Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Corporate e-Newsletter Initiative – How to go about it?

If you are thinking of starting up a e-newsletter activity at corporate level then below are few tips that might help you in the course. I have divided a newsletter activity in three phases viz. planning, construction and distribution.

Planning phase

1. Attention grabbing name

The name of the newsletter should grab attention of the audience. If your brand is highly recognizable in your business community then only use that name. If that is not the case then use any other name that will represent the aim of your newsletter. For example, if you are starting a newsletter for cloud services then have the name something as ‘Envisioning the Cloud’.

2. Decide your target audience

It is not always possible to have different newsletters for different segments of your market due to budget and resource constraints. In that case you will have to choose your first market segment that you will serve as a pilot campaign. Based on its success you can go on adding segments in current newsletter or starting different newsletters for each category.

3. Subscribers database

To be able to send newsletter to your target audience you should have their contact details available in the form of database. The required details are name and email whereas designation, company name, industry, city, phone etc. are good to have information about your suspects and prospects.

It is advisable to have the list that is organically built from scratch on your own. The rented lists may violate SPAM ACT and your company may face legal issues.

4. Decide medium for e-newsletter

You can have either of web, email or PDF format for your corporate e-newsletter activity.
In web newsletter your content pages (HTML files) are published over internet so that those can be accessed by billions of potential people around the globe.

In email newsletter your HTML page is emailed to your prospects. If you have many article pages in that release of newsletter then you write a summary about each article and provide a URL for detailed article on your website in your email.

Note: In case of email newsletter it is very important to check the template for accuracy on all email platforms such as Outlook, Thunderbird, Yahoo mail, Hotmail, Gmail etc. You can find free and quality email newsletter templates at http://www.campaignmonitor.com/templates/ and http://freemailtemplates.com. Select and download the best suited template for your company and change logo, name and other things.

In PDF newsletter format you have to email a PDF file through email or provide a link in your email for the file through which your subscribers can download it.

5. Decide subscription and unsubscribe management method

If you are using third party services such as www.mailchimp.com, www.constantcontact.com and www.verticalresponse.com then you don’t have to worry as these services has builtin feature that takes care of this. But if you are using any desktop software or managing your subscription list in MS Office Excel (however, this is not advisable) then you have to be very particular about managing the subscription and unsubscribed users list. As a part of your process you may want to check the unsubscribe request before every newsletter release and avoid sending your corporate newsletter to those individuals. Remember, sending unsolicited mails and newsletter is illegal.

Construction phase

1. Topics for you to cover in your newsletter.

There is no hard and fast rule about what you should cover in your newsletter. After all it your newsletter hence you are free to write anything you want. Just remember one thing that your prospects and customers are going to read it. So if you write things that don’t interest them then they will simply stop reading your newsletters shunting the objective of starting this complete initiative of having a dialogue. If you want to have a clue kindly refer my earlier post at http://www.mandarthosar.com/2011/04/corporate-e-newsletter-topic-guide.html.

2. Write your newsletter content objectively

There is no doubt that newsletter activity is about promoting your company’s product and services but it should not look like a sales brochure. It should promote your products and services subtly without losing objectivity of the article in corporate newsletter. So you can have an article on ‘Best practices for developing softwares’ and within that talk about how you follow industry best standards without yelling how good you do it.

3. Try to express, not impress

The purpose of a corporate newsletter is to connect with your prospects and customers. Connection can happen only through expressing your company philosophy, attitude, work style, methodology and culture. You should sound casual yet respectful and conversational. Don’t use too much of jargons when simple words will express the same meaning.

4. Front page to draw in readers

The front page of your corporate newsletter i.e. your HTML email that lands in inbox of your prospects and suspects should contain interesting and useful articles. Many will decide whether to read it or put it in trash based on what they read and absorb in first 5-10 seconds. Also remember that articles and news that are important to you might not be important to your subscribers. So think from their perspective.

5. Proof read, proof read

When you write and write-off several times you unknowingly sow grammatical errors and sometimes typos. Sending a newsletter without proof reading it would be looked upon as unprofessional. And with your newsletter you are representing your company. So proof read yourself, get it proof read through somebody else and precautionary proof read third time from somebody outside your organization (may be your friend). Ask them if they understood the meaning and message properly through what you have written. After every change repeat the process.

6. Catchy subject line

Every newsletter release is like a new soccer or cricket match in a knockout tournament. If you want to win then you have to win every game. You will be successful only if your subscribers open your newsletter and read the content. That will only happen when you have creative headline for your corporate newsletter that will entice your audience to take out time to click and read in their favorite email client.

Below are the few DON’Ts for your subject line
  • Don’t use more than 50 characters in subject line
  • Don’t use words (such as free, discount and great etc.) that might just trigger spam filters of your readers email client.
  • Don’t use all caps for your subject line

Distribution phase

1. Whether do it yourself or outsource

If you are comfortable with handling every operational issue with respect to distribution then I will recommend that you should do it yourself. But if you are not confident then you can simply outsource it. There are many good service providers available in the market.

Your decision of doing it yourself or outsource can be based on following points.
  • Subscription management (opt-in and double opt-in)
  • Spam score check
  • Rendering issue with different email clients
  • Un-subscription management
  • Tracking (open and click-through rate reports)

2. Frequency of release

Many feels that a newsletter should be released at fixed interval such as monthly, quarterly etc. But I think you should have newsletter when you have news that is worth reading for your prospects, customers and stakeholders. Having a monthly newsletter with uninteresting stuff will your audience off which you don’t want to happen for sure.

3. Don’t leave it in between

Last suggestion – be consistent with your corporate newsletter initiative. Any initiative takes time to mature so don’t get impatient and don’t demand results too early.

With all my inputs I wish all the very best for your corporate newsletter activity.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Corporate E-Newsletter Topic Guide

7 out of 10 marketing people wish to have their own corporate e-newsletter. They have management will, internal staff support and database of suspects, prospects, customers and other stake holders with them. What they don’t have is the technical knowledge of electronic distribution (which is very easy to acquire) and content idea.

In this post I will talk about content of the newsletter.

Corporate newsletter is a medium through which you want to spread awareness about what’s happening within your company. Since you want to let the world know about your company let’s have a dedicated section for each major functions within your company. In every release you can have one article per section and the most interesting article can be promoted as featured article for that issue.

You can create sections as per your wish. Let’s say we have created four sections for a corporate newsletter campaign – (a) marketing, (b) delivery and operations, (c) human resource and (d) management team. Now, decide subjects that can go under each section. This will give you a topic list for your newsletter. Now before every release you have to check which subject can be part of your corporate newsletter for that particular issue.

Below is one sample e-newsletter topic list.
  • Marketing function
    • Industry trends
    • Key events within your industry
    • Your participation at event, conference and seminars
    • Organizational views about economic, environment, social, technical and political events happening outside
    • Product reviews
    • Events hosted for external parties by your company
    • Client testimonials and stories
    • New client acquisition or new project news
    • Case studies or whitepapers release
  • Delivery or Operations function
    • Technology how-to articles
    • Impact of new developments and latest within your industry
    • Whitepaper on technology
    • Your project management approach
    • Research work or status update
    • Proof of Concepts (POCs) that you have developed and not covered in NDAs
    • Presentations/talks at conference and seminar
    • Community of practices (COP) updates
  • HR function
    • Special events at your company
    • Internal activities and initiatives
    • Training plans and updates
  • Management team
    • Organizational message
    • Visit or business tour information/schedule
    • Invitations to events
    • Business progress reports (quarterly and annual)
    • Survey report or feedback summary relevant to subscribers
This is just a sample list. You can create your own list based on your industry and topic of interest to your target audience.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to groom people?

Below is the story from Google as it is copied from the NYTimes. It tells about grooming your people in appropriate way. Read the story first and then learnings that I drawn from it.

He (Prasad Setty, Google’s vice president for people analytics and compensation) tells the story of one manager whose employees seemed to despise him. He was driving them too hard. They found him bossy, arrogant, political, secretive. They wanted to quit his team.

“He’s brilliant, but he did everything wrong when it came to leading a team,” Mr. Bock recalls.

Because of that heavy hand, this manager was denied a promotion he wanted, and was told that his style was the reason. But Google gave him one-on-one coaching — the company has coaches on staff, rather than hiring from the outside. Six months later, team members were grudgingly acknowledging in surveys that the manager had improved.

“And a year later, it’s actually quite a bit better,” Mr. Bock says. “It’s still not great. He’s nowhere near one of our best managers, but he’s not our worst anymore. And he got promoted.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/business/13hire.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

Learnings according to me:
1. Never take things at its face value. Try to go to the roots of the problem
2. Check if things can be improved
3. Help people improve i.e. provide training or conducive environment
4. And most importantly, love your people but give them recognition (promotion) only when they deserve it

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

On International Woman's Day

According to me the only known category of living organisms, after woodpecker, that is referred by their action is the category of ‘women’. Women are called women because they woo men. It’s as simple as that.

Today is a day of this category – an International Woman’s Day.

In today’s TOI I read Vidya Balan’s opinion about observing Woman’s Day. Witty indeed. But a soft humorous part within me feels jealous about such opinions. I feel women at least have a day on their account. May be for world we men just don’t exist.

Apart from this humorous thinking I am completely in agreement with Vidya that celebrating a day for something or something clearly means less importance for rest of the year. Why we should have a day for women; either we should have a complete year or every second.

It’s an irony that on one hand we talk about gender equality and on the other hand we observe an international woman day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.

We plan to direct our actions to reach the goal in future. A plan is based on our assumptions about the factors that impact it. These assumptions are futuristic based on our knowledge at the time of planning.

Now, consider these two facts
  1. The most uncertain thing in the world is ‘future’
  2. Any change in our assumption will have to be accommodated by making some provision in the plan
So, what is a plan? It is just a document that will keep altering as we move closer to our objective and/or goal. So why all management people tend to focus so much on having plan first, which anyway will change as we progress.

More important thing than plan itself is the process of planning it. If you have acted thoughtful at the time of planning then chances are high that you have included maximum number of alternatives and contingencies in your plan. This will put you in a better position to handle uncertainties of future. And most importantly, it will be easier for you to buy in from team members reducing the resistance to change.

And probably that’s why Linda Hill and Kent Lineback have discussed “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything” in their book ‘Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader’.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Emerging models for Product Development

Product outsourcing has become an inevitable for every growing ISV. With growth of the ISV the need to concentrate on few critical functions increases drastically. Hence and ISV has to outsource other important activities to remain focused and responsive the market.

As outsourced product development is maturing new models are emerging in course to mitigate the risk. Every model has its own share of pros and cons. The outsourcer has to select to most appropriate model for his kind of software outsourcing project.

Below are some of the emerging outsourced product development models.

1. Software Product Line
An ISV targets the needs of the prospective industry or function by creating a portfolio of products with variations in features and functions. This model has a base or core product and different products in the same line offers increasing feature sets.

2. Modular Development
In this model the product is developed in the form of modules. One module is developed at a time or different modules by different team all at once.

3. Co-development
In this model ISVs’ and outsourcing partner’s team work together. It is preferred model where the technical capability and bandwidth is available on both side. Typically in this model, outsourcing vendor provides resources and product development project is managed by the ISV.

4. End-to-end Development
In this model, the outsourced product development looks after every aspect of product development. This model is preferred where outsourcing partner has technical as well as technical capabilities and product development experience. This model help ISV focus on very critical aspect of software product business boosting its productivity and profitability.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Ability in itself is nothing when denied opportunity

A success is a function of ability and opportunity i.e. Success = fn(ability,opportunity).

Having put the success in mathematical formula let us now try to understand it. Success depends on the ability that you possess and opportunity that is available to you. The absence of any of these will lead to no success.

Among ability and opportunity you have direct and permanent control over ability because you possess it. It is not dependent on any external factor. If you have it then you have it and if you don’t have it then you can at least try to acquire it. On the other hand, opportunity is something that is not in your control. One or many external factors impact the magnitude of opportunity.

So having ability in itself is nothing when denied opportunity.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Apple quietly cutting competition

This week Apple has highlighted the importance of supply chain for the success of a product. While every other company is busy in figuring out how to compete with iPad with their own tablet offerings Apple is quietly cutting its competition by entering into a deal of display components with LG, Samsung and Chimei Innolux for 65 million units.

The display manufacturers are already under pressure of meeting the demand with limited manufacturing capabilities. Apple securing 65 million units will not leave much left for its competitors. So now, its competitors may have high specs processors, latest version of operating systems, very good UI and millions of applications and heavy duty batteries but they may not have display for their mini computing devices.

For Apple the role of supply chain is not just to bring raw material to the factories or manufacturing units and ship finished products to the market. It is also ensuring that iPad will be the only device that will not have the shortage of supplies. 

Vande Mataram - Maa tuze salaam

‘Vande Mataram' (meaning ‘I bow to thee, Mother’), a poem from the 1882 novel Anandamatha by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay had inspired many to take part in the struggle for Indian freedom. But after we got freedom and independence, for the later generation it became just a song to be played on 15th August and 26th January till somebody from southern music industry took the two words ‘Vande Mataram’ and spun it to have modern appeal to the theme of the song. The lyrics were completely changed but the spirit remained the same - ‘I bow to thee, Mother’.

AR Rahman added some magical musical punches to the song and it soon became the audio for Sony TV when it is not airing any entertainment program during 12AM to 6AM slot. Young generation like me used to hear and tap foot on the beats of this song. We felt connect between freedom/independence with newer generation like ours.

The earlier generation cherished and narrated freedom struggle to our generation but never promoted it through mass media except for few film makers who made classic patriotic films. But it was mostly confined to the older generations. Somehow, the newer generation was never smelled the aroma of patriotism. But the Bharatbala production’s work changed that completely. Just one song pulled the entire nation’s new generation together for a ride of exotic locations of various parts on India.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Independence Day Pledge

If a kid had this pledge in 1950s then today's India would have been a lot different. However, today is not too late. India is growing, not aging.

To celebrate Independence Day in true spirit, make others independent. If you can understand this then you are anyways independent.

Wish you all a very happy Independence Day!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bribing Crash Course - 15 Days (Full time)

In the turbulent times and uncertainty around, the only individuals, organizations and politicians that can manage not just to survive but flourish seem to be those that have gained unwavering support from other parties of social fabric. The proven method of securing this support is through bribing. It has become such a necessity that there is a need to frame a crash course in ‘Bribing’.

The bribing crash course will handle both aspect of it i.e. giving and accepting part. If you are offering a bribe then you should understand whom you are bribing and what amount you should offer. If you are accepting a bribe then it is important for you to know the best practices of accepting it and managing the accounts after it comes to this side of the table.

The topics that would/should be covered in this course are listed below:

1. Identifying the prey
It is very important to know the person, organization or party to whom you are approaching for hand-shake. You should study their past track record. If you are about to offer a bribe and find nothing fishy then there is great possibility that the party will demand you huge amount. This is simply because they have to manage and satisfy a bigger network. On the contrary, if you are accepting a bribe and find clean record from other party then as a thumb rule approach only if you find a strong weak point that you can exploit at later time (when things go wrong).

2. Operations
The complete process of bribing is exactly opposite to that of photosynthesis i.e. you have to operate all the time in dark. Nobody should know what’s happening. Then only you will get necessary oxygen to breathe. If it gets exposed then it is very likely that you will frequently appear on news channels and get covered in daily columns of newspapers.

3. Managing accounts
Irrespective of your role in the bribing process you will have to master at managing accounts. There are skilled CAs and CSs available for this but it is always good to understand things yourself. Those who are really really affluent can get exemption for this topic in crash course exam.

4. Networking
You can manage the operations quickly if you have good network with special category of people. People with double than average score in crime, job transfers and IT return filling are the members of this special category.  

As we are in the finalization of the course content we are not enlisting each and every topic but soon we will release it for you.

The total fee for this course would be 10% of the amount that you have bribed and/or siphoned to black economy in last five financial years. The duration will be 15 days full time. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Laptop versus Pen and Paper

We have spent so many years inventing something or the other. Our scientists have made huge success in the area of science. We discovered few things very quickly while many took much longer period to evolve.

In no time (considering time from our origin) we made it from abacus to laptops in computing field. The progress on writing tools is not that great (may be because it is difficult to improve the best).

A side to side comparison of latest computing device (laptop) with latest writing tool (nothing came to my mind except a pen and paper) is given below.  You yourself decide the winner.

Comparison factor
Few hundred dollars
Few dollars
Not so big :)
More than a pound
Standby time
Few hours
Few years
Startup time
Many seconds
Few seconds
Word application
Built-in – Free
Drawing application
Built-in – Free
Spreadsheet application
Not supported
Few hundred dollars
Not required