Posts on Business Insights

Reading to Change Up Your Thinking

Posted on 03/31/2015

Jumping GoldfishIt’s officially spring and a time when many of us pause to take stock of things, revamp plans and renew our energy and thinking. Along these lines, I’m often asked what I read regularly. While I don’t read a lot of books and when I do, I read mostly non-fiction (I love biographies), I am an avid reader of news and other information. I read mostly in digital formats – anything on my Kindle, online magazines, various websites, blogs and various lists on Twitter. Below are some of my favorite blogs and sites to read that are not part of the mainstream news media. I hope you enjoy them as well and add them to your favorites list this spring.

The Drew Blog: Drew Neisser is the CEO of Renegade and is one of the most connected and articulate experts on marketing. His frequent interviews with CMOs are insightful and great quick reads. If you need ideas, this is the blog to spur new thinking.

Margaret Molloy’s LinkedIn Posts:  Margaret is the CMO and Head of Business Development at Siegel and Gale and a brilliant writer. She can distill key themes, trends and insights into simple posts that anyone can use. Margaret is a well-known thought leader in B2B and digital marketing. She also has a fantastic twitter stream @MargaretMolloy.

The Five Abilities: Rick Wong, a long time master of enterprise sales, is one of those rare people that every time you talk to him, you learn something new.  Whether you are in an official sales role or have a role that requires you to convince executives and others to adopt a plan, this site has solid, actionable advice.

Digital Age of Marketing: This blog by Tami Cannizzaro, VP Global Marketing for IBM, is a must read for current trends and thinking in digital marketing. Tami writes from the front lines of marketing with a style that is pragmatic and engaging. Her posts are both insightful and actionable.

Bryan Kramer’s Blog Posts and Podcasts: Bryan is Social Business Strategist and CEO of PureMatter. Bryan writes about topics at the leading edge of social business and its intersection across digital. Both his blog posts and podcasts (which are often heartfelt interviews with some of the world’s leading executives) are a must read/watch if you work in marketing.

Of course, one must have balance in one’s life and not only read about work or business in general. Here are a few other blogs that I enjoy beyond things relevant to my career:

Stormy’s Corner: Stormy Peter’s blog and site is about life, technology and making each day count. One of the brightest minds in technology, Stormy is the Director of Websites and Developer Engagement at Mozilla and a founder and board member of Kids on Computers. Well read, tech savvy and engaging, her posts are always interesting and thought provoking. Stormy is also a frequent speaker on technology and non-profits. If you have the opportunity to see her speak, make sure to go – it will be great.

The Daily Connoisseur:  A delightful lifestyle blog by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Scott, this site if full of fun and useful information. Her corresponding YouTube channel and books are equally great and useful for those of us looking for a high quality life that isn’t high maintenance or highly expensive.

Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat site: Mireille is a best-selling author and former CEO of Clicquot, Inc. (maker of the famous Champagne Veuve Clicquot and part of LVMH). Her writing is to-the-point and unapologetically French with an American twist from of her many years in U.S. If you are a female executive you may also enjoy her book Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense and Sensibility. I enjoy seeing how she has taken a long-time passion for quality living and transformed that into a retirement career after an extremely successful corporate career.

I hope you enjoy these sites and add them to your ongoing reading list. What do you like to read for information and inspiration?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Please follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter for new posts or visit my website for more information.

 

Being More Than a Brand, On Purpose

Posted on 11/09/2014

A set of employees riding arrowsCompanies are increasingly aware that their brand is bigger than the products the company sells. In fact, per Edelman’s Carol Cone, who has done extensive research on purpose driven business strategy, a full “86% of global consumers expect business to place at least equal emphasis on social interests as on business interests.” The same holds true for executives who lead these companies.

An executive’s personal purpose typically aligns with the business they lead in some way, whether directly or tangentially.  This personal purpose, however, is bigger than their role as an executive. The digital age allows an executive to connect on purpose more broadly and with greater impact than ever before.

We see the pronounced value of this connection in employees and customers from the Millennial generation who now make up roughly a third of the workforce. This generation grew up with computers; speed-of-light news; and the ability to search for any information in the world with Google. Transparency and giving back for the greater good is so common to them that it is unthinkable to operate any other way. Per Forbes, 81% of them have donated services, goods or money to charity. And this generation will make up 75% of the workforce before 2025. Add to that a full 89% of them expressed increased likelihood to buy from companies that support solutions to social issues. To that I say bravo, as they will make the world a better place as a result.

Putting this all together, executives are now a new type of celebrity.

Some great examples include Howard Schultz of Starbucks who built a company around the joy of experiencing great coffee. Schultz though was not only someone who was all about great coffee; he firmly believes that people should have good quality lives and that we should do what we can to help each other out. Civility and cooperation permeate all he does from campaigns to help people get jobs; to the benefits Starbucks offers employees; to the urging of politicians to do right by the electorate. His actions show his core value and belief that being good to each other and working together to solve problems can transcend all the things that typically hold people apart.

Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most powerful business people in the world. She is known for transforming companies through superb operations coupled with high quality, rapid growth. She did it at Google and again at Facebook. Sandberg has always stood for more than excellence in business. She firmly believes that women can and should be leaders in business and that they need not sacrifice their career dreams in the name of social norms. Sandberg made that dream a plausible reality for many through her books and lectures as well as in her daily life by redefining the concept of a power couple with her family.

Arianna Huffington built a highly successful media company. She did this at a time in her life when most people would never consider taking such a big leap. One of the best business stories you’ll ever hear is how she started The Huffington Post and how her friends all told her she was crazy because this “Internet thing” is for the young people and she should go back to her books. Huffington pioneered changes in the media and publishing business that are now standard practices. But she has also always stood for more than that. Huffington always wanted the stories, successes and needs of the everyday person to be heard because we all have a voice; have a story. In recent years she has taken up the mantle of personal well-being and has actually made sleep a business topic. Huffington’s crusade has made well-being a right not a privilege for workers.

If you think about it, the executives with the most gravitas and impact on the world by and large all have some higher purpose than their day job and they are not afraid to be vocal about it. The digital age has made it both ok and easier to be open about one’s higher purpose and values. Now an executive can connect with countless people who believe similar things and that is a power that truly can change the world.

What is your higher calling? What do you value in your core? Do you let this come through in genuine ways by what you do and say each day? Do people respect you for who you are not just what you do for a living? If you’ve not let the world know this side of you, give it a try. south sudan Open up a little and you may be amazed at what happens next.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Please follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter for new posts or visit my website for more information.

Beware the HiPPO Drone!

Posted on 05/11/2014

HiPPO graphicIf you work in tech or know a lot of west-coasters then you’ve probably heard the term HiPPO – Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. The term is going increasingly mainstream as more millennials enter the professional workforce and as the world becomes inherently flat through digital networking.

A HiPPO-Drone is someone who declares their opinion as fact and enforces said opinion without seeking more context and ignoring any context offered – even if that context comes from non-HiPPO experts in the topic. Their opinion-turned-fact-turned-plan comes out of nowhere and drops on you like something falling out of an unmanned drone. Despite all your best efforts to correct, steer or otherwise influence the HiPPO you will fail because you are now a victim of a HiPPO-drone incident.

Companies of all sizes have HiPPO drone incidents, but they become a real issue when they are a pervasive part of the culture – the HiPPO Syndrome. Traditional, very hierarchical cultures based on positional authority rather than current topical expertise are ripe breeding grounds for the HiPPO Syndrome. These companies’ cultures were formed when people moved up the hierarchy because they (in theory) knew the most about a topic and these companies still operate under the assumption that positional authority and subject matter expertise are one and the same. In today’s world this is a dangerous assumption to make.

How do you spot a HiPPO Syndrome culture? Symptoms include high turnover of outside hires, especially experienced hires in areas the company is trying to grow; decreasing ability to hire young talent and to retain them; and the tell tale sign…. when people are asked why they are doing something and the most common answer is “because HiPPO told me to”. When you reach this last sign get ready for some major market or competitive disruption to hit your company and rock it to its foundation.

In fairness, not all HiPPOs are bad or misinformed. Many are extremely capable and do keep their information, skills and perspectives fresh and sharp as the world changes. The problem is the people who have not kept pace with the changing world and refuse to open their eyes despite the best efforts of those around them to show them the way – they are the HiPPO drones in the making that you must find and remove from your culture. Let them fester and you’ll have a HiPPO Syndrome on your hands.

As an executive how can you check yourself and your organization to make sure you don’t fall prey to the HiPPO Syndrome? (please add your thoughts in the comments as well – I’m sure you have fantastic ideas and experience to share

Ask your leadership team to back up their decisions with a mix of data and qualitative input that is recent. Experience is important but so are current data and forecasted trends

Never accept as an answer “That’s the way we’ve always done it” without a further explanation of why the ways of the past are still the best and most valid approach.

Manage your talent base by bringing in new people regularly and setting a culture of learning, experimentation and innovation so your employees keep their skills fresh. You actually want to be the company that recruiters actively target to fill jobs because it means your people have leading edge skills.

Lead by example. Meet with people at all levels of your organization and listen, listen, listen. Look for the eager learners; the diamonds in the rough; the ones with the ability to think of break-through ideas and nurture them. Check your own decision-making inputs regularly – are you a HiPPO drone at times?

Ask your leadership team where their ideas are coming from and really listen to the answers. If they claim all credit, or most of it, beware. If they have a mix of inputs from a variety of people in their network, from reading current information, watching your competitors and taking learnings from other industries in addition to their own ideas then that person is a keeper and less likely to be a HiPPO drone.

Great ideas, expertise and advice for your business can and should come from anywhere in the organization. This culture is not always easy to create but in this incredibly digitally connected, flat world it is truly a must. As an executive it is one’s responsibility to create an environment free of the HiPPO Syndrome and with very few HiPPO drone incidents. Culture can be a competitive advantage if you eliminate the HiPPO Syndrome.

International Women’s Day: Advice to My Younger Self

Posted on 03/07/2014

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Leading up to International Women’s Day, people have asked how I’ve not just survived but thrived in a business world where I am far from the norm. After over 20 years in industries that included few women, it is wonderful to see much more diversity on all facets now. We can all learn from each other if we let others in to the conversation.

 

So in response, here a dozen things I’d say to my younger self (and often do say to young women and men). Perhaps it will help some of the amazing young women and men I have the pleasure of meeting each day.

 

Never let anyone else define your dreams or tell you your dreams don’t matter, are too hard, need to be sacrificed for something else, etc.  Live your life, not some life defined by others. Breaking molds is how the world gets better.

When your industry is undergoing massive, ground-breaking change, insert yourself square in the middle of it and lead.

Fear simply points out where you need to give yourself a pep talk or learn something new. It is useful and need not be limiting.

You will often find yourself in meetings where you are the only woman in the room, but you will have more guts than all the men put together. Let that be empowering rather than frightening.

Never cede to requests to “dumb it down” and instead be inspiring so others want to learn and catch up to you.

In business, men (or anyone in a position of seniority) are not the enemy, but they often do need guidance to know how to help you, so be specific and ask for what you want and need.

Brilliant men are simply called brilliant. Brilliant women are often called intimidating. If you are called intimidating disarm them with a warm smile and say “Well I’m very good at what I do. Thank you.”  Don’t accept the intimidating label – it is overused describing brilliant, talented women.

Be the bar others aspire to reach. You will do this simply by being yourself. Authenticity is irresistible after all.

Rest is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength that you know when and how to reenergize yourself.

Being decisive does not make you a bitch and knowing what you want does not make you a diva – instead it means you are smart, focused and passionate about your goals.

Kindness and compassion do not make you weak, instead they are some of the most powerful capabilities a leader can have.

You will have a big, amazing life and be blessed with fantastic people in it. Be grateful for this; dream big; and never stop learning new things.

I look forward to the world becoming even more inclusive and engaging the ideas, thoughts and perspectives of so many talented people. Please share your stories and advice as well so we can all continue to learn from each other.  #IWD2014  www.internationalwomensday.com

The Currency of Being Current

Posted on 11/02/2013

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Being current… an important lifelong objective of one’s career. But what does being current really mean? Is being current enough in the fast-paced business world today? On balance you need to be current at a minimum and leading edge on at least a few topics.

Being current as an ongoing state is no small feat.  You have to read frequently and regularly a variety of publications (online and off) from a variety of authors, journalists and bloggers. You need to go out and talk to people both online and off to hear thoughts, perspectives and spot early trends. Participating in conversations is crucial to staying current. These conversations can also help you with feedback and information to help you hone your point of view on the topic at hand. And yes, you need a point of view that is informed and has a spin of some sort that is uniquely your own. Being current will at least make you interesting and help you get by. In your career this will keep you in-the-hunt as they say from a talent perspective but may not set you apart when the competition is tough.

Being leading edge involves being current overall plus choosing one or a small number of specific topics where you seek to be an expert or at least more of an expert than the average person. To do this you need to have more to your point of view – you need theories, possibilities and insights into the what’s next or what could be next. You need to paint a picture for people, hear their perspectives and help them reshape their thinking with the new information you provide. You also want to connect with other leading edge people in your topic of choice to help you shape your perspectives as well. This creates differentiation for you and a memorable uniqueness that sets you apart from the pack. This is what will garner you a higher salary, fee or other compensation. Being leading edge will also help you create a rewarding network of people in your life – something that is far more valuable than any monetary amount.

The trick here is not trying to be leading edge on everything. Besides being exhausting to attempt, no one likes a know-it-all. Increasingly in the digital age with communications becoming more casual or human-sounding, you need to be an approachable expert. Authenticity and approachability are differentiators in addition to the topic you’ve chosen. Be real; connect; be yourself. Put it all together and you master the currency of being current.

100% of Plans Are Wrong

Posted on 06/08/2013

Yes it’s true. 100% of the plans you make whether at work, planning your career or anything else are wrong. Why? Because no one can foresee the future with 100% accuracy and since all plans are forward looking they are always wrong. The question is how wrong and how right and how will you know which is which?

I was fortunate to learn this lesson very early in my career. I was working at GE on a very large project that would land in front of the CEO (Jack Welch at the time). After a few 80 hour weeks, my manager and I were going through the last review prior to sending it up the chain. We went through it and all seemed good. Then I’ll never forget what my manager did next. He pushed the project summary back across the table at me and said “Katrina, what is the one thing you know is always true about every plan?” Being entirely too tired for riddles, I said I wasn’t sure and was frankly a little too tired to guess well. My manager replied “They are all wrong – every single one.” Snapshot the first moment in my career that I nearly burst into tears – I’d worked my you-know-what off for weeks and now the plan is WRONG?!?

Keeping my calm, I asked what exactly was wrong. The answer was this – “Nothing is wrong with the plan itself. But plans are forward looking and no one can predict the future with 100% certainty. Some of the most successful business endeavors occur because people are watching in real time; keeping an eye on the market, on customers, on the competition, on the world. So tell me how you will provide a radar to the world in this plan and what are the sign posts that will trigger a shift in the plan and then you can call the plan both complete and well done.”

So I did and the plan went up the chain to very positive feedback and impact. And I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my career. You only know what you know in this moment. The world is not a static place. So if you don’t have a radar to adjust to the world around you, prepare yourself to either achieve success through luck or make your own good fortune by moving in tandem with and sometimes ahead of the world around you.

Yes the radar matters. It matters a lot. A good radar is a mix of data analytics, qualitative experience, related experience from other industries, sectors or customer segments and good old fashioned gut-feel. This combination has served me very well over my career – it is some of that rare, timeless advice. I’m very thankful to my manager at the time at GE as he taught me this and many other things about business on a global scale.

So the next time you’re building a plan remember that it is wrong, not because you don’t know what you’re doing, but because all plans are wrong. So build your radar and don’t rest on your laurels. Enjoy the success that results – it will be amazing!

Yahoo… This is about personal choice

Posted on 03/02/2013

The recent “all for one and all in the office” decision by Yahoo has spurred a huge debate. Having spent most of my career deep in the heart of geek-land at a few global companies, here is my take on the situation – and it probably isn’t what you’d expect. First the disclaimer – this is my opinion and mine alone so please don’t read into this anything about my current or former day jobs. 

This is really quite simple. It’s about choices and the ups and downs that are life. Is Marissa Mayer’s office-only choice for Yahoo good or bad? Time will tell. I could argue both sides of her decision fairly well actually. What I find annoying is the huge backlash this has caused. A company made a decision, like companies do every day, and that’s about it. What people do as a result is purely a personal matter. 

If you’re affected by the Yahoo decision or you work at any company that makes a decision that runs counter to your values or creates immense disruption in your life, then you have some choices to make.

First, you have to decide if you’re going to be a victim or if you are going to be the captain of your own future.

Have your short-term pity party; cry; scream; whatever you need to do, just get it out of your system. Then get down to work creating the life you want. You have choices whether you see them immediately or not and the most important one is deciding if you want life to happen TO you and be the victim, or if you want to be happy and be the captain of your future. You make this choice whether you consciously think about it or not. 

Second, you have to decide how long you can live with the impact of the company’s decision.

Living with the consequences should have an end date for your own sanity. Ask yourself – what would need to happen for me to make this work for 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, a year? Depending on your seniority, it can easily take a year to find something new. Know what your drop-dead date is so you can work back from there. In the meantime, have a coping strategy to get you through.

Third you have to decide what is really important to you.

This is a personal, no-judgment list. If it is important to you to be home when your kids get off the school bus then put it on the list. If it is important for you to have a flexible environment where you have an office and work at home options – put it on the list. If the type of people you work with is important – add it to the list. If economic security is important, it goes on the list. Then add how you want to feel when you’re working – calm, centered, valued, happy, like the sun is shining every day…. all that goes on the list right up at the top. You know that saying that people will forget what you say, often forget what you’ve done, but never forget how you made them feel? Well jobs are just like that. You’ll forget what people said, you won’t remember every activity that happened, but you will always remember how you felt in a job so make sure you have a list of how you want to feel in your new job both when you’re on the job and outside of work as well.

So you have decided to be the captain of your future, you know how long you can last in your current situation, you have a coping strategy and you have your list of things important to you. Excellent!

From here, compare the list of what is important to your current situation.

Where are the gaps? What can you cut out of your current life and what needs to be added? What would closing the gaps include? What order should you tackle the gaps? What help do you need to close them? This is where the rubber meets the road. You’ll create a series of projects to work on – and make sure you break these into projects so you can celebrate accomplishing them as you go. Then get to work. Start with one project, and get moving. Call people whose help you need. Update your resume if needed. Update your social media profiles. Read, make phone calls, write emails… whatever it takes to make your project complete, make it happen.

During all this, you do need to allow yourself to recover as well.

If you don’t preserve your energy and recharge, you will end up worse than you started – exhausted, in a job you hate and with major disruption in the rest of your life – truly miserable and no one wants that.

Often during times like this, financial security is a big concern. So when you’re planning how to recharge yourself, think about the little things that can have a big impact. Take your dog for a walk every day. Go for a walk yourself every day – fresh air and a little sunshine can make a big difference. Allow yourself to read something non-project related every day. Rent all the episodes of your favorite TV show, make a huge bowl of popcorn and settle in one Saturday for a marathon of couch-potato goodness. Call your best friends each week and ask them to help you check in on your progress and also to talk about something completely unrelated to your current situation. Most importantly take care of your health – physical, mental and spiritual – because good health can so easily be taken for granted, yet so quickly lost if not attended to. Make appointments with yourself to recharge and keep them with all the determination that you would keep an important business appointment.

Personal pep talks are also critical.

You will have ups and downs in this process. But do make a practice of starting each day with a pep talk. You can do this! You can change your plans when and if needed so you are never trapped. You have people who care about you and want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy. Many people write a short pep talk or list of affirmations and read them each morning. Choose what you like here, but make sure you start each day with a little personal motivation. Keep it positive because good thoughts create good realities. Leave the negative stuff for someone else – it has no place in your future. 

When you have a bad day or just feel a bit defeated, take a pause. It is ok to pause.

If you find yourself thinking “I’m never going to get out of here…” Then pause. Right then and right there, pause. See if you can identify what triggered the negative thought and how you can extract yourself from that cause in the future. And then set it right. Instead of thinking “I’m never going to get out of here…” think “Each step is a lesson and a gift. I am making progress toward my goal. I can do this. I am doing this. I am successful. domain name appraiser I am thankful for this journey.” 

Make sure to celebrate the milestones as you close each gap.

Whether that means blasting your favorite song and dancing like no one is watching; eating an ice cream cone; writing “I DID IT!” in big letters on your plan and posting it on your wall…whatever it is that gets you jazzed to celebrate your momentum, do it.

You have choices.

You always have and you always will. How you make them and what you do as a result determines how happy you are overall. So if you work at Yahoo or anywhere else and the company makes a decision that disrupts your life… remember that it is short term because you can set your future and you can make it happen in spite of some silly corporate directive. 

Leap!

Posted on 11/07/2012

To make a big leap forward in business, your career or anything else you have to do one critical thing…. you have to actually leap. Choose your moment, start the momentum, aim at a landing spot and jump. Put that all together and you leap.

If you wait until you’re pushed by other forces be it the competition, regulation, company decisions, etc. then you end up stumbling at best; falling at worst and no one enjoys that. In theory, you would always leap. But no one has perfect foresight so you end up with a mix of leaps, stumbles and a few falls. The trick is to have mostly leaps which make you stronger to deal with the occasional stumble or fall.

Leaping requires preparation and agility. You have to have a basic idea of where you are and where you want to land even if you don’t know the exact spot. You need to think about paths to your desired landing as there is almost always more than one. You have to assess if you have the energy to make it there and if you don’t, find a way to gain the energy needed. Understanding your level of tolerated risk is also critical – how wobbly a landing can you withstand? You’ll need to be able to balance quickly and possibly leap again if need be which requires an active understanding of your environment and confidence in your abilities. Then you need the courage and conviction to jump and start the process.

Leaping well means being open to new information and constantly scanning your environment. Don’t be afraid to see what others don’t or can’t – some of the greatest ideas in history came from calculated leaps to landing places others could not see or were too afraid to try. Know what you do well and what you need help to do better and then get yourself that help. Calculate the risks, have a contingency plan and LEAP.

Leap with conviction. Leap with courage. Leap with a positive mindset – knowing you can sort out anything you need to.

But most importantly… LEAP.

Being paralyzed by fear of the unknown, fear of the competition, or fear of failure simply puts you in a position to be pushed. Once pushed you’ll likely stumble or fall and end up someplace you don’t want to be. Leaping is proactive and creates momentum. Stumbling or falling is reactive and puts you at the mercy of other forces.

Leaping well takes practice and that is easy enough to do. Start with a few small, calculated leaps. What can you leap in to today? Give it a try. You may find yourself leaping for joy.

CMO, How Does Your Digital Garden Grow?

Posted on 09/28/2012

Having typically inherited a brand with existing marketing efforts, building a digital footprint and then growing it is new territory for most CMOs. Let’s use an analogy for how to build a digital center of excellence in an existing company. The analogy is gardening. Yes, gardening because it has many of the same elements of growth and sustainability as digital marketing.

Here’s what you need for an excellent digital garden.

Soil: The business environment you operate in

Soil is the marketing elements and fundamentals plus the internal perception about them. You inherited a website that may be depleted of vital nutrients in the form of stale content or low repeat visitors. You may have rocks to dig out in the form of executives not fully on board with a push to digital. Or you may have some clay to break up in the form of skeptics who with a little more information can become a vital part of your digital soil. Take stock, note the nutrients you need to build a rich digital soil. Make a plan, work the plan.

Sunshine: The brand perception or range of actions you want to drive via digital

Sunshine varies by time of year, just like a brand perception changes through sales seasonality and product cycles. You need to understand the sunshine you are working with and how much sunshine your audiences want/need so you can plant content accordingly. Are you trying to really turn the tide and improve your brand value, then you need a lot of sunshine or a mix of broad and then audience-specifically deep digital engagement. Again, take stock and be specific. Digital allows you to mix a range of activities through very targeted efforts so use that to an advantage.

Plants: The content

Most people’s favorite part of gardening is selecting and planting the plants themselves. This is how your garden comes to life. Content is the planting of your digital garden. To have a year-round digital garden you need an editorial calendar that spans the seasons and is audience specific. Leave the air cover marketing to TV and perhaps the home page of your website. This is about being on the ground since air cover only works if it is tethered to something of value people can grab on to. That TV ad for beautiful roses doesn’t mean you can clip them now for a bouquet. So, what types of content and in what structure resonate most with your audience? Do they want roses to smell and give as a gift aka content to read and share?  Or vegetables to eat aka downloadable content and resources? Perhaps they want both. Do the research, test, plan, execute, taste/measure, iterate.

Water: Marketing your digital presence

Water brings nourishment to plants much like the promotion of your digital efforts brings visitors, viewers, fans and advocates to your digital content. So Tweeting that your new thought leadership article is available for download brings water to those who may be thirsty for this information. Water often and in proportion to what the content needs. The delivery is also important – do you need a sprinkler like Twitter? Or a watering can like Facebook? Or a drip system like email, RSS and newsletter subscribers? Not all plants need the same amount of water just like all content doesn’t need the same type of promotion. Test, measure, tweak and help your plants / content grow.

Tending: Weeding out the bad and adding more of the good.

Yes, you’ll need to pull some weeds in your digital garden. Weeds in the form of negative feedback to manage with a little weed spray or plants that are being unruly and need to be pulled like content that isn’t performing as needed. You’ll also need to turn the soil a bit by keeping your internal stakeholders informed and measuring the nutrient level through a variety of metrics so your digital garden stays healthy and enjoyable for your audiences.

You can add digital gravitas to any brand, just like you can plant a garden. You just need to understand the soil, sunshine, plants, water and how to tend your garden so your audiences can enjoy it over and over. Happy gardening!

Want to be the Ruler of Your Brand? Measure Instead of Count

Posted on 06/04/2012

You can and should count friends, followers, clicks, views, Tweets, posts, likes, etc. But counting simply gives you a number – whether that number is “right” or “good” or “impactful” is unknown unless you measure instead of count.

Measuring compares what you’ve counted to some relevant baseline or group. Measuring is counting with context.

For example, your brand has 10,000 friends on Facebook (counting) – what percentage is that 10,000 of all possible friends of your brand on Facebook (measuring)? And, what percentage is that of your total target audience (measuring)?

If your target audience is 20,000 people, 100% of whom are on Facebook then your friend community reaches 50% of our total audience. From a measurement perspective that may be pretty good depending on your brand goals.

If, however, you have 2,000,000 in your target audience and 20% of them are on Facebook then your friend community is reaches 2.5% of your target audience who are on Facebook or 0.5% of your total target audience which may not be so good from a brand perspective depending of course on your goals.

In both cases you counted the same number of friends – 10,000 – but the measurement is what adds  brand impact context to the number. Measuring is counting with context and the context comes with some point of comparison or baseline.

This leads us to the next dilemma. How do you set a baseline so you have context to measure? Start with clear brand goals. Do you want to generate pure awareness, purchase intent, post-purchase advocacy, etc? These goals will help you set the number targets after you’ve selected your baseline. To choose the right baseline, you need a good understanding of your brand goals, presence and your target market dynamics. Here are some baseline ideas:

Competitive baseline: Determine what your most significant competitors are doing for brand reach and set your goals accordingly. Keeping with the example above, if you estimate your nearest two competitors each reach 50% of your collective target audience (remember, people may “friend” them both) then you may want to set 50% as your baseline of acceptable reach and then seek to grow at a healthy clip from there. This works well for established brands in known markets.

Experience baseline: Count your reach over a period of time that is representative of your business cycle; take an average and use that as a baseline. This baseline is your “normal” brand presence and you can add goals to move above this. Make sure to reset your experience baseline with your fiscal year or product lifecycle so you continue to drive improvement and impact. This works well for new brands and/or fluid markets. If you have a fluid market, you should reset your baseline more often in the beginning and note the assumptions you made in these resets.

Transferable baseline: If you have a new brand in a new market or are taking an existing brand to a new market or media, then you may not have either competitive or experience baselines to use. So choose an industry or media type that is structurally similar in branding – meaning the target audience is similar and their behavior and purchase patterns are similar – and use that as a baseline. It’s ok to mix industries as long as the audience and branding structures are similar. This will get you started then you can move to experience baselines and finally competitive baselines. Transferable baselines work well for disruptive brands and markets.

Be the ruler of your brand and measure instead of count. You’ll gain credibility in your industry and you’ll get faster, lasting impact for your brand. Good luck!