Mili Kataria

Head Branding & Marketing – Hesa | Founder @ Pandora’s Box | Mentor – I help Startups understand and explore their Core & translate it into their Growth Story | Passion that drives me – #Impact1founderAday

As against popular opinion, impressing rural audience is not an easy task. They are the first ones to call you out or question your motives behind an activity or an action. However, on the bright side, they are the last ones to lose faith in you and your capability, once you have their loyalty, it is rock-solid, until you do something drastically anti their trust.

For understanding what works and what does not work in the rural markets, let’s come to the basic understanding of Marketing. Marketing is the act of showcasing your product or service to its potential audience in order to make an impression on that potential audience. This process of marketing does finally lead to Sales and the loyalty of these converted consumers.

To market your product or service in this market, you have to make an effort to understand what your audience expects from you. Are they looking at some kind of benefits, some freebies, huge discounts, proper incentives to use your product, etc.? All these questions can be answered by simply identifying them and understanding what makes them click. It is imperative we understand the psyche behind the consumers in the rural market. I would like to start with making a list of their traits first. In a typical village household:

  • The male is the head in the house and hence, the decision maker (while this trend is changing at a rapid pace).
  • That brings us to the other aspect of the earning hierarchy, this male head is often, not always, the sole earning member of the family as well.
  • Income is extremely sparse or extremely good, there is no concept of mediocrity here.
  • They are more inclined towards paying mostly in cash for any product or service.
  • The unorganized lending ecosystem is very strong in these rural parts – again the reason behind this is villagers don’t easily trust outsiders.
  • Pride plays a very important role in any kind of decision making, be it going to a particular barber for a haircut to buying the latest vehicle within the family.
  • Tech in the form of smart phones, is becoming readily available and with that their knowledge of social media and other applications is increasing.

Having identified what are the typical traits of a rural decision-maker, we are looking at a potential untapped audience of more than 65% of India’s total population that still lives in the rural villages of India. Which is more than half of the entire Indian population concentrated in villages that are not easily accessible or reachable.

Marketing and modes of reaching out to this rural market should also be different from the normal way we reach out to the urban and tech-savvy audience. We will also need to make sure that mobilizing marketing campaigns will have to be sourced locally, with those who understand the terrain, consumers, financial outlook etc., of these potential audience. In short, it is not easy to market in the rural markets.

This brings us back to our topic ‘Marketing in the Rural’ or ‘Marketing with the Rural’?

I would like to go with ‘Marketing with the Rural’, as we all now understand if our potential audience is not with us, we can’t market our products and services to them. We will have to ensure there is a certain buy-in from our audience to get them to trust our products and services. Within this boundary whatever has to be done to gain our audience’s trust, their loyalty, their consensus, we have to do that by identifying the various marketing outreach modes which can be effectively used:

  • Influencer Marketing:

Identify local, rural influencers who are looked upon and whose words can’t be taken lightly. You might just get the best influencer who is probably the priest at the village or is the barber in the village…

  • Area Centric Marketing:

Studying the area to understand the terrain, climate, logistical availability, local rules and regulations, etc., has to be foremost in taking a decision on this kind of marketing mode. Eg., if the village has a regulation of not putting up banners outside shops, houses or even common places, then you can’t get banners put up in this village, it will be pulled down, which tarnishes your brand image and brings negativity in the village community for your brand.

  • Brand Building:

The best way to communicate your brand across to your audience is to push content through awareness building activities, you can look at something that will add value to them through regular exposure, instead of becoming box-pushers.

  • Video Marketing

With the availability of smart phones increasing from a 36.5% in 2018, to 67.6% in 2021, consumption of Video Content is also going up in similar proportions. Testimonials, DIYs, Did you knows, etc., are some of the ways to engage the rural audience.

  • Referral Marketing

The best way to sure shot acceptance with the rural audience is being referred. Yes, like I had mentioned, once we win over the rural audience, we win them over for good. This reflects through their appreciation of your product and service, by referring you to their known people.

  • Community Marketing

Within the rural consumers, similar interest groups or communities are a high possibility, as these communities help them focus their efforts and learn by knowledge sharing. In times of need, these communities become the support system of many a villagers and help them through crisis. Getting the trust of one of the community members is like winning over the entire community.

  • WhatsApp Marketing

This has picked up really well in recent years, every household has a smart phone & that has lead them to download of free communication apps like a WhatsApp, Telegram, which in turn makes communication within themselves and outside world very easy and available on the fingertips, even if you are not that tech.

  • Educational Marketing

This is more on the lines of giving them a tool to learn from so that they don’t have to rely on outside intervention or hearsay to take decision on buying a particular product or service. This makes our audience independent and also well-equipped in the long run to make informed decisions.

The above stated marketing modes are a combination of both traditional & digital marketing, it all depends on how you would like to bring your audience to realize the true value of your product or service.

In 2002, two decades back, CK Prahalad wrote his first publication about “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid”. He then wrote his book in 2005, and much has been written even since. While CK Prahalad’s philosophy to access the 4 billion bottom of the pyramid (BOP) pool to enable MNC’s to drive sales by reinventing their product lines and marking strategies, might have been great, things have now changed significantly. In todays’ day and age, marketers need to realize that the rural India which forms a significant part of this BOP population have evolved over the past two decades. They are more tech savvy and much wiser. Today just marketing to this segment will not bring returns, today we need to add value to the rural population, and truly devise strategies to “Market With” them.

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