6 Simple “Screen Test” Steps for Business Growth
The super organised and resourced amongst you will no doubt have neatly prepared and signed off plans for the new year and beyond. Even the smug amongst you will still have nagging doubts over what the next year may bring. A.I., blockchain, global trade & nationalist tendencies, cybercrime, economy and yes, we cannot forget Brexit.
Whilst there’s no shortage of negative news there are also positive aspects to living in the latter 2010’s heading into the 2020’s, but what of the planning process and where to start?
Here below is my film quote themed list, of 6 steps, that will hopefully help in your planning process.
Everyone who names the films these quotes were taken from will be entered into a prize draw to win a £25 Amazon voucher and each entry, no matter if correct or just funny, will be matched by a £2 donation to Children in Need.
So, either add your entry to the comments below or e-mail me direct via email@example.com – and good luck!
Now on with the planning…
1. “You can’t handle the truth” – The most important factor in creating a successful plan is to truly understand the current position. Seeing the present situation either through rose tinted glasses or negative pessimism will not help establish an accurate platform to work from. Why not gain an external perspective from a trusted third party? Also, whilst you’re at it, permit yourselves time to step back from the day to day stresses of running the company. This can prove invaluable in setting a realistic starting point from which to plan ahead. Tried and tested tools you’ll be familiar with include PEST (Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural & Technology) and SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities & Threats) to help with your situational analysis.
2. “To Infinity & Beyond” – We don’t quite need the Buzz Lightyear warp drive, but a vision of where the business would ideally be in three years rather than the end of 2019 will lift sights beyond the immediate horizon. This is helpful as it can permit broader thinking as to the business model, its market and essentially the “bigger picture”.
3. “Show Me the Money” – We’re not in business simply for the hell of it, so consider both the revenue, profit and thereby costs that this growth is going to create and map the money projections from year three back to year two and then the next 12 months.
4. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” – Once the thinking has started around where the business is heading consideration as to the resources needed to deliver is essential. There is little point setting plans that are going to be unrealistic unless the people, plant and systems are there to support its objectives.
5. “May the Force be with you” – Having set out ambitious plans for growth it’s now time to use your “laser” focus and powers of collective creativity to articulate a series of defined projects that will deliver your first 12 months goals. Each project should be accompanied by clear objectives.
6. “These go to eleven” – Keep your eyes, ears and hands on the controls. The best plans can all too frequently be delayed or derailed through the day to day pull of a busy business. This is the reason why ongoing measurement of project and planning progress is essential to your overall success. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for each key action and what is expected of them by when.
If the above works for your business you can always produce a sequel for 2020.
Don’t forget to submit your film titles and remember every entry no matter if correct or just humorous will guarantee a donation to Children in Need.
If the above has sparked thoughts of growth planning, feel free to share your thoughts via David.firstname.lastname@example.org
NB. There are currently significant funding opportunities for SME’s to support business growth, leadership and management development activities.
A1. As covered in the previous Q&A your social media policy should cover such eventualities. If the account and its content is in clear conflict with your business you can request that it is deleted or amended to suit the firm. If they refuse check your social media policy – it should offer the firm the option of dismissing staff who breach the rules however allow time for the matter to be resolved before taking hasty action. Very often staff are not aware of the commercial sensitivities and competitive issues involved in running a business. If the reason for concern is raised in a reasonable manner and time granted for any suitable action to be taken you should resolve most matters quickly and easily.
Where the firm has acted reasonably, there is a clear conflict and yet the staff member has refused to co-operate you would be entitled to take appropriate action.
You will require an up to date social media policy and evidence that staff have been made aware of the rules and consequences of any breach. If in doubt consult an appropriately experienced employment lawyer before taken direct action.
A. Video is an excellent medium for promoting your business but in my experience too few are using it to best effect. We have moved on from the simple written word and hyperlinks to an increasing use of images as a form of visual branding. Video moves the message on a stage further where both the impact of moving images and sound can exponentially increase the reach of your message.
There is therefore a growing role for video as an effective mechanism to promote your company and social media platforms can significantly increase the audience reach of such content. The video may be beautifully produced, excellently articulated and worded to aim at your key customers but simply uploading to your website will not deliver the audience it deserves.
Examples of video best practice;
Overall I would recommend experimenting with video but be careful not to damage the firm’s brand with an overly amateurish production. Smartphones are actually powerful enough to create good video footage but investing in sound enhancement equipment and editing software will be money well spent.
Experiment, see how they work measure results and decide on future investment. I’ve used several and the best so far has been Facebook. Facebook works for me because it provides access to a significant depth of demographic data which helps tailor campaigns. If you’re looking more to a B2B over a B2C campaign I would suggest LinkedIn but again tread very carefully before committing £££. I’ve had mixed results with LinkedIn and the jury is still most definitely out on whether it can deliver over time for a variety of prodct/ service offerings. Most LinkedIn users are acutely aware and wary of in platform advertising and promotions.
My advice is to treat any advertising expenditure on LinkedIn or other social platforms like that of TV, Radio or Press. You want a return on your investment you’re not simply investing in the channel hoping it might work.
On the upside I have found LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to be very supportive when issues have arisen. Now is a good time to experiment with this area of advertising as, (a) Not many are using the medium to advertise (b) The platforms are very keen for their ad propositions to work and ergo, happy to help and respond if it goes poorly.
Typically it’s the last thing considered but it is so important in deciding the demand for future investment and resource. Twitters own in app package is actually very good, Hootsuite can produce tailored reports LinkedIn is useful when looking at the tracking of post activity and e-mail apps such as MailChimp and Campaign Monitor also help. There’s the daddy of drilling into data,Google analytics but I’m not going to lie, it can be difficult to identify the specific data set that you need,
My advice, unless you have an analysis ninja to hand is to keep it simple and focus on the key metrics of engagement, brand profile, reviews, comments and ultimately client acquisition. Nothing simpler than asking a new client what brought them to you, where they heard of you and had they been aware of your social media accounts, if so which ones. Old fashioned? Yes Effective? Most definitely.
This concludes the four part Q&A social media management for professionals. If you have any questions not covered by this series of articles feel free to connect and ask me directly or comment below.
There seems to be a flush of businesses updating websites driven by the ever increasing reality of digital dominance in marketing matters and fear that competitors are stealing a march.
Before pressing the panic button and engaging that “oh so charming” design company to makeover your online face, pause for a moment, breathe and think about what is really required.
Here is a short, not comprehensive but hopefully useful list of considerations if you are currently looking at refreshing or completely overhauling your website.
Let’s face it the reasons could be any or all of the above and a few more besides. Whatever the compelling rationale for such an investment it is worth applying cool focussed dispassionate logic. All too often we get over excited at the prospect of a new website and in the process lose sight of any key advantage such an investment should bring.
As stated this is not a comprehensive outline of considerations but an indication of the thought process you might consider adopting when talk of a new website turns to serious budgetary consideration.
For further advice and assistance with projects such as this please drop me a line.
Facebook owned Instagram is capitalising on the massive popularity of GIFs through the introduction of a new App called Boomerang.
Specifically designed for the smartphone Boomerang enables users to take a photo burst of 5 pictures that become looped as they in Vine but for a much shorter period.
Why might this work for business?
Photos, videos, Gifs, animation are all hot methods of engaging with eyeballs online and specifically the increasingly cluttered world of social media. Historically for the untrained and impatient amongst us creating a Gif was rather a faff. Now you can do it with one click.
Finding a creative use of moving images, even if it is as brief as 1 second can help make that business stand out from the crowd.
It’s very new, having only launched 22nd October yet major brands have immediately seen the benefit of the app. Timberland and Elle both showed flicking through their content whilst the Rugby World Cup social media team scored and converted with their early adoption and 1 sec clip of South Africa’s Schalk Burger before their clash with the Kiwis.
The apps key strength is its simple straightforward use, it is pretty much idiot proof…even I could immediately get the app working although my target subjects were not so easy.
It’s also incredibly easy to share the new moving content via a variety of platforms, obviously Instagram and Facebook plus Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ etc..
You can find the app in your devices store under Boomerang from Instagram. Download, have a play and see how it might add some all important interest to a product, service or topic you want to highlight.
The keenly observant amongst you may well have noticed something different with i2i. After almost 15 years as a yellow brick it was time to say goodbye to the old logo and introduce a fresh, more dynamic look.
Working with long-time friend and associate Alan Hayward we bounced around several ideas, colour schemes and shapes until finally settling on the new look.
We’re delighted with the look of the new brand identity and feedback has been very positive. Now I’m wishing I’d taken the plunge a few years ago but at the very least we took the important step and engaged a professional designer to sharpen up the image.
Interestingly Google also thought the time was right to re-brand with their change of font. This has delivered the usual array of positive and negative comments but from my perspective it’s spot on and timely.
If you have a brand identity are you happy with it? If so is it because, like a pair of old slippers, it’s comfortable and not hurting anyone and the thought of changing it gives you a headache? Or it might be fresh out of the box and still shiny so not ready for any tweaks.
When engaging with clients on this topic I find it can quickly become an emotional rather than rational discussion. Business owners feel protective of the brand, probably because its creation felt a little bit like the birth of their first child or most successful effort at DIY. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is a regular retort to suggestions of brand updating. I’m not unsympathetic to such views but if there is an engrained and stubborn refusal to accept an obvious flaw in a design or brand projection the business may well be losing custom simply through a perception based on looks rather than experience.
The Yellow Brick has come to the end of the road and now we’re hoping to A-peel with Orange (I can hear the groans from here you know). Essentially those involved in the business are behind the new brand and first impressions and feedback by clients has been better than we could’ve expected. As is typical in the culture of our business we don’t want to just talk about an area of marketing we want to get under the skin of it and understand it fully. By taking ourselves through this process I can assure you we understand both the pain and pleasure it can bring and for us in the short term so far the rewards.
The Values what are you looking to convey – expertise, good value, professional, quality, friendly, exclusive
Making an impression – will a new design create the impact you require, look at other brands and how you have responded, what do you want you brand to say to customers.
Staff – don’t overlook those working for you. Engage with them in the process but try and avoid committee led decision making. That typically ends up with consensus but little creativity.
Strapline – This is an interesting one. Some love the idea of a tag line to a brand others avoid at all costs. It can work very well or it can undermine the overall business strategy. For i2i we kept it very simple – moving to Marketing Management two words that for us sum up what we do but still contain a full range of services. Alternatively there is the ethos of the business and examples such as Adidas “impossible is nothing”, Subway “Eat Fresh” and then there’s the bold statement such as Carlsberg “probably the best lager in the world” great examples of enduring messages that underscore and enhance the brand.
Creativity – we all have an element of creativity in us and to lesser or greater extent an ego that wants to see our ideas in lights. In truth you don’t always need an expensive brand consultancy but we would recommend investing in an experienced graphic designer who can turn the ideas into a professionally finished identity.
Colour – If trading globally be aware of international conventions with colour and their cultural references. Also be aware of the way certain colours may appear in print or online. Checking out an HTML colour wheel against a printed pantone guide can deliver two very different results.
Feedback – take comments on board but retain your focus. This is very much a subjective area and will offer up a wide variety of opinions.
Old design – don’t lose customers by moving away too dramatically or quickly from a long standing brand. If you need to modernise consider a 2 or 3 phase approach taking as many years.
Context – consider all areas where the brand will appear – online, TV, video, radio, news print, glossy print, letterhead, e-mail, business cards etc…
All in all have fun with the process if you think it’s time to bring your business forward with a refreshed redesign of your brand make like Nike and just do it.
The sat nav takes you to a 3 star hotel and reception direct you down the hall to a small conference room set out with a large screen, small table with perched laptop, spaghetti wiring a plenty, trestle table with coffee jugs, cups and a dozen round tables with brochures sprayed on them like confetti at a giants wedding.
The rhubarb, rhubarb murmuring of human interaction bounces around the room. Suits liberally scattered throughout with some sat at tables talking intently to an obvious work colleague asking when it might be “ok to leave”. Others are trying to look important by holding their phone up to their ear and nodding along with saying “yes but don’t go a pound under 50,000….” You suspect there’s no one on the other end of that call.
At the far end of the room, furthest from the stage you have the cynically subscribed. This is the group, like you, who have been told to attend but in all honesty would rather staple a post it note to their forehead with the word “bored” written on it in black ink. They look for fellow cynics and poke fun at the small turnout, quality of bacon bun and when it starts whatever the presenter says.
You survey this scene and eyes fall upon someone who is actually watching you. Before you can break eye contact they walk over and introduce themselves…too late you’re networking or are you?
Ok so I paint a rather dystopian view of a networking event but I guess we’ve all been there at some time, others more often than most. So what can be done about the obligatory networking opportunity and how can you make the time work for you?
The first point is possibly the hardest, especially if you’re not the boss and have been asked to attend. Be brave. Ask the obvious question before you access Google maps for the location. Ask why? Why this event?
This might be viewed as insubordination by insecure or controlling bosses or just the question you should be asking by the more enlightened. If it has been thought through as to why your company time should be spent at this particular gathering then you are about to be educated. On the other hand if it has not been considered it might be a weak attempt at ticking that “marketing” action on a personal development list. Maybe it was put forward as “one your competitors would be at” and “worth keeping an eye on” during the business development meeting you missed. Any way around there’s a chance you’ve drawn the short straw.
Why? is such an excellent question and we just don’t use it enough. We blindly go along with the flow not prepared to disturb the status quo or fear for our job if we dare to question an instruction. By simply accepting an instruction without question I would argue that we run the risk of wasting not only our own time but that of the business. If it is indeed an opportunity what is it and how can it be best maximised?
Quite often an event might look dull and lifeless but within it lies a key nugget; and no that’s not the chap who turned his back on the audience to read his PowerPoint word for word. It is the connection, piece of information, intelligence that can be gathered.
A little research before an event can prove invaluable. Who’s attending? Which companies? What level? Who are the speakers? What’s the key message they’re conveying? Once you have this data you can begin to build a picture and determine if it is an event that you should attend, only then do you have the “why?” answered.
It could be as simple as a key client will be presenting and you want to show them that you are interested in what they have to say and keep up to date with their thinking. If that’s the case let them know you’re there, ask a question but make it a positive and memorable one. Talk to them after the presentation and make sure they know who you are and where you’re from.
If travelling in numbers to an event have a plan. Decide who is doing what. One takes notes of the presentation, another is charged with connecting with the key decision makers but don’t stick together for mutual comfort, it will achieve far less. What can be beneficial is an introduction if your colleague is best suited to a connection made at the event, make sure they get to see them for themselves.
By undertaking research, planning and setting out key objectives your mind set for the event is clear. It’s amazing how an individual with this behind them can appear so much more purposeful and confident and ironically find themselves attracting others who wish to connect. Remember to keep the key objectives in mind, do not be distracted by time-wasters or the cynically subscribed.
7 Top Tips for Networking Events
There are a variety of networking events. The broadly social with a hint of business “pub quiz” invite from your friendly accountant to the more commercially focussed and structured “we all know why we’re here” weekly gathering. All can have merit but none should be blindly accepted. A little time thinking, researching and planning can save you a fortune in wasted energy.
Pick up a copy of a business magazine, webinar, SEO whitepaper, workshop agenda or open one of those hundreds of marketing tip e-mails [not all such e-mails are the same of course 🙂 ] and the chances are you’ll not go far before the word “content” is mentioned.
If you want your website to be a successful shop window for your company you need it to be well furnished with content, lots of it, all shapes and sizes, colours, creations and categories……or do you?
Call me an old cynic…but when I start to sense a trend forming and a bandwagon being jumped on I have a natural inclination to run in the opposite direction. Sure SEO is important but what if you produce masses of poor content? All that will prove is that you’ve created a big website full of “stuff” that nobody is going to read let alone share. Surely the idea with this facet of marketing is to produce quality, focused material that appeals to those who you have identified as your target audience. Badly written and presented content will have the adverse effect. I would argue that even if you did rank higher as a result of your prolific production once anyone clicked on it they would be more inclined to bounce straight out again. This would only create a negative impression.
Ok back to basics, what is “content”? Does anyone really know or is it just another “buzzword” that sounds good but has little thought behind it.
Content varies from the obvious written word, blog, news update, article to more visual and increasingly popular sources such as infographics, webinars and other video based productions such as YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, Meerkat and Periscope.
Just for starters WordPress report that there are 42.6 million blog posts per month. Now imagine how that number is going to escalate with the buzzword of the year “content” driving marketing activities. Add to the written word the growing trend of video posts and you’ve a very busy and somewhat cluttered space in which you’re trying to make a name for yourself.
A) You can just see the common scenario developing where a young marketing manager, having read all the latest guides, asks the MD to produce a blog for the company. The MD is very busy but she knows this buzz of blogging and “thought leadership” is the thing she really should be doing…so she writes one. It’s not great but it is her first effort. The marketer doesn’t feel that they can correct the boss so is left with no option but to post it. No one comments on it, it’s only read by staff internally who universally agree the MD should stick to running the business.
B) Or what about a situation where no one in the business has the time to write an article or blog so they look around for help. Now for the purpose of balance I must advise that yes, there are excellent copywriters, journalists, wordsmiths who have both the intelligence and skill to produce high quality “home grown looking” material that is both informative and easy to digest. Unfortunately given the “content” Goldrush we have no shortage of prospectors panning for nuggets but finding fool’s gold, those who look the real deal, talk a good game but simply don’t understand enough about the business and the best way to communicate with their target audience. In this example the business spends a large chunk of their annual marketing budget on an agency who simply fails to connect with the client and produces low grade results albeit in large quantities. The company sacks the agency when the MD asks a few pertinent questions at a board meeting such as “Do they own a dictionary” “Have they met our production team” “Why are the web visits up but the engagement down?” The result, the agency blames the client and the resultant lack of business demonstrates the importance of having a well thought through strategy that involves communications that connect with the target audience.
So what should you be doing?
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog please contact David Laud via twitter @davidlaud or call 08456 446624