Monthly Archives: December 2010

Thirty years experience

Today’s Dilbert strip got me thinking.

Much is made in business of the need for experience. Experience defines us, provides us with credibility and a customer base prepared to engage with, and even recommend, us.

But when is too much experience actually counter productive? When does too much time spent working in the niche negatively affect our ability to diversify and maintain business flexibility and agility? At what point does doing the same thing the same way begin to stifle creativity?

Only you can really know. If you haven’t wrestled with this thought and have failed to land or have lost contracts, maybe its time you did. The world has changed. Have you?

Ten ways to improve business efficiency and profit

Conventional wisdom suggests that in times of economic downturn we should shut up shop, limit expenditure and curtail growth and the exploration of opportunity.

Yet brands such as Hyatt, Burger King, FedEx, Microsoft, HP and GE are heralded as recession start ups that went on to be world beaters. And currently companies like Groupon, Zynga (‘Farmville’), Twitter, Asana and Ustream are securing funding and growing exponentially.

Here’s my take on ten business issues that if handled well, could stimulate greater productivity, efficiency and steer your business to greater profit.

1. Have a vision

Having strategic vision is central to all business success. Any entrepreneur will tell you that whilst there may have been some luck, they knew exactly what they wanted to do and where they wanted to arrive. Have something to work towards however small, lofty or material!

2. Share your vision

Seems obvious but do all your employees know unequivocally want you want to achieve? What about your customers, suppliers, partners? Imagine the opportunities if you shared your vision with them and made them stakeholders in your future success. It’s a controversial approach and could be taken in steps, but if you don’t commit plans to paper and them voice them, there is a great risk they won’t amount to anything.

3. Key account vs. any account

Is your business model to work hard with a small number of market leading bigger spenders, or a large pool of smaller customers. There are merits of both approaches but it might be time to rethink this now.

4. Inhouse vs. outsourced

In a bid to keep control of costs, you may be keeping everything inhouse but in so doing you are lacking the clarity and expertise that could be brought to bear by third parties. It might be in your interests to outsource some aspects of your business – accounts, debt chasing, marketing, IT, human resources to dedicated specialists so you can concentrate on production, quality and providing superior customer service. Think about where your people are deployed and where the bottlenecks are.

Tim Ferris penned an interesting book, The Four Hour Week on the power and freedom that can be created by extreme outsourcing. Ultimately it comes down understanding and appreciating the value of time and what your time is best spent doing?

5. Actual vs. virtual

In the new converged global economy, the ability to create a business and to work more nimbly and flexibly than slow lumbering competitors with huge overheads that are passed onto customers has never been easier.

Do you need a physical location to drive your business, and can it be delivered virtually. Sure there will be a need for key back-office functions, but the pride of having leafy, fully furnished offices, a car park full of expensed cars and the latest computer technology are simply folly. And you’ll have to work harder to pay for it all.

6. Software vs. the cloud

Software and licenses are a massive cost to business, depending on what sort of activities your company is engaged in you will be spending many thousands on Microsoft, Adobe and other packages.

An increasing number of companies are moving to the cloud and utilizing platforms like Google Docs which work with traditional branded products. And companies are migrating databases, email design and campaign management, dispatch and analytics online too, with Salesforce, DotMailer, and Campaign Monitor amongst the most popular.

7. Development vs. recruitment

A new recruit can cost salary + 25% or more in the first year alone if sourced using a recruitment agent. And there are no guarantees that there will be a good cultural fit or that they will perform in the role. So that 3-6 months looking, and 3-12 months of learning curve just cost you 18 months. Better to develop passionate individuals, like at BDB, where most recruits are language graduates who are put through the Chartered Institute of Marketing and grounded in marketing and PR on international client accounts.

8. Traditional vs digital marketing

The obvious answer is both, but integrated and linked to measurable objectives so you can be sure you are doing the right things to move the business in the right direction and towards your vision. Advertise selectively to drive awareness and interest, use PR to build reputation, attend trade shows and virtual events to showcase yourself, develop social media profiles to support search engine optimisation and audience engagement and launch a relationship management program to tie in customers and warm prospects.

9. Outbound vs inbound

Outbound, though still relevant, is declining as cold calling is being replaced by warm social media generated lead generation. Investment in inbound content driven marketing initiatives like blogs, white papers, video, webinars to drive engagement all take time but separate innovative, leading companies from the aspirational, the restricted and the lazy.

10.  Multiple agencies vs. single agency

If you are outsourcing, are you getting best value. Agencies are naturally inquisitive, challenging and competitive. If you run a pool of agencies are the responsibilities clearly delineated and understood by all? Do you provide clear transparent briefs that are understood? Perhaps your business doesn’t warrant several suppliers and would benefit from one supplier developing a deeper relationship with you? It will certainly save you time and money.

Much of this post is about focus. Doing the same in 2011 isn’t going to be enough. Equally though, deviating from what you do well isn’t a smart approach either. The businesses that will thrive are those that make the best use of their people, their contacts, their creative thinking and emerging technology. But isn’t that how its always been?

Top image  Smart Garment People

The digital nativity

Doesn’t really need or warrant explanation but this YouTube upload which is quickly gathering viral pace, is an excellent take on the standard Christmas story, but with a digital twist. Cleverly exploring the impact of digital on our daily life, it has seen over 60,000 views since posting two days ago. It’s a great piece of work. Enjoy.

How to develop influential presentations

I stumbled across some interesting presentations on Slideshare this weekend and thought I’d share. I really feel that if you give presentations of any kind to any audience, regardless of your experience, there is something here for everyone.

This first takes on the ‘keep it simple’ approach and after some strategic preamble, gets really interesting at the slide 43 where it melds content with design. As I’m preparing for a number of conference presentations and lectures in 2011, slides 43-71 are consequently invaluable.

Then I stumbled across PresentationZen, a very simple but very effective presentation summary.

Finally, I happened upon Peter Walker’s ‘The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs’. Quite simply awesome. So much interesting stuff in here, but for me, it’s the central messages about planning and practice that really resonate.

Best b2b social media tools: video

Video hosting online has been greatly simplified thanks to sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Companies and brands can now be brought to life with engaging moving content in a way not even possible five years ago.

And with emerging digital tools including email, Twitter, Linkedin and blogs, finding an audience that will view, like and in turn share your content is easier as well.

Hence the explosion in online video. It is estimated that 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every second of the day and that billions of videos are watched every day.

Why use it for b2b?

YouTube is now a search engine in its own right. Video search is accounting for more and more of online search, with some commentators putting the figure as high as 50%. This makes profiles on sites like YouTube and Vimeo an essential part of your digital strategy. Call it social media optimization – where you use social media and file sharing sites to post content and boost your search engine optimization.

Consider using video if you have a compelling story to tell and the written word just doesn’t cut it. Or, if you need to deliver key messages in a more informative, engaging format. Or, if you actively want content to go viral.

The added attraction of online hosted video is that if it hits any of these buttons, the available options to browsers are huge – from embedding it another web page to tweeting, emailing and posting links all over the Internet.

But, don’t look to video if it is a one-off project, if you don’t like being in front of the camera, or if you don’t want to risk the video’s popularity running away with itself.

How to get started?

This isn’t a post about the mechanics of creating a video. For that, I recommend you visit the excellent Social Media Examiner site and this video blogging post in particular. That will set you off down the path with the right equipment, shooting and editing, together with some guidance and further reading on uploading and sharing elements.

Instead, this post concentrates on the why, how to get started and the sorts of content that you might consider as a b2b marketer.

As a starting point, register accounts with both YouTube and Vimeo. Aim to reserve the same profile names as other online and social media platforms as this makes it much easier to integrate and for people to remember you. Once this is done, you will own those profile names.

The challenge is then to either repackage and reformat what you have, or create new content. On the repackaging side, consider existing video material, animations and presentations that are already available within your business. Could these be edited, captioned and set to music or a commentary and uploaded as new content? Are there opportunites to refocus existing blog articles, press articles, conference presentations into bite-size ‘how to’ videos?

Some ways you could effectively use video to build interest in what you do include

–       Hosting conference presentations

–       Trade show highlights (whether it involves you, customers or the media)

–       Providing customer testimonials

–       Delivering relevant industry and expert interviews

–       Introducing key staff with video profiles

–       Video blogging

–       Video ‘how to’ guides

–       Product demonstrations

–       Corporate video

I’ve deliberately relegated ‘the usual stuff’ to the bottom of the list, which isn’t exclusive. Above all, have some fun. If your video is contrived, it will look contrived.

An example

It’s consumer but kitchen blenders are perhaps one of the dullest appliances in the home. But, not if it’s a Blendtec. Sales have increased 500% as a result of their innovative ‘will it blend’ site and promotional videos which have seen anything from phones to ipods and golf balls to shovels tested in their blenders.

Blendtec’s YouTube account hosts 103 short videos, has 344,000 followers  and has been viewed over 6 million time on YouTube – with many millions more on aggregation!

Summary

Like all other content, approach video from the perspective that it will endure, it could go viral and it will represent your business in an exciting way.

Stylistically, try to avoid talking heads by mixing establishing shots with head shots and audio. Think about the two minute videos on the regional TV news. If there is lots of content, split it across several uploads.

And remember, you’re not making a Hollywood blockbuster. The best viral video is rough around the edges.

What examples of great video content have you created or found online?

Top image www.viralblog.com

Seven ways Twitter can work for your business

Click the image below to read my latest blog post for the BDB Marketing Blog.

Top Tweets of the Week we 10 Dec 2010

Hope you’ve had a great week. Here are a few things that inspired, educated, informed and entertained me this week.

Mon – Incredible: RT @jeffbullas: 90 Tips To Make Your Blog Rock http://bit.ly/hfuq2x

Mon – 15 of the lamest Google Ads ever http://t.co/pzRAzx4 via @Econsultancy

Tues – RT @TomPick How to Make PR and Social Media Work Together | Webbiquity | B2B Marketing Blog http://bit.ly/eTxVn7

Weds – Why Klout doesn’t count: putting social media influence in context http://t.co/Lm5988b via @Econsultancy

Fri -What’s the next big idea in B2B? http://t.co/TrACPzv via @MLTCreative

And finally, purely for comedy value, check out this dopey arsenist who gets outmanoeuvred by a lampost fleeing the scene of the crime http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-11942814

Have a great weekend! RP