For the last 6+ years , I have been trying to figure out why I have been a rather unsuccessfully successful social entrepreneur, driving a very genuine and novel idea in to the market. My organisation, The Compass Team ( www.thecompassteam.in) has still not taken off to the expected levels in spite of the fact that it brought in the first copyright protected outreach programme HOPES (HOlistic Programme for Evaluation of Students) into schools, to make students better and more positive individuals and in the process make parenting and teaching more effective. While the process of scouting for funds is still on, I thought i would share points that need special mention.
Cry loud to be heard , present yourself to be seen.
People cant judge your height until they see you.I have come to the conclusion that any idea has to be marketed well, has to scale up slowly and reach the audience and draw attention. This is imperative and no study on consumer mindset in the world , I believe ,can substitute this aspect. There is a saying in Malayalam ( and other languages too I suppose) which means ' Only a child that cries gets Milk'. If you need to get noticed , cry out loud, so that people hear you and see you, which takes care of the first step.I didn't probably practice this myself, taking into account the ethical angle of not being commercial. A very respected figure told me once that for any organisation , sustainability is of paramount importance and hence any product or service, would have to be driven by commercial considerations also. We didn't focus on promotions much or even to the minimum levels and that started telling on us. Currently social marketing has opened up new vistas and there is ample scope to expand the marketing campaign, even if it is a self initiated and self designed one. People who like and use your product or service will not volunteer to vouch until being told to . This is the thumb rule.
Save before you take the plunge- Reservoir Principle
'We will start and see how far it goes' is a common attitude that most entrepreneurs rely on, not knowing that troubled waters are ahead. Pouring all that you have saved in to the new venture is akin to inviting problems. Don't drink from a glass full of water. You will never have anything left later. Store whatever possible so that you understand that every drop is precious and is to be used judiciously. Well, I am talking of money and how it could vanish in no time . Cash crunch is bound to be there and hence have enough backup to cover deficits.
Spot the streams- Ensure continuous revenue
I will get this and that. Projections do matter. But it is mandatory to have a plan B. What if you don't? This is what I call Judicious Precaution. Projections must be like breath. You die otherwise . In the worst scenario, have a ventilator ready. Your judgement based on experience should tell you how safe you are
Baby food is bought by elders-Know whom to present to
This dilemma has always been there . From my perspective I was always trying to understand whether schools or parents are my real customers. There is a spender and a facilitator too. Both are important. Both have to be kept in the loop and both have to get benefited.Why the programme/product or service is being presented and how it would serve the end user is to be conveyed in clear terms. That makes all the difference.
Buy a House-get free maintenance for an year
That value addition is important goes without saying. Have a relationship, not just a deal through a sale. A satisfied customer stands by your product or service when in need. Even a chocolate given free brings a smile.
Look is better than voice
Talk face to face occasionally apart from making calls.Physical presence makes a difference
With all this in place there is no guarantee that everything about your startup would be hunky dory. Consumer mindset is something that no person in the world has been clearly able to understand, not even the consumer himself. Fortune favours the brave. Your product or service is as good as you are. If you believe in yourself, you would believe in it. As the saying goes" Luck is what you have left over after you give 100. And everyone wants the left over
The writer is the Founder and Chief Guidance Officer of The Compass Team