Archives for category: Strategy

I was recommended to listen to a podcast the other day by a customer’s CEO. It was from the series Anatomy of a Strategy. The link to the podcast, which is well worth listening to if your business is content, is here.

In the podcast, Alex Hillman draws the difference between thinking of a blog post as ‘just a blog post’, a piece of ‘throwaway’ content, and viewing it as small product, in fact a ‘tiny free product that delivers value’. From here you can then deliver content which works up to your own paid product which delivers even more value.

This is, of course, correct and I agree with it. It treats a single piece of content as part of a process, or a strategy to build your customers.

It did, however, get me thinking about my own blog posting, since I’ve done several hundred of them at this stage. I seem to be not practising what I preach. My posts are often throwaway and often do not lead to a more engaged conversation on the topic or on what I do for a living.

Then again, you have to think about the end goal for me. I get most of my business from my network and profile within that network, but blogging is not about building my business. It’s about the joy and discipline of writing. And at its root it’s also about process.

So, while I agree that each blog post is indeed a product of Paul Dilger inc, a mini-destination if you like, it’s also a small journey for me.

 

 

Everyone’s been all in a tizzy over the customer experience the last few years, with bags of content being produced and companies popping up all over the place with offerings to help companies focus on their customers’ buying process and the end-to-end journey.

This is all great, but what’s not really talked about much is the employee experience. You see, a company’s most important stakeholder is usually not their customer. It’s their staff. If you have good staff they’ll take good care of your customers.

From this, it follows that getting the customer experience right is actually secondary to getting the employee experience right. How many times have you worked in companies – or been a customer of companies – where the staff don’t know what’s going on, they’re not brought along on projects and processes or the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing when it comes to news, launches and the like? This is a top-down thing, and to get the employee experience and internal communications right senior people need to follow a similar process as they should do for marketing to their customers.

Here’s a link to a really good whitepaper from Hubspot on how internal communications can be the secret weapon within the marketing function.

We live in a world where scarcity prevails. There’s not enough resources to go round. There’s not enough time in the day. We don’t have enough money to do everything we want to do. Fact.

So it is with how we organise our own time, how we prioritise, and how we marshal our own resources. We can’t get to everything, not even close.

This is how I deal with everyday questions and how I approach a lot of things, in life and in work. I ask myself, does it matter? If it matters, do it, if it doesn’t, chances are you don’t need to bother with it.

I’ll give you a mundane example: cooking. You find a recipe you like, but it lists a lot of ingredients, and one or two of them you don’t have or can’t get. Ask yourself if it matters that you don’t have coriander, but you have some oregano. Probably not. What if it calls for 350g of this and 150ml of that. Does it matter if you’ve not used the exact amount the recipe calls for? Probably not, it’s near enough ‘as makes no odds’ as my northern English pals would say. Now, with something like baking, or so I’m told, it does benefit you to use the exact ingredients and the exact measurements, in which case, yes it does matter.

When it comes to navigating the resources and time at my disposal, and the myriad tiny questions that might crop up in the course of the day, I use ‘does it matter?’ as my guide. Quicker decisions, less agonising, mental paralysis and hand-wringing.

Brexit could be all done by the time you read this post, though as I write it couldn’t be more finely balanced.

There’s a tremendous amount of international shadow-boxing going on at the moment, as the UK government looks to brace itself against the punches of blame that might come its way from within. Stories have been ‘leaked’ and senior government officials are expressing their frustration that the EU doesn’t understand the UK position.

It’s clear to me that there is not a single marketer in the UK government. No-one has stopped for a moment and said, ‘hang on a moment, the EU is effectively a customer, or at the very least a partner. We should treat this as a commercial arrangement. Let’s try and put ourselves in their shoes, figure out what’s important to them and proceed accordingly.’ I think the EU has done this, and the thinking UK person has too. The unthinking person on both slides of the political divide probably hasn’t.

‘Let’s make it about them, and stop acting like it’s about us.’

Simplistic I know, but sometimes it suits to go back to basics before FUD fogs everything. A lasting, long-term negotiated agreement has to be a win-win, otherwise it won’t last.

A bit of humility and thoughtfulness rather than the usual dose of haughtiness and arrogance, please.

Who’s the most important stakeholder in any organisation? If you’re in the private sector is it your partners or your customers? If you’re in the public sector is it the people who use your services, like the general public, or is the local and national government entities? If you’re in the charity sector is it your funders, your donors, or your clients?

The answer for all three types of employer is the same: none of them.

You are the key stakeholder. You and your colleagues determine your organisation’s ethic, its culture, its brand. You are responsible for making people aware of your products and services, getting them to use them, delivering those products and services to them, sorting out problems for them.

Having the right staff in place, the good ones like you, will take care of your customers, clients, partners, suppliers, funders, donors, volunteers  Рall the other stakeholders that make up your industry or community.

When it comes to stakeholders – to adopt a well-known car-maker – you are job 1 .

It’s easy to get hung up on a go to market plan. Sometimes it can feel a bit daunting: all that research, data analysis and projections to do. Yes, a full go-to-market plan can be a big undertaking depending on the stakes, but the essence of a solid go-to-market plan is being able to answer 6 questions.

Who? Who are you selling to? Which customer segment? Which individual buyer types are you appealing to within your target customer?

Why? Why should they care? What can you do for them and why should they come to you rather than elsewhere?

What? What’s your offering? What’s the make-up of your product, service and accompanying services?

Where? Where will you reach them? Where do they go for their information? The web, via partners, consultants?

How? How will you reach them? Email, advertising, promotion, PR, events, calls, meetings?

When? What’s the timeframe for preparation, execution, review, adjustment?

You can probably see that this kind of 6-question framework doesn’t simply work for go-to-market projects. You can apply it to almost anything you need to do, in order to cover the key bases and get a quick-fire direction that you can build on.

 

When I look back on individual short-term events in my life, or over long-term things like career, health and so on, I find that I have allowed external factors to shape and evolve me. I have on occasion rolled with the punches, got caught up in the forward momentum and gone with the flow.

I’ve not been in control. I have allowed the focus of control to be external of me, rather than internal to me.

I think it’s important to level-set every so often and endeavour to take back control. Take back control in everything from individual decisions to relationships with other people or entities and to strategy for companies and organisations. Not at the expense of others, that’s not what I mean here. I mean to be active, positive, current, engaged and decisive.

Yes, an important part of assessing our strengths and weaknesses is also assessing the opportunities and threats that are outside our control. Yes, sometimes we have to play the hand we are dealt.

But, if that hand is not what we like, or has developing into something that we don’t like, do we have the option to walk away, and play another game? A game that gives us back control?

It’s about options, isn’t it? If it is, then it’s about taking back control, because without it our options are poorer and more limited.

Most people are either short on time and long on money, or they’re short on money and long on time.

If you’re the former, it’s because you’re busy and / or important, and while you have plenty of disposable income you don’t have much time to dispose of it.

If you’re the latter, you’ve bags of time on your hands but your lack of money limits what you can do with that time. Both scenarios seem to me to be deeply ironic yet are classic examples of what life is like in the real world of limited resources.

The holy grail is of course to be long on time and long on money. I’m reliably informed that this is known as a financially comfortable and healthy retirement, a concept that feels very distant and remote to me. Then there’s winning the lottery or a similar kind of windfall, which is the short cut, at a distance and remoteness that tends to zero probability. And yet we play it, eh!

Unfortunately, I seem to be spending a good bit of my time in the lower quartile, the bottom left box of your management consultant’s two-by-two matrix. Yes, that’s the short on time, short on money variety. Dashing around the place developing business, creating projects, getting things off the ground, doing good things, for no money.

Yes, I’m happy, and lucky, I know. But a bit more of both wouldn’t go amiss, I promise.

As I write this, daily and even hourly developments in the UK get filed under the ‘you couldn’t make it up’ column. As you read it, I expect the same situation is currently prevailing.

I heard an interesting story the other day, another symptom of the ‘every man for himself’ panic that sets in during similar times, affecting everyone from your neighbour up to national governments, causing us all to pull decisions, funding and the plug left, right and centre. If only we could be so decisive in our positive actions.

Anyway, this training company was offering programs on business growth. All very worthy in any environment, never mind today’s. Front and centre in the program was Brexit planning and mitigation.

Attendees were signed up, trainers were assigned, everything was ready to go. At the last minute, three companies pulled out, causing the program to be re-organised and two trainers to be let go. The reason they pulled out? Brexit! The irony that you’re pulling out because of concerns around the area that the program is focused on helping…

Remember recently when I mentioned organisations pulling marketing at the first cost-cutting sign of hard times ahead, when the one thing that can differentiate them in a challenging economy, and even grow at their competitors’ expense, is marketing? More of the same :-).

One of the fascinating characteristics of the universe is entropy, the notion that eventually everything gets messed up. Or, as the Americans might say, it all goes to sh*t.

This has never been truer when it comes to large political, financial and economic systems. They’re pretty easy to get into it, but after while you’re well and truly tangled up and they’re really hard to extricate yourself from. Perhaps that’s why there was no real plan for how a country comes out of the euro, or why the UK is finding it so hard to come out of Europe – whatever that means. Maybe the sages knew this all along and kept quiet.

Someone told me the other day that if there was another referendum on Brexit, ‘remain’ would win comfortably. Not because of the recent experiences, though. More because in the last 3 years many of the elderly who voted to leave have shuffled off their mortal coil. For them Brexit turned out to be a final parting gesture like when the Terminator disappears below the surface and gives us the thumbs up, except this time it’s the middle finger.

That is the true Brexit irony. We’re over 3 years further on, and how far have we got? Governments are composed of people, and as people we have a tendency to leave that washing up, that job, that year-defining dissertation til much later. Let’s take a break first, rather than immediately planning for the finishing tape and getting a sense of what we need to do right now to hit the deadline.

Now, with the deadline looming ever closer, and almost no progress made, we’ll be hoping for another instance where productivity accelerates hugely before the due time and we get it out the door, something, anything, just get it out.

Or maybe we’ll ask for more time, again. And if we don’t get it, and the deadline passes, will it be like Y2K, or WW2?