BY DR SANA SHAIKH
Associate Director-Marketing, Media.net
There is a certain kind of learning that comes with packing your bags and leaving your comfort zone to experience new and unfamiliar destinations. Apart from making new friends and trying new things, there are also marketing lessons one learns from treading the wanderlust path.
A GOOD CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST FORM OF PROMOTION
There’s a cozy little place in Himachal I visit regularly called Katagala Inn. It’s hidden in a small village in Kasol district and surrounded by picturesque mountains and lush green trees. Katagala Inn is run by a young man, all of 20 years, who goes out of his way to keep his customers happy. Every morning, he picks fresh tea leaves for his customers. No matter what time of the night you are back, he is always awake to cook you some ‘dal khichdi’.
This 20-year old does not have any formal education. He does not know how social media can magnify business revenue, or even how the Internet works. What he does know though, is to mindfully attend to his customers’ needs. I’ve recommended Katagala Inn to most of my friends. My friends have recommended it further, and the word-of-mouth for it has spread well. Today, the Facebook page of Katagala Inn, created by a customer, has over 20,000 followers. This proves that nothing can beat memorable customer experience.
PRODUCT CUSTOMIZATION ACROSS REGIONS
During my travels through Northern India and later through Thailand, whenever I stopped for a quick lunch from a globally trusted brand, like McDonald’s and KFC, I realized how multinational fast food companies have introduced local flavors into their menus. Be it Kasol or Krabi, these brands demonstrated the practice of ‘Glocal Marketing’. Sampling a ‘Chatpata Naan’ at a McDonald’s outlet on the National Highway in Himachal Pradesh, and enjoying some ‘Kaprao Pork Rice’ in a McDonald’s in Krabi, made me notice how global fast food conglomerates can have a region-specific menu and yet keep their brand’s overarching message consistent.
GEOGRAPHICAL AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY IMPACT PRODUCT OFFERINGS
While in Vietnam, I visited Sapa, a small town about 400 kilometers from the capital city Hanoi. Rough mountain terrain and perennial rains make Sapa difficult to access. Even though Sapa produces abundant rice, it cannot process this rice into noodles because of its humid climate. However, amazing rice noodle dishes are available in most restaurants in Hanoi, and the rice for these noodles is mostly sourced from Sapa. Also, when compared to Sapa, the population of Hanoi is economically more prosperous and techsavvy. This made me understand that when it comes to a product’s offering and a product’s target audience, geographical and cultural diversity play an important role. Different region-specific variables exhibit different business opportunities.
TARGET AUDIENCES AFFECT PRICING STRATEGIES
Whenever I travel to Southeast Asia, I always make time to visit night markets. These markets, in cities like Krabi, Bangkok, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, are stacked with clothes and accessories and are targeted at tourists. Their goods are overpriced and their vendors are open to bargaining to see how much customers are willing to pay. On the other hand, these Southeast Asian cities also have numerous street markets that provide daily necessities and cater to the local population. The pricing strategy at street markets is in stark contrast to the pricing strategy at the night markets – the goods sold in these street markets have fixed margins and their prices cannot be negotiated. This is a great example of how target audiences can reflect pricing strategies.
The famous French novelist and critic Marcel Proust said that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” When I travel, I always observe and watch how business is done and defined in different geographies, and this has taught me several marketing lessons for life.
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