Marketing to the masses | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 06, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:21 PM, November 06, 2015

Marketing to the masses

In conversation with Solaiman Alam, Senior Director, Marketing at Banglalink

In the last 5-7 years how much has marketing evolved in the telecom sector?

Marketing is not a science. Rather it's an art; an art that deals with the hearts and minds of people. And the basics of human nature generally don't change; generations after generations it remains the same. But means to get to the hearts and minds change with technology. If you look 7-10 years back, you will see that people's way of getting a credible message across was mostly ATL media. But now, social media has become the primary provider of credible information to the majority of customers. It's because people tend to lean towards peer feedback. So now it has become extremely critical to make your product or service perfect. In this era, if you can't deliver a perfect product, customers will provide brutally honest feedback. So now, just making a nice TVC campaign won't cut it. You genuinely have to go to the drawing board, come up with an excellent product that not only your customers will love, but also cherish. Then you have to market the product based on that social connection.

In our industry, we are at the forefront of technological changes. We are driving the internet penetration, data penetration, digital innovation, etc. The product that we are pushing in the market is being used 24/7. So when we market our services we try to make it innovative, reliable and customer-centric. We deal with millions of customers every day. So there is no room for error; we have to been spot on every time.

How have customers changed over the same period of time?

As I said earlier, people are biased towards peer feedback. They tend to rely on a trusted source to make their purchase decision of any product. But getting peer feedback was really difficult. You had to call up people, you had search in newspapers, and you had to ask people around. Now, it’s completely different. Now you do a Google search, you search through the consumer reviews. Most of this information is crowd-sourced. The provider of the service or product doesn’t have a much influence over them. So now a consumer can provide feedback directly to the potential customers. So today’s customers are very well informed compared to customers 5-7 years back. It’s also an advantage. You don’t need too high a budget to make the consumer understand a certain product. In addition to that, your loyal fans will act as ambassadors. So that’s a shift we saw over the time. 

What do you think are the key traits a marketer should possess?

I don't know. If I knew I would have written a book (chuckles). I believe a marketer needs to realise that his job begins and ends with the customer. So firstly, I think a marketer needs to know his customer.  So basically he needs to know the market. But the market isn't in your office or just Dhaka. For most marketers the country is the market. The customers, their behaviours, geography, location, culture, etc. are quite different. So you need to understand that.

Secondly, you need to be practical. There are thousands of theories in textbooks. But reality is different. So you need to trust your gut and deal with the situation objectively. You need to understand the trends, interpret the market research, and act accordingly. And lastly you need to trust your heart. Logic might dictate something, but at the end you need to listen to your heart.

What do you look for in a fresh grad when you are hiring for Banglalink's marketing department? How can they stand out from the crowd?

In order to stand out from the piles of CV that we get, it is important to have couple of things. Firstly, you need to be a meritorious student from a good institute. It matters a lot. Nobody can deny it. Secondly, we love to hire a person who has made an impact. It can be on the root level or on a local or even international scale. The magnitude of the impact that one was able to make will draw us to his or her CV. Why? Because despite being a fresh grad, he or she has proved himself or herself amongst peers. We consider them achievers.

Now comes the interview. I know interviews are cruel. It's really hard to judge someone in just 10 minutes. It's not fair. Sometimes you can't know a person even in a lifetime. So how can you expect to know someone in just 10 minutes? Hence I personally rely on references. If somebody I know is referring someone based on his experience, I will definitely consider the candidate.

It's also really important to not oversell yourself during the interview. Frankly speaking, if you are in your early 20s, it's obvious you haven't conquered the world. The interviewer doesn't expect that either. Just be yourself. Be confident, try to highlight your strengths, let them know what values you can add.  Make sure you communicate all of these. I recommend rehearsing so everything you need to say is being communicated to the interviewer in just 10 minutes.

What are the perks of working for a telecom?

There are many. Telecoms are generally multinational companies. Hence the exposure that you get is invaluable. The financial rewards are great. Other perks includes medical coverage, retirement funds, etc. The work environment is great. You get to work with a product that is going to touch millions of people. Starting a career in a multinational all has its advantages. You get to grow and assume multiple roles and responsibilities.

We know working in telecom industry can be stressful time to time. How do you de-stress?

Yes it’s true that the work we do here is really demanding. It takes a toll on you. But we get to de-stress as well. I personally spend quality time with my daughter, my family and friends. I think it is really important to maintain a healthy work-life balance or else you will simply burn out.

We can see a surge of startups in Bangladesh right now. We see youth are getting more and more involved in entrepreneurship. How do you feel about that?

I salute them. I think they are doing much greater justice to themselves, to the country and to their education. They are really courageous. I wish I could do that.

Engineer-turned-writer, Shahriar Rahman is Sub-Editor of the tech publication of The Daily Star. He is also Head of Operations at HiFi Public

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