Tag Archive creativity

Byadmin

Absolutely Blab-ulous! – Why the Business World is Tuning in to Blab

A new kid on the block of live video streaming apps has an appropriate name,Blab.  It’s similar but sufficiently different to others such as Persicope and Meerkat that I thought it worth investigating.

Blab


The biggest difference with Blab is that it actively encourages others to join in and share the limelight, a bit like Google hangouts but without the overly fussy set up and management.  Four individuals can share screen time with typically one of the four being the host whilst any number of viewers can join in to watch the live event.  The US users are quick to point the similarity in look to the classic TV show “The Brady Bunch” and its opening credits.

The success and take up of Periscope and Meerkat has been possible due to advances in mobile video streaming capability with better wifi and 4G access.  Blab however has more of a “studio” feel.  There are a greater number of professional and good amateur presenters using desktop access and higher quality cameras and microphones compared to the many Periscope users who are just streaming video by way of a variation on a tweet or Facebook post.

It is still early days for Blab, in fact it’s still in “Beta” mode but you can already see how this platform could revolutionise webinars.  The site offers an opportunity for active participation from up to 4 panel members who could each be located on a different continent or just as easily be in the same room.blab logo

Viewers can log in to pre-publicised broadcasts at the allotted time and enable e-mail alerts to remind them when to watch.  The video can also be saved and sent as a link via e-mail or placed on your website to be watched at a time to suit the viewer.

The interaction with twitter is far better via a desktop but if you are on the move and have a healthy connection it provides an excellent method of catching your favourite experts, podcaster or topic of interest.  You can also broadcast your own Blab on the move but if you check out the better received content on the platform it tends to be generated from the desktop pc or laptop.  The reason for this is the scope of information you can gather and use via the screen, helping with visitor interaction as they message you during a broadcast.  Sounds a little manic and it can be but that’s all part of the charm of Blab.

Unsurprisingly the vast majority of users and participants are based in the US but the word is spreading and my guess is it won’t be long before brands and business advisors across the globe start to see the advantage of the format.  There’s certainly no reason why you shouldn’t investigate the possibility of hosting your own “show” where you may participate with colleagues, peers or invited guests.

The screenshot of the Blab featured in the main picture used for this blog involves social media experts Heather Heuman (Sweet Tea Social) and Stephanie Nissen.  They delivered a very informative session with guests taking their hot seat shown as the “call in” space to ask questions, it works very well indeed.

I would recommend having a look at Blab, click on a few shows, if feeling brave take part in a chat or if feeling even braver take a seat if there’s one spare.

Remember that you will need a webcam, yourself in view, good sound quality and hopefully a good background.

Smarter Blabbers introduce their Brands via signs or pictures placed behind them but in good sight, so those tuning in can be reminded who they’re watching.

I can see companies using Blab for internal training or conference calls with the private approved users only feature stopping others joining in.  As a tool for a wider audience it can deliver key messages, seminars, promotions and consultations.

Go take a look at  https://blab.im/ and let me know what you think, see if you agree that it could have genuine appeal for your business.

Byadmin

Marketing – Is it really all about the 3 C’s – Content, Content, Content?

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.

Content Marketing Plan

Content Marketing Plan

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.

Typical Examples

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?

  1. Know your audience and understand what they want, how they consume information and if indeed an MD blog is the way to grow your business profile.
  2. Google does seek fresh and relevant content so it is an idea to have your website populated with dynamic regularly updated and appropriate material.
  3. Don’t overlook the use of video or slides as content alternatives but ensure they are well scripted, planned and executed and not “handmade”.
  4. Don’t follow the competition, find your own voice and methods of communicating that speak of your business, its culture and strong sales points.
  5. Whilst it’s important it’s not all about digital.  Consider the offline use of content such as print, face to face and traditional broadcast mediums.
  6. If you can make use of the writing talent within your business.  It doesn’t need to be perfect but be prepared to offer constructive criticism to ensure that the finished article is as professional as possible.
  7. Provide training – consider bringing in a professional writer/ journalist to deliver a session on writing for a specific audience.
  8. Don’t make it a one hit wonder. Take responsibility for driving the content creation within the business.
  9. If you do outsource vet the suppliers with terrific care. I would strongly counsel against allowing an agency to run social media sites for your company however more complex written material may need external expertise to deliver. Seek out those who are prepared to understand your business and offer true bespoke material rather than a factory production line.
  10. Last but by all means not least, be clear as to your objectives and strategy. Ask the question IS CONTENT CREATION THE CORRECT SOLUTION FOR MY BUSINESS? If so what will work and where are you best employed to deliver optimum returns. If not don’t be badgered by the bandwagon promoters, trust your instincts.

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

Byadmin

We all want to be Norm – 10 Tips to Build Stronger Customer Relationships

Back in the early 1980’s a US sit com hit our screens and almost immediately became a hit. Centred on a small bar in Boston the show introduced us to a series of characters who were the regulars and staff of “Cheers”. The theme song was catchy and used the phrase “Where everyone knows your name”. One character personified this tagline more than any other. A large chap with ill-fitting suits, tie almost always askew and mop of curly hair, his name was Norm Peterson an *accountant played by the wonderful actor George Wendt. *In later episodes Norm becomes a house painter.

Each time Wendt’s burly frame stepped down the stairs and came into view he was met with a chorus of welcoming voices “Norm!”

That friendly welcome became one of the most popular aspects of this hugely successful show which ran continuously from 1982 to 1993 and produced a number of spin offs including Kelsey Grammer’s “Frasier”.

But rather than offer up a history of popular US sit coms I’m highlighting this specific element as an example of how we should be looking after customers.

We all want to be Norm (pic by Jordan Wilson)

We all want to be Norm (pic by Jordan Wilson)

Business owners and managers in the hospitality sector appreciate all too well the importance of knowing the customer and making a personal connection. Restaurants, bars, hotels, clubs they all rely very heavily on the power of personal recommendation and with the advent and growth of TripAdvisor they know they cannot afford to let standards slip.

Just for a moment put yourself in the role of a customer looking to use your business to buy or enquire about a product or service. If you’re a first time customer it’s highly unlikely that the communication is going to be as warm and familiar as that enjoyed by Norm but the objective should be to get to that level. Who wouldn’t want to feel that they’re recognised, remembered and ultimately valued by the establishments they frequent?

At a time when business is becoming ever more competitive and the winning of new customers more complex and costly, it’s logical to invest time to understand their experience, their needs and without being too intrusive more about them as individuals.

Starbucks are a great example of a business that invests in exactly that element of their marketing. You can buy a decent coffee in any one of a number of nationally branded and local establishments in most towns and cities. Why would you choose one shop over another? Some may genuinely prefer the taste of Costa coffee but the vast majority of us weigh up the overall experience.

The simple task of taking your name for the cup makes you feel as though the staff are taking a personal interest in you, yes it has a functional purpose but I suspect it was introduced for more reasons than you may think. Trying to remember hundreds of regular daily customers by face for the average person is quite a task but if you take their names you are adding a neat memory aiding process to the task and chances are they’ll not need to ask after one or two visits. Then how good do you feel when your name is remembered? Would you want to return to such a store? Of course you would.

Keeping with Starbucks their attention to customer’s behaviours extends to the queues waiting to place their orders. Ever noticed what most of us do when we’re waiting to be served? We reach for our smartphones, check our social media accounts, e-mail and then when we’re ready to place that order we scrabble for a wallet or purse. Noting this behaviour Starbucks developed a function of their smartphone App which enables customers to not only earn rewards and get free food and drinks but essentially pay using those phones they already have in their hand. Just look around at your average Starbucks and count the Apple Macs and smartphone usage, they understand their market and how best to engage with them. What I like about the Starbucks example is that they took the time to consider the customer experience and find a way to improve it. I also like the fact that it’s a great combination of offline and online but at the heart is the desire to make that trip to buy your coffee and snack that much easier. Of course it doesn’t hurt Starbucks to have an app that requires your personal details to register and use it but by now you’ve built a level of trust having been a “regular” and happy to share a little personal data.

For those of you now complaining that you don’t have “Star-bucks” to throw at such projects (see what I did there) don’t worry it doesn’t need to be expensive.

The best marketing and customer service solutions are often simple, common sense and can be implemented without breaking the bank. The essential part of this process is to initiate direct action and start taking a greater interest in that over used phrase the “customer experience”.

Here are 10 suggested steps to get things underway

1. Take time to stand back and become a customer of your own company, be honest and objective.
2. Look at what you’re delivering, break down the elements into stages.
3. How are customers responding?
4. Become more familiar with competitor approaches but avoid following their lead.
5. Build on the positives of the current offering.
6. Address the negatives.
7. Adapt to take advantage of the intelligence gained from the exercise.
8. Train staff to become more aware and develop empathy with the customer.
9. Introduce communication channels to keep feedback flowing.
10. Review and refresh regularly.

If this is an area that interests you or you would like more information please feel free to drop me a line.
David Laud

Byadmin

Why You Should Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Last week proved to be an example of what life can deliver if you just say “yes” rather than look at the diary and excuse yourself. Like many I have a busy schedule but as you know “busy” doesn’t always translate to productive or necessarily interesting. So why do we stick with the mundane routine? It’s safe, familiar and something we’re comfortable with but are we denying ourselves experiences that may not only help us but also the business to grow?

Bob Laud - Fashion Show

Bob Laud – Fashion Show

This image is my son who bravely donned a pair of high heels in a school fashion show, literally stepping out of his comfort zone. Thanks Bob for letting me use this perfect example.

What happens when the boss asks you to prepare a presentation for a forthcoming meeting or you’re sent on a residential training course by HR? Or if you are the boss and you get an opportunity to attend an engagement that requires a little extra preparation, above and beyond your usual workload?

You might be aware of the often quoted, bizarre but apparently true statistic. We actually fear public speaking over our own deaths? Yes, I know hard to believe but for many the thought of giving a presentation can genuinely put them under so much stress that no other single meaningful act can be achieved until the event passes. It demonstrates how much we can worry about such things and for that read most “new” experiences either within your job or socially.

The question we should be asking ourselves is this. What is the worst that can happen if I do this? What are the likely benefits and potential pitfalls? Noting those worrisome factors work on eliminating them through gaining a better understanding of what you’re going to be doing, those who will be there and if presenting rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. A polished performance comes from practice and the confidence in your own ability as a result of putting in sufficient preparation time. Even if it’s simply being somewhere to attend a meeting, dinner or networking event try and gather as much intelligence as you can beforehand.

Of course sometimes an opportunity presents itself that doesn’t afford the luxury of hours of preparation. In those circumstances it’s important that your decision factors in the likely outcomes and a polite “no” may well prove to be the right response, after all you may be asked as an after-thought, late replacement (something that has happened to me). However, being a 2nd or 3rd choice shouldn’t be a dent to the ego but a potential challenge to prove that you should’ve been their natural first on the list. [NB] It’s still important to retain a clear objective and thoughts on its likely achievement given the short notice period.

Just by taking simple steps and allowing yourself to be in unfamiliar territory you become an explorer and collector of experiences that broaden your horizons.

Last week I presented at a national forum for law firm leaders. Despite having presented more times than I can care to remember I still experience the adrenalin and anxiety of making that public appearance. That critical moment all eyes fall on you and they expect to be entertained and learn something at the same time can be quite nerve wracking even for the most experienced presenters. That very same week I also made a successful application to be in the audience of BBC Question Time, again taking myself out of the usual comfort of watching the show on the sofa and instead taking part in the programme.

What did I do to make the experience more rewarding?

At the leadership forum I primarily went to learn and connect with others who are leaders in a sector I have a great interest in. I made copious notes and really gained a better insight into factors that impact my business. For my presentation I requested, in advance, a list of the attendees from the organisers and spent an hour googling various names to see who would be in the room with me. This creates familiarity. One of the great benefits of our “connected” World is that it can be relatively easy to find useful facts and information on senior business figures, some perhaps share a little too much but that’s for another blog.

With BBC Question Time I made an even greater effort to track the week’s political news and also researched the panel – sending a tweet of introduction a couple of days before the show. I was prepared with my question, rehearsed it several times but as luck would have it we ran out of time for me to pose my query.

These are 2 examples of events both of which required a decision, personal commitment a step outside of a comfort zone and break from the routine. They also required an investment in time to gain a tangible benefit. OK the BBC show was more pleasure for me than a business opportunity but having met so many very interesting people at the venue I wouldn’t hesitate in going again if the opportunity arose.

I appreciate many readers will have examples of their own no doubt far more entertaining and interesting but the point I’m hoping to make is that the simple step to participate is one we should take more often. Escape the routine and find a challenge that will stretch or stimulate.

Our lives can become too full of tasks, others problems and “stuff” that makes us weary and unable to commit to extra curricula activities. In my experience the simple act of participating in “out of the norm” activities provides the spark and stimulation to re-invigorate our lives back at the coalface.

Meeting new people in new surroundings and entering into these situations with an open and challenging mind is a way to bring real value back to what you do during a “normal” day. Perhaps we just shouldn’t have standard days, ideally we should engineer something unique. If not each day certainly once a week challenge yourself to be somewhere new and make connections.

So the next time you receive an invitation or have a fleeting thought of attending a show or event that interests you don’t let it escape, step outside the comfort zone and say yes, you never know where it might lead.

David Laud

Byadmin

Ice Bucket List – Why the ALS Charity Challenge Works

Unless you’ve been tucked away on a desert island without internet, TV, phone or radio you can’t help to have been exposed to a never ending parade of people posting short videos of self-emersion in cold water. The #icebucketchallenge (don’t forget the hashtag) has become a phenomenal success for the charity that took ownership of the act – the ALS Association representing those diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  The disease is also known by the name of US Baseball legend Lou Gehrig who died at the age of 37 in 1941. 2 years prior to his death July 4th 1939 he gave an emotional farewell speech to a packed Yankee Stadium stating that despite his diagnosis he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.

Lou Gehrig (USAToday)

Lou Gehrig (USAToday)

The disease is reported to affect some 450,000 across the globe.  A diagnosis is devastating as tragically the body shuts down and life expectancy from that point is a shattering 2 years. In the UK we use the collective term Motor Neurone Disease.  It covers a range of conditions such as ALS that cause the death of nerve cells controlling muscles and thereby gives rise to degeneration. It’s fortunately rare but nonetheless a terrible condition that often strikes the sufferers down in the prime of their life. ALS is the specific condition behind this most recent viral sensation.  A very worthy cause and one that deserves to receive recognition.

The current campaign has been one of the most successful viral events of all time.  The results are quite staggering. The ALS Association has raised some $62m in just 4 weeks that’s over 30 times the $2m they raised in the same period in 2013. They have an amazing 750,000 new donors and the numbers just keep on growing.

MND the Motor Neurone Disease charity has also benefited by an additional £250k donated as a result of this campaign. So how did this happen? As most will testify, cause related campaigns on social media sites are nothing new. Facebook in particular is frequently used as a launch pad by fundraisers to reach as many potential supporters in a short time at little cost.  It can be very effective, I know having raised a few £’s over the years with my running but that is but a tiny imperceptible spec compared to the massive wave of ice bucket drenched donors. The previous success of the #nakedselfie #nomakeupselfie was impressive. £8m raised for Cancer Research in just 6 days.

The ALS campaign appears to have been given a far bigger boost and the momentum just keeps taking it forward.

The challenge sets out very simple rules.  Once nominated take the ice bucket challenge and donate $10 to ALS, if you don’t take the challenge pay $100.  When taking the challenge record the act on video and upload as proof, post on facebook or another social media site of choice having nominated 3 more individuals to take part who in turn have 24 hours to complete the deed.  Simple and very effective.

The factors for success: Humble beginnings & credibility – The ALS challenge was started by the friends and family of a former Boston College baseball captain, Pete Frates who was diagnosed with ALS at 27.  The initial post of a video was of others taking the challenge as he was too weak to participate.  Those family and friends challenged local Bostonian athletes to follow suit. Nominations spread through the Boston area and soon enough athlete’s across the US including many major stars were taking part for Pete and others with ALS.

Pete Frates Fight Against ALS – The Start of the Icebucket Challenge

Celebrity power – Soon Hollywood and the business community got the call through nominations and celebrities were engaged.  Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, George Bush, Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham….the list is extensive and adds hugely to the attraction for others to participate having seen their favourite singer, actor, entrepreneur take the challenge.

Narcissism – Ok this is a little negative but social media does offer us an opportunity to “perform” to a wider audience, be centre stage and demonstrate our caring and charitable efforts. Most of us want to be loved, at the very least liked by others and this just works very nicely.  But who cares it’s raising money for a great cause.

Competition – As seen with many celebrity posts there’s been a fair share of “anything you can do…” iced water dropped from helicopters, thousands of dollar bills not water falling from the bucket (Charlie Sheen) and self-made apparatus (nice one Bill Gates). This effort has been replicated by many non-celebrities with terrific imaginations finding new and whacky ways to go that bit further when taking the challenge.

Simple – You don’t have to train for this.  It’s not a marathon or even a fun run you just have to stand or sit and take a cold shower. So it opens the challenge up to young and old alike, fit and those not so fit which makes the potential participant demographic very wide.

Connectivity – the opportunity to involve members of your own network through nomination feeds wonderfully into our desire to connect to family and friends through social media.

Technology – the proliferation of smartphones with video record capability enables millions to participate.  This added to an encouragement to users by many platforms to make video related posts and as a result easy to use upload apps means the task of sharing such events has never been easier.

The above ingredients all combine to produce a campaign that has every chance of becoming one of the biggest viral events ever seen.  Predictably this success has caused side effects such as the bandwagon jumping of others to benefit from the trend.

One notable example is Macmillan Cancer Support who leapt onto the challenge and attempted to claim the #icebucket as their own.  As a result they’ve received considerable criticism not helped by the Head of Digital for the charity quoting their missed opportunity with the #nakedselfie as justification for jumping on the ALS campaign.  Just Google “ice bucket challenge” and you’ll see that Macmillan have gone to the trouble of taking a paid keyword advert placing them in top spot on the search engine.  Many have complained that they donated via a short text code advertised by Macmillan thinking it was for ALS.

My advice to Macmillan is to spend time and effort working to create original ideas that will bring credit to this great charity and not ride on the back of other charities innovative drives.  Yes, the ice challenge has been used to raise awareness and funds for their chosen charity in the past and no doubt the future too but leave it to the individuals to make that choice.  It was Pete Frates friends and family who drove this phenomenon and that’s what makes it a true viral success.

Have I taken the challenge?  Oh yes I was nominated and had some fun doing it too.  I did use the opportunity to raise awareness of 2 other charities I work with but didn’t overlook the fact that it’s the ALS campaign first and foremost so they too benefited from a donation. David Laud icebucketed No one should feel forced to take part and be bullied or otherwise pressurised into taking a dowsing for ALS.  It’s voluntary and an individual choice that others should respect. Unfortunately there have been examples of peer pressure and negativity thrown towards those who’ve not followed their nominators’ request.  That’s not how charity works and is one of the uglier side effects of such successful viral campaigns. Overall the positive far outweighs the negative.  I say congratulations Pete Frates and your inspirational friends and family.

The ESPN video is certainly worth a watch and helps put this campaign into perspective. It proves the power of the human spirit and the ability to turn such a negative situation into something so immensely positive. If you have any comments on this or any of my articles please feel free to add them here.  I’d love to hear your experience of this and other charitable campaigns. David Laud

Byadmin

8 Top Tips to Help You Get Organised

Sunday is traditionally known as the day of rest, the day we stay away from thoughts of work and revert our attention to more leisurely pursuits.  The need for rest and relaxation and diversion away from stresses and strains of our busy working lives make Sunday a perfect day but….

That’s not quite how my Sunday worked out for me.

Getting Organised

This Sunday I spent the best part of the day harvesting dead wood from my office, organising myself and planning.  It had been a little while since I’d last re-organised but I’m now determined to stay on top of all things real (paper) and virtual (e-mails and digital files).

It is quite amazing how much “stuff” we accumulate and what we regard as important one week but happily consign to the bin the next.

Staying organised takes discipline and the ability to make effective decisions.  My biggest problem is fighting the inner hoarder in me – time to be more ruthless.

Of course the process and determination of what “truly organised” is will vary from person to person.  They key is to feel on top of things and confident that matters won’t get overlooked and opportunities or deadlines missed.

There is a level of science and tangible evidence of the psychological benefits of having a tidy up in the office.  So if you’re in need of a little more order in your life here’s a few tips to get things started:

 

  1. Work out what being organised will look like for you.  Don’t be side tracked by other views of what you should or shouldn’t do, make your own determination and picture your life in an organised vision of the future.
  2. Scope out the task and set out the specific actions that you’ll need to take.  If this attack on chaos at home or work impacts on others it’s only polite to share your thoughts.
  3. Know yourself…we all have little foibles that can often get in the way of progress. Procrastination or as my wife so delicately puts it “faffing about” can be one weakness if there’s a particularly knotty matter to handle.  My response to this is to deal with it first, get it out of the way and have the more enjoyable tasks lined up as the carrot to motivate me through the less palatable parts of the project.  Others may be stimulated by having their favourite tunes firing them into action in a “get to it” playlist….some may need both.
  4. You are in control so be your own boss but don’t be easy on yourself.  Set deadlines and meet them.  Just make sure they’re realistically achievable.  Don’t set yourself too big a task in one go.  There’s nothing worse than half completing the job and being tired out too. It will just end up being a de-motivating and totally counterproductive experience.  If you have a very large job to do to get yourself organised, break it down to manageable chunks.
  5. Don’t just shuffle the pack.  Clutter and disorganisation will only be temporarily alleviated by shifting “stuff” from one area to another.  Be decisive and ruthless.  Get rid, shred and recycle as appropriate.
  6. Many hands make light work – a phrase that can come in very handy if you’ve willing helpers.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  If you’ve shared as in (2.) above they may well volunteer their services willingly.
  7. Adapt as you go.  If the original plan needs a tweak because you’re finding a better way to index files or make use of a particular cabinet, go with the flow.
  8. Treat yourself.  We all like to feel a tangible benefit to working hard so why not promise yourself a nice lunch or trip out with the family as a reward for getting organised.

Once you’ve finished remember you actually haven’t…being organised is an ongoing process.  Keep on top of matters to avoid falling back into the bad habits of old.

The greatest advantage, once the job is done is the feeling of control and confidence you get from knowing exactly where things are.  You can save a great deal of time and avoid the frustration of duplicating effort by clearing out the clutter and in so doing retain the knowledge of what you have.

For me a cluttered office results in cluttered thinking and working practices.  A clean and ordered environment certainly improves my outlook and ability to cope with the ever increasing demands of the modern multi-tasking world in which we live.  My weekend might feel a little shorter but the week ahead will prove far more productive as a result.

David Laud  – Click Here to follow me on Twitter

 

Byadmin

Knowing the Price of Everything and Value of Nothing

Oscar Wilde’s famous quote from his only published novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is one that intrigues me.  It can have a number of subtle meanings but within the novel it is specifically relating to the bartering of an item in Wardour Street . In the late 19th century this part of London was known for antique and furniture shops and Lord Henry’s bidding for a piece of old brocade may have hinted at the difficult economic circumstances of the period.  Lord Henry’s frustration at the time taken to secure his purchase leads to his statement, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Cost-value graph on blackboard

Fast forward to the 21st century and things are not so different.  One effect of the recent recession has been our re-focus on reducing our outgoings both personally and commercially as the pinch on our profit and lifestyle hit home.

Let me be very clear (sound like a pompous politician there) I don’t have an issue with careful cost control.  Quite the contrary, I actively encourage a regular domestic and business review of expenditure.  The issue as it relates to Oscar’s brilliantly written line is that we can become “hard wired” to focussing exclusively on the currency of a product or service and not the benefit or return that item will bring.

As a marketer and business owner this is very important territory.  I’m equally a supplier and customer and in both relationships I try my best to be consistent.  The difficulty is in identifying what that often quoted but rarely defined “value” is.

What is “value”?

As a noun it’s “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something”

As a verb “to estimate the monetary worth”

All too often we see the term reduced to a base level with items branded as “value meals” and the like.  That’s not really value, it’s just cheap but of course that’s a word that won’t shift a chicken tikka masala from your local supermarket shelf.

Knowing the value of something can be harder to realise than you might think.  Often we only truly gauge something’s worth when it’s no longer available.  From your favourite TV series to particular brand of perfume, that great boss who selfishly retired or reliable local mechanic who always fixed your car with a smile.  When they’re gone we appreciate them more.

This test equally works on goods and services that we might already attribute more value to than they deserve.   What about that expensive watch, particular club membership, car, holiday destination or brand of coffee?  These are often aspirational items and by owning or experiencing them we believe as a consequence our lives to be “better” and thereby valuable.  That’s a state of mind that many brand owners want their target customers to buy into but if we were forced to use an alternate would our lives be so much worse?

Businesses that sell services can often struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition.  There will always be those who use price as a promotional blunt instrument.  Successful companies take the time to understand not only the mechanics of their offering but the emotional response to experiencing the best and worst of the market offerings.

You might technically be measured as the very best at what you provide but if you employ robots or a team of over confident practitioners to deliver, they’re unlikely to capitalise on that technical advantage.

Good business is all about the human experience.

So what are the factors that make the difference?

  • Accessibility
  • Action
  • Attitude
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Experience
  • Flexibility
  • Focus
  • Knowledge
  • Listening
  • Resilience
  • Responsiveness
  • Simplicity
  • Truthfulness

And of course this can all add up, when we include the fee, to value.

If you’re up for a challenge take a look at a couple of services and products that you use over the course of the next few weeks.  Ask yourself what you are basing your decisions on and consider if that is the best measure for making those purchases.  Put yourself in a position where you must justify those purchases to a boss and they are going to want clearly articulated and rational responses.  Consider which of those items you would wish to retain and those that fall short and face being replaced.

What does value look like to you?  Once you’ve thought about it from your own consumer perspective you might want to have a go at applying it to your own business.  Consider, honestly, if you would want to buy from your business, if so great…. can you do even better?  If the answer is no… where are you failing and how can you address the shortcomings?

If you’re not a typical customer of your company’s product or service, seek out those who are and ask for their honest, non sugar-coated views.

Knowing the price of something is the easy bit, knowing the value… that’s a skill that we all need to work on.

David Laud

 

Byadmin

The Power of Personal Branding

Later this year our first born turns 20.  Her generation has been the first to grow up in the “social” World we all now inhabit.  Migrating from MSN messenger a brief flirtation with MySpace before Facebook appeared on the scene.  Now she can count twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Tumblr to the portfolio of sites that enable her to connect and share with friends.

The Power of Personal Branding by David Laud

The Power of Personal Branding by David Laud

In the early days it wasn’t quite as all-consuming as it is now.  Accessibility was limited to time on Dad’s laptop or PC but as we all know now smartphone and tablet proliferation provides instant easy access.

 

As a parent we will naturally be protective over the sites visited and posts read and made by our children but it’s not always easy to build and maintain trust whilst coming across as an Orwellian control freak.

 

Parenting is one thing but what of ourselves?  Are we immune from the attractions of social media and the desire to connect and build our own virtual networks?  For some the thought of sharing aspects of their lives on any potentially public platform is just too scary or ridiculous to consider.  For others it opens a whole new world of opportunity.

 

Successful social media entrepreneurs have created impressive personal brands that can equal that of a large business.  Commentators and influencers are now being actively sought out by the traditional brands to aid them in their quest to understand and grow their own sphere of influence online.

 

What about you?  Do you see yourself as falling into the “personal brand” category?  From my perspective anyone who is prepared to put themselves out there with a unique and homespun message that

shares even a small part of their lives has created a brand.  The difficulty with such a notion is that people see a brand as belonging to something far greater than an individual, its Nike, Coke, Apple, Dyson, Virgin…. But just consider the celebrity brand.  Stephen Fry, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, One Direction, Jeremy Clarkson; there are hundreds of examples.  One of the most stunning examples of an individual harnessing the power of social media is that of Barack Obama and yes he had a team behind him but the principle of Obama the brand, his message and reach through social media is a lesson we can all draw upon.

 

If using social media for personal or business purposes or in my case a schizophrenic combination of both you really should take time to think about how your persona is presented.  I often see accounts on twitter where individuals are obliged by their employers to state that the tweets produced are their own and not associated with the business they’re fronting.  I understand why these statements are made but I do fear they undermine any efforts to positively promote that business, it gives an impression that they are free to talk behind the businesses back rather than be trusted to offer opinion and general comment on the world around them.  If you’re worried about what someone might say in the name of your business or by any loose association, don’t give them the keys to the account!

 

Back to the personal brand idea – what should you be doing to make the most of your social media presence?

10 Tips for Personal Branding with Social Media

  1. Think about why you’re investing time in social media sites
  2. Be careful not to imitate others, be original and find your own voice.
  3. Draw up a short list of simple objectives, what do you want from all this time you’re investing?
  4. Consider setting yourself some basic “house rules” for social media use such as:
    • No swearing
    • Respect others
    • Block negative contributions from your network
    • Protect and enhance your reputation
    • Add value to your network
  5. Ask for feedback from others who you trust to give an honest appraisal of your online persona, does it match your own thoughts?
  6. Don’t get hung up on social ranking scores
  7. Focus on the level of genuine interactions
  8. Regularly review where you are against your objectives and don’t be afraid of changing them
  9. Update the profile pic to keep things fresh
  10. Try not to take yourself too seriously

The last on the list could easily be top.  One of the biggest “turn offs” is the overly earnest, terribly persistent and infuriatingly opinionated narcissist.  It’s really not a good look; but given the personality type they’re often so self-obsessed they don’t see what we can.

Being aware of your personal brand is not taking yourself too seriously it’s actually taking responsibility for your current and future reputation.  Most employers and clients now “Google” the names of individuals who they might be working with.  It’s clear that those who have strong, well established and consistent content will put themselves in the frame for future work.

As far as branding goes…it really is getting personal.

David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP

Follow me on Twitter

Byadmin

Putting the “Social” Back into Social Media Marketing

Have you noticed it’s getting harder to generate meaningful responses and take part in active “real time” conversations on social media platforms?  I have and I know many others who experience the same issue which is why I think we need to put the “Social” back into social media marketing.   In my view one of the root causes of this trend away from network engagement is the application of tools to assist in posting multiple messages and scheduling content broadcasts.

Putting the "Social" Back

Putting the “Social” Back

For this I have a confession, I’m guilty as charged.  I occasionally schedule posts using a very well-known and popular application and yes I get a sense of relief and satisfaction knowing that I’ve organised myself and my business.  It’s planning ahead and that’s good isn’t it?

In the strictest sense of business management yes, it’s good to be organised, but what have I actually done by scheduling tweets and G+ updates and sharing blog content at times when I’ll be very busy with other matters?

I’ll tell you what I’ve done…I’ve removed myself from the core principle of social media…engagement.  Of course I have alerts set up on tablet and phone so if one of the automated tweets receives a favourite, re-tweet or mention in any way I will have an immediate notification.  Despite the efforts to acknowledge and have an interaction with followers it’s still only a reactive response to my own content and not a supportive comment or conversation based upon my networks very current posts.

I do still take time to post personal messages and support others on-line but if I’m being brutally honest I’m not doing enough.

Too many social media users have lost focus on the “social” and become more obsessed with simply broadcasting.  Marketing teams are schooled in how best to push the message through these new channels and only a few companies are really engaging with customers and their networks.  The best examples of making social media work in large organisations is having teams readily accessing channels to pick up on comment, complaint and feedback.  That’s listen mode ahead of broadcast mode.

As a marketer I do see social media platforms as communication channels but they are not the same as TV and radio they are uniquely designed for personal engagement.  Creating campaigns to deliver sales messages over and over again interspersed with the occasional useful content is not going to impress many in your network.

Social media has evolved and for many it still performs and delivers but it’s worth taking a step back and giving your current strategy a little “Spring clean”.

I for one will be turning down the auto tweets and returning to the fundamental foundation of the medium.  Listening first, learning about others and encouraging positive engagement.  The best advice I can give is to place yourself in the position of one of your network members and try see how you appear in their timeline.  If you come across as one of those annoying spam phone calls that’s pre-recorded and doesn’t allow you to respond it’s time to re-think your approach.

One shining light in the social media tunnel is the introduction of interest, profession, sector or location based groups who meet on-line at specific times and share a hash-tag # to help bring everyone into view.  Here people can and do actively engage in the moment and enjoy the virtual networking experience that can prove so very useful and motivational.

Above all you get far greater rewards from real-time engagement it just takes a little more investment in time and effort.  No one is expecting you to “camp out” on twitter or permanently “latch on” on to LinkedIn.  Set yourself a sensible time schedule, assess when others are also on-line and start listening.  Find out which groups that interest you are already “hanging out” at specific times.

I’m looking forward to putting the emphasis back to where it belongs on social media sites and having some fun while I’m doing it.  If you have a story to share please feel free to post a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

David Laud

[contact_form]

Byadmin

Spinning Plates, Juggling Balls & Shot Selection – How to Create an Effective Marketing Strategy

Devising a successful marketing plan hasn’t always been easy but your options were pretty straightforward.  Depending on budget and market your choices were clear and experience along with a good creative agency would go a long way to delivering results.

It's getting harder to keep things from falling down - Multi Channel Marketing Challenge

It’s getting harder to keep things from falling down – Multi Channel Marketing Challenge

Those factors of experience and creativity still exist but in the digital age we’re now confronted by a multitude of potential channels and measurement tools many of which are relatively untried and untested.

The variety of digital channels and the parallel phenomenon of shifting customer behaviours pose new challenges for today’s marketer.  The need for organisations to have digital marketing experience has become increasingly important, almost essential, as we start a new year and many of us look to plan for growing the income and profit of our businesses.

For those who rely on 3rd party agencies for digital channel support it can prove frustrating and expensive especially if their promises fail to deliver the expected results and the rationale for failure is dressed in uber geek jargon.

My advice to any business owner or marketer is to trust their instincts, not to forget the basics of solid marketing principles and not over complicate plans by throwing in every new channel.  If you set up a new social media platform account remember you must be prepared to deliver regular appropriate and original content.  That account management takes time and resource and can detract impact of your marketing efforts from areas that will deliver tangible returns.  It may also damage the brand if the execution misfires.

 Key Tips for Multi-Channel Marketing Plans 

  1. Be clear as to who is responsible for what.  Establish clear roles, responsibilities and set out and communicate expected outputs. Don’t overlook potential internal departmental conflicts such as I.T. v Marketing.
  2. Don’t lose the overarching objective in the mass of opportunities and options. Increasing twitter followers looks good but is it delivering a return for the business.
  3. Put the customer at the centre of your planning and thoughts of how best to engage and enhance brand and convert to sales.  Facebook might offer a rich source of demographic data but may not be the environment where potential or existing customers want to interact with your business.
  4. If you can’t or don’t know how to measure it don’t do it or a better option, find out how to.
  5. Use tools to support your efforts eg Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Followerwonk, AppAnnie
  6. Keep the boss informed. If you’re struggling to keep up with digital trends just imagine the difficulty those who don’t use the platforms on a regular basis will have in understanding what they do.  Consider creating a simple FAQ or SWOT on each marketing channel to share with colleagues and the senior team.
  7. Don’t be afraid to experiment. It can be possible to test channels in a low cost simplified manner to gauge the mechanics and opportunities therein. Be sure you always follow no. 4 in such circumstances.
  8. Don’t see the plethora of choice as a problem but an opportunity. A positive mind-set can free you from debilitating inertia brought on by a lack of decisions.
  9. Keep agencies on a tight brief with clearly defined objectives and review progress regularly (at least monthly).
  10. Keep the radar turned on.  Whilst there’s already an abundance of channels to spend our budget on technology is moving fast. Voice recognition and intelligent interaction with Apple’s Siri and Google’s alternative are just one example of how search technology is developing.
  11. Don’t get lost in the technology.  Traditional marketing channels can and do deliver strong returns with well co-ordinated and executed campaigns.
  12. Don’t be afraid to use your networks to ask for help.  LinkedIn groups and professional bodies can provide very useful intelligence.

Personally I love a challenge but with so much “noise” in the on-line and off-line marketing world it’s often hard deciding on which path to take.  Such difficulties in selecting which channels to invest in is a very common problem, reassure yourself you’re not alone.

Meanwhile I’ll continue spinning, juggling and making those shot selections, doing my best to keep up.

If you have a question or suggestion on this topic please feel free to comment or contact me via twitter @davidlaud or e-mail david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

David Laud FCIM, Chartered Marketer

Byadmin

Have You Lost Your MOJO? 10 Tips to Re-Discover Your Confidence

A few years ago a client turned to me after a meeting and said he would hate to have my job.  At the time and as you might expect this took me by surprise not least because the individual making the statement was himself a very successful lawyer and partner in a successful firm and actually the meeting had been very positive.

Losing Your Mojo - Loss of Confidence

Losing your Mojo can affect your confidence and career prospects

 

When asked to qualify why my role might present as a poisoned chalice to him he referred to the constant pressure to deliver results.  One winning strategy or campaign would never be enough and that there was a constant demand for positive outcomes borne out of successfully winning work from the competition.

That might sound a bit odd certainly now we’re in such a competitive climate and expectations for delivery are not only directed at the marketers but each and every facet of the business.

What’s interesting is that this conversation stuck with me over the years.  The reason is that it made me, for the first time, seriously question my own career path and if indeed the suggestion of unrelenting demand for results would make for a happy working life in the long term.

The reality of course is that there are stresses in everyone’s job from CEO, entrepreneur, director manager, homemaker, carer, doctor, parent, journalist you name it there’s pressure to be found.  We can all question ourselves as to our performance, relationships, success and failures and when times have been tough with the economy many of us have been hard on ourselves or had others make unrealistic demands leading to unnecessary stress.

When I have a bad day and let’s face it we all have them, I revisit that conversation and remind myself why I do what I do and why over the years it’s proven to be a good career choice.  That technique helps keep me focussed on the positives and avoids dwelling on negative thoughts that can seriously damage your working life MOJO.  We all need a healthy dose of self-belief and confidence but it can be a greater challenge when events really turn against us and at those times a little external help might be required.

Questioning our own abilities can be caused by our mood and often the actions of others which can frequently be outside of our control.  That doesn’t stop us worrying and spiralling into a feeding frenzy of stress as we think back to the minutiae of our working days or projects in a negative post match analysis that either finds you coming up short or blaming everyone else for their failures.

How do you overcome these thoughts and loss of confidence?

  1. Accept that there is a problem requiring a solution, don’t bury your head or find alternative releases such as alcohol, arguing with loved ones or pointing the finger at others.
  2. Seek out someone you trust and who understands you but is also capable of being clear and logical of thought and non-judgemental.  Avoid engaging with a friend who will simply reflect what they think you want to hear.
  3. Be honest.
  4. If you can’t source someone consider running a self-diagnosis SWOT by looking at your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  Be as honest as you can without being too negative or overly positive and glossing over the issues.   The SWOT can be useful if you have someone to help you too by providing structure to your discussion.
  5. Be prepared to be challenged and to challenge yourself.
  6. List the key milestones in your career/ life that have provided the greatest moments of pride and satisfaction, remember the feeling.
  7. Review the current role and identify where positive changes can be made and what you can specifically influence by way of outcomes.
  8. Review relationships at work and how your behaviour may impact on others both positively and negatively.
  9. What are you passionate about, what excites you? Make a list, no matter how short that list may be we all have something that sparks our positivity and passion, remind yourself of yours.
  10. Looking at the working and home life what makes you happy?  Find an activity that’s affordable and makes you smile and allow yourself regular opportunities to enjoy your favourite pastime.

Wherever you are in your career, just starting out, at a mid-point crossroads or towards the end you deserve to be making the very most of that time you spend on it.  Re-discovering your MOJO, the element which drives you, makes you stand out from the crowd and defines who you are can provide the all-important spark to re-ignite your work life.  It can also help you realise your ambitions and life goals by providing a fresh focus to the time you’re spending at work and your priorities and more effectively counteract those negative forces.

If you’re interested in the issues covered in this blog please feel free to contact David via twitter @davidlaud or e-mail david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

 

 

Byadmin

Think You’re a Thought Leader? Test that belief with 12 tips to thought leadership

“Thought Leadership” now there’s a two word phrase that has emerged through the social channels in the past couple of years. As with any trendy term the bandwagon soon becomes full and chased by those who think they know the answers but often started after the opportunity well before they’d studied the direction in which they should be travelling.

Thought Leader

Thought Leader

Personally I’m not a fan of such glib phrases mostly because of their all too often over use in the hands of those who think using it will magically propel them into the top echelons of that particular sphere.

Before my cynicism takes hold I would like to make a few positive observations about the concept of thought leadership and how it can be a powerful force for good, in the appropriate hands at the right time and with considered execution.

Let’s start by reflecting on what makes a thought leader. It’s not necessarily a business owner nor entrepreneur but someone who has a depth of knowledge and clearly articulated view on a specific topic. The best thought leaders have a passion for their chosen subject of interest and that enthusiasm carries through in the variety of channels they chose to convey their message.

What it’s not – it’s not a sales platform to funnel in a pitch for a particular product, service or concept that offers immediate financial return for the communicator. That is out and out selling and will be spotted from some distance by your audience of network members.

What it should be – open, honest and thought provoking communication that adds to the knowledge and understanding of your target audience. Of course there will be an unspoken understanding within your network that behind this altruistic sharing of intelligent analysis and opinion lies a commercial objective.

How do you capitalise by giving your best ideas away for free? – No one is suggesting that all of your best thinking needs to be shared openly however it’s a very cluttered and noisy world and the challenge is in how you may find a voice for yourself, colleagues and your business by positioning them as leaders in a particular field. The danger of holding back on a particular subject may leave a door open for a competitor to establish their viewpoint and be perceived as the new “go to” source of information.

Do you need to be an expert in all areas? – Of course you’re setting yourself up for a fall if you’re a self-proclaimed “Guru” and for me that’s the biggest turn off. The phrase is “Empty vessels make the most sound” and unfortunately there are no shortage of those. What can be refreshingly appealing to an audience is an industry commentator who admits that they don’t know it all. That openness and honesty builds trust with a network and an affinity that you won’t see from those who are clearly making it up as they go along.

How can this apply to my business? Whichever area you work in – legal, IT, manufacturing, organic farming, charity, education or public sector there are individuals who will be looking for answers, original thinking and leadership. Social networking platforms enable everyone with an internet connection and a suitable device to link to millions of data sources each day. Creating a space for you or your organisation by positioning it as a lead in the chosen specialist area will add value to the brand and over time ideally lead to an increase in the volume and quality of enquiries.

Is it all about the broadcast? What you say is of course very important but what you do is equally telling. If you receive a re-tweet or a G+ or comment it should always be offered the courtesy of a response. If you see someone else posting very good content, useful links or other material supportive of your sector don’t resist the opportunity to praise the contributor, even if it may be a competitor – it’s about positioning and taking a “big picture” view rather than scrapping things out in the trenches.

What should the message be? True thought leadership is sharp in focus and unique in its perspective. Not borrowed or paraphrased from others. It should follow a consistent line. If customer service in retail is your particular line of interest the messages conveyed need to retain a common theme leaving the audience in no doubt of your view and suggested course of action. That message should deliver insight and information that leaves the reader or viewer feeling that they have gained from the experience. Investing time in absorbing data online is very popular but won’t pay off for you if the content falls short or leaves the reader frustrated.

Who should you be directing your message to? This might sound obvious but it’s surprising how many, who are active on social networking sites, persist with an obsession with the numbers. How many you have in a network will play a minor role in your success especially if the network is largely made up of competitors, friends or random individuals who will add no value to your business. The audience needs to gain real value from the knowledge imparted and for an opportunity to impress and create impact an in depth understanding is essential. A detailed awareness of your network, their jobs, problems, aspirations and interests will help shape the message and provide a tailored communication that has far greater prospect of engagement.

Developing as a thought leader. Sitting back and expecting inspiration to flow will work in the short term, if you’re lucky, but not in the longer term. As with any other industry expert you can’t afford to sit still and ignore the developments that are happening all around you. Actively seek out available information from those who are influential and recognised sources, subscribe to trade press e-mail alerts, twitter accounts, join sector specific associations, work groups on LinkedIn, attend conferences and build a continually growing bank of information. From this source you can articulate your view and place your own organisation at the centre of that conversation.

What makes a good thought leader? Malcolm Gladwell uses the term Maven in his excellent book Tipping Point (recommended reading) and the (i)Wiki definition really puts it very well.
(i) A maven (also mavin) is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. The word maven comes from Hebrew, via Yiddish and means one who understands, based on an accumulation of knowledge.
Those whom I would site as leading Mavens or thought leaders of note include, technology futurist and social media strategist Guy Kawasaki @GuyKawasaki, Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson @RichardBranson, and leading business strategists Rosabeth Kanter @RosabethKanter and Stephen Covey.

How do I start? A suggestion would be to think long and hard about the message you wish to convey, how your business wants to be positioned and who within the organisation could be sufficiently qualified to take the role of a thought leader. You may need to face the reality that you don’t have that particular skill but look to recruit for it. As you’ll fully appreciate it’s not a given that everyone can be a thought leader but if you have a passion for your business, access to strong communication skills and a connected network you can begin to build a presence and see where that journey takes you. Above all have a plan and be consistent.

Each industry or sector will have its own leading lights but that doesn’t preclude you from learning from their approach and finding your own voice and space to communicate.

If you would like further help with the development of a “thought leader” strategy in your organisation or have your own particular view we would be delighted to hear from you.

David Laud – Managing Partner i2i Business Solutions LLP
follow me on twitter @davidlaud

Byadmin

Black Belts vs Ninjas – The Fight for Innovation

In recent weeks I’ve talked to many business owners, partners, directors and mangers to try and gauge their confidence within their company and chosen sectors.

This has been a fascinating exercise which highlighted a number of interesting issues and quite a few common trends.

Following these discussions I’ve realised there is one area that I must highlight as a priority. There is a natural tendency for organisations to focus on costs, processes and efficiencies in times of recession and economic uncertainty at the risk of overlooking or mismanaging the search for innovation.

I too have evaluated in my business where cost savings can be made and how working smarter may deliver a better return on profits. The danger is that we become locked into a mindset that focuses on the internal mechanisms, processes and practices and don’t allow for the spark of innovation.

There are numerous examples of highly efficient CEO’s parachuted into struggling corporations to trim, tighten and improve the bottom line. When a business leader faces a change in the market, increased competition and potential threat to the customer base it can be comforting to fall back on tried and tested measures.

One such mechanism often used to great effect within process driven businesses is 6 Sigma. Originally developed by Motorola in the mid 80’s this set of clearly defined steps provides quantified financial targets for cost reduction and profit maximisation. I wish to stress that I am not anti Sigma as it has a demonstrable track record of success within many industries. The “Champions” of 6 Sigma or “Black Belts” become highly proficient in their roles constantly looking for the margin of improvement.

My concern, however, is that too many of the businesses I talked to have a 6 Sigma or equivalent focus on their business and bottom line. The long tail of our economic depression has resulted in looking inward for answers to survival rather than the “heads up” free innovative thinking that created the company.

Innovation should be a key part of every business but shouldn’t be confined to the measures and methods of 6 Sigma….some have tried this and it failed. You can measure innovation but as a process it should be allowed its opportunity to operate outside of conventional practices.

Creative thinking should also be within everyone’s job specification, not just the marketing and management staff. As humans we are naturally inquisitive and creative but often forget how to apply those aspects to our working days focussing instead on the tasks that need to be actioned but not allowing time for free thinking and putting forward ideas.

Encouraging innovation within a business is critical to its overall success and long term future, Apple, Starbucks, Red Bull and Dyson all place huge emphasis on the innovative core of their organisations and as a result reap the benefits.

But how do you encourage innovation? The obvious and rather blunt instrument is financial reward. That can work but often can prove divisive if an idea is, as is often the case, borne out of collaboration. Quite often the biggest motivator is recognition by senior management and perhaps a benefit or gift to reflect the effort.

    Top Tips to Introduce Innovation

• Set clear vision and goals
• Communicate to all staff – provide examples of innovative solutions
• Encourage participation – inject enthusiasm and make staff accountable
• Consider appropriate motivational hook
• Introduce a sense of urgency, positive stress
• Continue to communicate
• Measure the financial impact of ideas taken forward
• Celebrate and reward success and the effort even for the failures
• Maintain momentum – avoid complacency
• Enjoy the process

suited man martial arts

Senior managers should actively encourage discussion among employees around innovation and be open to the wild and whacky. Not every idea will grow legs and become the next “big thing” but the process and input of fresh thinking from all corners of the organisation will stimulate a level of creativity and engagement with the firm.

Those discussions should also focus on an overall sense of urgency or as I would prefer to term it the delivery of a level of positive stress. Without the positive stress complacency can set in and momentum quickly lost.

The hardest part of delivering an innovative organisation is in maintaining that sense of urgency and motivation beyond the first and second story of success. The business should constantly be looking for the “what’s next” and have an eye firmly set on the horizon.

What staff need to know from management is the simple outline of the direction of travel, ethos and core goals of the company. They need to know what they can expect for creating a “good” idea. They can then be set free to join the dots, brainstorm, scribble down ideas as innovative ninjas thinking and moving fast solo or in groups to invent the future of your business.

The great bonus of creating a focus on innovation is the fun you can have in developing ideas. Shot selection and picking winners is critical but the process can be and should be an enjoyable one for all staff.

David Laud – Consultant, CEO, Mentor