In the previous post (Part 1 of this series), we had looked at i2e1 (a successful B2B startup in the area of internet provision and WiFi analytics) and its approach to investor storytelling. In this post, we explore the customer side. Over the last 2.5 years, i2e1 has grown from just a concept to a thriving startup with 3,500+ paying customers!
These customers are typically retail stores, restaurants, hotels etc. – and i2e1’s pitch to these stores is to provide WiFi services to their end consumers (the shoppers and visitors) – in order to enhance their experience, increase footfalls and the revenue per user. i2e1 installs and manages the WiFi ‘boxes’ to regulate and seamlessly provide the internet services to these users.
How did i2e1 convince these hard-nosed customers (retail stores, restaurants etc.) to part with their money? By having a compelling pitch – one that was almost a no-brainer for them.
There are 5 key lessons that I could glean from i2e1’s approach:
Let’s get started
1. Focus on customer benefit, not your features…: Most often we fall in love with our product and extol it’s features to our customers. But we forget that the person at the other end isn’t interested in our product – she wants to solve her problem. So focus your pitch on the problem – and the benefit that they will derive by associating with you; or the potential loss they will incur, if they don’t.
In i2e1’s case, if you visit the website, you can see that the focus is on the customer benefit – for e.g. there are statements like “80% faster growth for offline business”, #DefenceAgainstOnlineRetail, “30% RoI” which are used. So clearly, if you can quantify the benefit that your customer can gain, nothing like it. Satyam says: “We are primarily a data driven company and it was natural to evolve such that the data is telling the story. Also, Indian entrepreneurs are becoming smarter and want specific RoI… and it makes business and common sense that the data points …convey the benefit to the customer.”
2…. Even when you’re just starting off (use research data): But what if you are just starting to pitch to customers? It’s kinda difficult to get customer impact data, when you don’t have any. Even in that situation, don’t just go on a wing and a prayer. Do some useful research, that they may find valuable – ideally about your customers’ customers. What do these end users want? What can you provide that will make your customers’ customers happy?
In i2e1’s case, they leveraged some global research which pointed out that 80% of shoppers prefer WiFi in the establishments they visit. Further they did some research on their own – they interviewed 500 consumers (not a small number!) and got useful insights on the importance of WiFi for their shopping experience. This gave them some crucial talking points for their initial customer conversations.
3. Keep your pitch simple: Once you have identified the customer’s need and are going to introduce your product, you may be tempted to give a long list of features. i2e1 may have had that long list, but it compressed the product’s benefits into 3 catchy words (the 3 Cs): Compliance, Control and Communication.
4. Make them an offer they can’t refuse: Don Corleone may have used slightly extra-constitutional methods to make his non-declinable offers, but you don’t need to go down that road. Identify any value that can be generated with zero or low marginal cost and you have the makings of a great offer. For example, to their potential customers, who were unsure of spending extra money on providing WiFi services, i2e1 made a stunning revelation: These customers already had the bandwidth and it was lying unused. Most retail outlets have a data connection for their credit card machines, and are subscribers to a data plan. Like any other data plan, there would be a monthly data consumption limit for the same. Any guesses as to what percentage of their data was left unused on an average? 95%. Yes, thats ninety-five percent. Imagine someone coming to you and saying – “Hey, you’re paying for 100 units but only consuming 5. Why don’t you use this remaining 95 to enhance customer experience, increase your footfalls and revenue. And oh, you just need to pay us a small fraction to set up and manage this system. You’re welcome.” Boom, offer they can’t refuse.
5. Understand your customer personas and tailor the pitch accordingly: We all understand customer segments and typically try to segment our customers by using easy external identifiers – e.g. sector, function or geography. Instead look deeper and understand your customer personas – based on how their needs fundamentally differ from each other. i2e1 used a framework based on where the customer was in terms of WiFi provision, to make 3 broad customer personas:
Identifying these customer personas was very useful for i2e1, since they could tailor their pitch accordingly. They also had a very cool hack with their visiting cards. Satyam describes the same: “Apart from our names and contact details, on each visiting card, we wrote a relevant data insight relating to their business. We had 4 such card variants each with a different colour at back – red, blue, yellow, green. For e.g. on every red card was written – ‘Establishments with WiFi are preferred 80X more’ or on the yellow card it was written ‘Ads on iOS will give you 18X compared to ads on Android’; Green: ‘95% of WiFi in retail establishments expires every month.’ The whole idea was that … when we are meeting someone, figure out their persona and then share the message that will connect most with them (using the colour to quickly identify the card).”
Apart from being a simple, low-cost hack, it also acknowledges that every customer is not the same. In your business too, you can identify personas and figure out simple ways to tailor your message to each group.
So that concludes the customer storytelling insights from the fascinating interview with Satyam of i2e1. For the full interview transcript, you can go here. Part one with the investor communication piece is here.