Over the last 20 years, the MVNO offering has evolved in ways we could have never imagined. And recently, we’ve witnessed a boom of new players in the space. Their emergence can, for the most part, be attributed to a drastic change in selling patterns across the market. Here, we hear from a selection of MVNO experts who share lessons learnt from this movement and offer tips on how to capture new clients – and hold onto them.
“If, 18 months ago, you’d have asked me about the most effective sales technique that we’re using today, I’d have without a doubt said both independent retail and offline,” says Mayur Jauhari, Director of Marketing and Digital at Lebara UK. “But the impact of the pandemic has meant that today we predominantly rely on online.
“In fact, a third of our sales now come via a broad mix of social, display and PPC. We also heavily incentivise our customers with cash to bring their family and friends to Lebara.”
Daniel Oh, Deputy Head of Sales Channel and Distribution at TuneTalk, Malaysia, describes a similar
experience that has also seen his business turn to incentivisation. “Ten years ago, we all talked about offline,” he says. “We needed to have touchpoints and service points for our customers that were easily reachable from their house or place of work. But even before the pandemic, the problem that we had was manpower. We had people just sitting in retailers waiting for a customer to walk into the shop.
“To counter this, we created a programme that allows retailers to recruit people under them. These people help sell outside of the physical shops. If you think about the saying ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ Well, we’ve taken this even further by creating fishermen under fishermen. And these fishermen, or resellers, receive a long-term revenue of shares. This approach has a great deal more direct reach for us than both online and offline.”
For, Sivakumar Kuppusamy, Founder of Aerovoyce, a family-first approach has reaped rewards for the business during a challenging 18 months. “Today, we are using a micro distributor model,” he says. “We go to a community and choose a family member or someone from a group of friends, and he or she will be a micro distributor for us, by which I mean they’ll sell to 15 or 20 people, no more than that. We’ve found this to be really quite effective, so much so that we’re working on rolling this out across India as a whole, at least until the pandemic is over. Then we’ll change tack again.”
Online vs. offline
“The reality is both online and offline work well for different audiences and markets – it’s about finding the right balance,” says Jauhari. “Some customers want the assistance before or instead of self-selecting. They’re unsure of the features and need to be reassured as to why a particular product is good for them. Then there’s the distribution angle. If something is available next door, I’m more likely to consume that compared to something that’s not close by.
“In an online scenario, the look and feel, the physicality of the brand, isn’t there. There is nobody trying to sell it to you. In a situation like that, you have to make sure the experience is good enough to be self-served. This incorporates everything that defines the product and the service, from the colours of the phones to the language and tone of voice used. The price, of course, the network and the simplicity your website.”
Jignesh Dave, Founder and CEO of NextCellular, a division of Next360 in South Africa, maintains that, when it comes on online and offline, it shouldn’t be a case of either/or. “I always compare MVNO with FMCG in that it’s all about region penetration,” he says. “You have to be at arm’s reach of your customer. For me, online vs. offline isn’t even a debate – you just have to be part of it.”
He goes on to explain that, at NextCellula, they’ve divided their digital segment into earned, owned and paid. “The media I own is eCommerce, my social media pages. Earned are platforms like panel events that we have secured the right to be at. And paid media are things like Google Campaigns and advertisement campaigns. That’s how we personally look at our channels.
“What’s more, we don’t subscribe to B2B vs. B2C in terms of products, selling or marketing. For us it’s all just H2H – human to human.”
Testing, tweaking and an open mindset
Above all, our experts stress the importance of agility. “You have to keep your eyes and ears open to the situation on the ground, especially because of the pandemic,” says Jauhari. “The underlying customer preferences around how they want to buy are rapidly changing and the question is not whether you go in one particular direction or the other. It is, as with most things, a combination. You’ll have to dial up some things and dial down others.
“The most important thing is to have an open mindset to try a lot of things, to tweak a lot of things, have an A/B test or a multivariate test mentality. And don’t be afraid to do things that haven’t been done in the past. We are living in a world where a lot of unprecedented things are happening and, as well as challenges, unprecedented events present opportunities.”
“It’s all about adapting and experimentation,” agrees Dave. “Look for opportunities within the challenges and move out of your comfort zone. I would also say, however, we always love our ideas and keep loving them, rather than testing them. Either scale or move away from it. That’s my two cents worth.”
“In the end, the one who wins is not the one who had the best plan,” adds Jauhari. “The one who wins is the one who adapts the best and the quickest.”