Written by: Abhra Banerjee
About the author: President & CEO at Cleanomatics, a Stadhawk, Inc Brand
Was watching an old Bengali movie. The protagonist reaches Puri Railway Station. As soon as he alights from the train he is surrounded by Rickshaw-Wala, Tonga-Wala & Taxi-Wala offering him a ride to the “best hotel” in town with a complete package offering for 3 days of tour inclusive of a Panda/Priest guided Puja & Tour of the Sacred Sri Jagannath Temple, and a “Nulia (local lifeguards) guided swimming experience in the rough seas of Puri, etc. The Hero gets very confused but ultimately falls for the smooth-talking Rickshaw Puller and decides to book the hotel which he was recommending.
Now the question is why did our protagonist settle for the hotel which the Rickshaw Puller recommended and didn’t check in at the more renowned properties of Puri? & why did the Rickshaw puller so fervently recommend this lesser known hotel? The answer to question number 1 is, because of the power of Influencer marketing and Answer to question number 2 is….well….even a 4-5 year old boy would give you the answer.
How many times would you have come across situations like these where you have discarded your preferred brand of paint or cement or plywood and settled for the one which your painter/mason/carpenter was recommending? How many times have you heard your mason tell you ….“Sahib, whatever you say I will apply, but nowadays there are a lot of complaints coming up on your preferred brand…” . Intimidated by the possibility of poor quality of workmanship, you ended up settling for the mason recommended brand of cement or painter recommended brand of paint or electrician recommended brand of switches.
India is a vast BIY market (buy-it-yourself) and labour is cheap & unorganized. So Indian consumers are dependent on the laborers for getting their jobs done. These labourers are mostly migrant labourers from the rural hinterlands and we have seen during the Covid 19 crisis how large a segment they are. Over a period of time, these migrant labourers end up picking up a vocation like plumbing, carpentry, masonry, electrical repair or painting and spend their entire life spans either graduating to become a contractor in that vocation or a freelancer or transition to becoming an “ustad” in the teams led by large contractors.
All the building material manufacturers & dealers/distributors know the importance of this segment and end up giving commissions to these electricians or carpenters or masons in exchange for sales leads/actual sales conversions. It is a very common sight to notice a handful of masons crowding the counters of large cement dealers at the end of the day for collecting their commissions of Rs 5/- per bag of cement sold because of their “influence” .
Over a period of time, this simple commission system transformed into full fledged CRM & Loyalty Programs with a variety of benefits which several tech and marketing companies hawk to Brand Marketers and Business Owners for a steep fee.
Before falling for any of these, allow me to give my suggestions. Don’t blindly design or buy “off-the-shelf” CRM programs which promise to reward the influencers with cash or even durables like TV, Refrigerators and the like. First build a database of your influencers with their demographic and psychographic details like you do for your consumers. Once you have built up a substantial database on them for a representative population, conduct depth interviews by yourself for understanding what motivates them and which segments (psychographics or demographics) can define their segments decisively.
Years back when I was a brand marketer like you, I found the following segments prevalent amongst my Painters/Painting Contractors and we found the following 2 segmentation variables which define their segments conclusively.
The Psychographic segmentation variables identified were
- Concern for Business/Money
- Concern for their Customers/Workmanship/Professional Reputation.
Based on these we could identify the following 4 segments and ended up designing a CRM program which was the first in the paint industry and which helped us formulate a unique & very effective Influencer Marketing Program called “Colour Merchants”
- HEROES: Their concern for both (business and customers are at the highest levels)
- RISING STARS: Their concern for business was very high and relatively less focus on workmanship
- USTADS: Their concern for customers/workmanship/professional reputation was very strong, often at the cost of business/money/profits
- VICTIMS: Their concern for both business and workmanship/customers was at a very low level. They were useless for our scheme of things.
So next time you invite a pitch from a Loyalty Expert for an off the shelf loyalty program, do ask them their procedure of data analysis, depth interviews and segmentation logic before you pay them for their glitzy PowerPoint presentations and programs designed without an in-depth understanding of your category. Take the leap of faith, understand your influencers decisively before spending your expensive marketing budgets.
All the best! Ciao!