Building thought leadership, when there are more critics than creators. Live long and propagate.

Saturday, December 1

Lost Web 2.Tuesday Post

It's Web 2.Tuesday again. This week I'll look at how B2B can use the new technologies to attract customer, increase interaction with prospects and more.

Over the past few months I have been thinking a lot about how my company can use its website as a lead generation tool, not just an image creation tool I started thinking about how I use the web and find the info I am looking for. First and foremost, I tend to use mental tags. Once I enabled desktop search on my computer, these tags became more essential, and I tried to incorporate this idea into my file names to make them easier to find. I then realize, when looking at my competitors websites, I could never find the info I wanted in the search, so I thought combining tags, and search, in the same way blogs do, would make it easier to find info on our new website. This idea of tagging served as the core unifying philosophy of the redesign. B2B websites tend to be petty insular, and not customer focused. Prospects now are looking for a more balanced approach in finding information about products and services they are looking for. It's our job as a vendor, to be transparent and let our prospects and other target audiences find what they are looking for easily! Prospects are looking for more voices, especially in technology, to get a balanced opinion on technologies. It's our job to help them out!

I guess a few other people have ideas on taking advantage of the new web, and here is a great top 10 list of ideas!
Top 10 Ways to Add Social Media to B2B Marketing:
Social media marketing is emerging as a viable business-to-business marketing, public relations option. It is even becoming a useful so-called Web 2.0 tool for executing business strategy, as companies obtain valuable customer preferences and opinions from their online communities."

Monday, July 23

How soon should new employees jump in?

We added a new person to the team today. This new marcom person is extremely experienced in marketing, but knows less about our technologies. As part of the learning process in my organization, new employees are expected to jump right in, sink or swim.

When is it too soon to assign critical projects?

I personally, when starting a new job, like to have some time to get inside the mind of the organization, learn where the people and the stuff are. The first week should be a week where minimal results are required. Unfortunately, at many small companies, time is money. And many times there isn't enough time for the new employee to learn and understand enough to be worth the money.

It is important to balance the honeymoon period with an employee with tasks designed to test the employees competence, as well as deliver value to the organization, but organizations should be careful not to set up new employees to fail. Maybe for a new marcom person, the first few days should be spent educating them on the industry, pointing them to industry resources, and analyzing current content for perspective.

Once they have the where we are figured out, assign them to a smaller project where they can make the final call that won't have a huge business risk like determining a landing page heading, newsletter title or list of targets to mail. After these tasks are completed, have them review the annual or quarterly calendar to research unknown opportunities that make sense in light of the current strategy.

Breaking the first week into many small tasks helps the new employee ease into the new environment, and still gives employers maximum benefit setting up a win win, long-term relationship. With all the time, resources, and effort spent on recruiting, it is important that new hires pay off.

Thursday, June 28

Even After Apple, Designers Dig Jobs

Great execution starts at the top. Businessweek has a great feature on Apple in advance of the iPhone release. Here is the best quote!

Even After Apple, Designers Dig Jobs: "'His understanding and support of design is shown in product after product. Apple's committed to design all the way through the process and that comes right from the top of the company. It's a belief and commitment that's cultural, not process-oriented.'"

Wednesday, June 27

Web 2.Tuesday: Edition 2

Well it looks like my computer ate my last post from yesterday on Web2.Tuesday so it'll have to wait till next week. What a shame because it was a really great entry!

Monday, June 25

Take me to your leader

When the outer space visitors come to town, they are always looking for the leader. This is a note to all the leaders: company founders, presidents and CEOs. Your employees are looking for their leaders. One of the most essential items crucial to success of your business is clear leadership.

Businesses are a reflection of the leadership (or management team). If you are disorganized, your business will be. If you are spontaneous, your business will be too. Who are you, and who do you want your business to be? At some point this is a really essential question to answer.

It may not seem necessary at the beginning, or even seem like it will help. But once you move to about employee number 3, or maybe number 5, everyone will be looking to you to provide guidance, a plan and direction. Be prepared to offer this to your team.

Employees are simple to figure out. We want to be treated well. We want to be compensated fairly. We wan to be rewarded for our contributions. We want to recognized for our achievements. And we want to be appreciated. But we don't want to be mind readers. Be prepared to articulate and define what you want, and most importantly, determine milestones to get there. If we know where we are going, where we have been, and what paths are available to get there we can help you achieve your goals. If you don't tell us the goal, we won't know how to help you. And it's the only way you can tell if we are playing for your team.

Learn Before you Leap

In my tenure at my current company, a few times there has been an attempt to bring in "seasoned management." The problem with the new management is two fold. In a company run by the founders, it is always hard for them to give up the reins, It is also hard to find out how things work when one person has the reins.

One recommendation for any new leader is to listen, reflect, observe, reflect, analyze, and then recommend. This of course sounds completely obvious and simple, but it doesn't always happen in reality. A couple of times we have these new managers come in with a big company mentality. They say "Fortune 500 companies do it this way and so should we." or "This works for Fortune 1000 companies so it should work for us."

Of course it might help to know what works and what doesn't. Ideally you would want to shadow any individual with a role or impact in what you aim to change or accomplish. Of course in a small company, there isn't always time for that. The next best thing is to ask lots of questions. And don't assume your first meeting will yield the right, honest answers. After going through the first round. Reflect and analyze, then ask more questions based on the initial observations. Analyze again. Then you might be on track to make recommendations based in reality.

Tuesday, June 19

Web 2.Tuesday: Edition 1

I am adding a new occasional series (we'll call it occasional now, with an aim for every Tuesday).

Web 2.Tuesday
is a little post on using the Web for "Enterprise 2.0" or just new ways to use new web tools to build a better business. Enjoy! [Unbeknownst to me me, this happens to be the week of the Enterprise 2.0 conference. You know a term has arrived when there is a conference!]

Topic of the day: blogs for weird purposes. I am the IT department's worst nightmare, I keep using free online tools, like Blogger, to take internal info outside the intranet. Not on purpose of course, but because my team isn't hip to "2.0" technologies beyond SaaS. If we had an internal blogging tool and approved RSS platform I'd move these projects there. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Centralize your alerts and notifications. Most blogging tools allow you to set up a "email to post" address. Have any sort of alerts you want (news alerts, system alerts, auto-generated emails) post directly to the blog. Use your RSS reader to review at your leisure, and declutter your inbox!

2. Save your articles and other reading material. Post the voracious reader's materials to your blog. Every company has one person sending never-ending articles on competitors, your company or the industry. Dump these messages to a blog, and tag them to make it easier to find the interesting and relevant ones later.

3. Project tracking. Every project has weird notes or other information you have to relay. Your company may or may not have a good project tracking tool, or may just use excel. Augment your tools with a blog on project status notes. When someone asks you about it, you can respond: read my blog. Of course you use this for info that isn't captured elsewhere, maybe as simple as action item notes, CYA documentations, or those emails where you have to cc everyone and their mother.

Use Businessweek's Tipsheet to sell your CEO.

Learn more about using Web 2.0 for Enterprise 2.0, and stay tuned for the next installment for Web 2.Tuesday.

Thursday, June 14

Positioning the Intangibles

One thing that tends to to happen in the tech industry, the people in charge are "engineering types" and engineering types get really excited about the technology. And then focus on speeds, feeds and horsepower. At some point in every niche, there are a few players with virtually similar systems, all offering up the same functions, specifications and applications.

Once this happens its time to bring in the "marketing types." The marketing types tend to be better at communicating the intangibles. The sorts of things that customers and prospects can grab onto, but cannot be easily quantified or compared with the competition. Selling the soft features becomes key. It is pretty hard to win the deal by focusing only on specs, when everything looks virtually the same, so understanding the intangible stuff the prospect is looking for: service, compatibility, ease of use or even product vision are all possibilities. These intangibles can overcome price, tech specs and other 'drawbacks.' Once the prospect falls in love with these items, it is harder for the competition to win. Get into the heads of your customers and focus on the soft features.

Wednesday, June 13

You can't pick your family......

As the old adage goes, you can't pick your family, but you can pick your friends. The same thing it true of hiring a team, you are ultimately in control of the team you build. In a previous life, organizations were loyal to the end rewarding employees with pensions and lifetime benefits. Small business tend to offer 'friendly' atmospheres. No matter the size of the business, there is one key factor to success: the human capital.

Organizations that spend their resources on employee development tend to get a higher payback. For smaller organizations, every hire is critical. Most organizations take on the personalities of their owners, and some even create a monoculture.

Hiring is strategic, employees should add value to the team and help you achieve your goals. Google has some great ideas on hiring the best and brightest, and their practices demonstrate that. As my post on strategy and planning mentions, corporate goals should impact all decisions. It is very important for executives to understand the strengths and values of their team members [especially in a small company], how much they can grow and where the plateau is. Once you identify the individual and corporate ceilings for the employee, determine if they still make sense as a member of your team. Can they contribute or are they adding extra weight? Don't be afraid to part ways if an employee inhibits revenue generation, your growth, or your goals.

Although we aim to be friends with our coworkers; at the end of the day the goal of your business to make money while still being fair. It's not fair to you or your employees to continue the business relationship when you don't have the right fit.

Tuesday, June 12

Practice for Business by Playing Risk

I don't know if you have ever played Risk, it is an interesting game to practice thinking. The core strategy revolves around choosing when and which territories to fortify. Basically it is the sort of war/military game for people who aren't into the bloody part of the war. Depending on how you play, you can randomize the territory selection, or you, as a player chooses the territory. Based on the surrounding competition, you can choose when and what to attack. In my experience, the successful players fortify one area, or continent, pool their resources there, then attack (when no one is looking hopefully). The first time you play, you may try to spread yourself too thin, just to have coverage everywhere, but typically someone with resources, momentum or both comes in an knocks your army off the planet. The goal is to take over the world. The last man standing is the winner.

Just a thought. Read in to it as you wish. But if you can find an online version to play, try it out. And run some experiments. Look at how your thought processes guide your decisions. Did you get sideswiped by unknown competition? Was your competition obvious and looming? Did it show up out of the blue, or grow slowly over time?

Now, model your business (or industry) after a Risk game. In this case, you don't need to take over the world to be successful.... one continent (or island) is enough. You can use a geography model, or keep it abstract, or even use customer segments. Position your armies and pick your battles wisely. You might be surprised by the results.

Monday, June 11

Mac vs. PC is it really the money?

Looks like Computerworld is offering up a special feature on the great Mac vs. PC Debate.

And one of the most common threads of the debate is well Macs are more than PCs. Glad to see Computerworld set the record straight. Windows is cheaper because there is more choice. Apples and Apples, they are fairly close with a few minor details, as long as you compare the right class of machine. Same is true for cars. If you compare, lets say a Kio Rio and a Mini Cooper, the Mini Cooper will look totally over prices all though both have an engine, keyless entry, AC, and a stereo. Clearly they aren't apples for apples, but they do the same thing. What do you think, does DJ Shadow have it right, or is it really.....the media?

The important question for any company when planning the product strategy is defining who they'd like to be: everything to all people or the be-all product for selected people. Unfortunately it is pretty difficult to be the everything to all with limited resources, but that doesn't stop people from trying. More often than note it is better to start with strategy 2 and grow into strategy 1 then try to do everything before you are ready.

Now is a good time to look at Starbucks (Well really Peet's since Starbucks admittedly copied their former employers). They started off selling premium coffee to people who cared and didn't mind spending premium cash for a "better" cup of coffee. So they continues on the path, seeking out the coffee seekers. Eventually they caught on that adding flavored sugar syrup and focusing on the experience, a few extra people joined the premium coffee seeker club. Sure enough, over a few years, everyone came to appreciate the creamy sugary coffee the shop was peddling, and everyone else wishes they started selling $3-5 coffee. So did Starbucks try to sell to everyone? Nope, they decided to sell to a few and the masses followed. Even Walmart took the same strategy by focusing on the small markets lacking affordable shopping options.

Focus....and the masses may come to you (or you can make a tidy profit while you wait for the masses, without spreading yourself too thin.)

Friday, June 8

Did Boing Boing have the last laugh?

Well since Virgin America has announced their airline name winners, it is time to decide who's name is the best.

Boing Boing contributed a couple of great names like "Unicorn Chaser" and "Chic Mobile."

Here are the other winners:
  • Airplane 2.0
  • Fog Cutter
  • Jane
  • Mach Daddy
  • Virgin & Tonic
  • Winner of Naming Contest
I think who ever submitted "Winner of the Naming Contest" had the last laugh. But BoingBoing wins the prize by partnering with Virgin for a joint press release and cementing its place a a high profile member of the new media. Congrats Boing Boing!

Thursday, June 7

Strategic Understanding Required ..... even when you work the mailroom

Although I have claimed my topics here would really be related to marketing and opinions, I thought I'd branch into workplace politics for a moment.

We all know there are "big picture people" and "small picture people" as well as "strategic jobs" and more "task-oriented jobs." One of the biggest mistakes organizations can make, is not correlating the tasks and busywork with the big picture. Some managers I have talked to don't believe in letting their receiving person, receptionist or janitor in on the overall picture of the business, but fail to notice the mindset of the executives impacts the team. They like to keep this information to the managers, and people who ask for it.

So why bring this up now? We one thing I have seen happen is companies hire a specialist for a few critical positions or projects. Let's say a graphic designer, shipping clerk or executive assistant. I understand not everyone cares about the how behind collecting their paycheck, but understanding the business side is a great way to provide additional value to your current organization and your resume. Understanding the business can make your projects and ideas effective and increase the impact.

Case in point, currently my company is undergoing a website redesign. Since our web designer doesn't understand much about our business, corporate goals or market segment, he runs into roadblocks on his design ideas. Since his experience and interest lie with product oriented shopping sites, his design ideas are pulled from those ecommerce-type sites. For many technology companies, the goal of the website isn't only to sell a specific product, but sell a vision to the world. The organization wants to present its values, uniqueness, expertise and mission with its web presence. Designing a website focused on presenting an entity, not just an item requires a different perspective on presenting the content. With these wildly different perspectives, it is hard to come to a consensus. So we enter a never-ending cycle with design after design that isn't quite right, since for him content is boring and product presentation is key.

What about the marketers? Well of course we have a long list of goals: reach our audience, build an image, educate the market, generate more prospects, prove market leadership or value. The list goes on an on. As a marketer, I find it difficult to achieve any of these goals without having a good grip on where the organization is trying to go. Why do we need to build our brand, and reach out to the audiences? What is my objective here? If you don't know, ask. If your executives are unable to articulate the corporate vision and execution strategy [focus pays dividends], it is very difficult to make sure your programs and results will match up with management's objectives. If this happens to you, work from another angle. Articulate your own goals for the position, create a list, and start checking these activities off. If you can't fulfill the corporate goals, fulfill your own. Don't forget to figure out your exit strategy. An organization without a clear vision and execution plan won't last too long.

Business education isn't just for executives and marketers. Approaching tasks with an eye on company goals and the bottom line will save you effort and headaches. If your activities don't have any relationship to company goals, be warned, you are expendable and replaceable. Understanding the business helps you control your destiny.

Wednesday, June 6

Look out below, the FUD abounds ...

The battle for the virtual server throne is on. A few days ago posed the question, who is using Microsoft's solution? Open-source challenger, Xen has tons of benchmarks about the performance of their hypervisor. And this week a user fires back singing the praises of Microsoft's Virtual Server. Scrolling through the comments, it only took 3 before a VMWare fan piped in about FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt), chastising the user's story praising Microsoft. In the war of the Virtual Servers, we are still in the early goings, but as with all tech battles, the challenger, the incumbent or the fans accuse the other of defending their market position with BS to throw off the marketplace and prospective customers.

Let's do a quick web search to get a handle on how prevalent these FUD accusations are. I did a search for a few top of mind tech companies, and a general search for the term.
FUD: 5.65M
Apple and FUD: 1.25M
Apple and FUD without Microsoft: 189,000
VMware and FUD: 662,000
Microsoft and FUD: 1.37M
Sun and FUD: 1.25M
Sun and FUD without Microsoft, Oracle or Apple: 633,000
Oracle and FUD: 956,000
EMC and FUD: 131,000
Blog Search for FUD: 833,888
Blog Search for FUD without Oracle, Sun, Microsoft and Apple: 28,757

Looks like Microsoft, Sun, Apple, and Oracle account for about 2/3 of the web references to FUD. Interestingly enough 97% of blog references to FUD include references to one of these four companies. You'll also note these organizations have some of the most famous, and infamous Silicon Valley CEOs. Coincidence? I think not.

Here's the moral: increasing your 'thought leadership' or blog comments only requires a quick mention of FUD.

Tuesday, June 5

Logos Smogos

Quite a few of Business 2.0's fast growing net companies were interesting. One of my favorite new school business ideas is the Logo Works. I don't remember who was first, but this is one of the best concepts around for a small business without the time or the design skills to build a logo. At my company, finding a logo was a 2 year process where no one could agree. Our designer was ready to strangle our team and now has a portfolio full of concepts. So paying a fixed fee, for a fixed number of concepts, is a great idea. Basically it lets you cut to the chase and get your logo. As you can imagine, a million other companies are doing the same thing; hire a team of designers who spit out concepts. It is really a great way to get your feet wet as a designer, and still get paid. Win win for everyone.

How many concepts did it take for the 2012 Olympic team take to come up with this? Can anyone tell me what this is, and how it says Olympics or London? Pretty hideous color and shape combo. This looks like a combo of skewed Tetris shapes. I think it's time to go back to the drawing board. Maybe the Logoworks team will step up to the plate.

Thanks to PC Spy for alerting me to the travesty of design taking place over in England! There are also some great alternative concepts over at PC Spy as well.

Monday, June 4

185 Million Results and Counting

Are we done yet?

Just a quick check. A google search for
"web 2.0" turned up 185 Million pages. That means there is about 1 page for every 2 Americans. This is worse than the 1 to 50 ratio of people to realtors ratio in 2006 in California.

Once there are a few conferences/expos/summits dubbed Web 2.o, that signals the end of an era. Other Internet terms put out to pasture:

  1. ASP -- Application Service Provider, renamed Software as a Service (SaaS)
  2. SSP -- Storage Service Provider, lumped in with the Managed Services Provider Umbrella (MSP)
  3. Dotcom --- no explanation needed here, replacement Web 2.0 Company

Have we identified Web 3.0 yet? There are 1.4M pages are already speculating. And don't worry, some fortunetellers are already predicting Web 5.0.

I'll just cut to the chase and jump to Web Google, since there is no need to call it Web

Everybody's Got An Opinion .....

And some people look to share theirs with more people than others.

One of the funniest things about the so-called "blogger" revolution, is the number of sites and self-published authors out there. If the dotcom boom taught us anything, its that everyone has an idea (and multiple people probably have your idea), but only some people get to cash in on it.

Now that anyone can have a website, what makes yours stand out? It's clearly your thought leadership...or attempts at building it.

So what's the point here? I wanted to take some time to celebrate and ridicule the absurdity of our post-Web 2.0 world. Look here for insights on technology marketing, the web, and any other examples of thought leadership I can get my hands on. Enjoy the absurdity.