Today’s episode features Surbhi Dedhia, an astute digital marketing specialist and the CEO of Digital Genie, a company that partners with businesses to create customer personas, which is the foundation of all marketing activities to acquire and serve the targeted buyer’s needs.

Before starting her own business, Surbhi’s work experience included delivering effective and value-based marketing programs for organizations at different growth phases. From setting up the marketing function ground up to leading the marketing arm of a large multinational, Surbhi’s work experience has been enriched with critical elements of marketing that drive business results. With professional experience in different geographies, Surbhi is passionate to match the business requirements with specific elements of modern marketing be it buyer personas, branding and building thought leadership for founders and CEOs.

Connect with Surbhi:

Surbhi’s Guide on how to Hack Digital Marketing for Small Businesses

Connect with Dhiren:

Episode Highlights:

7:06 – What is an ideal customer?

11:07 – Why not everyone will be your “ideal” customer

12:47 – Can a business have more than one ideal customer?

13:57 – What is a persona?

16:29 – Practical tips in building personas

22:28 – Challenges in creating a persona

26:18 – Tips after doing surveys for building a persona

27:48 – How do shifts in the industry, such as the COVID-19 Pandemic affect a business’ blueprint for their ideal customer and persona?

34:11 – Surbhi enumerates the challenges in building personas and how she overcame them

43:34 – Surbhi shares her experience in working with Ron Kaufman’s Uplifting Service brand

51:46 – How an entrepreneur should approach marketing strategies during the COVID- 19 pandemic

Surbhi Dedhia  0:01
The best thing I feel still that you can do is interview the customers themselves, either in person on the phone and to discover what they like about your product or services. And if you study customer base already, you can ask really, really specific questions to build that persona. Because what you’re working on is like, what is it in that person where he is in the company? What is a typical day? What are the goals measured on and how your product is helping them solve their challenges?

Dhiren Bhatia  0:36
Hey, everyone, welcome to another fantastic Tuesday’s episode of the elevated entrepreneur podcast. Today’s episode is about a topic that I have come to learn a lot about as an entrepreneur. And I think it is a entrepreneurs secret most weapon if they’re looking to grow sales without spending big money. In fact, Surbhi, who’s our guest today helped my team and I at cloudscape with this very same topic a few years ago, and we’ve changed the way we do business. Are you curious to know what the topic is.

It’s about ideal customers and personas. And I can’t think of anybody better than Surbhi o help us with this topic. Surbhi is an astute digital marketing specialist and the CEO of her very own company called Digital Genie. Under her leadership, Digital Genie works with businesses to create customer personas, which form the foundation of all marketing activities before starting your own business. So B’s work experience included delivering value-based marketing programs for organizations of all different sizes, from setting up the marketing function from the ground up to leading the marketing arm of a large multinational. So this work experience has given her all the elements of marketing that drive business results. And that’s why she’ll be is the perfect person to talk about ideal customers and personas. And like Steve Jobs would say, that’s not all, Surbhi has even developed a special guide for you, which we’re going to talk about at the very end of this episode. And with that, let’s cue the music.

You’re listening to the elevated entrepreneur podcast, a podcast designed to help retailers restauranteurs and entrepreneurs simplify business operations and use modern technology to elevate their business. here’s your host, Dhiren Bhatia

Surbhi, it is so amazing to have you on the Elevated Entrepreneur podcast. Thank you for making time and thank you for being here. Thank you for Dhiren, It’s absolutely my pleasure to be with you and on this podcast. You and I have a special bond because you’re the key person who’s made this podcast happen about a year ago, you planted the seed in my idea to start a podcast and I remember our conversation to me saying to you, really? No, I don’t think this is possible. And here we are today. Almost a year and a half later, you’re a guest on the show. I’m so honored. So thank you again for making time. And thank you for all your inspiration and all your support. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Surbhi Dedhia  3:26
Thank you. The pleasure is again, all mine. And it has been such an amazing journey to see from Really you think so!? to planning all the episodes, meeting different kinds of people that we met, to get the podcast up and running and then finally seeing it live. The dream come true for me too.

Dhiren Bhatia  3:47
Yeah, the show’s on the road. And you know, I want you today to share your learnings and your experience and all the advice that you’ve given me as an entrepreneur and talk about what is an ideal customer because I speak to so many entrepreneurs and the one thing that I want them to know, is what is an ideal customer? Why is it so important? And what comes down to making a business successful? And I think it’s that idea of knowing who that ideal customer is. And that persona. But before we get into all of that, I want you to tell us, what do you do and how did you get into what you’re doing today? Great. So I’ve been in the marketing and communications field for over 15 years. And in this timeframe, I’ve gone full circle, if you will, from communications, public relations, events, traditional marketing, and now very much into Modern Marketing. I’ve been really fortunate to get global, regional, and local level marketing exposure, that has really allowed me to gain a full rounded perspective, all along. From communications to marketing. My role was either new requirements of the company or the power of go to market strategy, which meant that I had to constantly communicate and think alongside business leaders.

Surbhi Dedhia  5:00
This kept honing me to connect the dots to the big picture, always. So while that was a great run in 2017, we moved to Dubai from Singapore. And once my connections, here knew that I was in the neck of the woods, they started pulling me into interesting projects that they’re doing for their companies. And in no time, I realized that my hands are getting full and I needed a method to this madness, a company and a brand that clients could relate to. That’s how I simply started my company, Digital Genie. I’d never really put an aim to be an entrepreneur, own a business one day, and how can I reflect back on the fast pace corporate experience? All I did then fits perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle to geared me up for starting digital. Digital Genie specializes in building personas and versions and thought leadership. We work with businesses who know that leveraging highly targeted modern marketing can give them an edge. We are always looking for the narrative behind the brand that can then be translated into communications that drive results as for the big picture. So the first step is always to know who do you serve. So most of our client conversations really begin by saying, Can we see the buyer personas? Well, if you don’t have one, let’s start there.

Dhiren Bhatia  6:27
Wow, that is so much to unpack. Because there is so much that gets into marketing, there is communication, there’s PR, there are so many different pieces of it. But I think the line that underscores all of this is connecting the dots, because when you connect the dots, you come up with a well-rounded marketing strategy. You have the ability then to really go focused in your effort. But again, I think all of that is underscored by knowing who you’re talking to, you know, all of these books and all of these videos that I listened to. They all say you should know who your customer is. They say you should know who your ideal customer so maybe I can ask you first. What do you think is the meaning of the ideal customer?

Surbhi Dedhia  7:06
Alright, let’s take a minute to think of something that you know everybody likes what comes to mind vacations? Well, time off actually stresses out some people more than they it relaxes them. What about chocolate? As strange as it may seem, not everybody really loves chocolate, isn’t it? So it’s really hard to think of something that everybody likes, people are different. We all like wants and need different things. All choices are motivated by our personal thoughts and preferences. So notice that emphasis is on the word personal. Your business works the same way. It’s not a one size fits all solution. There are certain people who will absolutely love your product and service and rave about it. And others may simply not see the point or the value that you’re offering and that is for this very reason that it’s so important to identify your ideal customer. And that’s exactly what you’re talking about here.

Dhiren Bhatia  8:08
Yeah, you’re right. It all starts with a personal touch. And one of the things I’ve heard in this regard is, you can’t be everything to everyone. Your business, in very similar ways, cannot be everything to everyone. And I like the example that you gave of chocolates because I know so many people who don’t like chocolates. Me personally, I love chocolate, and I have a preference for dark chocolate. So what you’re going the direction that you’re talking about is absolutely true. It starts with that personal touch and that personal desire to want to buy something from someone. So can you talk to me about your example with digital Genie, how’s that helped transform your business? Because you’ve started digital Genie now for some time. And I know you’ve been on a journey to really drive into figuring out who your ideal customer is, maybe you could share some experience in that.

Surbhi Dedhia  8:53
Sure. I’ll take you back to what you said that my marketing is so dynamic, it is just so vast, so When I came here, I’ve always been in a corporate place before, and then I started my own business. So it took me some time to really think who do I want to serve, because I had this extremely high-end experience where I was working in a global marketing environment, very high tech marketing, technology infrastructure. And also I had this experience where I had literally rolled up my sleeves and built a whole marketing department on my own. So there was a balance that I would seek so I went about networking, meeting a lot of people asking questions as to what marketing is bringing to them in terms of value. And very often I would hear like, Oh, you know, we spend so much on SEO, we spend so much on social media, but that is no value that we are getting, and that’s where I realized slowly that my ideal customer would be somebody who has really run the business for four to six years, understand the market, he has sold his services or products. And now he has some understanding of what’s working what’s not. And that’s where I would come in as a marketer to jumpstart and leverage on what he knows and what we want to build together. So pretty much like how I met you again.

Dhiren Bhatia  10:24
Yeah, absolutely. I remember the discussion that we had in our office over a cup of coffee, and introducing us and I was introducing my business. And I’ve been lucky in having worked with some amazing people that have guided me in figuring out who my ideal customer is. And those conversations become really easy, and especially over time, they become even more clear, but I love what you talked about, where you said, when you started your business, you were looking for that balance, coming from corporate and now diving into your own business. And you very quickly understood I think that not everybody is going to be your customer. There could be 10,000 business owners just like me But not all 10,000 of those are going to be your customer. And why do you think that is? I want you to explain that to the audience.

Surbhi Dedhia  11:07
You see, because there’s no universal definition of an ideal customer, your ideal customer is a living, breathing definition unique to your business, that you will keep going back to and modify it often. In a way everybody is after customer satisfaction, the ability to find the customer, sell your product and or service to that customer and satisfy the customer so that he comes back the whole circle again to you should be all the focus of entrepreneurial activities. So ultimately, one must really think of an ideal customer as customer type over a clearly defined period of time that you will dedicated your sales and marketing resources to acquire. As I always find in marketing, you kind of keep checking for that measurement and then going back and again, checking whether this is really the ideal customer based on the behavior Also this ideal customer should be somebody who can represent a range or bulk in characters a bulk of your target audience. So, if you’re playing a dark game the goals are. So the greater clarity you have in regards to your ideal customer, the more focused and effective your marketing efforts will be. And that’s where I felt that how do we get that greater clarity for the ideal customer personas. And that’s were I said, I’m going to offer my services as a persona builder, because they are the best asset of business can start with.

Dhiren Bhatia  12:35
And you will helped Cloudscape, do that couple of years ago, you helped cloudscape build our own personas. I want to ask you a couple questions of ideal customer before we go into persona. Can a business have more than one ideal customer?

Surbhi Dedhia  12:47
Absolutely. That’s what the definition says. I mean, whatever the sentence says that you know you keep going back to it because while a certain type of customer is buying your product over a period You will find that there are others as well who are going to be your ideal customer. And that’s where you add value or reduce value based on their budget to offer your services to them. And I think when you start see if you’re selling one product or services, you should at least have three buyer persona types over a period of time because then you are not generalizing that one person, you have variants as a range.

Dhiren Bhatia  13:29
Yeah. So you have this idea of an ideal customer could be a he, she, business owner, non business owner, husband, wife, mother, father, there’s so many different accuracy registers, but what you’re saying is they can be or it’s ideal to have an idea of three of them, because then you can split the characteristics out of a good to get into that. Now, I think the next discussion here that comes very closely related to ideal customer is persona, and you’ve touched upon it already, maybe you can break down what is a persona in its simplest form?

Surbhi Dedhia  13:56
Sure. So buyer personas have many names, just like me. edify that people call it avatars. People call it marketing personas, profiles. Whatever is a term, it all means the same, the purpose of it is the same. And buyer personas, helps businesses understand and empathize with their customers so that they can do a better job of acquiring and serving them. HubSpot defines buyer personas, semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research, and a real data that you are taking from your existing customers. So there are two parts to it first, which is a fictional part that you put together based on your market research. But the other part is really the real data that you are actually getting from your existing customers.

Dhiren Bhatia  14:45
Right? very technical, and I want to unpack that a bit with your help. And I think examples are always great. So probably one way that I can relate to this because this is such an important conversation to have when I started cloudscape is in the business of implementing software systems for clients. And we look for retailers and restauranteurs as our target audience. But over time, what became apparent to us was not every retailer or restauranteur is going to be a client of ours. There are certain types of retailers and restauranteurs. And you and I worked out a couple of these personas in our exercises. One was a brand new entrepreneur who was just starting their business. And we named her Kika after one of our very good clients. She’s a millennial. She’s a modern entrepreneur, she’s starting a new business, and he or she needs our help in figuring out what processes and systems would work. And then we have another persona, who we call Deepak, who is an existing entrepreneur, who has run business for a few years now looking for help and advice on how to simplify operations. So we came up with this and it has been true today and who we deal with, but maybe you can help break it up a little more by guiding the audience as to why we did that. Or maybe you could share a couple of examples on How you did yours?

Surbhi Dedhia  16:02
Sure. But before we get into examples, let us build like, what are the practical ideas for gathering this information to develop a persona I believe is having these thoughts in your head is a good idea when you start, but at some point, you really got to have it black and white, you have to write it down. And as you go along, you keep writing more and more and more information into it. But the start can be really like, look through your contact database, uncover the trends about how certain leads, or customers find and consume your content. Where are they going? Are they coming to your website, through Google through social media, through ads, like use case, or if you’ve not faced anything, if you just have a plain vanilla website, leverage on Google Analytics? Then when you’re creating forms on your website, use form fields that capture important persona. For example, like in the Middle East, we And there are small and mid-sized enterprises that really sell in the region. And at that time, they really don’t know their customer. They’re getting the form filled by first name, last name, company, email id, and phone number. And they don’t ask the country. But that becomes like a distinction because then you can really see which country is getting you more of the customers or more interest, then take into consideration your sales team’s feedback. And I think they become a very integral part of this conversation because they can draw generalizations from different kinds of conversations that they’re having with the customers who they saw the best. So that is very important to build into. that is qualitative and talking about both qualitative and quantitative but the best thing I feel is still that you can do is interview the customers themselves, either in person on the phone and to discover what they like about your product or services and channel Steady customer base already, you can ask really, really specific question to build that persona. Because what you’re working on is like, what is it in that person where he is in the company? What is a typical day? What are the goals measured on and how your product is helping them solve their challenges, because that is a bridge that will allow you to build a lot more marketing around it. You are going to talk to them about the challenges not about how your products giving them solutions there has to really take into consideration their challenges.

Dhiren Bhatia  18:36
100% I couldn’t agree anymore, I think two of those points that you’ve given that are phenomenal. So I just want to recap because I think there was quite a bit of information. That’s the person that you suggested was look for patterns in your existing forms. So ask the right questions on your website, because most people have a simple website. You may not be spending a lot of money in marketing, but if you have a website and you have a simple form, ask the right questions. Like you said, which country? Maybe which stage of business? There are a few questions you can ask. The second thing you mentioned was to ask your sales team, your sales team is your people on the ground. These are the ones that are talking to your customer. And they are the ones that are really getting into the weeds with your customers. And they’re figuring out what is it that they can do, and they can give you great feedback. And the last one, which you suggested, which I love is talking to your customer. I don’t think that point can be underlined enough. And I can put all sorts of colors on that point because your customers have all the answers. You just need to talk to them. You have to ask them and they will give you so much information that you will end up writing books and books about your own customer because that’s where the magic is, I think so. Thank you for sharing that. That’s phenomenal. So now a business owner is got the forms, right? He’s talking to a sales team. He’s spoken to these customers, he or she is starting to find a pattern. What should they do next?

Surbhi Dedhia  19:57
So once you have the pattern, right it is like literally inputting the face of the person. Or even if you’re picking up assume face the name. It’s like really building a bio of that person that you want to serve. So, put a photo, but the name, put a title. And I always think giving that one punch statement. You know, like, if you think about a retailer, I want more footfalls in my shop. That is that one big sentence the one big challenge sentence because that is his key KPI. If you have asked your customer, what is one challenge that you are trying to solve or what is that one KPI that you want to achieve? That’s what that sentence should be. You could write certain information like you know what he goes about doing in the day, how he’s consuming content, what kind of blogs, networks clubs, he is into, what are his likes, dislikes in terms of if it is again in FM Be kind of a setup for industry regulators and how fnb kind of likes dislikes that could be all written in and compromised. Now I’m not saying like, one-pager, it could be two-pager, it could be three pager because again, remember, this is a living document, you got to go back to it. And keep adding more and more and more, because even if your interview your customer, you’re not going to ask everything in one interview, then even he wouldn’t know and that interview, how much information you have to give. So even in my situation, when I was trying to figure this business part out, I’m thinking constantly of asking, working with my target audience asking them questions, or no, and I’m not stopping here. I’m always going to keep asking questions.

Dhiren Bhatia  21:45
Yeah. And the other thing that you mentioned, very key that I want to draw out again, is people document and this becomes your living breathing document. It’s not a document that you set it once and you forget it. It’s a document that you literally carry around in your head. The minute you realize something new about this persona, you write it down. It’s that personal color, and it makes it even more real. So writing it down, we have done that as well. And I know you and I did that as part of clouds. We had these Google Docs, we put a photo, we gave it a name. And like, it’s like, so important to that. I want to ask you a couple questions in terms of digital Genie, because I know you’re going through this process now. And you’re building this for digital Genie. What are some of the challenges that people can expect when they start to do this?

Surbhi Dedhia  22:29
First and foremost is your lack of enough customers. Because like when you’re really at the beginning of it, you have you spoken to your customer, but you still like are figuring it out in terms of what your product is and how much of a challenge it is solving. So if your base is small, obviously our research is going to be skewed in that sense. I mean, if you’re still following the interview pattern, again, if you’re starting between one or two years, you don’t have enough database to go to A survey about and things like that. So these are formative years challenges if you will. Then in the middle, there are challenges like ships in the industry, there could be disruption, there could be technological advances, people are more used to doing a lot of things on apps now rather than really physically going and doing things. So if you have the pulse on the market, you will go and ask the customer will it help you if my service becomes an app? Just a simple question. So these are different challenges. The other challenge I find is people don’t give true information. Like they say oh, we like this and being followed this kind of brands or we kind of go to these clubs or a part of a social circle and stuff then it kind of skills information to the fact that they are not being their true selves. What they saying take it as a true value, right. So that is also one of the challenges. So that is the reason why you must do it. Many more interviews, and it doesn’t need to be really, really very formal interview where you hold the customer, we can sit and say, Now I want to interview and with my profile, just a naturally flowing conversation as a friend or as a human to human connection. If you ask, Oh, where did you study? What kind of education you have? What were your experiences moving to Dubai? Because most of us are coming in from certain places. So that brings a lot of flavors too. How are they thinking about what is going on in their culture in their personality, so you really build that person, if you will, through that document?

Dhiren Bhatia  24:36
As you’re talking, what I’m imagining is, is you’re peeling the layers of the onion, right, one layer at a time, and it takes time to that you just can’t do this in one shot. So having multiple conversations, having a document that keeps getting better and better. It’s all part of that process.

Surbhi Dedhia  24:51
And while this all may seem like very technical and Oh, is it going to give me value instant because right now everybody is living in instant gratification. Kind of a world, I highly recommend entrepreneurs to pay attention to this and keep coming back to it. They can run along their business as phenomenal. Just keep coming back to it because you’re building something and it is like, fickle, if you will, if you don’t show the sun too much, it’s not going to turn into a great pickle. So

Dhiren Bhatia  25:23
I like that one. I’m going to use that in the future. I like analogies. And that’s a very interesting one.

Surbhi Dedhia  25:28
Yeah, if you don’t show enough Santo pickle that you’re making, you’re not going to make a great pickle. And this is where I feel using this analog you kind of go back to showing this on to your buyer persona like show today. Like, go back to it needed reading this, because every quarter probably you have had a business and you have had experiences you’ve done something with your business. So you go back to it and make some notes and go back to it and make some notes.

Dhiren Bhatia  25:56
So I have a couple more questions. One of them is I’ve heard I’ve personally done this in my business, I’ve recommended this to other business owners is to surveys. So it’s a similar way of asking questions. And I know some of my friends and family, we’re in this very same scenario. Now they’re looking for their ideal customers, they’ve done surveys. What should they do next after a survey? Could you give them any advice?

Surbhi Dedhia  26:18
So, survey is another way of getting people to voice our opinion share data, and you collect the data. If the survey is being done for getting a feedback of how their products are or how their services are, obviously, this is a very valuable information. And just like personas, you keep going back then because at this time, the comment on that survey may not make the most sense. But at some other time, it means so surveys I feel every year if you do as an end of the year survey or something like that, it really is helpful to build on that database and That information. And in fact, if you’re doing it as a company, maybe at an off site or somewhere, you can look through it as a team together. And because it’s a one way communication, the client is not there in front of you to talk about what he really meant. But what he’s written is what he’s written. And then that could be a conversation amongst the team members to see what is it that we are not reading literally has always to put together reading between the lines. Yeah.

Dhiren Bhatia  27:31
I want to ask you a couple questions about something you mentioned earlier. One is shifts in the industry. And I think that has some implications especially now with COVID. I see COVID is a big ship. How does this affect a core persona build? Does it actually affect it? Or should it not affect it?

Surbhi Dedhia  27:48
You know, the persona is like a blueprint for the business-like when you are building it, it’s always constantly you’re going back to it now the Kool Aid a lot of behavior pattern has changed in the market. So, you again go back to it. And this is cyclical, right like today it is pandemic which is a little bit different, but every 10 years or so, there has been the cycle of recessions and slow economy or whatever. And you go back to it and you write down what are the typical behaviors of customers in this time and if you write it down now, when the next recession hits, you are already prepared. Are you anticipating what are the behaviors like so you are building your marketing communications around it, so, you know, things are slowing down, you switch to value base, I always talk about this push and pull strategy. So you’re not pushing information into the overly noisy marketplace, you’re rather pulling it in by giving more value based content and more value based services. Instead of trying to push, push, push and on that day, you know, in terms of personas, I feel this is like a blueprint for your business and having your ideal customer sketched out and Then the personas, the sales team will have no doubt who is the customer? And what is it that that customer has gone through over a period of time. So when you are writing that note about Saiki car the millennial now millennial is three years down in the business, she has gone through a cycle of possibly no sale, too much more sale and now during the pandemic, when there are nobody walking into the store have zero sales. So you go back and write the notes because again, you’re communicating with the customer, you are talking to them.

Dhiren Bhatia  29:34
And so what I’ve learned from this, what you just shared my own experience, shift in the industry, because this has been a fundamental shift. Your core persona doesn’t change, your ideal customer definition doesn’t change. Their patterns are changing, which what is what you’re noting down in this document. And so then you can then tweak your services further, you can then deliver to them in a different way.

Surbhi Dedhia  29:56
That’s right. You know, that is a classic example. You’re very When you have persona built up, your sales team definitely know who it is. Your marketing team now knows how to exactly communicate to them. The beauty is even if the receptionist is picking up the call, they will know exactly if a prospect is calling and asking the right questions then in there, you know, I really recommend this persona to really be a document attached to the company production head says everybody needs through it. It’s not like fine print. And then everybody knows what you’re talking about. It’s like almost building a culture around.

Dhiren Bhatia  30:35
Yeah, and you know, lately, a lot of big marketing firms talk about this idea of putting the customer at the center, and then you building a services around that customer other than the older way where you had these upside down or top down approach where you were pushing information to a customer now the customer center, and if indeed the customer has to be in the center then the whole company needs to know about this customer. I hear a lot of times people say, Well, this is great, but how do I deal with one customer? I can survive my business on one customer? Or I just can’t go off to one type of customer? Is there any detriment or anything? Is there any gain if they went down this path of choosing a customer and a persona?

Surbhi Dedhia  31:16
We saw a lot of merits right? Like everybody knows who the customer is now in the company. I don’t think at the face of it, there is any detriment but obviously, as a business owner, you must know what is happening in the market. And because there are these challenges that keep coming about like technology disruption, the collapsing of industries, however, it is important for a business owner to always have these range of personas and keep talking to them. And in order to not miss out literally because if you have the pulse on the market, and if you still have one persona then you will always have already find a disconnect that you feel that okay, this customer is just fine. I mean they you’re not able to Don’t really increase the sale. And that is why the three customer personas are really helpful that you can have the range of it. One, which is not a regular one, which is the ideal ideal one and one, which is the upscale one.

Dhiren Bhatia  32:12
Yeah, typically customers that are in different parts of their journey. And those could become your writing personas.

Surbhi Dedhia  32:19
Yeah, and again, it is not like you’re working on only one method of selling to that customer. What this does, is like definitely gives you a guide. It is like a verification. So like a check and balance, right, like so if you have a personality and then if you’re facing this challenging conversion, like where you have this customer who’s shown all the different characteristics is on to the website is downloaded content is possibly in the senior demo or come to your event. And now he’s still not converting at this point, the sales team and you can definitely go back to this persona and kind of have a conversation that what is the motivation that is not addressed in this particular case? So, don’t think of it as wild as a viewer friend, and why people are going to go back to it in terms of verifying. There are always different tactics in terms of marketing and sales that you can engage or based

Dhiren Bhatia  33:15
on the person, you’re talking, I was just thinking of all my ideal customers who’ve been to our events, and I was thinking how we can settle them. So all in all, having a persona and having an ideal customer really makes life easy, because we do know who you’re selling to, you know, what their pains are, what their challenges are. And if you try to sell to everybody, you will lose out on that core message that you want to get out because your services really fit for a certain type of the market. I want to ask you a couple questions in your experience has been with phenomenal companies. You didn’t mention this in the start, but I know you work with Ron Kaufman and you serve on his marketing team. But before we go to that, I want to ask you in building this for your business teaching Jeannie, what was some of the The challenges that you overcame, how did you overcome them? Because I’ve been very closely associated with you. I know you and I have had so many conversations about it. I wanted to share some of your own stories as well.

Surbhi Dedhia  34:11
This takes us a long time back, isn’t it? Because, you know, one of the things that we keep doing to each other is pushing, I kept pushing you to saying that, okay, you should do this podcast and you have this hot leadership, knack. And you can really, you know, bring out that personality in you. And you get telling me that, you know, you should do something about structuring your business. And so when I started, of course, I had no intention of really starting a business. I didn’t approach it as a business, I was always on this, quote, unquote, project mode where I take up a project they never move on, take a deliberate move on so it took me some time to learn the basics of entrepreneurship. Even though I have an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship, all the textbook goes out of the window, really when you’re on the field. And this is a very, very new market. I have always come to Dubai to serve corporates and not the SMEs. So it was a very different approach that I had to take again, there was a big component of self doubt. And I was not sure whether I could do it on my own. So it took me a steep curve. And thanks to all the great support that people like you and others that I met along the way, showed in me to believe that you can bring this about and you can do this. That’s how I kind of started slowly building on it. And today when I’m in the process of building the website and putting things together, it gives me immense joy that okay, you know, I’ve done this for the client. It is like so process oriented now that it is just checking the box and doing those things, because I’ve done it on the client system, sticking it in house and doing it that way.

Dhiren Bhatia  35:55
Yeah, and one thing that you touched upon there is something that I want to highlight when you have a core persona So you have an ideal customer and you have some personas, delivering to them also becomes such a joy. Because everything is exactly the same. It’s the same thing done all over again. And I think that makes a business even more successful because your team is now ready to deliver the same thing again and again, and they’re getting better and they’re getting more efficient. So the quality becomes amazing.

Surbhi Dedhia  36:22
Yeah, and you only improve the only way from there is to go up because it is like a well oiled machine. You’re just running it like a machine in terms of understanding what are the needs, knowing what you can do for them, and then delivering it in that package.

Dhiren Bhatia  36:39
Yeah, again and again and again and becoming better at it. And the level of quality is getting better. So true. I want to ask you a couple other questions. You’ve talked about some of the challenges, you’ve talked about how to get started. I think I want to ask you what are some of the benefits of doing all of this exercise. This is a lot of work. I know we’ve made it sound easy, but you have to get down to it. asking these questions doing some interviews. Great. All done now what’s next?

Surbhi Dedhia  37:04
So it’s like a blind man and the elephant, right? Like the blind men were touching different parts of the elephant and trying to figure out what it was some side role for the tail and some said it’s trunk of the tree for the leg. Now everybody is if they were only doing the personas, right, the blind men and the elephant, they will no it was an elephant. I mean, coming to the point really, is that now you’ve done the personas. Now, the whole team is on the same page. Now, when you are talking about Kiko, the millennial in your company, everybody knows what it is that you’re talking about who she is, the background is crystal clear. So the marketing team knows that she’s a millennial. She consumes content she talks, the language is different, the kind of free time that she’s having where she spends everything is very well known. So you’re not at that juncture, when you’re running a campaign or running a series of content that you want to deliver to this target audience. at that juncture, you’re not starting from letter A, you’re like really knowing what it is that she wants, and she expects and it is so easy for the customer, also, to then consume that content because it is talking to their challenges to them.

Dhiren Bhatia  38:20
Right. And sometimes in the marketing is so good. You as a customer feel that, oh, this was made for me, or this piece of content was made for me. And that’s an example of someone having done their research in personas and ideal customers.

Surbhi Dedhia  38:34
That’s and speaking of content, what happens is, a lot of small businesses may think that it’s a lot of work to build content for a persona type and then do another for another one and for another. So there are ways that you can string it all together, because if you have thought through what is your big picture, what it is that you’re trying to achieve in this and you go back to the personas, you are nearly connecting the dots. So if you are able to go that it’s not going to be too much or worse because what you’re doing is simply making that vague buy into three different pieces, who’s talking to a customer who wants is a persona a persona B and persona C, you’re just delivering it piecemeal to each of them.

Dhiren Bhatia  39:22
Yeah. And I think the other big benefit that you touched upon earlier in this conversation was value in marketing value in SEO. So it’s funny, just before this episode, I talked to Moz and was an SEO expert and he talks a lot about SEO. But why did you say that I want you to sort of dive into why you said value and marketing and value and SEO.

Surbhi Dedhia  39:41
I’m not sure if I said SEO really. But I definitely said content and I said there is a value that you want to give to your customer on the content that you’re serving them because today it is very noisy place. The digital landscape is very noisy, and you want to deliver Not a hit and miss campaign you want to deliver a campaign that is talking to that challenge of that persona.

Dhiren Bhatia  40:08
What I was wanting to drive your attention to was you actually hit the nail on the head by saying, if the persona is designed correctly, then the SEO marketing effort, as you said, becomes very easy. Because you know exactly who you’re after. And you know exactly what you should be even saying in those ad words, if you put in paid media ads, you know exactly what to talk about what to put on those ads.

Surbhi Dedhia  40:31
That’s right. And I feel always in my experience, the sales and the marketing alignment, like there is always this tension because the sales people feel that marketing, not bringing enough leads and the marketing feels that sales are not generating enough whatever I’m bringing in so I fell through the experience and once we started putting these personas and at that time, we were talking about 18 different personas. It was huge. But then we started talking about So now as and when we started, suddenly the language between sales and marketing, what we were talking, just made so much sense. They knew what we’re talking why we’re building this content type for home. And the salespeople knew that yes, once this content has been How can I approach this person out with that content or even on the phone talk about it in a very intelligent way?

Dhiren Bhatia  41:23
Because they know the kind of customer they’re talking to. And this particular example of 18%, what was it for a client for who was this for?

Surbhi Dedhia  41:31
Yeah, this is at my time with a multinational company. It’s a marketing research company, frost and Sullivan. And we had about eight departments like business units, and we were serving 14 different countries, in Asia Pacific or in Southeast Asia, 14 countries. They may speak a variety of Chinese language, but they are all very different culturally. So when we build these ating specific target personas, we were really going by Geography as well. So internally even I’m getting confused on what it is. So it was by business unit by geography. And we made it so so targeted to that person.

Dhiren Bhatia  42:10
I’m just amazed at having 18 personas I can barely handle 318 is must have been so huge to work with.

Surbhi Dedhia  42:18
And we had a huge team. Also, we used to have meetings for personas, right? Like we’re talking personas, and we have meetings only to talk personas and think about content for those personas. Then we will invite sales team to kind of discuss about those personas. And then they will give us in post because obviously sales have amazing amount of information. And if this was during the time when all these marketing technology was just coming in. So in order to kind of meet them at some midpoint, we had to do this exercise so that we knew what we were talking and they knew what we were talking there was no confusion at all.

Dhiren Bhatia  42:58
So alignment between sales and marketing. So important. And it’s so fascinating to think about entire marketing teams and sales in just talking about personas. And it shows you how important this whole concept is reason why we have a whole episode here on the elevated entrepreneur podcast. It is so important that even big companies spend so much time and effort in getting clarity. So it makes it even more important for smaller businesses to do this exercise on their own. I’m also very intrigued by your time at Ron Kaufman, and you and I have shared some stories of how you’ve helped. Maybe you could spend some time talking about that experience and how was that?

Surbhi Dedhia 43:33
Sure. So Ron and his company called appear service at that time, and then they rebranded into uplifting service. There was a specific need of a marketer who comes in and builds the department. So they have this brand, Ron Kaufman, who’s a speaker or New York Times bestselling author, and then they started this consulting company where they are now taking this education piece and doing cultural change and organization. They needed a marketing person to come in and say like look at the brand and build the marketing department ground up. So, this is like a company which is global because of Ron brand, but it is quintessentially local because it is in one single location, we were not having many offices back then. And literally it was like after the first 90 days, we went into a rebrand exercise. You know, they had this logo balloon and it kind of showed a fun element to it and they were getting into consulting where they wanted to be seen upon as more serious. So we had to transform that balloon into like a speech bubble. So, the color the thought process, the rebrand the narrative behind it, it was very intense. And I was so glad it was at that point that I joined the journey because once you know the narrative of the brand in terms of why it is called what it is called, what are the colors what is the law It kind of sits with you as the background information to then do the other areas like do the personas or the other areas like marketing technology. So the next part was really to fix the MAR tech, because with Ron’s global database was like about 60,000 people. And what do we do with it like now we have to communicate that we are up your service, you’ve rebranded and we are offering these kind of education certification programs, all of that. So I had to quickly assess what is the kind of marketing automation that can deal with this. The sales is because the sales people were on the field are like, wanting to see who’s doing what kind of behaviors on the website. Now, this is a very b2b space, right? So not only are you not going to just sit behind the desk and do campaigns and social media, and all of that was we had to really do is get out there and feel so we had a 16 seconds Executive conversations with Ron Kaufman plan. It was like a roadshow maybe went from city to city in different countries. And we brought together executives who wanted to see service built into their culture to their company culture. So that was phenomenal because this is 16 cities not around Singapore, not around Asia Pacific. It is like India, we’re talking about Middle East. We’re talking about North America. So that was an experience in itself. And one of the basic skills that I learned at that time was collaboration because this was a very lean marketing team. I had like three people with me. That’s it. And so there was this huge amount of collaboration in different countries that I had to work with. You know, not all vendors are saying, Now when I’m doing all this, I needed somebody to look at the backend like the website should be up and running the MAR tech, whatever. You have spent on infrastructure should be also functioning. So that had to be like somebody else doing it like a vendor who takes over for a while. So it was a very steep go. But it gave me so much of grounding in terms of what marketing can deliver. And within no time he has like means that we were talking about conversions that marketing was involved in. And it was really fascinating how marketing can bring value.

Dhiren Bhatia  47:29
It’s so amazing to get that insight because you don’t think about when you read a book and the book that you’re talking about. I actually have a copy of it. I haven’t finished it. And I know exactly the bullet balloons on it. But when you see the book, you don’t think about all of this thing that’s happening behind the scene like roadshows EP countries, so much that has to happen. Oh, that’s amazing. So thank you for sharing that insight. I want to ask you, one question in here was personas helpful in this whole equation that you had with Ron was it important?

Surbhi Dedhia  47:58
Yeah. So be awake here with From the beginning, because that’s where we started, even before the rebrand started, the whole company literally sat together and we were talking about who is it that we are going after. So we had like this entire list built up of the type of organizations the size of the organization because that was at the organization level that we wanted to really look at. So this is macro. What when it comes to SMEs kind of gets micro because then you’re really talking to that one person, ideal persona, but at that company level, even thinking about what kind of companies you want to sell to, where will they be based? What kind of job titles are we attracting? There was this entire list I think if I’m not mistaken, it was like some 25 points and it was literally like an Excel sheet of 25 rows where we are saying putting numbers putting information about titles so we had this list of titles from CEO to the receptionist, okay of an organization and then it is like a round-robin where people are Going yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, that we are selling to them or not. So it was really interesting because even the person who was managing logistics had dealt and worked with so many of people on the client’s logistics side. But she had so much information and inputs to give us during that session that she was saying that they expect their policy is. So this kind of information really kind of got us thinking and that Excel sheet then expanded into really more of a persona. When we did the interviews. We will the photographs we could name and all the details were filled in. And then in the four years, I think I must have gone back to the persona at least 50 times because as a marketer, I’m sure the CEO of the company and all the events quarterly and then we spoke about different times when there was a sales and marketing alignment discussion. But as a marketer, I kept going back to it because we wanted to really Right, the communication and we are dependent on vendors You see, as a marketeer when you’re working with different vendors, you want to make sure that you yourself know very clearly what it is that you expect. And then it is easier for us to communicate to the vendor. What is it that they need to deliver. So if you don’t have it written, you are just going thinking and talking it from your brain space, then it’s not going to be conducive for the vendor. Also, there are smart vendors out there who will have a form and you fill in and you do all that. But if you know already, then even filling a form is very easy.

Dhiren Bhatia  50:37
Right, and again, a personal story to share as part of cloudscape marketing efforts. You and I have been so intertwined. And we’ve been discussing this for so long. But now, when I talk to say an SEO agency or I talk to a digital marketing agency, or I talk to even a copywriter, it’s so clear to tell them exactly what kind of efforts we need to put in because we know exactly who we are after Putting the value in marketing, whether it’s SEO, content, writing, copywriting all becomes so crystal clear, because you don’t have someone to go after you have that persona to go after. So it becomes very easy to measure their effectiveness. I like that idea of you said that even the logistics lady in the round coffin business was sitting at the table. So it really is an entire company exercise, whether it’s 123, or even 50 people, everybody should be involved in designing that whole persona. That’s so interesting to hear. Okay, so we’ve been talking for quite some time. And I want to start to wrap up, but I have last few fun questions to get through to you. So I want to know, from your experience, given COVID and given the shift in the industry, what should an entrepreneur be thinking about, especially in terms of marketing?

Surbhi Dedhia  51:46
Absolutely. I think in the last three months, it’s just such a eye-opener, in terms of what we have all gone through. Everybody has had a very steep learning curve from moving anti operations or more to keeping the overhead Slowly, marketing may not be at the top priority for everyone who’s looking at short term survival. And it is very natural to focus on business development to close deals at this moment rather than investing and then building activities. So what I think in this situation is that this is actually a perfect storm giving us an opportunity to calibrate between dropping the non-essential marketing activities, and focusing on building long term brand and thought leadership. And the businesses can do these three to four things that I’m going to say now, first, communicate, extend your current brand, speak style, and showcase as your main part of your brand. communicate to your client base that you’ve got their backs, communicate with your ecosystem, that we are all in this together and so forth. So, at this moment, what you are going to communicate is really going to be reflective of who you are as a brand. The next is to extend value. anxiousness is obviously everywhere. And Brands worldwide have extended their services for minimal cost or free at some places. So, there are plenty of examples of companies big and small, offering their services for free or heavily discounted price or bundling services to provide more value. Come to think of it how your current services can be extended to the client or even beyond your prospects and community at large. I think there is definitely huge merit at this current moment to associate your brand with doing good and pullover push strategy. So do not overtly push messages promoting your products and services in the hope of closing fast deals. I see so many companies because everything is virtual using a lot of time to push content then ads in social media, the style of tone-deaf communication can really put off even warm prospects. So instead of doing that, double up your online presence, john, use that time and resources for building content, fine-tuning your SEO, so whenever client looks up for any kind of services that they need, they can find your brand and build that trust immediately. And leveraging content development and plan to keep audiences engaged through digital channels. And I think the last one that I would like to add to this one is conversations. They can tremendously help businesses to see the customer’s perspective. So if at this time you invest time and resources to have a meaningful and value-based conversation, that will do good. In fact, this reminds me of x HubSpot content person Joe share. Now, he said that good marketing makes the company look smart. And great marketing makes the customer feel smart. And this is the time for making the customer feel smart.

Dhiren Bhatia  54:51
It’s so interesting, you say that, I want to make sure that I highlight the episode that is so interesting, and so true in the time, so I would ask you I read a lot of books and I know you read a lot of books. So I want to ask you for book recommendations because I think always reading so what books do you recommend?

Surbhi Dedhia  55:09
So I like this book called Building a Story brand, clarifying your message so customers will listen. It’s by Donald Miller. This book talks about how businesses can start thinking from a customer’s perspective, the chairs about how to understand what your customers are looking for, and why they’re buying from certain businesses or whatever. And Donald Miller lays out the seven universal story points that all human beings respond to. So what I like about this book is that the concepts are applicable to all types of businesses and all sizes of businesses. Coming from a communications background, I believe that plenty of websites are great, but how you communicate and leverage words definitely sales. So if we haven’t clarified the message, nor do we know who the customer What is that? How do you expect to sell. And the second book is the classic from my MBA days, which I’ve been using a lot for my own business. It’s called the Blue Ocean Strategy, how to create uncontested market space and make competition irrelevant. irrelevant. Like right now the world is in the mode of disruption, that a lot of new innovative ideas that are coming up and then in this situation, how you’re creating your niche or new ocean so it gives plenty of examples and also tools to apply. Of that my favorite poll is really the eliminate reduce, raise, and create an action framework. When authors really make your thing which factors from your industry, and as we discussed earlier in marketing landscape is so vast, which have been taken for granted that you’re eliminating which factors should be reduced well below the standard which should raise well above the standard and which factors you should be creating that your industry has never offered. So That book is a classic.

Dhiren Bhatia  57:02
This book was gifted to me by Muhammad who was on the podcast a few episodes ago. And I have to say it’s a very technical read. Yeah, word of warning, this book is going to take some time. But like you said, it’s well worth the time and the effort that you’re going to put into reading the book.

Surbhi Dedhia  57:16
That’s true. And he said, definitely For more on the business side of it, not communications or marketing side of it.

Dhiren Bhatia  57:22
Awesome. And I have to ask you being on the elevated entrepreneur podcast, what is the word elevated entrepreneur mean to you?

Surbhi Dedhia 57:30
Firstly, I love the name. I really feel elevated already thinking about it. So great name for the podcast. So I feel an entrepreneur who’s initiated on a journey to create a sustainable business and consistently elevates his business. His team and himself to the next level is an elevated entrepreneur.

Dhiren Bhatia  57:52
So well said. I just had an interview with my business coach a couple episodes ago and we talked about this leadership aspect And how can you become a better leader? So I’m so glad that you brought it up. In your point. You’re right. It’s not just a good business person, but also a good leader, and a person who’s constantly elevating his team and putting them in the forefront. I’m so glad to hear that. Thank you for sharing.Two more questions. And I promise we’ll be the last ones. What advice that you can give to someone who’s just starting out, or an entrepreneur who’s not having a good time in these times.

Surbhi Dedhia  58:25
I think when they’re starting out, do not try to do everything by yourself and address that first one was starting out on their own. Because if you seek help from experts, so that way, you’re not only achieving the progress in a faster amount of time, but you’re also building a community on the go, that can support you like a soccer team because I relate this to myself because I’m from a very corporate environment when there were vendors that were paying members were delivering different things so and that one point didn’t seem too overwhelming. But now when you’re all alone, Your own, everything can seem so overwhelming. You have to pay attention to marketing, finances. Within marketing, there are so many things. So I feel if you outsource, but to relevant experts, it can help you achieve and it will kind of break it down to granular level, it can really help you at this time. I think that’s what is needed. If you’re starting your business at this time. Break it down, make a list, that what is it that you’re going to achieve step by step by step? And what do you expect after, say, one month, two months, three months down the line because you can’t really build the entire business in one day. And these times are very, very different.

Dhiren Bhatia  59:41
Absolutely, Rome wasn’t built in a day we’ve heard time and time again and so true, specially during these times. So where can people find you and what’s the best way for them to get ahold of you?

Surbhi Dedhia  59:53
So I always welcome very good conversation on marketing business intersect so please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn, I’m at Sony data, or email me at Serbia,

Dhiren Bhatia  1:00:06
Awesome, and any other links that you’d like to share?

Surbhi Dedhia  1:00:11
Right now I’m in the midst of building Digital Genie, and Digital is going to be my website. So if you want to go check it out, please go check it out. Other than that, if Dhiren it helps, I can build together like couple of websites, which people can access through the show notes as a reference to build personas or to build basic marketing.

Dhiren Bhatia  1:00:32
Yes, certainly. That will be fantastic. I’ll definitely collate them from you and I will definitely put them in the show. Surbhi, thank you so much for being on the show and giving my audience such an amazing episode to learn from. Thank you.

Surbhi Dedhia 1:00:47
Thank you. Dhiren it was so much fun talking once again. Like those old days I’ll be sitting over a cup of coffee and talking all of this.

Dhiren Bhatia  1:00:56
Yeah, you made it till the end of the episode. As I promised at the beginning of this episode, Surbhi has put together a very special guide on Hacking, Digital Marketing for Small Businesses. And you can get your hands on this very special guide if you head on over to elevated, like the number eight. Now before we go, I want to tell you about the next episode, releasing on the 14th of July. That episode is all about accounting with Wayne Richards from Bean Ninjas. I don’t like accounting very much. And I’m pretty sure that you don’t either. And that’s exactly why I’ve had Wayne Come on, and give us the tips that every business owner should follow in their business. So stay tuned, bookmark that date, and I will see you in that episode on the 14th of July. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the elevated entrepreneur show at elevated or wherever you’ve been listening to this episode. And finally, if you would, please do leave the elevated entrepreneur podcast a review so that you can make it easier for other entrepreneurs to find this show. Thank you much love and I’ll see you in the next one.