In the context of a more interactive world, the old rules of marketing are quickly falling by the wayside. From an era of TV commercials aimed at mass markets, where the consumer was a passive spectator, we have moved into a world where consumers are not only interacting with the products / brands they like or hate, but also sharing their likes and dislikes with other consumers in real time on the web / mobile web. Feedback is easy and instantaneous and the rules of the game are changing rapidly.
Seth Godin in this 2003 talk, argues that when consumers are faced with way too many choices and have too little time, the most obvious thing for them to do is to ignore stuff. So if your product or service doesn’t stand out and if the people at the fringes of the normal distribution curve don’t care about it, then you have a loser on hand. He further stresses that being remarkable and appealing to a smaller section of loyal innovators (consumers) is more important in today’s world than being mediocre and mass market. Watch this fantastic TED clip from Seth.
Looking back at our trajectory in the global VA space, GetFriday certainly wasn’t the first virtual assistant service on this planet. In fact, the concept of virtual assistants has existed for decades in the US and other parts of the developed world. These were mostly people who were employed as secretaries or assistants in large corporations who at some point decided to get out of it and work on their own terms with a select few clients from the comforts of their home / home office. All very good as long as you knew your clients very well and have had shared a good relationship with them for a very long time. But that was unremarkable and wasn’t something that caught people’s attention. Not yet!
With technology enabling really cheap long distance communication via the net and the emergence of tools such as google, there was an opportunity that emerged. Through a stroke of luck, we ended up doing the most bizarre things for a journalist (AJ Jacobs of Esquire) like reading a bed time story to his child in NYC from 10,000 miles away in India. It seemed really queer at that point of time (2005), but was indeed a remarkable thing to attempt and carried a good amount of shock value. And its success proved an important point that it didn’t need a huge corporation’s might and machinery to be able to work with someone on the other side of the globe. With the Internet, it was all possible. That caught people’s fancy and created the first wave for personal outsourcing.
And the next important thing for your idea to spread is to find a bunch of people who really care. People who are really passionate about what you do and then hope that they will tell their friends about it. GetFriday literally grew from zero to where we are now on zero marketing budgets only through client referrals or word of mouth. This is not to say, that we had impeccable service all through. We have had our fair share of terrible slip ups, errors and inconsistencies due to a host of reasons. But people who knew what to expect and how to make it work (your band of faithfuls), really manage to reap the benefits and eventually becomes evangelists for the service. And hopefully if you manage to keep and grow this flock steadily, at some stage you will reach a inflection point where it can explode. Facebook, Twitter, Wiki are all good examples for this.
It is difficult but not impossible to do it provided you understand the new rules of the game and start playing by it!