Archives for category: Technology

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 :-).

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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 turn 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?

In the preceding post I wrote about the bites Brexit is already taking out of our daily lives at work and play. It’s really hard to fathom what the economics of it are going to be. Bad is the universal opinion, but how bad and in what areas?

The trouble with economic models is that they are not very good at predicting the future. They’re great for explaining and rationalising the past, but that’s not much good when you’re staring down the barrel of the single most important macro event of the last half century. The last economic downturn took some of us a decade to recover from. This one looks like being at least a generation, and not just economically. For the last few years we’ve been in a period of serious isms – isolationism, protectionism, lookafterourselvesism…and this is the background against which Brexit is going to play

The central banks’ methods of, for example, keeping down interest rates to stimulate the economy while at the same time making it more difficult for us to plan for a financially secure retirement, may well not work in 2020 and beyond. They might have the opposite effect. We simply don’t know.

Business uncertainty makes businesses worry and stop spending on the only thing that’s likely to bring them growth, namely marketing. Why is it that the practice of positively influencing the exchange of outcomes between you and your customers the first thing you stop doing when the going gets tough?

Personal uncertainty makes us stop spending money and consuming as much as we were, which of course impacts businesses. It’s the downturn death spiral.

Who knows, perhaps any impending hardship will actually force us to properly embrace the environmental tenets of reduce, reuse, recycle, like our parents and grandparents had to do in wartime eras? Perhaps this kind of economic downturn and conservative/conserving/conservationist behaviour is just what the planet was hoping for. It might re-engender some genuine altruism and community spirit, and turn us from a diet of me-ism to we-ism.

Brexit is a subject that’s possibly broader than any other. It’s pretty much like saying ‘the global economy’, except that it’s broader again, with huge cultural and environmental implications. That’s the problem with a connected world: everything’s connected. Fine when everything is going well, a house of cards if it isn’t.

And, as I write this, the implications of it – uncertain but massive – are starting to bite into the apple of our daily lives. It’s true that business hates uncertainty, but the recent doom and gloom of the Irish broadsheet press is hard to ignore.  Mrs D is very scornful of my comment that I don’t think Brexit is going to affect me very much. I should have perhaps qualified that by saying I was talking about my work. For someone whose business is sales and marketing strategy, the international aspect of this should mean that I’m actually busier.

In truth, while, paradoxically, we’re pretty close to full employment in Ireland, the state bodies that part-fund a lot of business initiatives – and therefore indirectly fund some element of consultants’ income – are reviewing their programs, reducing initiatives and reducing the number of companies on them. At least to my partly-tutored eye.

At an individual and personal level, and as an Englishman working in a die-hard EU country, it’s hard not to feel insecure. Where do you go to insulate your financial future from the impending onslaught that might last long enough to prolong the entry into retirement for those who might be twenty years away from it?

Probably worth a follow-up post on this, I think.

I’ve just renewed a contract with my mobile telecoms provider. Along with the 2-year deal came a free upgrade to a better smartphone.

Not the latest smartphone, you understand, because I don’t need the latest smartphone. I’ve eased from an iPhone 6S to a 7. An improvement, I think. I got more data too, which is nice.

One of the ‘improvements’ of the 7 is that it does away with the circular port for the headphones. You get headphones with a firewire thingy that goes into the firewire charging port.

This means two changes in behaviour for me, none of them good. Firstly, it means I can’t charge my iPhone 7 and use it with the headphones at the same time, which I used to do a lot. Secondly, it means I need one set of headphones for my laptop (standard earphone port) and one set for my iPhone (firewire). I travel quite a bit, and now I need to pack two sets of headphones for any trip. Harrumph

Of course, I could spend more money on bluetooth earphones that will pair with both laptop and phones. Double harrumph…

The lack of time and thought invested in accessories compared to the base product is something I’ve blogged about before.

Ask any business leader what their primary business challenge is and you’ll often hear words like ‘demand’, ‘pipeline’ or ‘more, better leads’. There are very few businesses that can rely on a never-ending stream of inbound enquiries from prospects or customers looking to buy.

Generating demand is generally the domain of the marketing department, although in business-to-business environments it’s not uncommon for the sales people to be expected to find or develop about half of the demand themselves. Many businesses therefore take a well resourced, scientific and automated approach to being in the right places with the right content to engage those people looking to fix a problem or exploit an opportunity.

Despite what you might have read from the minority of practitioners who’ve written or published ‘how to’ books, blogs or videos on the subject, while the principles are straightforward the practice is hard, especially when the business has a relentless demand for high quantity, high quality expressions of interest to keep its costs of acquisition at manageable levels. What often happens is that instead of demand generation you get demand degeneration, by which I mean a lack or shortfall of pipeline for your products and services.

What are the reasons for this? As you might expect, they’re many and varied. Incorrect market sizing, poor segmentation, a lack of understanding of the customer, inferior or inappropriate content, and insufficient or manually dependent activities are some of the common reasons. There’s also a requirement to stay current with trends and technologies in demand generation, since ways of engaging with customers have a natural lifecycle that means they won’t always be productive and will be replaced by new ways.

It takes a relentless drive and relentless inquisitiveness to engender relentless interest in something. That’s a pretty tall order to avoid demand degeneration, and the good business will recognise this and have in place parallel activities like customer advocacy to keep the pump primed.

The goal of underlying sales and marketing technology is that it is the slave, not the master, to your organisation. Automating your processes will enable you to embed and reinforce best practices throughout your organisation. The collection and inputting of good data and managing interactions for the complete customer journey will ensure you have visibility into your organisation, give you the insights to do accurate business planning and allow you to demonstrate your compliance.

Customer Relationship Management (‘CRM’) systems fulfil these responsibilities for your organisation. They are the machine to power your business, but are limited by the fuel you give them – in this case the quality and accuracy of information you import, enter and store. You can customise many CRM systems to suit your own business processes. You can also enhance them by integrating additional specialist software from third party organisations.

The CRM industry is extremely cluttered and competitive. There is a vast array of CRM systems, which vary appreciably in cost, functionality, reporting, flexibility, ease of use and size of their third party software ecosystem. It’s important to select the system which offers the best fit to your requirements and the long term vision you have for your organisation.

These 8 aspects will give you a solid structure to define your technology requirements, before shortlisting the alternative providers:

  • Your objectives for the technology
  • The functions within your organisation
  • The tasks you want to automate
  • The information you want to record
  • The metrics you want to measure
  • The users you want to enable
  • Their requirements
  • Your budget to accomplish these things

Think about your requirements as deeply as you can before you take the plunge. Companies often find that once they start using an implemented system there are additional things they didn’t think about that would have further influenced either their choice of system or how they customised and implemented it.

In this last post in the series on scaling a business, we look at the checklist of ’10 Rockefeller habits’. Once more I borrow from the Growth Institute in this fascinating piece on how the 10 habits of the fabled businessman are the only framework you need to scale your business.

Working from the principle that success comes from the combination of goals and discipline, and you must have both, rather like strategy and execution, the article provides a detailed description of the 10-item Rockefeller habits checklist, which I summarise here:

  1. The executive team is healthy and aligned
  2. Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the company forward
  3. Communication rhythm is established and information moves through the organisation quickly
  4. Every facet of the organisation has a person assigned with accountability for ensuring goals are met
  5. Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities
  6. Reporting and analysis of customer feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data
  7. Core values and purpose are “alive” in the organisation
  8. Employees can articulate the key components of the company’s strategy accurately
  9. All employees can answer quantitatively whether they had a good day or week
  10. The company’s plans and performance are visible to everyone

These habits only truly come alive when you read the narrative and case studies that amplify them, so refer to here for the valuable detail. You’ll get the how to implement and who should implement that will send you on your way to scaling a business successfully.

 

This post continues the series on scaling a business, this time defining the exponential organisation. An exponential organisation is a company that scales rather than grows. In other words it grows at an exponential rate – d’oh!

Jacob Morgan covers how to create an exponential organisation and why you would want to in this excellent piece. He leans heavily on the work of the innovator Samil Ismail, one of those lucky souls who can find his first name in his last name…

Ismail’s research into exponential organisations leads him to identify ten commonalities in companies successfully hitting the stratosphere.  Five factors are external, and five are internal.

The five external factors equal the word SCALE:

  • S, staff on demand
  • C, community and crowd
  • A, algorithms
  • L, leased assets
  • E, engagement

The five internal factors spell the word IDEAS:

  • I, interfaces
  • D, dashboard
  • E, experimentation
  • A, autonomy
  • S, social

To find out more about each factor, and what combination of them would suit your ambitions, have a deeper look at the article.

 

In this second in the series of posts exploring scaling the business, let’s look the differences between growing the business versus scaling the business. What better source of authoritative information than this piece from the Growth Institute.

There are some fantastic insights in this piece. Here are just three of them:

  • Companies that scale successfully don’t set out to grow their business, they build it for scale from the outset
  • A scaling company grows at twice the industry average but its expenses are roughly the same
  • When I was at business school, a company’s growth was a series of steps, where you go through a plateau period before you slingshot up the next level. Nowadays the scaling curve is a series of ‘valleys of death’ through which each company must pass in order to dominate its industry

The Growth Institute identifies four scaling stages:

The percentages of companies that make it through each of these stages are horrifically small, so if you’ve got scale-up ambitions it’s important to go in eyes wide open, and also read the Growth Institute piece, and the ‘how to navigate’ guide, in more detail.