt in
  3. Freedom to opt out

Out of these three elements, ‘double opt in’ is not a must have feature. However, ‘opt in’ and ‘freedom to opt out’ are two most essential elements in getting the receivers permission.

‘Opt in’ refers to making the receiver actively giving their consent to receive emails from us. This can happen with a sign up process as described in the “Pet Advisor Newsletter”, or by asking the customer to tick “I like to receive emails from you” option, at the check out stage of an eCommerce transaction. In whatever the way you are “opting in” the customer; they got to know that they are going to receive promotional emails from you in the future.

Double opt in works for confirming the customers’ decision to receive emails from you. This works in a way as verifying the validity of the email as well. Customer is expected to click on a ‘verification email’ sent to the email address he/she used for opting in. This is a highly effective thing to do, make your mailing list free of hard bouncing emails.

After a customer opts in to your mailing list, they should have the freedom of opting out from the list anytime they want. This is a legal requirement in many countries there are separate laws to govern email and direct marketing. If you don’t give a working opt out link in your emails, there’s a huge possibility that spam detectors will trigger and your mail will be marked as spam.

Can I Spam?

However, most email markets do away with the “opt in” part very easily, and stick only to the “opt out” option, and justify this with the excuse ‘law doesn’t made it mandatory to send emails only to opt in customers, and it specifically mention having an opt-out option is enough’.

If you look at this justification, you should be able to violation of the basic principles of marketing. Marketing keeps customer always in the forefront, and advocates not doing anything, which makes the customers unhappy. However, if someone advocates you to send unsolicited emails, just because the law does not specifically prohibit you doing so; be wary about such advices. Because, even though the law allows you to ‘spam’ people, in the long run that will kill your brand. Sticking to do the right things always will help you achieve success in the long run, rather than hitting short cuts for quick success.

Elements of a Successful Email Campaign

Subject Line

Objective of your subject line is to compel the user to open the mail. The subject line of your email should be short, and contain specific keywords appealing to the customers. Make it longer, you will lose the chance of opening it. Research say, having the reciever’s first name and/or ‘You’ in the subject line improves the open rate of an email. This is psychology, as most of us are quickly responding to anything addressed to our first name, or anything that specifically delivered to ‘me’. (Is this the reason why some Sinhala language radio DJs overusing the word “Oya” in their shows?)

Message Body

Get to the main point quickly. It is not the job of your receivers to read the flowery language in your email. So cut any unnecessary build up stories and get to the main point as soon as possible. Include call to actions in the mail body, to make it interactive. If you refer to any web page or a website, never forget to add the hyperlinks. It is annoying to cut and paste URLs from email.

Reply Path

Avoid do-not-reply@yourdomain.com email address to send emails. Make sure each and every email marketing message you send out carries a working reply path, which will be checked by a human being.

Choosing Your Email Marketing Agency

According to my knowledge, there is no single email marketing agency based in Sri Lanka, who practice the industry best practices. If apply industry standards, all the email marketing agencies in Sri Lanka are spammers. They use unethical tactics to collect emails (like forward chain emails promising free stuff) and their lists contain loads of unsolicited email addresses.

I recommend, you to build your own mailing list and use a web based solution like MailChimp or Awebar. This is bit costly compared to the easier route of going through one of the email marketing agencies, but if you apply the damage you are making to your brand by associating your brand with such spammers; you are much more better off in spending that money.

Summary

This is just a basic introduction for email marketing, which cannot be fully explained in a short article like this. If you are interested in learning more about email marketing best practices, you are always welcome to contact me via Twitter (@Amisampath) or by visiting my website at www.amisampath.com