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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Is your agency pushing you to buy ads?

The best ad agencies don’t push to sell you ads. It is very rare that your marketing objective could be met simply by buying ads. If your agency is a specialist agency in the real sense, not an agent of media owner or a media owner themselves, they will take a holistic approach towards knowing your marketing objectives and ponder on how best to use resources in order to meet those objectives. They will ask many questions that you may not even find relevant, but in fact, those answers help them in arriving at a comprehensive media plan specifically made for you.   
In some case you may not need any ads to be bought. Your product or services may require two way communications, an engagement approach in which you need to explain the features of your product or services to the potential buyer. You may need changes to your website, your packaging, or you may need to sponsor an event or fundraiser or a social-networking idea. The ad world is changing. Business-as-usual advertising is becoming less and less effective. Customers demand a shorter span of return on ad spend. To compete, you may need to do some things differently than you have in the past. 
The businesses need to make sure their agencies understand Marketing is more than Advertising. Marketing resources go beyond advertising. Make sure your agencies are aware that many marketing weapons come at a fraction of the cost of buying ads.  Businesses need to remind themselves that the more media your agency get you to buy, the more they profit. What you need to make sure of is, that they’re using the right resources for your specific needs. The object of your marketing efforts is not to buy more media, but to create ideas that sell more products or services. Your objective should not be to outspend the competition, but to outsmart them.
A lot has changed in the past 10 to 15 years in which the businesses leveraged the internet and mobile revolution. The businesses have changed the way business is done, the buyers have changed the way they buy products and services and consume media. There is a need to change the way marketing and communication are conceptualized, planned, executed and measured. In the level playing field now, any business can grow up to the goal set by them, just they need to do the things that are needed to get there.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Entrepreneurs need flexible options for paying for the services

How do Start-ups bring their businesses to the point where it's making money, when they don't have the money to pay for the help they need to get there?
About 8 yrs. ago, I took the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship after working for about 15 years in various large corporations in India and in the US. I made almost all the mistakes an entrepreneur possibly could make. I could hardly afford consultants providing professional services in various areas such as finance, legal, IP, branding, positioning, company secretarial, auditing etc. The company paid a heavy price for not doing things at an appropriate time and that made the journey little longer and costlier than it should have been.
But it had the positive side to it too. On the way we learnt most of the mistakes a startup makes, the price one has to pay, and most importantly, how other entrepreneurs can avoid those mistakes. For example, if startups do not document a formal printed agreement, detail relationship with partners or investors, draft social media guidelines, protect intellectual property, etc., it can lead to enormous legal trouble and a huge amount in bills. Yet most startups live with this risk, and more often than not, die under the weight of such troubles. I knew from my earlier experience, that every time I called a consultant, a bill came back in thousands. Now when I talk to startups about why they fail to consult lawyers or consultants, the answer always boils down to cost. For cash-strapped small businesses to assume a certain cost now to avoid an uncertain one down the murky road does not appear to be a priority.
We all know very well that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But how do we get startups to eat their proverbial apple when we know that startups can't afford those apples at that stage? The top notch professional service providers are not even interested in the business coming from startups since they treat it to be too less in billing for them to consider it worthwhile. Academia and the government’s attempt to help a handful of startups by providing them with incubation centers, soft loans, some seed funding etc. But that's not all they need. Every startup has its own unique requirement for which they need professional guidance. In the present situation, startups have very limited options due to which they are condemned to repeat the mistakes committed by all those who had taken this path before them. No wonder in India we see very few startups that make it really big. I firmly believe, many startups are not able to survive despite having wonderful product/services/ideas which could be converted into huge commercial enterprises.
It's a perpetual problem facing startups: How do you bring your business to the point where it's making money, when you don't have the money to pay for the help you need to get there? Most entrepreneurs are not clear on the strategy on how to go to market. A professional presentation, proposal, MOU, agreement and most importantly help in reaching potential clients in a professional manner are areas if these start-ups are helped, they can do wonders.
We have successfully attempted to address these issues by helping entrepreneurs gain access to professional service providers, such as ad agencies, app and website developers, graphic designers, attorneys, business consultants, company secretaries and others by means that appears most comfortable to them. Our background as an ad agency and a management consulting firm had given us a unique advantage in helping the startups who primarily fail not because of product/service ideas but due to the absence of marketing and management capabilities. We are providing flexible options to startups for paying for the services, such as by giving an equity stake in their business in exchange for services, either at a discount or at no charge, defer the payment till the time startup gets its first funding or even pay outright for all the packaged services together at a final negotiated price.
The equity-for-service option provides an ecosystem that is much more supportive of early-stage ventures. This trend has already started in developed economies of the world. By helping businesses save money, an equity partnership can also give entrepreneurs more room to maneuver and put them in a stronger position when negotiating with other deals. A position of low cash doesn't give you a lot of leverage with potential investors. You never want to be desperate for money. You want to be able to say no if it's not the right fit.
We have recently helped a very promising entrepreneur in the Middle East. When I met the owner of the startup in logistics, I knew their team can execute third party logistic projects of any size with measurable performance improvement. They had also indicated that potential clients were looking for logistics outsourcing provider. But all these companies were large industries with processes for everything including vendor selection. We not only helped this entrepreneur prepare a proposal presentation, detailed case studies, KPIs, but also provided them with a consultant to engage with the potential clients. When the warehouse operations outsourcing project was awarded to them, the director mentioned that this could not have been possible without the help they got from the consultants. 
Last year, a client entered into a deal with us to exchange, equity in the business for services in changing the company's legal structure and guiding it through the process of raising money from investors. The client requested to defer the payment for these services, and after the investors placed a valuation on the company, the client gave us a percentage of equity in the company equal to the outstanding bill for services. The company was able to avoid incurring costs of the future financing until the financing actually happened. The power of that is huge in terms of buying additional time to raise money.
Of course, arrangements like these also mean the entrepreneurs gave up equity worth far more than the services would have cost if they had paid for them in cash. However, entrepreneurs feel, “their partners provide added value to the business that balances the equation. These guys bring very specific talents, tools and perspective to the table that they don't have. It's not just about saving cash or deferring payment; it's about somebody who's truly invested, the consultants have  taken steps to help the company beyond providing legal and professional services including introducing them to potential investors and potential clients.”
Another client mentioned, “When we have conversations with such service providers, we know that they do not just want to get us through our immediate problem and charge their fee. They want us to be successful long term,” he says. “It's much more fun to work together when someone's thinking about the business strategically like you are and wants the business to succeed, rather than just concerned with their fee.”
Based on our experience in the field, we feel it is our responsibility to help entrepreneurs who seek guidance in creating a successful business. I have a goal, and it is to create 1,000 successful entrepreneurs who together create 100,000 jobs across the globe by 31st. December 2020.
I want to hear from you! Connect with me on twitter @khalidak, or email me at with questions, comments or criticisms.
Khalid A Khan

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Now, Your Business Can't Afford not to Have a CFO

CEOs have to keep several balls in the air; they mostly get carried away by Operations, Planning, Purchasing, Design, Production, Quality Control, Marketing, Finance, Manpower, Public Relations, Growth and Delivery commitments. As a result, the focus on profit maximization, resource utilization and consistently creating value for investors are sometimes compromised.
It is the job of the CFO to wake up every morning and do whatever it takes to address the interests of the investors. CFO has to ensure that the financial resources are optimally utilized at all times. The performance metrics and financial ratios are up to the industry benchmark or consistently improving. These activities are vital for the growth of a company.
Today, CFOs are providing not only financial planning and analysis, but also information about where the business is going and how quickly it is getting there. They are deeply involved in developing, supporting and enabling strategy and they work side-by-side with the CEO. Involvement in corporate strategy has become an integral part of the job.
Result oriented CFOs are always high in demand and needless to say that they are beyond the reach of relatively smaller organization. In terms of financial activities in smaller organizations one could see only accounting and annual auditing. But these activities have nothing to do with business growth. These are mostly reactive activities for compliance. CFO’s job is to be proactive and forward looking.
Just because smaller organizations can’t afford full time CFOs, doesn't mean that they need their services any less than the larger organizations. Smaller companies need them as badly as their big brothers. Understanding the real and practical problems faced by such businesses, Brainchild Business Solutions has introduced shared CFOservices. Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) typically require high-end CFO services to manage their growing business. However, limited resources compel these companies to settle for lesser skilled individuals doing the job for them. Shared CFO Service bridges this gap.
Shared CFO provides almost all financial services including Financial Results & Analysis, Bank Loan Documentation, Strategic Business Advisory, Cash Flow & Budgeting, Raising Private Equity & Venture Capital, Preparation of JV and International Collaboration, Financial and Statutory Due Diligence, Preparing SMEs for IPOs and many more. By the shared CFO service offering, the same quality financial services have been made available to the smaller companies as well that were till recently only accessible to large, established and listed organizations. The shared CFO Service engagement has matured over time with ethics and best practices including: having just one client in each business domain, non-disclosure agreement where information security and confidentiality is maintained. Adoption of shared CFO Service is quite encouraging especially in SME sector. Many start-ups too have been lately seeking CFO services to ensure financial concerns are taken care right from the start.

Khalid A. Khan

Thursday, October 23, 2014

US India Business Promotion

Under the fresh leadership of Mr. Modi in India and his subsequent visit to USA last month, a renewed interest and enthusiasm has been observed in both Indians and Americans alike to do business with each other.

We believe that India and United States have their unique characteristics. One is a global leader in science, technology, research and is the largest economy and on the other hand we have a country that has huge potential in terms of young English speaking work force, has huge market of over 1.25 billion people (one fifth of the world population). It is just an ideal situation for providing a bridge between these two countries to facilitate and make things easy for the businesses in both the countries to explore each other without an upfront cost.

USIndiaBiz is a unit of Brainchild Inc., a US and India based marketing and professional services firm that provides various business solutions and compliance services for start ups and small to medium sized firms. Its expertise in doing feasibility study, opening up new offices in different countries etc. in a fraction of the cost that is usually budgeted for, is enviable. Do contact them for any queries you may have in terms of registering a business, opening a new office, any kind of study, product launch in new markets or any kind of expansion or start-up. You will be pleasantly surprised with their expertise and capability.

Khalid A Khan

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Integrating Traditional and Digital Marketing for the Best Results

Traditional media such as newspapers, television, magazines, radio, direct mail, tele-calling, theaters ads, promotional events are now the conversation starters and then most of you would have experienced, people want to know where to go online to get the rest of the information about the product or services or to download a trial version of it. In other words, it is not "traditional" vs. "digital," its "tradigital" that will get the best results. The role of Traditional media has changed after the arrival of digital media and it can do wonders if it is integrated well with the digital media.

A digital marketing plan should never be finalized without having a complete strategy for leveraging the traditional media and the vice-versa. A good solution provider should have experienced team members in both traditional and digital media planning and execution with seamless integration.

Marketing continues to evolve rapidly, brands and agencies should rethink their marketing strategy, brainstorm and hammer out a customized and results oriented Marketing Road map in consultation with the experts in the integrated marketing approach. That will help you optimize your tra-digital (traditional and digital-social media) marketing mix, acquire customers more efficiently and increased sales and ROI.

A comprehensive strategic marketing plan should involve all the stakeholders within the organization in order to bring the synergy in the brand story and effectiveness. The plan should clearly define the leverage points - the factors which influence the desired objectives including target market, USP, pricing & positioning strategy etc. and integrate the traditional and digital marketing for the best results.

Let us know what you think.

Khalid A. Khan
Twitter: @khalidak

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

‘Megaphone marketing' Vs. ‘Magnet Marketing’ tactics

Megaphone marketing is shouting at many with the hopes of attracting a few. Megaphone marketing tactics just don't work the way it is usually expected to work. Examples of megaphone tactics include untargeted mass media print advertising, yellow page advertising, directory advertising, untargeted banner advertising, cold calls and mass email blasts. In the recent times there had been a fundamental shift in customer behavior. Customers don't want to be interrupted and megaphone marketing is an interruption. Customers want to be in control of the information they receive.

The solution is Magnet marketing. This puts the customer in control. Magnet marketing helps you get found by customers at the very moment they have a need for your products and services. It allows you to earn trust by providing customers with information they value to attract them to your website to do business. Examples of magnet marketing tactics include content marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and various social media marketing.

Magnet marketing tactics generate more leads and sales and they are less expensive. It also offer you a tremendous opportunity to engage directly with customers. However, to get in front of them in the first place, you need great content. It is worth spending the time in creating great content. On the internet you are what you publish. If you publish great content on the internet, you are great. If you publish bad content on the internet, you are bad and if you do not publish anything on the internet, you are nothing.

People don't choose to do business with you just because you offer the right products at the right price. They choose you because you and your team have valuable, specialized knowledge about the applications of your products. Lead with that specialized knowledge in your marketing by writing best practice articles, 'how to' videos, an insightful blog and creating educational guides and whitepapers. By marketing your knowledge instead of just marketing your products, you will be considered not only the provider of the product but also a provider of expertise in that particular area, that makes you unique in your chosen market.

Khalid Abdullah Khan

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Can you spend your entire life living out of a hotel room?

I have found many people who think a personal website is something only celebrities and public figures should have. And majority of them  use various social media platforms to present themselves to the outside world.

We all know that in any of these social media platforms you have no assurance that it will remain as it is for ever. Though most of these platforms claim to protect your privacy, but how many of us are savvy enough to protect our privacy using the features available. Things can change on such platforms with or without notice. Depending fully on the social media platforms to maintain your digital presence is similar to living out of a hotel room for your entire life. In the physical world, no one considers hotel as their home. Every one tries to buy a piece of real estate as early as possible, which they can call their own place. Where they can build their own house. Have the interiors and the furnishings done as per their own tastes. Something that will remain yours forever. It is your address on this planet, which you do not share with others. Similarly in the digital world, one needs to have that piece of real estate. An address in your actual name, where you can showcase your achievements, the value you bring into the society in different fields: academic, professional, societal, personal etc. If anyone in need of your expertise, can search and find you in the digital world.

The great news is, the price of the real estate in the digital world is not even a fraction, when compared to that of the price of physical real estate. You can get the address (domain name) and a piece of land (space to host) both in around $20an year.

Claim your name on the web as soon as possible by registering the domain name in your own name if available; else pick up the closest to your name that is available. Something that is available today may not be there tomorrow.

I am not for a moment suggesting to stop using the social media platforms, I am present in most of them and a large part of my time is spent on those platforms, but I clearly understand the difference between a hotel room and that of my own home. 
Let me know your thoughts 

Khalid Abdullah Khan

Friday, March 29, 2013

Personal Branding is for YOU - No Matter You Are an Employee or Self Employed

It is an irony to note that even C-level executives working in reasonably big firms had not taken their personal branding seriously, leave alone the junior level employees. When you search for them on Google you do not find anything except their Linked in profile page and few more similar listings as far as the individual is concerned. When I talk to people in my seminars or in other networking events, those who work for someone always shy away from taking their own brand building seriously, Which is quite surprising to me.

Think of an accountant who writes a blog that is widely read about auditing, or a sales person who has attracted a big following online by tweeting out his store's latest deals, or a management consultant who leads a large LinkedIn group, or a lawyer of a law firm who tweets the latest legal news. They all are positioning their firms as an expert in that field, building a valuable source of referrals and recruitment prospects. How can an employer resist falling in love with such employees.

The another way of looking at it is this. Your personal brands would last longer than any single job or career. You ought to do justice with that.

Marcus Buckingham in his book 'Discover your Strength Now' says, most of the employees working in the companies are not working in their areas of strength due to various reasons.

Therefore by creating your personal brand and letting people know what you are good at, and adding value to the community is highly fulfilling and rewarding. It will bring you to fulfill your self actualization need that sits at the top of the need hierarchy in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And this gets fulfilled only when you pursue your inner talent.

Start right now, from this moment you are going to think of yourself differently! You're not only an "employee" of XYZ Inc. You don't belong to any company for life. You are a brand starting today. Brand such as Apple, Amazon, eBay, Google. Start thinking like your own brand manager, ask yourself the same question the brand managers ask themselves, what is my product or service? Let everyone know about that. Share your knowledge, solve problems, answer questions and there are many things that can be done to make you a celebrity online. Your employer would love it.

So what are you waiting for, oh yes probably you are waiting to finish reading this article. So now go ahead and do what you love to do.

Khalid Abdullah Khan

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Are you Alive Online?

Things in the online world are changing much faster than the mindset of the people. Few years back we were discussing that every business must have an online presence by having a website. But now, it is quite obvious that having a static website and dozens of web directory listing for a business are not good enough. You or your company must breath online, constantly you have to prove that you are alive online. In your real world you get up everyday in the morning, you conduct business, share ideas, give feedback, talk to people among doing other things.  If you do not do these things in the online world too, you are not going to be considered alive in the online world. Do you conduct similar activities online? Do you share your ideas, update your targets, and give feedback in the most professional manner? And do you monitor your online presence against any negative content published by others? It all boils down to creating high quality content in the online world. If you are not creating content online that the search engines can find and that people would like to share, then you are going to be left behind because on the web you are what you publish. If you publish great content, you are great, if you publish nothing, you are nothing, if you publish bad content, you are bad.

Just having a website and getting it SEOed it to rank at the top in the Google are things of the past. Your credibility is not what you say about yourself but it is what others say about you. Your online presence has to be a living thing, it should breath, It has to talk, it has to reach to its target, not always the other way round. Consider writing a blog, submitting press releases, content marketing, articles, social media marketing and many more options that will keep you on the top. At the same time monitor your presence against any content that tarnishes your online reputation. 
Please let us know what you think.

Khalid Abdullah Khan