The fourteen steps that every company should follow, especially if they want to build their brands in rural India (beyond urban areas):
1. Commitment from the top management.
2. Setting clear objectives.
3. Choosing the right product to be promoted in rural markets.
4. Understanding the mindset of the rural consumers.
5. Getting a dedicated task force.
6. Ensuring availability.
7. Choosing an agency with specific skills in rural marketing.
8. Developing a focused communication strategy.
9. Developing a communication delivery (media) strategy.
10. Below-the-Line (BTL) activities or ‘Experiential Marketing’ – an integral part of Rural Marketing.
11. AV van (Video on Wheels) – an effective medium.
12. Developing foolproof implementation plans.
13. Providing adequate funds for rural marketing in the organisation’s budget.
14. Evaluating the results
Commitment from the top management
While there is a lot of talk about many marketers wanting to go rural, a closer examination reveals that most of them are not walking the talk. This is because in most companies, rural marketing efforts are relegated to the regional offices with their limited budgets. Marketers do not give rural marketing the total attention that it deserves to reap meaningful results. Without a comprehensive plan, and the total involvement of the top management, they end up merely ‘flirting’ with rural marketing.
I have seen from personal experience that many companies spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and money, in building brands in urban India. However, when it comes to rural marketing, they become impatient. They desire quick results. They don’t want to spend money on research, or on developing a sound rural business strategy before taking on the rural markets.
If over the years, HUL, ITC and a few companies have done well in the rural markets, it is solely due to the top management’s commitment to rural marketing as a long term policy. A recent example is that of LG Electronics. Because of the early focus of the top management on rural markets and the subsequent initiatives they took to make it a reality, LG Electronics has established itself as a leader in rural markets, within a matter of 10 years.
Other examples include the mobile service providers and handset manufacturers, who are reaping huge rewards in rural markets. In the last decade, the automobile sector, both the four wheeler and two wheeler categories, have been reaping rich rewards in rural markets because of strategies focused on rural markets.
The total commitment of the top management to any kind of rural initiative is the first step for any company to take, on the long journey to successful marketing. A commitment that should not be altered by middle level managers, to suit their short term sales objectives!
It is also important to ensure the consistency of the team involved in any project, until the completion of a specific task. In this regard, I would like to share my experiences in dealing with two big clients. In both cases, the teams that briefed us in the initial stages and participated enthusiastically in the campaign were shifted out of the task midway, as per the policy of the company to shift and promote people. The result was that the new replacement teams showed scant interest in the project, and did not feel or take ownership of the campaign, since they were not involved in its conception. Even the top management, which was involved in the initial stages, did not respond, as they were busy fire fighting on other fronts. What had started as a great rural marketing initiative had been relegated to the dustbin. This is the fate of many rural marketing initiatives in the country.
Rural marketing is not some kind of magic by which you can spend some money today and reap the rewards tomorrow. It is a long haul business and unless you are willing to invest in the future with a clear focus, it will not give results, let alone long term benefits.
The top managements of some of the organisations who want to be long term players in the rural areas are now personally visiting the rural markets to feel the pulse of the market and develop strategies to drive the rural business. This is a good step which every company planning big investments in rural markets ought to follow.
(Excerpts from ‘Don’t Flirt With Rural Marketing’ by RV Rajan. Next issue will discuss the step 2- Setting clear objectives and step 3- Choosing the right product to be promoted in rural markets.)
By RV Rajan, Former Chairman, Anugrah Madison Advertising