Try this marketing strategy this tax season


Jan-March every year is tax season. There's a mad rush to make tax saving investments. ELSS funds compete against insurance products, bank deposits and small savings schemes for a slice of the pie. MF distributors therefore are not only competing amongst themselves, but with intermediaries of competing products as well. It is quiet tempting in this context to try and out-shout others by making a shriller marketing pitch. There is however an alternative, which might fetch you much better results not only in this tax season, but can also set a good foundation for building brand equity for your firms in the years ahead.

Who is chasing who?

Competition is tough and you need to attract new customers. How do you advertise? Instead of the traditional advertising where companies try to convince customers of the product's excellence, some companies are choosing to try a new technique called reverse marketing.

Reverse marketing uses traditional means of advertising such as television, print and online channels. However, the focus is in getting customers to seek the company and its products on their own. Building the brand value lies at the heart of reverse marketing. Instead of selling or raising awareness about a product, the aim is to build a brand that customers trust.

With coercion marketing, the company is trying to persuade customers to request for a product or service based on a reason. For example, a shampoo advertisement would suggest that those who use their product are more attractive with better hair. Strong sales tactic pitches and coercive advertising are no longer very effective as people have become more jaded. Customers are no longer as trusting of corporations and this mistrust impacts the value of brands. Reverse marketing is an effective tool that works well with customers who dislike the feeling of being sold to.

Knowledge and authority

Companies can use reverse marketing in several ways. Some focus on adding to the knowledge of the target customers. By offering information free of charge to customers, the company not only establishes trust but also establish themselves as a credible authority. Customers are more favourable of businesses that make them feel informed and empowered about their purchasing decisions.

Policy bazaar helps consumers compare insurance polices and get useful advice for free. Potential customers can post questions on the site to learn more. Is there insurance that covers fertility treatment? - asks one prospective customer. By empowering customers, it creates a positive feel and encourages target customers to check the site and learn about the company and its services.

For financial advisors, this can be an useful tool. Instead of marketing focused on selling specific products, a great way to reach customers would be to teach them about various principles of wise investing that are at the heart of any wealth creation technique. A poster or newsletter revealing the five common mistakes of average investors would be an example of giving knowledge for free.

The feel good factor

With the viral video phenomenon, many companies have gained prominence and customers with videos that actually contain no sales pitch. Instead, the video is often a funny vignette that resonates with target customers who then forward to other target customers and increase the brand presence. Orabrush, a tongue-cleaning product, gained a multi-million dollar contract from retailer Walmart after its youtube videos went viral. In the humours videos, a man dressed in a tongue costume had little adventures.

Cosmetic companies such as Dove have used this technique to remind customers that they are beautiful. Instead of a message where the customer is told that they become beautiful after using the product, in reverse marketing, the advertisement reminds customers that they are already beautiful. So, customers can feel good about themselves and their choice of beauty product.

When customers have a favourable opinion of the company, they choose to seek the company themselves to make a purchase. With the tech-savvy generation, sharing their interests and likes also extends to sharing their opinions on products and services. More than 80% of online buyers look at reviews before choosing a product. So, a good authentic review on portals like can gain great mileage among potential customers as they reach out to other customers.

The social responsibility angle

Advertising that focuses on companies' principles and social responsibility creates customer loyalty as it increases the trust factor and re-works the image of a large nameless corporation into a more friendly entity.

Standard Chartered Bank started the Mumbai Marathon which became a huge fund-raising platform. While the marketing for the marathon mentioned the sponsor - Standard Chartered - it did not focus on pushing any of the bank's offerings or excellence. By focusing solely on the marathon, it transformed the image into a social caring bank and this helped push growth.

"Jaago Re" campaign by Tata Tea is another great example where the company was able to garner growth among stiff competition through reverse marketing. Instead of selling tea, the marketing focused on socially relevant messages like fighting corruption and encouraging young people to exercise their right to vote. Not only were the messages socially relevant, it changed the target audience for the brand from middle-aged customers to young customers thus widening the market for the product.

How can this be achieved?

An important feature of any reverse marketing plan is an honest assessment of the company's current image, identifying the target customers it wants to reach out to and understanding the values of those customers. Without sincerity, customers would not respond to reverse marketing and see it as a gimmick to look good. Relating to customers is key in crafting an effective campaign.

Reverse marketing in this tax season

Financial advisors who take the education route to business growth often find reverse marketing working well for them. Consider this: in the upcoming tax season, if you were to launch a promo-blitz around 2-3 of your favourite ELSS funds, you will make some impact, without doubt. But consider an alternative of running every weekend from Jan to March, free tax saver camps where you guide walk-ins on how to cut tax to zero or at least to the minimum possible. How much more goodwill will you and your brand derive from such an initiative. Would resultant sales of ELSS funds be greater in the short as well as long term from the tax camps route or from the ELSS product pitch route? The answer to this question will give you the pros and cons of conventional marketing vs reverse marketing.


All content in Marketing Wiz is created by Wealth Forum and should not be construed as views of Kotak MF.

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