Where are you FRoM?

Ask a room full of people whether they have more free time now then they did five years ago and rarely do you see a hand go up.

Time, Attention and Trust are all in short supply, we’re optimising every moment, catching up, organising, on top of our other competing demands.

So, if this is now the convention of life – work/life blend, rather than balance, how should you change your business development approach to your customers?

Circles

Life seems to have gone full circle.  Being a proud Generation X, I’ve been schooled in the the importance of personal relationships.  During the late nineties and into the new millenium, businesses went a little CRM crazy, defining relationships by database fields.  It was all about your system.

Compare that to now.  Ten years on, we’re now talking about the importance of one to one, not one to many.  Traditional media continues to find ways to justify itself and social media has created hundreds of millions of individual voices.

Relationship building is becoming about the balance of how frequently you listen combined with how frequently you communicate (reception+transmission) at a one to one level.

Where are you FRoM?

If people are time starved, then traditional methods of reaching out to them may be less effective.  You’re networking events may not be so well attended, your e-shot open rate may be a fraction of a percentage, your direct mail may be directed to the re-cycle bin.

Using applications to stay front of mind (FRoM) with your customers and network are key.  Blanket bombing them with mailshots is a guaranteed way to put yourself in the “less relevant” box of their thinking.

Working smarter with tools like Linkedin and Twitter to create a simmer effect in your relationship isn’t hard.  Primarily it means that when they have a problem, you’re aware and – more importantly – you’re in their field of view as a potential problem fixer or trusted advisor.

Completing some training with a professional services company on Friday, I hit this point home.  Quite often, interventions by the professional services sector are event driven.  If you don’t have proximity to your clients (in range to listen) at their point of need, then you may well find a competitor through the door.  Use the technology that exists today, to make that job easier.

I’ve had personal experience of this over the years and it’s a timely reminder that you have to stay in regular, relevant, contact with the people that are important to you, if you wish to be the person they talk to in their moment of need.

Sponsor Me?

Being part of a multi-national, people assume (wrongly) that you have a bottomless war chest for commercial sponsorship.  It’s just not like that.  Like any business, we have finite resources, strategic goals and a target audience to play for.

Having seen hundreds of requests over the years, there is a common theme that runs through them – a poor business case.  So many people send me poorly thought out sponsorship proposals because they’ve had a good idea and want someone to back it, without ever giving due consideration for the person signing the cheques.   Here’s five tips to get your approach right.

  1. W11FM.  This is an acronym for “What’s In It For Me” (or us).  No benefit, no sponsorship.
  2. What evidence can you bring of the audience that will see the sponsorship.  Viewing statistics, visitor numbers, participants.  ”We’re hoping,” “we’re soon to have, ” “we estimate,” don’t give a potential sponsor a lot to work with.  Talk specifically about what you do have.  Industry data, demographic data, supporting evidence.
  3. How are you going to activate the sponsorship?  It’s not enough to say we have XXXX followers on Twitter and XXXX facebook likes – so what.  What specifically are you going to do to get the audience engaged and how are we going to get value for the money you are requesting?  Make a clear proposal as to your proposition.
  4. Research the company you are approaching.   A blanket bomb request for sponsorship will fall over.  Understand the business you are targeting.  Download their corporate report, look for clues about their target market and see if there are any crossovers.
  5. Personalise the approach.  Mock up a logo, an image, an advertising hoarding.  Bring it to life.  Many people are visual and tying up the opportunity with images and words will help you stand out.
The summary is this.  Personalise the approach, back it with some numbers relative to the investment and make it relevant to the audience of the business you are targetting to stand a chance of success.

What is 141%?

At Brother, we have a philosophy we call 141%.  It was derived from a campaign we ran promoting our A3 range of printers.   In short, if you put a piece of paper onto a photo-copier and enlarge it to A3, the enlargement ratio used is 141%.

As the campaign was targeted at small businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups we began to think about what it takes to be successful.  Long hours, guts, risk-taking, doing extraordinary things, ambition, drive, energy.  Our “light on” moment was recognising that these people give more than 100% to be a success , they give it 141%.

We’ve taken this essence and used it to sponsor people that do extra-ordinary things.  One of those people is Paralympic cyclist Simon Richardson MBE, who fought back from an horrific road accident to go and win two gold medals at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic games.  

He was awarded the MBE in 2009 and has shown extraordinary mental strength and courage.  Today, he is recovering from another major accident which left him critically injured and showing that same gritty determination in his recovery.  We’re backing him all the way to get back to his pre-collision condition.

A forthcoming 141% sponsorship is around one of Britains most successful ever athletes – James Cracknell.  Just read his biog here and you’ll immediately know why he is a 141% person.  He’ll be attempting to break no fewer than four major cycling records on a tandem with Jerone Walters in the near future.  They are: -

  1. Fastest time from Lands End to John O Groats.
  2. Furthest distance covered in 12hrs on a bike.
  3. Furthest distance covered in 24hrs on a bike.
  4. Fastest time to cover 1000m on a bike.

That’s inspiring stuff.  Following this attempt, Cycling Commentator David Harmon and Professional Cyclist Magnus Backstedt will attempt to break the 25M time trial record on the same tandem bike, called Rocket2, sponsored by Brother under our 141% theme.

This bike is the most technologically advanced tandem ever built, made here in the UK by master framebuilder – Terry Dolan.  That’s another great fit for us – technology, effort and innovation.

When you have a key proposition, sponsorship’s come easily, they are aligned to your business objectives.  We can easily select whether a sponsorship does or does not fit because it has to demonstrate something over and above – not run of the mill.  It has to be 141% and show the sort of commitment that our customers show in growing their businesses.

So, when you see the 141% logo out and about, you’ll know that something interesting is going on and that the individual who has the logo on their back is going above and beyond.

If you want to know a little more, please go to www.brother141.co.uk.

The next big thing….

We’d all like to know what the next big thing will be.  Something to invest the re-mortage in :-)

I’ve been talking a lot more about augmented reality (AR) of late.  It’s something that has been promising a lot for a while, but suddenly seems to be starting to take off.

So, what is it?

In simple terms, it’s the ability to merge the virtual world with the real world, real time.  Like you’d see on some of the fancy sci-fi movies of years ago.  Many things have happened technology wise over the past few years, which have created the tipping point to AR becoming more commonplace.  Things such as: -

  1. Smartphones.
  2. Processor speeds.
  3. Mobile broadbands speeds.
  4. Geo-location.
  5. Applications.

Why is it so important?

Two major applications for augmented reality will be: -

  1. Turning 2d ads into 3d by holding your phone over a small QR barcode.  A press ad becomes a 3d ad by holding your i-Phone over it.  The ultimate product being brought to life moment.
  2. Over-laying virtual or web information onto your current geo-location (directions, instructions or information).

I’ve already seen developers starting to do some clever stuff with this already.  Here is a great article called 10 mindblowing augmented reality apps and videos, to see what I mean.   This was published over a year ago, so imagine what a head-start those people that have been busy developing have over the market.

AR will bring a new age of interactivity, visualisation and opportunity.  Start looking seriously at it.

Business North West 2011

Growing for Gold. That’s what I entitled a talk I gave at the Business North West fair in Manchester today to an audience of small businesses.  Examining three key areas of growing a small business to large, I made these points: -

Growing Pains – Things you’ll experience as your business grows.

  • Feeling less connected with the breathing heart of the business.
  • You’ll feel a bit out of control.  As you will realise you can’t do everything.
  • You’ll spend more time in meetings.
  • You’ll spend more time on people issues.
  • You have to bring in managers to run areas for you (and by default spend more time managing them).
  • You spend your time avoiding calls of people trying to sell you stuff.
  • Life gets lonelier.  You’re not part of the team anymore.  You’re the big boss.

Things that Big Companies do well that small businesses can learn from

  • They’re on the numbers. They always have a budget, 3 year plan and cashflow forecast.
  • They make their processes slick, with as little human intervention as possible.
  • They have a good plan A, but always have a plan B.
  • They fail fast. If things aren’t going well, they don’t get wedded to an idea.
  • They spend more time in the future. Looking at future markets, products and growth areas.

Transitioning from Management to Leadership

I ran through ten things from a previous post I’d written around leadership.  You can view it here and some tips to make you a better leader.

An interesting conversation came from the audience.  “What’s your motivation for giving this talk today?” – excellent.  Answer = My day job is creating market space for us to sell our products to SME’s.  It’s in my interest to see small businesss grow.  By growing, we get to sell more products to them (plus I enjoy the public speaking).

At the end of today’s talk, I spent about an hour talking to small business owners about various challenges, problems and opportunities that are on their desks right now.  It’s clear, that there are plenty of businesses with big ideas, ambition and the metal to get on with it.  Good for them.

It’s all about ME….

I love to play with words.  One of my most recent creations which I used at the How-Do Brand on Demand event on Wednesday was “ME-conomics”. 

I used the word as a descriptor for the changing nature of mobile business, personalisation of goods, growth of personal branding and how marketeers need to pay attention to these trends in their marketing mix in order to monetise them (economics bit).

There was widespread agreement that the world is moving pretty quickly at the minute.  Mobile applications are motoring along at a terrific pace.  Innovation is rife.  Here’s a great factoid – 60% of Apple’s 2010 sales came from products that did not exist three years ago.  Scary!

Mobile-ME

Retailers in the states are now providing free wi-fi in store as a way of being able to geo-locate their customers, find out more about them and send hyper-local advertising to them, fire real-time coupons at their customers and track their physical paths through the store.  Interesting stuff, totally driven by the technology.  Mobile search gives local retailers a real chance for cut-through, as long as they get their proposition right.

Pay-Off

It’s evident that those businesses that get their plans shifted to accomodate the mobile revolution will be big winners in the game.  Mobile enabled websites, mobile enabled e-commerce, mobile enabled search.  I talked about the world shaking down to the big convenience platforms, Amazon, i-Tunes, Facebook, eBay – as they offer the ultimate in convenience to the attention poor individual on the move.

What’s clear, is that ME-conomics is a big trend.  There are other elements to it, I’m saving those for a keynote I’m doing in a couple of months in Berlin.  More to come.

Agencies. To Beat the rest. Stop beating your chest!

In March, I’ll be attending one of those marketing director forums.  Business model goes like this.  Lay a load of good speakers on; invite a load of high level marketing Directors who’ll want to hear them speak, get suppliers to pay to attend and cover all the costs of the speakers and the attendees, in order to reach the high level decision makers.

Attendees (marketing directors) have to agree to have some meetings with suppliers to attend for free, in order that there is a win for all.  Organiser walks away with lots of happy people – hopefully.   

Now, said suppliers then have to lay out their wares to the attendees, pitching for the meeting time that they have available.  Said Marketing Directors are hugely busy people, inundated with new business calls and e-mails all day long.

What a golden opportunity to cut through.  Yet, many continue to get it so wrong, writing page after page of chest beating copy that means nothing.  We’ve won this, we’ve won that.  And?

Here’s what would grab my attention. 

If you agree to a meeting with us, we will do a pre-audit or ideas session on any business problem you care to throw our way.   A current campaign that’s not working.   A new campaign that needs some thought.

We’ll come prepared with our thoughts on how we would do it differently.  Just agree to meet and we’ll get our best people on your problem.  Our ideas will do our talking, you judge whether we can cut it.”

Or

“Let us know of a forthcoming networking event where you may be present and we’ll arrange for our “enter title of senior agency person” here to be there, just to meet informally”

OK.  You have my attention.  An opportunity for a quick bit of benchmarking.  Said agency can make a real impact, get real with a real problem, guaranteed engagement from the Marketing Director.  It’s not that hard, loads of room for follow up or development if they do the business by producing some great answers.   B2B is all about grabbing time and attention, plus trust.

Mobilise your Digital Assets

Mobile marketing.  Mobile search.  Mobile me.

The next decade will be the decade we remember for it’s advance in mobile technology.  Signalling the shift to location based shopping, services and convenience.  Apps are coming out by their droves and one that caught my eye recently was this one from Red Laser which I think gives an indication of where it’s all heading.  Using an i-Phone, you simply scan a products barcode, the app then identifies it and presents the current web pricing for that product from it’s database.  Instant price checking and hugely convenient.  Just one thing to do, scan the app.

From the user feedback so far, it seems the pricing isn’t perfect in their back end database, that can soon be corrected.  It’s the process that interests me more. Another shift in the way people shop, instant comparison pricing and perhaps a decision to not “buy it now” but buy it when you get home, if the price is significantly different.  Retailers watch out.

Mobile search is where it’s going to be at, presenting your website in a mobile friendly way.  Manchester Search specialists theEword have already cottoned onto this and have a tool in development which will effectively convert your site into a mobile friendly version, which I consider to be an essential step for all businesses moving forward.  Pay per click and search engine marketing also takes on a new persona, with specific activity needing to be done in parallel to your conventional SEM.

What’s evident is that the future is about mobile, the customer journey, convenience, location based marketing and immediacy.  If you’re not working on “mobilising” your digital resources, you should be, it’s where it’s all heading.

11 Predictions for 2011

I’ve got the Mr. Sheen out on my crystal ball, given it a good clean, stared deeply into it and seen the future.  Saturdays lottery numbers are 7, 9, 22, 28, 35, 42 – buy a ticket now!

Seriously, thought I’d have a go at laying down some thoughts about where I think the world is moving for 2011.  In no particular order (and they may change as this is my first bash after thinking about this on the way home from work last night).

  1. Crowd-forcing. Inspired by Crowd-sourcing.  The crowd pulling together to pressurise/threaten brands through negative on-line chatter and peer pressure.
  2. Digi-paranoia. Fuelled by the Wikileaks scandal, people will become more paranoid about their on-line breadcrumb trail.  They’ll protect more of their digital assets, through pre-approving and using trusted platforms.
  3. Talent thaw. 2010 has been a tough year for finding good people, the hatches were well and truly buttoned down and movements frozen.  As confidence returns, we’ll start to see the talent market thaw.
  4. Life caching. As micro-moments continue to be recorded in the cloud by mobile devices, we’ll record/upload more data electronically than at any other time in mankind (despite paranoia trend, sheer qty of GB/TB on the web will make 2011 a record year).
  5. Friend Filtering. 2011 will be the year of quality over quantity.  New social media start-up Path hits this trend, limiting your network to just 50 key people.  Competitiveness for this new inner-circle will drive new behaviour and take us back to “Face Friends” who matter, rather than Facebook Friends by the thousand.”
  6. Centre-fall. De-volving from the middle, whether that be government or big business.  Applications in the cloud will allow businesses to challenge their conventions and methodologies of working.  The drive to competitiveness and the desire to see people take responsibility, will mean the hub will become less important than the spokes and rim.
  7. De-cluttering. Removing things that crowd out our thoughts/consume our time (see next point).  Prioritising those things that truly add value.  Marketeers need to take note as traditional methods of interruptive marketing are becoming less and less effective, particularly in B2B.
  8. Time poor war. Time continues to be the worlds most scarce commodity for the masses.  Time improvement tools just mean we are working more, not reducing work-time spent pursuing happiness or joy.  Generation X are kicking back against this as the last generation which may rescue the lost generation of “Y”‘s, before the values of deep friendship, downtime, family time are confined to words in wikipedia.  Hyper-tasking will be the new multi-tasking.
  9. Relevancy. Staying relevant in peoples lives.  Having just the right amount of interaction.  Choosing moments.  Keeping an acceptable proximity.
  10. Social Media Revolution. Wider business will take more notice of social media channels for conversations and relationship generation now all the glittery buzz is dying down.  It was never designed to be a transactional channel but a way of generating proximity, feedback and conversations with individuals.  As new business becomes harder (less public sector expenditure to cushion your overhead), new conversations and contacts will be key and more businesses will get moving with new conversation channels.
  11. Trust and Transparency. A continuing theme for me.  People are more willing to trust a strangers view than a big brand ad when it comes to products and services.  User generated content will continue to grow exponentially, more people will blog, leave content on sites like Tripadvisor and Reevoo, use electronic platforms to distribute buzz (+ or -).  2010 was the year we’ll all remember for Wikileaks.  Wikileak yourself or your business, compare that with the messages you send on your marketing materials and ask yourself are the two things consistent.

What are your thoughts? What would you add?

Judgmental

Judging industry awards.   We’ve all entered them or attended them at some stage.  For many industries and sectors, awards are a great mechanism to celebrate best practice and give the marketeers something to talk about (aswell as a good excuse for an industry late night).

Having recently returned from the judging session of the some comms awards, there is no doubt that being invited to be a judge is a great use of time.  Arguably, when you are burning the midnight oil, reading through entry after entry and trying to collect your thoughts or prioritise the entries, it’s easy to disagree with that last statement, as it is a big personal time commitment.  However, the return on investment is good.

Why?  For me, three reasons. 

  1. You get to read example of what people consider to be/and are best practice so you can benchmark your own performance (or panic). 
  2. You get to meet lots of different people from different industries and go social to facial .  Yesterday I met three people in person that I only knew via social media.  It was very interesting to hear the views of others in non-competing industry sectors and to also hear their commentary, always plenty to learn.
  3. You get your name associated as an industry leader with the awards.  Always good for reputation and profile. 

You do need to think twice before you accept to be a judge though.  Have you got the time?  The skills?  Is the sector relevant? .  If you have, I’d encourage you to do it.  You might well learn something or be able to bring back an idea from a non-competing industry to implement in your own business, you will meet some new people or contacts on the panel which might be useful in the future and your business reputation can only go one way.