There have been questions from somewhere deep down my heart about what have I gained in the past few months, after losing so much. I lost two patents, the trust of three distinguished IIT Bombay faculty members, my CPI, the trust and support of a few friends, because I was extremely busy working for something I didn't deeply believe in initially. It was for Sufian, one of my seniors, that I decided to join E Cell, with a wrong belief that i'll be able to lead a normal life while being a manager of an organization regarded as "unimportant" by certain sections of IIT Bombay.
But things do not take place the way you plan them out to be, as right from the day I became manager, a sense of responsibility entered inside me which flourished into love followed by passion for the organization. And every single startup which calls to thank me for the support we have given to them makes me feel proud of my existence. I didn't know how this happened, but somewhere down my tenure my existence just as an E Cell manager took a backseat and my ideologies of helping India become the ruler of world economy with support of startups took a front stage. This process was like a hurricane sucking me inside a depth of thoughts which was going to define my social life. Moreover, being a marketing manager, I decided to build strategies and ideologies which were risky and off the treaded path.
Coming back to the first statement of the post, this is what I gained from my tenure- a satisfaction of being able to help personally startups like Innovision, Tarantula and social organizations like Jagriti yatra, who'll remain thankful to me throughout their existence. (Thanks to Nishanth for being able to support me for such a beautiful cause). I also gained marketing skills which no MBA school would have taught me, I gained such an understanding of the market in my tenure that a leading evangelist at Microsoft called me "the most brilliant marketer he has ever met", the marketing head of a leading courier company told me "I am amazed at your understanding of our market" (little did she know that they were the fifth courier company contacted by me and I do extensive research on every sector of market before approaching it), and got loads of wonderful comments from a large number of business professionals from across the globe. Thanks a lot E Cell for being able to teach me, help me grow and bring to me an understanding of working of different sectors of market. I am more confident than ever, of my success in life, as I am finally able to understand my own personality a lot through this tenure (though still layers yet to explore exist).
I will focus on the various interesting marketing ideologies and structures I developed during my tenure as an E Cell manager (we had a very interesting E Cell head during the tenure who always thought that he knew a lot and though I didn't learn anything important from him, his extreme confidence in himself did teach me something; here's a metaphor hope you catch it and if you are unable to catch it don't read anything into the above words).
When it comes to marketing your organization, the first step always, as you all know, is to understand the details of your own organization (know everything about it because you don't know what aspect will be used for marketing). So it is not just the marketing aspects you need to know, but its also about all the other aspects, as the first rule of marketing is "Flexibility of thoughts within limits"; you need to be able to think of anything and everything, within limits, when you are in a marketing meeting, as you don't know what aspect is going to come to your support. This was the reason I took along with me my PR manager (Ahana, Rockey) or my Operations Manager (both Chintan, Nishanth) with me to the meetings initially, and sometimes I really found them of great use. I still remember the unique perspective which ahana/ rockey (i am not sure which) brought into a meeting with a company (HCC, i think).
The second step, again as you all know, is to understand the details of the company to whom you are going to market yourself. Every detail and aspect of the company and its sector needs to be known. Exemplifying, in the case of Microsoft, the knowledge that there exists an external associations department there helped me make an association with them, after they had clearly said no. Still, a detailed study of your own organization and that of the market of your prospective sponsor sometimes do not prove to be enough.
When you sell your event to the sponsor, there are many different ways in which your personality comes out to be in front of the sponsor. In my case, I decided to use the fact that too many layers exist to my personality and decided to use my personality in different ways depending on the sponsor. For example, in front of a company like KF (which focuses on branding); I took a risk, I projected myself as someone who is very flexible and ready to provide the company any amount of branding they need. Instead of turning out myself as a dominant and sharp marketing manager, i gave them an impression of me, as being a loose yet honest manager. This projection paid off extremely well, as this ensured that whatever limit I gave to the branding they needed, they believed it to be huge. This helped in ensuring the branding of certain companies remain in limit, despite the fact that they are known for aggressive campaigning. It was a risky attempt and could have gone wrong if not executed well.
Another example where different aspect of my personality was used, was that of LLI, where I projected myself to be a person with clear dedication towards promotion of entrepreneurship and that the only thing which concerns me is my passion. The fact is that this marketing strategy was such a success that the company has now decided to have a special program only for the promotion of entrepreneurship as I led them to believe that SMEs and startups are the ones going to control the business tomorrow. This company, being one of the leading firms in sector, has taken a top management decision partially based on my discussions with them and partially based on their association with us. (Thanks to Robin who accompanied in one of the follow up meetings).
The above example is also one of the examples of another strategy of marketing: "There's a thin line between two surfaces of a shell, which is filled with success and kept inside failure". To elaborate, sometimes you are not sure of how a company is going to be useful to you because you are able to look at the outer side of the shell (the visible marketing strategies of the company), but there always exists an inner side of the shell (the strategies which the company is making for future), which you need to look at. And this ability to look beyond the thin line can take you from failure to success.
Another interesting strategy of marketing, which I would like to share, would be the right use of resources of the company you are tying up with, or to whom you are marketing yourself. Never restrict yourself to the deal you sign with the company. Always keep a few minor things away from the deal, which you'll use in form of the resources of the company and you'll be able to use these only if you give the company more than what promised or build a relation with them through a period of time (the latter needs time, the former needs strategy). Exemplifying, you need not mention that you'll be mentioning the company's name on your press release but you do that, while asking something in return from them very indirectly. The company will get the feeling that we can go slightly out of our way to help its promotion, and it will get a feeling to go out of its way too (sharing resources, help in form of kind etc), without even realizing that it was just a twist of words which we played with while preparing the formal document. Let me clarify, this is not at all cheating or breaking trust, as everything is true and honest (only that the honesty is not straight, it comes in a twisted shape which brings me to another rule of marketing : "100% Honesty is a must, but with a twist").
The above idea builds up to the most important requirement related to marketing for sponsorship. Every single company you contact must be used in a way or the other, whether or not they are ready to associate with you monetarily. So, be it using the database of Sharekhan or branding through Cisco management team, ways are unlimited where you can think of a possibility of association without a lot of involvement on your team's part. So if you spend a lot of time on a company trying for association, believe in yourself to be able to use it for future in some way.
There are so many more known strategies I would like to mention here: the fact that you need to pitch something high if you need to extract something less (e.g. pitching cash even if you know its only kind the company can help you with), the fact that you need to have some associations only for brand building (try unconventional paths, as done with OnM, as big names attract bigger names) etc etc etc etc ..............
Many more strategies failed, few others were successful (may edit the post soon with some more fundae or give a new post)..even the failed ones failed due to reasons like slowdown and if changed slightly with the current scenario, might have succeeded. For example, every company follows a specific branding campaign and directly integrating the campaign with your ideas leads to their direct branding, e.g the human networking effect campaign by Cisco or Smart Planet campaign by IBM. (Thanks to Prasanth, the head of OgilvyOne for giving his time to help me with the above marketing strategy). Moreover, another of my important strategies had been to directly help startups while making associations. Now, if you see cafegadgets running a joint program with Sun Microsystems helping startups with new tools, somewhere its E Cell and me which has furthered this cause. While making the association with cg, I had in mind the database of startups which cg has, and the fact that cg needs to support startups and use this database in the right way. I hope this company, being a startup itself, flourishes, while also helping other startups flourish. Many targets were shot without even using an arrow (this may not have helped E Cell directly, but furthered our cause). Associations with more such startups has been a part of this strategy.
This was something about my marketing experience with E Cell, where i thought, planned, strategized and explored my strengths and weaknesses and used them in a certain way to learn a lot. There is a lot to learn as this was only a beginning and I have learnt only a few initial stages of marketing. There won't be E Cell again to help me learn, but the world's full of opportunities waiting to pour its sweetness, all you need to do is stretch your palms.
Ending this post on a hope that India survives the slowdown in the best possible way, with the support of SMEs and its not long before placements are no more tormenting.
To be continued......................