The New Rules of Food & Telecommunications


I was reading on Fast Company an article that caught my attention. It was entitled “The New Rules of Food”, and it was about how in the past couple of years, with the rise in specialty and niche food start-ups, it is possible to see a similar success plan in the start-ups that are making it.

Not only this article grabbed my attention because it talks about one of my favourite topics, food, but also because as a marketeer, I often try to look for patterns in other industries that help me to understand better my own industry, telecommunications.

The 4 rules below, stated in the article, are in my opinion as insightful for food start-ups, as they are for large telecommunication companies.

1. Make simple food = Make simple offers

The preparation of food involves the combination of different materials. Similarly, to launch an offer, telecommunication companies have to put together different products, services and communication activities. Simple food allows for easier processes, logistics and often easier understanding and greater enjoyment of customers of what exactly they are eating. The same way, simple offers make customers understand better the value they get, are easier to monitor and report, are scalable and adaptable in the systems, and also communication is much more effective.

2. Cook in the dark = Use in the dark

Start-ups rent kitchen space from bakeries or caterers after hours, because kitchens are expensive. So a dark, as in night-time, market has emerged, making efficient use of current resources. In telecommunications, there has been historically a differentiation between peak/off-peak offers. However, these served mostly the interests of the company, rather than the interests of end-customers, with peak hours more expensive than off-peak. However, there is an opportunity to use spare network capacity and benefit customers. In some countries, as for example in South Africa, this has been developed in what is called Dynamic Pricing, where the price-per-minute decreases according to the higher available capacity in the location where the customer is at that moment (to the level of each individual antenna). It is a tremendous success with customers. 

3. Follow the roads = Follow the market

Food startups need very well connected roads. Logistics, food supplies and customers depend all on them. So their physical presence in locations that gather all these conditions is of extreme importance. One would say that this should happen also for telecommunication companies. They need to be physically close to where their crucial business levers are. The question now becomes, what are these physical levers where telecommunication companies need to set their offices and practices around? There are probably many opportunities to re-locate certain areas of these companies, that do not depend on location for performance, and centralize these operations. This can lead to significant large scale efficiencies.

4. Feed for free = Use for free

People might be skeptical of change and what is new, but they rarely turn down giveaways. Giveaways are a significant component of customer value management in telecommunications. The key to this connection is basic human behaviour. For customers to adopt, they often need to try first. If you buy a TV, you want to see the image quality first. If you buy a computer, you would like to see how fast it works first. If you buy a book, you will want to read reviews or ask friends about it first. Experience and recommendations are powerful adoption drivers. And before customers buy a package, if they can use it for free and experience its value, the take-up is then much higher compared with cold selling. In saturated telecommunication markets, isn’t this a rule that makes ever more sense?

Despite the fact that these two industries are miles away, I believe that there are learnings to be made from the key success factors behind food start-ups for telecommunication companies. I am getting hungry now…

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