Sunday, June 18, 2006

Social Business Networks and Marketing

This article is about Personal Branding and the Marketing revolution.

I've been reading a few informative books and articles over the last few weeks and I am no marketing expert, but as an expert in business change I thought it might be fun to share some thoughts about the developments and hopefully promote some challenging debate here about Ecademy's role as a supporting toolset for developing out own personal branding to support our marketing needs.

When mankind first started trading he developed markets as a place to bring people together and allow them to demonstrate what they had and what they did and decide, there and then, whether to trade. Marketing was via experience of the product at the market, Of course they didn't have the means of communicating in the way we do today.

Marketing version 0.9
Originally, no printing, no email, no Internet, nothing. But by word of mouth and travelling some markets became popular and ultimately international. Where East met West markets for Spices and rare eastern goods sprung up to satisfy an increasing demand from the west who were prepared to travel long distances to buy and to sell.

Marketing Version 1.0
Printing came along and then the postal system and Marketeers began to put the technologies together. They had spent time developing advertising copy, collateral to describe their products and services and now they could start to send information to people they didn't know. They talked about what they knew to people who they didn't know in the hope of persuading a purchase. More and more Marketing became about putting the product in front of as many people as possible, of taking the known product to the unknown masses. One thing to many people.

Some have called this Marketing version 1.0. Marketing departments the world over controlled the message and the channel. They knew their target audience, but not their audience, they know the message they are sending but not the message that is received. They left the closure of the loop, the sales themselves, to the sales teams whose motivation was the deal and not feedback on how the message was working.

It works, don't get me wrong, it works, but it continues to involve huge sums of money.

New technologies (and new regulation) brought us to a new place - a place where email and phone marketing simply magnified the numbers and reach for products and services beyond expectation or our capability to control.

Marketeers realised (at about the same time as the regulators) that blanket mailing, emailing and calling, in the hope of finding the customer with the need and the desire to buy might be counter productive. Perhaps if they could engage in what looked like conversation and deal with individuals they might make more progress. Segmentation and channel focus became important. Companies started to talk to tighter subsets of their potential customers through controlled channels in a way that made the message look more personal. Ultimately, with full permission based marketing (and it's worth reading Seth Godin's seminal book on this subject - see here) it became possible to talk to individuals about their needs through a segmented advertising and marketing campaign structure. Potential customers effectively told the company about their preferences and chose who to be sold to. Marketing became dealing with selling the known to the known.

Collateral moved from paper to static websites (brochureware) and a web presence became a hygiene factor for businesses. Most people now look for a company and what it offers on the web before they make a decision.

This might be called Marketing version 1.5

The Dawn of Marketing v2.0
Blogging, network interactivity, chat, electronic rumours and the rise of social networks are forcing marketing to develop and evolve. What is being launched now is a whole new version with new ways of doing old stuff.

Social network sites with high blogging and electronic interaction do something that companies have never had to worry about. They allow customers to talk in real time about how the company is doing. They work around the globe around the clock. A rumour can become reality before you even know it was a thought. You no longer control the message you are just a part of the message machine with as much capability as everyone else, and as little. Even a short search on ecademy brings up some favourite enemies in the corporate world.

There is a big impact here, if a company does something new and radical it's often communicated very fast, especially if it is not liked. We now talk about experiences, and we talk about them in places where the words remain long after we have moved on ourselves.

If we do have a bad experience and we do blog about it, then within a few hours it's been picked up by the search engines and cached, whatever the company does and whatever we do to blog news about their great recovery, (even deleting the original post) we cannot remove the evidence of of our original posting. Perhaps others will have quoted from it, and, more importantly, cached copies exist for a long time and are easily found.

Socially networked marketing (Marketing v2.0) allows anyone to talk about you and your products to anyone without your permission and without your knowledge. Marketing is now about the unknown message to the unknown potential customer. It has become about conversations and communities.

There is only one way to be connected with both and that is to take part in them, to listen and contribute to the conversations and to support the community. In the long run corporates will get the message (and few have done so already) and join the fray, expect it to change. Because that is inevitable, but for a while we hold all the marketing cards for the corporate world.

Smaller businesses and the self employed have taken to Social Networks for support and help and gradually also to enhance their marketing. Your business may be small but your need to compete in the marketing pool for the attention of your clients is as real now as it was 30 years ago. It's just that right now, we have the tools to do this and we have the knowledge, and we have it way ahead of those with the money to drown out our message. It's the best time ever to drive personal brand to the forefront.

It's risky and that's why the corporate world is slow on the uptake. It's risky because companies no longer control the message that is being distributed about them. Perhaps the most famous example of a big corporation beginning to get the idea was General Motors who provided the tools and a load of snippets for members of the public to create their own advertisement for a Chevy Tahoe SUV. Many people started taking potshots, but many more enjoyed the opportunity and in the round GM reported significant success from the campaign. Here's a piece from the New York Times about it.

General Motors recognised that they could not censor the content that people came up with, They chose to let them all run and people respected them for their transparency and openness. The contest generated 4 million page views and 400,000 unique visitors. By most measures it was an outstanding success. Some of the results of this consumer generated material (CGM) can be found here - Although GM controlled the output they chose to use for traditional advertising these ads are not hard to find and GM have acknowledged that this is an important source of consumer feedback too

Mastercard ran a similar campaign too, for the 'Priceless' ads. Some of the submissions were, frankly, hilarious, but totally unsuitable for television.

The consensus is shifting, before too long the risks of not seeking consumer generated material might be higher than the risks of doing so, in any event it's likely that consumer generated material will be generated whether asked for or not.

Marketing 2.0 and Ecademy
Everything we do here we open to comment and challenge, we encourage people to talk about us when we are not there, we make it easy to be found by people we don't know and have them say things about us we cannot control, but based on what we are, what we do, how we come across and what we write. It has never been more important to be consistent, and it has never been more important to be open and transparent and accepting of others views.

My business works with senior people working for corporates and business executives and owners - I know that whenever I go to see them, whether to sell to them (and increasingly when being sold to by them too) I see that they have been to my company's website and searched for me (personally) on Google. They have my Ecademy profile. I expect them to check me out. The message is that we have to be consistent, we have to know what they will find, and we have to manage our image, our brand as well as we can.

This opportunity to gather material and build brand and knowledge and reach is here now and available for us to leverage through the Ecademy platform, for a tiny cost. Our opportunity to advocate others without being asked, of building and supporting the efforts of others is something that the corporates are only now beginning to invest in. Right now, when it's done right, people here can reach further and faster than their corporate competitors and those competitors can't move fast enough to catch us. Fantastic.......

William M Buist
Accelerating business success by making dysfunctional teams or newly formed teams effective - fast.
T: 01291 622598 E: W :

Click here to take a look at how successful businesses are when they do new things

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Just one quarter successful? - where's the business case for that?

I’m consistently taken aback by the results of survey after survey. I am finding that:

1. Just 25% of projects deliver or over deliver.
2. Over 25% of projects are cancelled before completion.
3. The remainder overspend or deliver less than expected, or both (and often are very late).
4. For those that overspend the average overspend is a whooping 189% of the original estimate
5. Benefit delivery averages 66% of original estimates

So we spend more, take longer and get less than we expected when we start to implement a change – A lot more, a lot longer and a lot less on average.

I was at a seminar recently where Dr. James B. Rieley (who is a Principal at Carlton & Partners, the specialist management consulting group) said that in Mergers and Acquisitions the projected synergies are not realised in over 70% of cases. I think this is a symptom of the same disease.

I have looked closely at what makes change work, to identify what the systematic things that you need in place to get change delivered successfully. One thing is certain there are no "Magic bullets", no formulaic solution, but there are certainly things that can mess you up if you don’t do them well. The four things I see in successful change are (and in no particular order):

1. Executive Support – because people work on what they believe is the executive’s highest priority, ahead of other work.

2. Customer Involvement – because when customers have input throughout the change they are not surprised, and more importantly, neither are you. After all it’s customer’s that give you the only true measure of success, their continued business!

3. Experienced project managers – amazingly research shows that a massive 97% of successful projects have an experienced project manager at the helm. They will have learned hard lessons to gain that vital experience. Of course, have one doesn’t guarantee success, there are plenty of experienced project managers who don’t succeed every time, but not having one is an almost guaranteed recipe for failure.

4. Clear business objectives and defined project scope - A clear framework for the change in a simple to understood form ensures alignment to output goals and help the project(s) stay focused on the right things. It’s important not to bite off too much, if the scope focuses on achievable steps then the journey can be delivered well, elephants are eaten a mouthful at a time.

Your competitors are working hard to make change in their business - why? I think that they want your customers!

Will your response bring the expected benefits?

Businesses must be quick, they must be (successfully) changing as fast or faster than their competitors to get, and stay, ahead.

Every customer is looking for more, and better, products and better, faster service - for less. They won’t let you rest on your past success.

If you accept that even the most successful businesses only deliver project success in a quarter of project starts then there is a really good chance of stealing a march if you do the things that give you a better chance of being successful.

If you want to know more, or discuss these points further, especially if you disagree then make a comment here or drop me a note.

William M Buist
Things done right... ... in half the time.
Abelard Management Services Website

William Buist’s Profile

Using an on-line medium for discussion

We've all seen it I'm sure, the email pings in, you open it and BLAMMM,

the hearts pounding faster than a reciprocating steam engine and the fingers are tapping a thoughtless reply in moments.

What happens?

We've all seen the result of what happens - it runs something like.....

We send a nice, polite, helpful note to someone who can benefit from what we know or can do and within minutes a primed and fused thermonuclear device falls into our inbox - and it's been copied to everyone.


As I write this, I am using the language I am exposed to, and have grown up with, turning it into meaning to express the views that I hold based on years of living on this wonderful planet. My views, my thoughts, my knowledge, my experience, no one has that, nor can have it. When you read what I say, it is my words, but it is your knowledge, your experience, your frame of reference. I have no means of controlling what you interpret from what I say at an internal level.

So much of what we all know is implicit knowledge, we just know it, we've forgotten how we learned if, and we certainly can't teach it easily. We can describe how to ride a bicycle, but we cannot tell people how to ride it without them experiencing the inevitable failures first. For you to learn what is implicit to me you have no choice but to infer it from what I do and what I say. We all know that inference gets it wrong some of the time.

When you move to a purely text based exchange like email and blogs and other on-line media there is no support to our 'inference engine' in the form of visual clues, tone of voice, body language etc. About 80% of the clues and pointers we use are missing. It is important that we make the effort (and it is an effort) to think about how we can put them back in when we write.

Reading the articles and blogs and threads here it is clear that the problem is rife, but there is a good basis of 'assumed good intention'. You can tell that from all the comments that you see about the warmth and friendliness on-line, it's something that new users of networking and bloggin sites like Ecademy often comment on.

I work with businesses undergoing change. Their people are already disturbed from their comfort zones by change and they tend to have a shorter fuse as a result. Change puts pressure on people, they usually have less time and less patience so I've developed some techniques that I teach to help them. Because working on-line is a change we are all learning about (especially as it changes the way we meet and connect with people) I thought that putting this on-line for you might let you benefit from these thoughts too, so here they are:

1. Most people don't get up intending to upset you, if their note has upset you then the first thing is to assume that they didn't intend that outcome.

Golden rule number one - Ask yourself "What would have to be true for this note to be a reasonable one" - This is not an emotional question, it's about trying to read what the sender perceives to be true given their interpretation of the facts - because my experience is that they think they are polite, kind and caring.

2. Check the facts behind what they say, and the assumptions that go with them.

Golden rule number 2
- Ask yourself "what could I be assuming here that would make me interpret this the way that I am"

3. Are there facts that you know that they don't (or vice versa) that put your perspectives in a different place.

Golden rule number 3 - Check the facts - reply using phrases like "Am I right to understand…." And "Did you know that ….." as a preamble to responding substantively (see the golden rule of golden rules below)

4. Is there anyone else who you could check your reaction with in confidence, perhaps a business coach, a colleague (but be careful not to colour their judgement of the person) or a family member.

Golden Rule number 4 - Validate the emotions - use shortcuts in non formal writing to help convey the real emotion - emoticons are great, especially if the writing is "robust" ;-)

5. In a diverse cultural place like ecademy there is another people may not even use the sme language or may be writing in a foreign tongue.

Golden rule number 5 - Does this persons language and culture match up to your own, is the base the same. Remember America and Britain are countries separated by a common language, don't even assume the words mean the same as we understand them in the UK - re-apply golden rule number 3 and check the understanding, but use different words to validate things.

The first golden rule of golden rules - Always respond constructively. Write with a goal to improve your readers life and to give them a lift - whatever you feel like doing. Well crafted constructive criticism can highlight a problem someone never knew they were creating. Done well you can deal with your issue and change someone's life for the better for ever.

The second golden rule of golden rules - Take a walk. Only reply when you are in the frame of mind that you want the recipient to be in. All our writing is coloured by our emotions, if you are angry it will come across. How do you react to an (unreasonably) angry person?To everyone, I hope this helps you to deal with the ever flowing emotions that make us human and improves the way that you interact in this electronic village. Of course, I welcome debate I want to improve the advice and make it better so that more people get more right first time. I welcome and embrace your help.

William Buist
Helping business change by getting things done right… .., in half the time