Category Archives: Social Media

    Need A Marketing Plan? Download FREE Templates

The first time I created a marketing plan for social media, I had no idea what I was doing.  My colleagues were complete newbies as well.  We all struggled to understand every bit of jargon that goes with creating a social media presence.

If you’re starting from square one, you might feel equally excited and overwhelmed.  There have been many others who have successfully climbed the social media mountain to get to the top.  The best way to move ahead is to create a strong marketing plan.  That’s why I decided to create several social media templates to help you build your marketing plan.  Feel free to send some suggestions for improvements or share your examples.

You might have a great product but your business won’t grow unless people know you’re out there. That requires marketing — online, mobile, Google, Facebook, direct mail or even printed flyers.

“Traditional marketing isn’t dead, it has evolved.  Social media is a new addition to an old standard.”

Your marketing plan should represent your creativity, professionalism, and adaptability to change.

Whats included?

  1. Sample completed plan PDF format (for reference only)
  2. Social Media Marketing Plan Template
  3. Marketing Strategy worksheet / template
  4. Social Media Policy / Guidelines

Download these plans with my compliments,

Tad

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    How to Lead and Motivate Millennials: 7 Practical ideas that ACTUALLY work!

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I am technically a generation X’er and have had success developing members of this new workforce.  It’s tempting to over generalize a population of people. But some of the research shown from ”Mentoring Millennials” written by Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd highlights a few key areas that will help us to stay connected to this new generation.  They do not remember a time without cell phones, email, texting or the Internet.  We are so connected that we are disconnected and find that the younger generation (Ages 21-30) have a different expectation, work ethic, and communication abilities. Everything is either text or email. I will attempt to offer a combination of commentary, sentiment and statistics shared by Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd.

 

What do millennials want?  Here is what some of the research has uncovered:

Millennials view work as a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be “balanced” by it. For that reason, they place a strong emphasis on finding work that’s personally fulfilling.

 What they want from their boss:

  1. Help navigating their career and to move to the next level quickly
  2. To be mentored and coached
  3. They are comfortable with flexible schedules and prefer formal programs

 What they want from their company:

  1. Opportunities to develop future skills
  2. Have strong values
  3. Allows for the integration of work and life
  4. Advancement opportunities that happen quickly

They are accustomed to getting immediate results and flexible enough to adapt quickly to new technologies and work environments.  Therefore, they will change jobs and careers frequently.

7 Easy Steps to Mentoring Millennials:

1)  Be a Mentor!  Be the model for workplace behavior by demonstrating how a task should be executed in great detail.  Include a timeline and set performance expectations up front.  Provide them with additional resources.  Millennials are fairly new to the workforce and do not have the level of expertise and real world experience that establishes professionalism.  Some of these lessons were learned early on by my generation because we all had jobs prior to college.  The statistics in the article show that the new generation has not had the level of work experience prior to high school graduation.  The character building years of working as a waiter, yard worker, grocery checker, or afterschool labor jobs were replaced with afterschool activities and high tech hobbies.  Again, keep in mind that this is an over generalization to some degree.  The fact remains that this new labor force didn’t have the paper routes that their predecessors had.  The world and the way we do things has changed culturally.  Who has the paper delivered anymore?  Who actually uses the post office anymore?  That is old school!

2)  The boomer generation is a valuable resource.  These two groups can mentor each other.  The boomers are closer to the age of the parents of most millennials and can gain from their years of experience.  The Boomers can learn from the millennials new technologies, skills and business practices.  Therefore, these two groups can mentor each other.

3)  Stay Positive.  Be optimistic and provide regular constructive feedback.  Avoid confrontation with this group and focus on clearly defined roles and expectations.  This group is responsive to transparency.  They put all of their information out there.  The gen Xer and boomers are more inclined towards discretion.

So here is the key takeaway:  Keep all lines of communications open.  Yes, this may include excessive emailing and texting.  Let them know how to best communicate to you as well.  Set some guidelines for communication or you will be bombarded by text, email etc.

4)  Encourage them to share their ideas. (show them that they are valued)  Resist the urge to treat them like children or a much younger sibling.  Be open to their ideas even if they differ from traditional business practices.  This generation thinks out of the box and can present solutions that have never been used before.  Tap into this energy and you will stay current.

5)  Define Work Expectations.  Provide millennials with concrete examples of what is expected in their job.  Offer constructive criticism with some possible solution options that include measurable results.

6)  Surround them with a team of management resources.  I have created a formal mentoring program for this group in the past and it was highly effective.  Creating opportunities to learn based around a project or task.  This could include travel with a sales representative, tradeshow participation or the attendance at a conference.

 7)  Add freedom and a degree of fun to the workplace.  Enable the millennials to have some autonomy.  Give them the ability to work independently but be available to answer questions or offer guidance as needed.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Try to remember what it was like when you first hit the working world and the mentors that you have had over the years. I have been fortunate to have several former bosses that I still consider mentors to me. I now provide them with networking resources as well. I also had to learn how to be a mentor.

We all face challenges. No one can escape being banged up and bruised along the way. This new generation is graduating with record debt. They are not impervious to this challenging economic climate. The value of challenging times is the wisdom you take from these life lessons. Some challenges we handle with grace and ease. Some we fail or struggle.  Each experience, good and bad has taught us something along the way.

Take a deep breath, be patient.   Remember what it was like just starting out and mentor these young minds with the wisdom you have learned thus far in your career. Technology and the economy have changed the way we live and work.

Embrace change and adapt…or become obsolete.

Marketing Analytics: Intelligence or a Database of Ruin?

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How to make sense of the new information age: 

Businesses today are building huge digital dossiers of their customers, massive data stores containing thousands of facts about every industry buying patterns. At some point it becomes analytic overload and companies bury themselves in their own big data.

Ever thought it would be great for your company to step back and just let you do your job? To execute something that has true value and creativity attached? What happened to being quick to market or the advantages of being nimble in the marketplace? How about being innovative enough to try something new that’s NOT tested? Innovation is what America does best (or did). I believe we still have it in us to “shoot from the hip.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I am seasoned enough to know the value of running a focus group and the advantages of tracking trends. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a panel of analytic experts. Their message to the business community is “Don’t be so analytical.”

Marketing Analytic Experts Turn Big Data to Competitive Advantage:

The Sales Leadership Alliance of San Diego recently invited a panel of analytic experts to help business leaders understand and manage a performance based corporate culture using the value of certain analytic criteria.

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Introducing Performance + ROI Expert Panel:

  • • David Piester, Senior Vice President of Sales at Opera Solutions
  • • Gregg Fasbinder, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Sagatica
  • • Ken Schmitt, President and Founder of TurningPoint Executive Search
  • Justin Ramers, Director of Digital and Social Media at The Active Network
  • • Riccardo Caruso former Global Market Analytics Leader for Life Tech and Voice of Customer User Experience Analyst at Merck

Find Meaningful Data and Use it

It is easy to think that we are all turning into robotic drones that are monitored, measured and processed for the advantages of big business. Recent data security breaches have placed corporate America and their customers at risk (for example: the recent data breach at Target and Chase Bank). We are losing sight of the customer by being too focused on data. What is the return on analytics (ROA)? Is your company restricting workflow progress by the use of meaningless dashboards, numerous reports that slice and dice information into useless sound bites?

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is a false philosophy shared by companies that do not understand how to use analytics wisely,” said Merck Analyst, Riccardo Caruso.

Here is the good news:  “We have entered a new era driven by data tracking and statistics coming from many sources. In fact, now is an exciting time for new markets to be created and businesses to reap greater rewards through the smart use of information technology,” said Opera Solutions VP of Sales, David Piester.

Customer Engagement is the Core: Understand Their World

“Don’t use data to power all interactions with the customer and sacrifice true engagement. Without true engagement you are nothing to the customer,” added Piester.

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The goal of marketing analytics should be to gain actionable insights such as:

  • •   Sales and marketing must align to empower eachother by understanding key performance indicators (KPI), insights on the trends, and which trends are necessary to measure and which aren’t.
  • •   Structural failures are created when departments fight over “Who owns what?”
  • •   Companies don’t know what they want so they restructure, reorganize, procrastinate and end up with meaningless data and expensive CRM systems.

6 Recommendations for Developing a Big Data Analytics Strategy:

  1. Build a brand that is supported by engagement first and then track customer retention, customer care, and KPI’s of targeted campaigns.
  2. Have the right talent around the right objectives to create the biggest opportunities. Use analytics to establish buying patterns as a way to capture more money beyond touch points.
  3. Keep it simple and create structure around data. What do you expect to accomplish using this data?
  4. Streamline your need for data. Every department now has access to different analytics and they use this data in various ways. Don’t burden your staff with meaningless reports but create an understanding of what is needed.
  5. Establish a champion in each department to drive the value of analytics. This initiative must be led by a member of the executive team in order to be successful.
  6. Understand what you need and minimize the noise. Mine meaningful data and invest your money into customer engagement.

Making Sense of the New Information Age: Customer Engagement and Database Intelligence lead to significant competitive advantage

A special “Thank You” to The Sales Leadership Alliance and to David Piester, Gregg Fasbinder, Ken Schmitt, Justin Ramers, Riccardo Caruso for their valuable perspectives on the new information age.

 

10 Crucial Questions For Defining Your Personal Brand

My Brand Book

This week’s blog is all about building your personal brand.  Since product branding is what I do, I thought I would share an excellent article from William Arruda who is passionate about how personal branding can inspire career-minded professionals to become indispensable, influential and incredibly happy at work.  Whether using social media or meeting face to face, you have to be aware of your personal brand.

What is your personal brand?  Download William’s 50 questionnaire guide to help you define your own brand

By William Arruda

70e69c46e9afd5fd7fe67c000d34e3b8Branding is rooted in authenticity. That means you need to know yourself – really know yourself – before you can start building your brand. If you start expressing your brand through marketing materials and social media before you are clear about what your unique promise of value is and who needs to hear your message, you’ll waste your time and effort.

Getting clear on your brand requires focused introspection and uncensored  external feedback. The process won’t be effective unless you center your research around core elements of your brand. To help get you started, I share here some key personal branding topics along with powerful questions to ask yourself or, in some cases, to use as part of gathering feedback about you. The answers to these questions will help you get clarity on the authentic traits of your brand.

If you’re working with a coach or have a close mentor or colleague with whom you discuss career topics, you may want to engage them in your self-awareness process. Sometimes, being asked these questions (and then being asked follow-up questions to your responses) can be a productive way to gain an accurate picture of your brand promise.

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Passions

Your passions energize you and make you attractive to others. When you are clear about what moves you, you can seek out ways to link your passions with what you do and how you do it. Here are questions that will help you unearth your passions.

About what topic(s) can you talk endlessly?

What’s the part of your job you love the most?

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Your superpowers are the things you do better than everyone else. Often, they are things you do with little effort. They are core to who you are. Some of us discount these strengths because we deliver these skills with little effort. Here are some questions to help you uncover your superpowers:

What do you do better than anyone else?

If you were to receive an award, what would it be for? 

Values.

Your values are your operating principles. They impact how you feel, behave and react. When you’re living in alignment with your most important values, you are energized, confident and available to others. When you aren’t, you create a drag on your energy. The first step in aligning your values is knowing what they are and what gets in the way of being able to live in full alignment with them. Here are some questions to help you define your values:

What are your top three pet peeves?

What situation makes you feel angriest or most annoyed?

Purpose.

Your purpose is connected to how you want to contribute to the world beyond your career. It describes your role in turning your vision for humanity into reality. Having a purpose helps you identify what to pursue and what to avoid. Here are some questions to help you understand your purpose:

What’s your biggest hope or dream?

If you won the lottery and didn’t need to work, how would you spend your time?

Differentiation.

Personal branding is about standing out. If what you offer is the same as everyone else who does what you do, you are a commodity, not an irreplaceable brand. Understand and live your differentiation so you can attract the attention of those who are making decision about you. Here are some questions that will help you get clear about what makes you unique:

What aspect of the world would be different if you had not been a part of it?

What most strongly sets you apart from your peers?

Powerful questions are valuable tools for unearthing and describing the brand called YOU. Live in the inquiry so you can define and live the power of personal branding.

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Inspiration from the Best Spokesman in the World: Steve Jobs

(Click here to watch the video)

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This week I am featuring an inspirational blog from Steve Jobs and his 7 Secrets for Success. I realize it has been overplayed in the land of social media. Regardless, I will add to the crowded voices to share with you his insight because he has inspired me this past week. It is true, that Jobs was highly regarded as a “hot tempered hero/shithead rollercoaster. He was indeed very self aware of his attitude — he called Fortune’s editor to complain about an article written about him, only to say “Wait a minute, you’ve discovered that I’m an asshole? Why is that news?” (ref: Romain Moisescot: Steve At Work) So now you know that Steve Jobs was a human being like us all. In fact, I will start with a quote from him directly:

Jobs said, “Everything around you was made up by people that are no smarter than you. You can change it, you can influence it and create things that other people can use. Shake off the erronious notion that life is there and you are just going to live in it. You can effect change.”

As I map out the next stage of my career, I am asking myself questions that I am sure you are facing as well. Questions such as:

  1. What is your mindset?
  2. How do you improve your performance?
  3. If you had the right tools, opportunities and luck would you be able to propel yourself towards a greater vision?

So now we know that Jobs was a falible human being like us all. His true genius was to challenge the status quo and to press on through rough waters and limitations. My guest blogger this week is Steve Jobs.

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The 7 Secrets to the Success of Steve Jobs:

1)  Do What You Love, Don’t Settle: As with all matters of the heart you will know when you find it. Passion is everything.

2)  Put a Dent in The Universe: Have the courage to follow your heart and trust your intuition. You have to have a big, clear, bold, concise vision.  Keep it simple enough to fit into a Twitter post.

3)  Say “NO” to 1,000 things: Reduce the clutter. You have to be focused on what you want. Keep it simple. When Jobs came back to Apple (which at this time was close to bankruptcy) he reduced their products from 300 down to 10. He did this in his personal life as well. He focused on the 12 most important people in his life. If you were in the top 6 you got all of his attention.

4)  Kick Start Your Brain by Doing Something New: Thinking differently led Jobs to making unexpected connections such as the creation of the Apple store inspired by the Four Seasons Hotel. Instead of a cashier, they have concierge. Apple has a genius bar that dispenses advice, and a simple, high tech interactive showroom. When have you seen an Apple Store empty?

5)  Sell Dreams Not Products: You are selling the aspiration. It should be about what the customer can have or achieve by purchasing your product.

6) Create Insanely Great Experiences: Classic customer experience innovation. What is the experience of the customer when they interact with you or your brand? Create an association that speaks directly to the world and desire of the customer.

7)  Master the Message: You are being judged by how well you communicate. Everything is about relationships and making connections.

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”  What would Steve Jobs do? Be inspired and move forward with focus and discipline.

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The 1% Principle: Building Business Success

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The 1% Principle and the Importance of Branding, By Tom O’Neil (Click here for Video)

I recently had the pleasure of meeting renowned speaker Tom O’Neil who is the former Vice President of the National Speakers Association of New Zealand and is an international specialist in organizational performance development. He is a frequent contributor to The Harvard Business Review, The Economist, New Zealand Herald, and is a published author.  Tom works with executives and their organizations to maximize peak performance through leadership, selling skills, career development and organizational turnaround.  His recent book “The 1% Principle” is due in America later this month and has received critical acclaim throughout Australia and New Zealand.

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Small daily improvements will build towards sustainable change!  Once you spark momentum by showing up, you will create an upward spiral towards your success.

Here are a few guidelines that will excel performance at work and improve personal growth:

Start by asking yourself what is one thing I can do today to improve my life by 1%?  Incremental change will lead to sustainable longevity.  Make small changes each day.

Smart Goals:

  1. Specific – Specific goal set for each week
  2. Measurable – Focus on each moment of progress no matter how small
  3. Achievable – By focusing on small goals they will add up to a bigger collection of goals
  4. Relevant – Keep your goals authentic to who you are and what you need.  BUILD YOUR BRAND
  5. Time Bound – goals by day, week, month year.

Building Your Brand:

What do you want your brand to be?  What is your niche or specialty?  Everything you do should reinforce your brand whether inside or outside an organization.

What energy are you putting out into the world?  How you dress, what you say, how you treat others are all apart of your brand.

Build a social media presence through LinkedIn, blogging, join groups that are relevant to who you are.  Write articles that will be picked up by trade journals that can reinforce your brand such as Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Huffington Post, Inc. to name a few.

Here are 4 ways to show up and make 1% improvements:

  1. Never draw conclusions based on what the current situation or what physical senses are showing you.  It doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress.
  2. Guard your thoughts and self talk.  Our internal conversation effects what happens externally.  Love yourself and celebrate your progress however small.
  3. The way to move forward is to define your new life.  Visualize where you want to be ultimately.  What does the big picture look like?
  4. How you think = How you feel = How you behave = How you act and what you will experience as a response from others around you.
  5. Show up, put yourself out there, make small successes each day towards your goals.  They will gradually add up to create significant change.

Ensuring a positive digital footprint:

There are ways to use social media and the internet to your advantage. Populate your LinkedIn profile with up-to-date information and start making positive contacts with other business professionals and groups online.  Quality over quantity.

  • • Ensure all online material is constructive and positive (both personal and professional) and that it reflects you as a ‘whole’ person.
  • • Start writing blogs about your area of choice using sites such as WordPress and Blogger. You will soon be seen as an expert in your area and most importantly Google will slowly build up a profile of you as a leader in your field.
  • • What websites do you have content on? (Facebook/ MySpace/ Twitter/ LinkedIn).
  • • What sites do you have content on that you may not have put up yourself (sites belonging to friends/ family)?
  • • What is your profile saying about you? Many times these profiles include information about your favorite films, books and TV shows, religious and political beliefs, your studies and your interests. A good idea is to get someone else to review your profile and give you their honest feedback, no matter how hard it is to hear.
  • • Are you able to improve security/ privacy settings so only ‘friends’/ people you have invited can view your information?
  • • Are there any negative comments or gripes you may need to delete?

People undersell themselves all the time.  Celebrate your achievements.  Passion and preparation will provide you an edge

Never be afraid to ask for help from anyone:

Good areas of support include friends, a local church or clubs you belong to. In his 10 million copy best-seller What Color Is Your Parachute?, Dick Bolles highlights the importance of surrounding yourself with a support staff of your own:

  1. Listener – when you are feeling down.
  2. Wise one – when you are puzzled about what to do next.
  3. Taskmaster – when you are lacking discipline.
  4. Cheerleader – when you want to share your successes. However, professional services may also be required if things are really difficult. Understand that everyone who has ever job-hunted has been plagued by doubt and self-esteem issues

6 Rules For Networking At Work

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Networking has become a basic skill requirement. The old adage “it isn’t what you know but who you know”, definitely applies to our world today. I don’t think anyone is interested in networking for the sake of networking. That’s a time-sink and a distraction.

Your contacts are like a deposit in the bank.  It can grow in value over time.  So my advice is to stay connected to your connections.  Be discerning when adding someone to your LinkedIn network.  I never add anyone to my contact list that sends the generic message “I’d like to add you to my contact list”.  Personalize your message and explain why you feel you should connect.  I also think that it is good to clean house once per quarter and eliminate people from your network that you no longer interact with or can’t remember how you are connected.  This periodic “house cleaning” keeps your contact list current and relevant enough to maintain value.  When I add someone to my social network, I ask myself these 3 questions:

  1. Are they connected to an industry or a company that I have interest in?
  2. Is this someone I can help?  Can I connect them to someone else in my network?
  3. Is this person someone that networks for the mutual benefit of others or just themselves?  What is their credibility and character?

The rules listed below are based on chapter six of Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten Hansen.

Following these rules will help you become more collaborative without wasting your time. Teaching them to others will create organization-wide results.  The most important lesson to remember  in networking is this:  To HAVE a friend, you have to BE a friend.

Here are the 6 rules of networking:

Rule 1. Build outward, not inward. The first four rules will help you get better at identifying effective networking opportunities. Start by remembering that the point of collaborative networking is to connect people who wouldn’t ordinarily work together. Don’t waste your time deepening connections with people you already know. Balance these connections by staying in touch with people on other teams or in other business units.

Rule 2: Go for diversity, not size. A bloated Rolodex used to signal a skilled networker. Let’s hope that idea soon goes the way of the Rolodex itself. Rather than aiming for a massive network, focus on building an efficient one. This requires knowing people with different skills and viewpoints. They should be different from you, of course, but also different from one another.

Rule 3: Build weak ties, not strong ones. This might seem counterintuitive. After all, wouldn’t your closest friends – your strongest ties – help you the most? But remember, strong ties are the people you already know well and talk to frequently. A strong tie is probably someone who knows a lot of the same people you do, whereas a weak tie forms a bridge to a world you don’t walk in. And to keep a weak tie, you only need to touch base a couple of times a month.

Rule 4: Use hubs, not familiar faces. When facing a problem at work, most of us will ask a close contact for help. But because we tend to befriend people at our own level, our closest contacts are unlikely to know more than we do. Instead, identify the “hubs” in your company — the people who are already great organizational networkers — and ask them to connect you to someone who knows more. Hubs tend to be long-tenured people who’ve worked on a variety of teams and projects. If you’re in a leadership role, consider it part of your job to help develop more hubs.

Rule 5: Swarm the target. This rule, and the next, will help you capture value. Say you’ve built a diverse network of weak ties. Using the help of a hub, you’ve identified someone who can help you: a target. Before you approach that person, you need to enlist the help of your network to increase the odds that she will come through. Ask a shared contact to reach out to the target person. Ask your boss to talk to your target’s boss. Invoke your shared goal (after all, you do work for the same company) and remember reciprocity: offer to help in return.

Rule 6: If people aren’t pulling together, strengthen ties. “Team building” has become something of a punchline, but there are times when it’s necessary. If you’re managing a project that requires crossing organizational silos, and following the previous rules has not provided results, it’s worth investing the time and resources to build stronger connections. Help the team get to know each other better. You will start to see results.

Create collaboration with discipline.

The above article is based on chapter six of Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten Hansen.

Customer Experience Innovation: Why getting it right can mean big profits!

Ecommerce-Customer-ExperienceHow can you remain competitive in a fast changing, global economy?  ANSWER:  Innovate the customer experience!

Walt Disney pioneered customer experience marketing principles to build his empire.  This same strategy is now being implemented across industries and geographies to go beyond product innovation.  Building a strategy around customer experience will create market differentiation and brand loyalty.

Take a look below to understand how this new definition of innovation will impact your business.  Companies such as CVS, Qualcomm, Amazon, etc are making big investments in customer innovation to change how customers view their brands.

Examples of of how customer innovation works:

     Qualcomm Life has created a new wireless technology platform at the point of care.  They are helping patients, providers and payers by creating an industry standard for connectivity around all customer touch points.  This investment will have a big impact on how patients, doctors, insurance companies, and medical device manufacturers interact.  (By 2020, at least 160 million Americans will be monitored and treated remotely for at least one chronic condition).  This initiative means greater access to care, decreased administrative costs and a decrease in hospital expenses for senior care.

•     Non-profit giant Scripps Healthcare has introduced it’s Online Patient Platfom – Whether it’s how patients find a doctor, research a medical condition, pay hospital bills, schedule an appointment, or find cancer survivor testimonials, Scripps provides it all to the patient instantaneously from the ease of any mobile device.

•     The pharmacy giant CVS has recently stopped selling cigarettes because it is a product that is not consistent with their healthcare/wellness brand.  CVS wants to grow by promoting healthy habits and administering managed pharmacy benefit programs instead of selling something which is known to cause medical issues.

•     Amazon introduced a new mobile app called  Flow feature which epitomizes just how aggressively the retail giant is pressing its technological advantage to win the market for everyday merchandise. It is another step towards changing the way customers shop.

The introduction of new technologies and an increase in global demand has provided rapid growth to these top 6 industries:

          1. Medical device / biotech
          2. Software / cloud based data storage and sales tracking
          3. Home healthcare services
          4. Voice over IP/other internet players
          5. Alternative energy providers
          6. Video gaming (Ref: Squidoo)

Traditional marketing and sales strategies have relied on product innovation as a way to increase revenues, build brand loyalty and gain market share.  The old adage “the customer is always right” speaks directly to what marketing should be about which is customer experience.  Give customers what they want.  New product innovation is just one aspect.  True innovators know that they have to understand the customer habitat and how their customers interact with the brand/ company.  What does your brand say to your customer?

In the past, the most successful businesses have thrived on product innovation as the natural strategy to increase revenues.  Although often incremental, new product innovations can generate temporary growth but may limit long term gains.

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In today’s global economy, competitors quickly match the latest features (for example how much sharper or brighter can you make a TV screen?).  This level of rapid product innovation makes it difficult to realize the returns on the product itself and creates a market that lacks brand loyalty.  Global competition and technological diffusion mean that competitors quickly catch up with most improvements, while the transparency of digital and social media also prompts consumers to quickly switch allegiance with each new alluring offer.  A very real opportunity for growth lies in the understanding of what the customer experience is, and how to measure current experiences created by our companies on behalf of our customers.  Once a customer experience innovation strategy is established, it is important to keep ideas flowing through constant experience reinvention and appropriate governance.  Designing a superior experience, accessing the needs of the customer and exploring new ideas to exceed customer expectations will lead to market differentiation and measurable growth.

3 Things That Small Companies Can Learn From Large Companies

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WANTED:  Practical, flexible, quick to learn, willing to “jump in with both feet” and doesn’t expect special treatment.  These are the requirements of successful employees at a small start-up company.

I recently came across the below article written by George Arison (formerly of Google).  He reminded me of advice my father had given me when first starting my career.

My Dad’s advice:

1)  Build a base knowledge with a well-established larger corporation (which in my case was Eastman Kodak Company and AT&T).

2)  Progress towards a smaller enterprise to accelerate your career.

This strategy has taken me around the world and has enabled me to move from sales to marketing management.  It is impossible to be all things to all people.  No one can do it all.  But George is correct:  Take what you learn from the big boys and apply those best practices to your new enterprise to watch it grow.

Advantages of working for a smaller company in my opinion: 

  • •   Promotion opportunities and job satisfaction are often higher with small companies.
  • •   A higher profile – you aren’t a small fish in a big pond, so if you perform well this will be noticed. (On the other hand, if you perform badly, there will be nowhere to hide!)
  • •   Variety, early responsibility, the opportunity to work on your own initiative, to work closely with other people (including senior management
  • •   Flexibility to get involved in a number of different tasks and functions: job roles are often less rigidly defined.
  • •   A working environment that may be more informal and less bureaucratic 
  • •   Feeling that you are making a real contribution

Take a moment to read George’s article on the benefits of working for a large corporation and what small companies can learn

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BY 

Leaving a giant like Google to launch a startup doesn’t mean starting from scratch. Some of the big boys’ systems and policies are worth integrating no matter what size your business is.

Four months ago I left Google–an amazing company full of some of the greatest people I have ever met, with an incredibly positive culture that helps you perform better everyday to launch my second startup.

Some days, when having the new team working out of my house gets to be too much, or when I want to explode over the idiotic nature of Citibank’s online wire transfer procedures (double authentication that cannot be done through a cell phone), I miss the creature comforts and security of a large company.

Luckily, those days are few and far between. The scrappiness and agility of a small company makes this the best experience of my life. But every day I go against the grain of the so-called “disruptors.” While everyone has become obsessed with the lean startup, the idea that gigantic companies are somehow doing something wrong by being so large, I’ve learned to reflect and understand what big companies do right.

Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of things that a small company can learn from what the big boys are up to. Here are the three of the most important ones.

Work-Life Balance

The last department that every startup integrates is Human Resources, if only because it seems like the CEO can bring in layers of perks and office goofiness to make up for it. (Indeed, I never want to have an HR function–“People Operations,” the term Google uses, is way better.) The culture of “crushing it” has led to the idea that you have to work on your startup all the time. While it’s undoubtedly true that people go into a startup knowing that they will work a lot more hours than at a large company, if you invest every waking second you end up not being effective.

Yes, many large companies work people to the bone, but there are specific work and vacation hours. You have an office. You work. You leave. The office is the office, the company is their company. When it’s a startup and you are an early employee, that line becomes blurred–it’s so much more about personality and personal investment. However, it’s hard to be creative and passionate when you are overtired and overworked. That’s why I have an under-60-hour-a-week policy for my team. A startup is about people, and destroying someone’s personal life in the process will harm the startup.

Comprehensive Employee Review

Many people will roll their eyes at the idea that employee reviews are necessary. But they are, in any company, of any size. When you work for someone, or they work for you, you should know what they think and understand it. Reviews allow employees to improve in areas where they need it. Creating a review process that helps ensure that employees get real-time feedback is something small companies can take from large companies. For example, digital design studio owner Greg Hoy created a 360-degree peer feedback evaluation as part of his fledgling company, but left himself out. When he let himself get reviewed, his employees tore into him.

The natural reaction to any criticism can be (as Hoy experienced) anger, depression, anxiety and other maladaptive psychological conditions. The truth hurts. But the truth that comes out in reviews can improve a company–even a startup with only a few people.

Clear Results, Objectives and Timelines

Conventional wisdom is that startups are built with a lack of strategy–something people associate with the “agility” that means that anything can change or be fixed at any time. They see a corporate goal system as stodgy and antiquated; the idea that someone should directly map out their journey is silly, because startups can change a great deal.

The truth is that long-term strategy with clear objectives and milestones is necessary and actually relieving. Living life as a reactive businessperson results is a guaranteed ulcer.

At Google I saw this in action with Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a methodology that the company has perfected and lives every day. Google focuses on incredibly specific dimensions and goals to complete a particular task, large or small. It seems exhaustive (and exhausting) to write down everything you are planning to do instead of spending time doing it, but it also allows for the consistent monitoring of the way in which a company is built. Are specific people or specific parts of the company regularly missing goals? Using task management systems like Asana, you can accurately measure these elements. Data entry is dull, but necessary at times to build real, lasting structure and a base from which a company can grow.

True, overreliance on data entry can stifle creativity and innovation. I’ve seen almost every system known to man that requires you to log calls, tasks, and ideas, and I agree that many need to be tightened up. However, if done right, systems like OKRs can be incredibly effective at clarifying goals, making sure that everyone is transparent and knows what others are doing. I created a specific OKR system not so that I can be the panopticon of the company, but so that everybody–including myself–is held accountable for his or her actions and can understand what is going on.

That, in fact, is one of the greatest advantages of the startup. A gargantuan company like Google could never adapt a completely transparent system. Nobody at the entry level needs to know what Sergei Brin is up to. However, in a company of 5, 10, or 15 people, that level of transparency can build a backbone of education and trust.

We can all melodramatically claim that startups are the best businesses, and that nothing the big companies do is worth our time, but they’re large for a reason. They have systems that work. Instead of arguing that you want to “disrupt” them, find a way to do some of the things they do–in every way–and understand what has made them a success. That’s the way to greatness.