Totalprestige Magazine highlights Vinod Gupta. CEO of Infofree

[Originally published by Totalprestige magazine]

Vin Gupta

By his own admission, Vinod Gupta has no talent apart from founding and running businesses successfully. The serial entrepreneur got his feet wet in the business world in 1972 founding infoGROUP with just $100 in his pocket. By the time he left the company in 2011, the company’s revenues were in the hundreds of millions and Gupta had a bit more cash in his pocket.

Despite leaving infoGROUP in 2011, Gupta could not leave the business world behind. He has continued founding, buying and running companies. Today, Gupta runs Infofree.com, a company that enables salespeople and businesses to find sales leads, and grow their sales.

While Gupta has made a name for himself in business, the serial entrepreneur has also become famous for his philanthropic work. Gupta has donated millions of dollars to charities and founded schools in his home village in India, and his beloved IIT – Kharagpur.

Vinod, you have lived an incredible life both in business and in your personal affairs. First off, you were born in India, but went to Nebraska University. What led you to the United States and what was the transition of living in middle America like?

First of all, in the 1960s when I was in India going to college, India did not have many job opportunities. Plus, there were all kinds of social problems, a shortage of food, and everything. So, when I was going to college, it was like, let’s get out of here and go to America – that is the Land of Opportunity. Luckily, I was able to get a scholarship to go to the University of Nebraska. So, that is what I would call good luck. Once I came to the Midwest, the transition was there because of the different culture and customs, but what was in my favor was I knew the English language. The transition was much easier and, in the Midwest, people are very friendly, so I never really felt like I was in a foreign land. I lived in a dorm and made a lot of American friends. I went to their homes, so it was terrific.

You became CEO of infoGROUP in 1972 and held the position until 1997. How did your career with the company begin? What was it like to be CEO of a thriving company from the early 1970s through the 1980s and into late 1990s? Business must have made some incredible strides during those decades.

I hardly call myself a CEO. I was the founder of the company and I started the company in 1972 with $100. Basically, I would tell people I was the founder and I run the company. infoGROUP grew gradually and by 1993, we made about $44 million in revenue and $14 million in profits. Then, we went public in 1993 and I ran the company until 2011 when we sold the company. I was associated with infoGROUP from 1972 to 2011. So, roughly 39 years and it was fun, you take a company from zero to what I call a decent sized company. When I left, it was doing $760 million in revenue. It was a good ride, a fun ride to take it from zero to that level. There were 7,000 employees all over the world – even in England, Singapore, and Australia. We had a major international presence too. I call it, being high on drugs without being on drugs.

Gupta founded Infofree.com in 2011 as a way to help businesses grow. The company sells leads to small businesses and salespeople, enabling them to generate more clients. Infofree.com takes care of one of the biggest issues many small businesses experience, which is generating new customers to keep bringing in revenue.

Today, you are the Founder of Infofree.com. Can you tell us about Infofree.com and the services it offers to customers?

What Infofree.com does is it helps small businesses and salespeople in finding leads to grow their business. What I find is a lot of small businesses don’t spend a lot of time generating new customers. They will talk about new products and new technology, but they don’t spend much time in finding new customers. In the same way, a lot of sales people are pretty inefficient in finding new customers or getting the right leads. So, we are saying, for $99 a month, you can get any kind of leads you want. If you are selling to rich homeowners, fine, you can get those leads. If you are selling to small businesses, to restaurants, to people who are 65, you can select our database anyway you want to reach the right leads. It will make you more efficient. It is about educating businesses and sales persons on how to spend more time getting new leads and increasing your customer base.

After so much success in the business and political worlds, what drives you to run companies in 2021?

I don’t know anything else! I have no other talent. Basically, to me, running a business, like Warren Buffet who is a good friend, it is all he knows. He knows how to run a business and it is what he likes to do. It’s the same, it is what I like to do.

Gupta has come a long way in life. From a small village in India to being a multi-millionaire in the United States, he has accomplished a lot in 74 years. Today, Gupta is a regular financial donor to causes around the world. In his home village in India, Gupta has funded a high school and nursing school, enabling tomorrow’s leaders to get high-quality education and top-notch facilities. The schools are churning out individuals each year eager to be the next Vinod Gupta.

Fortune Magazine wrote an article on you in 1995 and stated you “grew up with no electricity, no roads, no toilets, no TVs, no cars.” Today, you are a multi-millionaire thanks to your business acumen. What is it like to look back on those days growing up? Is it easy to forget how far you have come in life?

No, it isn’t easy to forget. Actually, I still go to my village and they have made a lot of improvements. I still go there once a year and I set up a high school there and a nursing school there in my village. I would say, I have invested over $30 million in the last 20 years. I took Bill Clinton to my village in 2001. It is now becoming a famous village with these great schools. They have incredible infrastructure with great bathrooms, classrooms, and labs. The nursing school graduates around 60 girls a year and they all get great jobs. The high school has about 1,400 students and is one of the best high schools in the area. And I support that with about $1 million a year. To me, giving education to about 1,800 to 2,000 kids in my village is very, very satisfying.

Philanthropy is near and dear to your heart. According to reports, you have donated over $50 million to charities and funds around the world. What drives you to donate and help others? What are some of the charities you have worked with over the years?

I would say that is where I had a great influence from Warren Buffett and Bill Clinton. Because, people like that and Bill Gates, have created a huge amount of wealth, but they just don’t keep it or pass it on to their heirs. That is also what makes America great. If you take the history of America, people here have created wealth and they have donated for all sorts of causes. Whether it was Carnegie for his library or people have built hospitals or schools – some of the finest universities are private universities. You have all of these private universities that are the best in the world. Money was given and wealthy people have supported them. I think that had a lot of influence on my thinking that we need to do something for society. Whether it is my village or my school or my college, we cannot take it with us. So, it is better to do something for society. The other thing is it is society that made us rich and we took money from it, so we have to give it back. I think that is what makes this country so great.

I would be remiss to mention your relationship with former United States President Bill Clinton. How did you meet President Clinton and what fostered your relationship? Clinton even mentioned you in his book, Giving.

In 1994, I got a call from a local congressman in Omaha that the Democratic Party was having dinner with certain donors in Washington D.C. and would be hosted by the president and I would get to talk with him. So, I said, I would go. I spent two or three hours at dinner sitting across from President Clinton. I talked to him and teased him that on one hand, America believes in democracy and supports democratic countries but has not been friendly to India. The US Presidents had gone to communist countries like China, but not to India. We began discussing this and that is how our friendship began. We met again later on and Clinton wanted me to go to Bermuda as Counsel General and then Fiji as an ambassador. But it is a lot of bureaucracy and I was running a company at the time, so I declined.

Although Gupta is 74-years old, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. According to the businessman, retirement isn’t a word in his vocabulary. Gupta’s father was a doctor and practiced medicine up to his death at the age of 95. He plans to follow in his father’s footsteps of working as long as possible.

Vinod, with so much success in business, what is your advice to entrepreneurs these days? Is it easier or more difficult to become a successful entrepreneur in 2021 than in 1972?

I would say much easier because the economy is much bigger. The technological advancements have been terrific. There are a lot more opportunities for owners of small businesses. There are more opportunities for entrepreneurs to be successful. You can just see Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, and all of these people; they have created huge enterprises.

Do you think you will ever retire from the business world or is it too difficult to give it up after so many years working as a CEO?

I don’t know. I don’t believe in retirement! It isn’t a word in my vocabulary. I enjoy running businesses or investing in businesses or buying businesses. I guess it’s in my blood. I just love it. My dad was 95 and was a doctor. He worked until the day he died. He would always say, never retire, retirement is overstated. Just keep on working that will keep you active and engaged.

Vinod, what is a day in your life like?

Every day is basically a good day. I wake and I feel like it’s a new life. I thank God that I woke up.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

Maybe, they don’t know about the philanthropic aspect or my work in my village in India.

Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?

I would say one is by Gandhi. He said, about customers, “We are here for the customers. We aren’t doing the customer a favor; they are doing us a favor by being our customer.” I thought that was a great quote by Gandhi because he was a lawyer in South Africa and understood the value of the client. When I saw that quote in somebody’s office, I asked, “Are you sure that is a quote by Gandhi?” To me that is a great quote. The other quote I would say is, it really touches the heart of JFK and is from his inaugural speech. It is, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I would say those two are pretty memorable quotes.

Finally, if you had the power to change something in the past, what would it be?

Oh, a lot of things I would change. Maybe spend more time with the family. I think in business, you become so engaged that you don’t spend enough time with the family. Really to spend more time with the kids.

Gupta’s businesses continue to do great things, but he is more than just a serial entrepreneur. Of course, he is a businessman first, but also a philanthropist seeking to help others. By dedicating himself to his career and pursuing professional interests, Gupta has achieved more than many entrepreneurs. From $100 in 1972 to millions of dollars in 2021, he still hasn’t forgotten about his home village, Rampur Maniharan, which has kept his feet on the ground all these years.

For more information on Vinod Gupta and Infofree, please visit Infofree.com

View original article from Totalprestige Magazine

 


Factors Influencing the Consumer Decision Process

Consumer Decision Process

Several factors influence the decision-making process of consumers. The way the product is marketed, how consumers think, what situations they are put into, and how society runs all impact consumers’ decisions to buy. Understanding what influences and persuades consumers to buy can help any business boost their sales and marketing spend in the right direction.

Here are the factors you should learn to get a better understanding of the influences affecting how consumers make their purchase decisions.

Marketing Mix

Marketers focus on multiple areas to increase the appeal of their product or service. The marketing mix includes the four Ps: product, price, placement, and promotion.

Product – a product or service that a consumer decides whether it satisfies his or her needs or wants. Marketers emphasize the differentiation in their product to help influence consumers’ decisions.

Price – what is the product or service valued at and what are consumers are willing to pay for it. Must consider the value-based pricing but also cost-based pricing.

Placement – includes placement in the marketplace, but also which stores and specific product placement in a physical store, online, or both where consumers would come across the product or service.

Promotion – where and how consumers see your product or service. Marketers must decide the best mediums to use to reach their target market.

Psychological Factors

The way people receive a marketing message is influenced tremendously by different psychological factors. These factors include motives, attitudes, perceptions, learning, and lifestyle.

Motives – a need or want that is strong enough to cause the person to seek satisfaction. When a need is not satisfied, it motivates us, or drives us, to get satisfaction. Marketers can motivate consumers through physiological needs, safety needs, love needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization.

Attitudes – a person’s enduring evaluation of his or her feelings about behavioral tendencies toward an object or idea, consists of three components: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. Cognitive reflects what a person believes to be true. Affective reflects what a person feels about the issue at hand – his or her like or dislike of something. Behavioral comprises the actions a person takes concerning the issue at hand. Marketers can change consumers’ attitudes through persuasive communications and personal experiences.

Perceptions – how consumers select, organize, and interpret information to form a meaningful picture of the world. Marketing influences our acquisition and consumption of goods and services through our tendency to assign meaning to such things as color, symbols, taste, and packaging.

Learning – change in a person’s thought process or behavior that arises from experience and takes place throughout the consumer decision process. Learning affects both attitudes and perceptions. Each time consumers are exposed to information about a product or service they learn something different that affects their perception.

Lifestyle – the way consumers spend their time and money to live. For many consumers, they choose between whether the product or service fits with their actual lifestyle or their perceived lifestyle.

Social Factors

External factors from the social environment such as family, reference groups, and culture all influence a consumer’s decision to buy.

Family – many purchase decisions are made about products or services that the entire family will consumer or use therefore, consumers often consider the needs of all family members. Children and adolescents play an increasingly important role in family buying decisions so, it’s vitally important to have control over influencing this group.

Reference group – whom an individual uses as a basis for comparison regarding beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. These groups affect buying decisions by offering information, providing rewards for specific purchasing behaviors, and enhancing a consumer’s self-image. A reference group can include family, friends, co-workers, famous people, etc.

Culture – the basis of social factors that influence consumer behavior and affect buying decisions. Culture can be as small as a reference group or as big as the country in which you live, or the religion you practice.

Situational Factors

Factors specific to the situation that sometimes override or at least influence the other two factors, psychological and social issues.

Purchase situation – customers might be predisposed to purchase certain products or services because of some underlying psychological trait or social factor, but these factors may change in certain purchase situations. For example, Lucy considers herself a thrifty shopper. Her best friend’s birthday is coming up, and she wants to get her a watch. If the watch was for herself, she would probably go to JC Penny. But since it’s for her friend, she went to Michael Kors because she wanted to get something fitting for the special occasion.

Shopping situation – consumers might be ready to purchase a product or service but be completely derailed once they arrive in the store. Marketers can use several techniques to influence consumers at this stage of the decision process. These techniques include store atmosphere, salespeople, crowding (customers and shelf packing), in-store demonstrations, promotions, and packaging.

Temporal state – consumers’ state of mind at any particular time can alter their preconceived notions of what they are going to purchase. Time of day, mood, weather, etc. can all affect a consumer purchasing decision.

 

Information gathered from Grewal, Dhruv, and Michael Levy. Marketing. 5th ed., McGraw Hill Education, 2017.

 


Create a Winning Sales Campaign

Create a Winning Sales Campaign

Confidence and strategy – the two things you need to create a successful sales campaign. Sales campaigns are used as a strategy to boost the sale of products and services in a limited amount of time. The purpose is to inch current leads closer to making their purchase or to grab new consumers’ attention to notice you and convince them to buy.

Check out this list of strategies and tips that will help you create a winning sales campaign.

1. Know who Your Audience is

Knowing your target audience is an essential part of creating and delivering a campaign, whether it’s a promotional campaign, marketing campaign, or sales campaign. Harvard Business found that 85% of 30,000 new product launches in the US failed to generate desired revenue due to poor market segmentation. Imagine where those products could be today had they used their money and resources to target the correct market.

There are many ways to find your audience. It does take some extra time and effort, but it will eventually pay off as marketers who have used segmentation in emails have seen a 760% increase in revenue. Learn how to find your target audience in Find Your Target Market.

2. Create Killer Content

Marketers have minimal time to grab the viewer’s attention. Those initial couple seconds make or break the consumer’s decision to interact. Creating killer content will ensure that the consumer is going to pay attention to your campaign.

To create effective content, you must think like your customers. Understand what they like, dislike, what they want out of a product – the values, benefits, features they look for in that product. Relevant content reflects an understanding of your consumer. Once you know your consumer, it’ll be much easier to create content that will grab their attention.

The best content is that of which the consumer can picture what it’s like to be a consumer you’ve already helped. Storytelling is becoming among the most popular type of content.

Know some facts:

  • Subject lines with more than 3 words experience a drop in opening by over 60%. [ContactMonkey]
  • Email marketing has a two times higher ROI than cold calling, networking or trade shows. [MarketingSherpa]
  • 58% of your audience will stop watching video within the first 90seconds. [JoegGirard.ca]
  • Viewers retain 58% of what they see but only 10% of what they read.
  • After a presentation, 63% of attendees remember the stories told. Only 5% remember statistics. [Dan & Chip Heath]

3. Follow up

All your time and effort so far will go to waste if you don’t follow up with new and existing prospects. In the content consuming world we live in, consumers can often forget what they saw, which doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested.

Follow-ups can act as a reminder. With so much on everyone’s plate and lots of content to process daily, a nice reminder can often jump-start the person into action.

Follow-ups also allow you to gain an understanding of a consumer’s hesitation and work to persuade them otherwise. They build credibility and allows you to tell prospects more about your business rather than them finding information on their own.

Nurturing your prospect through the decision-making process gives you the advantage and helps you persuade them to make the final decision to buy.

4. Get Personal

An effective campaign will speak directly to the person’s wants and needs. This means you need to break your target market down even further. Create different content for different segments and get even more personalized for different targeting.

Micromarketing or one-to-one marketing is the most specific you can get, tailoring a product or service to suit an individual customer. While this would be best, it’s often not practical. That’s why we suggest using a concentrated targeting strategy. This strategy involves selecting a single, primary target market, and focusing all your energies on providing a product to fit that market’s needs.

Personalization is key. It makes the consumer feel like you care about their wants and needs. Something as simple as including their name in an email is personalized enough to increase the chances of them opening and engaging with your campaign.

5. Build familiarity

Design touchpoints around your target market to build familiarity and leverage yourself above others. Seeing your company here and there will create familiarity with your product/service in the consumer’s eye. While a consumer might not need your product or service at the time the touchpoints are delivered, it will stick with them and done right, reappear when you need it to most.

Consumers are more likely to buy products and services from companies they have seen before.

6. Use the data as you go

With automated reports and analytics, we can see our campaign progress in real-time. There is no more guessing or waiting months for results. Utilizing reports through social media, A/B testing, google analytics, etc. will help you improve your sales campaign.

Given enough data, you can adjust your campaign in real-time (make sure you’re getting, at the very least, three weeks of data before adjusting). Alter your approach, tweak your segmentation, and add new mediums to create an even better sales campaign.

 

Prepared to start a sales campaign but aren’t sure if it’s right for you? Check out the Advantages and Disadvantages of Sales Campaigns.

 


Find Your Target Market

Target Market

We have seen it numerous times, businesses not realizing they are missing a huge opportunity because they are either targeting the wrong market entirely or so focused on one target market they don’t notice the large chunk of people coming from another.

It’s crucial that businesses find their prefect target market. Before diving in you must first understand that a target market does not encompass your entire selling market. A target market is those who really want or need your offering, the people most excited about your product, and most likely to buy over others. These are the people you want to direct your marketing campaign towards.

Here are some tips for finding your perfect target market:

1. Gather information about your company

Figure out what problems your product/service solves. Be as specific as possible as this will help you narrow your audience down. Once you know the problem you’re solving, find the characteristics of those that have the problem.

Next, identify what features and benefits your product/service offers. Features are something your product has or is, while benefits are the outcomes or results that users will (hopefully) experience by using your product or service.

The overall question here is, what will the customer get out of using your specific product or service?

2. Analyze your current customers

The best way to find your target market is by learning who is already buying your product/service. Learn their demographics, interests, behaviors, what benefits they get out of the product/service. You want to know how they think and act.

Once you have a general idea of your current customer base, you’ll want to highlight the similarities between them to come up with your top customers.

Website and social media analytics are great resources to gather this information. Analytic tools help to see who is visiting, buying, and exploring your website or social media. It also shows how long they spend exploring your website, where they’re located, what industry they work in, their interests, and more. Do not be afraid to also reach out to your existing customers to survey them too.

3. Analyze your competitors’ customers

You can find out a lot about your potential customers by researching your competitors. This research will show if competitors have been successful at attracting specific types of customers and whether or not you should be trying to attract those customers too.

You can learn basic information about your competitor’s customers by looking at their social media accounts and searching through their followers and likes on their posts. If your competitor has a physical store you can also check out who is shopping there.

4. Conduct market research

Conduct secondary and primary research to gain more insight. Secondary research is any outside research done about your company or industry. Gather information from other resources that will help find your target market. Primary research is research done by you. Create a survey to gather information on your current customers and everyday people. Ask about their demographics, interests, perceptions of your product and your competition, what services or products they would like to see, etc. Ask any questions that would prove helpful in finding your key market.

5. Complete your customer profile

Once you’ve gathered all the information you can, compile a complete profile of your perfect customer. If you offer more than one product or service, you might have multiple target markets. Your profile should include both demographic and psychographic information. From here, you can work on how best to market and advertise to your target market.

 

The most important and toughest thing to avoid in finding your target market is making assumptions. Let the information you gather tell you who your best and most popular customers are, do not draw your own conclusions.

You must also note that your target market is flexible and always evolving. Knowing who you are targeting and continually refining it will ensure you’re on the right track.