Four Tough Pills to Swallow for Growth

You hired a strategic consultant to help make some much-needed changes in your company. Now, it is time to get the ball rolling.

While your head might be ready to make those adjustments, your heart might be throwing a bit of a tantrum. Constructive criticism can be difficult to digest when you feel protective of the teams and systems you have worked so hard to put in place. Even if the recommended changes are completely rational, some might surprise you while others insult you.

But after the initial sting, you will soon realize that being open to criticism makes you a stronger leader. Deep down, you know that you hired a consultant because your business is not reaching its full potential. In order to implement the changes that will encourage your business to grow and thrive, you need to open yourself up, listen, and really take part in tough conversations.

Find the Silver Lining

Let us take a look at some of the toughest pills that a strategic consultant might prescribe you and consider why (and how) you should swallow them with a smile.

  1. “You need to revamp your team.”
    Criticisms about your team can be the hardest ones to accept. You might love the members of your team like family. They have stuck with you through good times and bad and have helped you build your company from the ground up.

    But in many cases, personal attachments to team members can blind leaders from seeing the dysfunctions that are actually holding the company in a rut.

    It is important to look clearly at the skills and experience of your team members. Ask yourself, “Who do I need today to take my company to the next level?” Goodbyes are always hard, but it is better to say them now than after your business has collapsed.

  2. “You need to pivot your product strategy.”
    Many leaders founded their companies based on a great idea. Subsequently, they are so married to this idea that they avoid revising their product strategy when necessary.

    The saddest thing I have witnessed is when founders realize this strategy problem too late. For example, we once had a client come to us with Google-sized aspirations, but the company had been hemorrhaging cash for the past several quarters. Unfortunately, it was far too late to make the crucial changes in the product strategy.

    To avoid this dreadful situation, do not delay. Instead, complete the tough work now to ensure your business model is healthy.

  3. “You need to focus.”
    Many entrepreneurs have so many ideas on the drawing board that they struggle to properly execute any of them. The ideas might be phenomenal, but without focus, they will never graduate from the brainstorming stage into a living product. The office will forever be a maze of half-finished plans and good intentions — and frustrations for everyone.

    If your strategic consultant comes to you with this criticism, do not start backpedaling with excuses. Instead, go against your natural instincts and thank them.

    While being told to focus might make you initially feel constrained and less entrepreneurial, that discomfort will soon ease once you see what a little focus does to your chosen idea. Move forward by pinning down what this focus looks like for your company, and then keep tabs on new ideas and ventures so they do not go astray.

  4. “You need more structure.”
    Sometimes, observing how a company operates is like watching kids play soccer. Everyone is running for the ball, and no one is executing against a clearly defined role. The result is a messy game in which goals are random and someone is bound to get hurt.

    A lack of structure in a company can be just as damaging as a bad idea. When departments are not communicating or collaborating, everyone moves forward without a clear purpose.

    If this is the problem your team faces, there are many ways you can start bringing structure into your operations. From regular conversations between teammates to clear, shared documentation, adding structure helps team members stay accountable by giving them distinctly defined roles, priorities, and goals.

Know in your head — and heart — why you are inviting a strategic consultant into your company, and understand what your goals are for the process. If you really want to push your company to new heights, you need to be willing to embrace and find value in these tough conversations.

Categories Digital, Innovation, Leadership, Operations, StrategyTags , , , , ,

Online Marketing Trends in 2015

Online marketing, or digital marketing, has grown rapidly in recent years.  Two things are clear: online marketing is here to stay, and its growth is only set to accelerate in the future. The following are four of the trends expected to show themselves in 2015.

  1. Content marketing will become increasingly important
    Content marketing was one of the stars of 2014, and 2015 is set to continue and accelerate that trend. According to recent reports, more than half of business-to-business marketers are significantly increasing their budgets for content marketing in 2015. In addition, the type of content will shift toward long-form content, such as white papers, long blog posts and in-depth articles. Content marketing is becoming a vehicle not only for companies to market themselves but also to establish themselves as thought leaders in their niche or industry while also generating a loyal community or readership.

    At the same time, there will still be a significant market for short-form content, which will primarily be utilized on social media platforms as a way to generate viral content.

  2. Social media marketing will increasingly focus on mobile marketing
    There are now more than 1 billion smartphone users worldwide. These users represent the most important segment of the Internet economy, as they are the ones who use the Internet the most, are the most engaged, and are most willing to post and share content – thereby contributing to content going viral. As a result, online marketing will continue to focus on content that is optimized for the mobile format, which includes short-form content marketing, as well as social media advertising that is focused on the mobile platforms.
  3. Email marketing will evolve
    Email is one of the oldest technologies of the Internet and is sometimes overlooked by marketing agencies and departments that might prefer to utilize flashier and more cutting-edge digital marketing strategies. Nevertheless, email remains one of the most important marketing tools available, and 2015 promises to be another big year for email marketing.

    That being said, email marketing will also see a significant increase in the number and quality of tools available for marketing campaigns. One of the most significant trends is an increase in email analytics data, which helps marketers determine how often emails are opened and how often the links within those emails are clicked. The ability to determine which emails are most effective can then be used to create more effective email campaigns.

    Email is also increasingly being used as a gateway to social media channels. In the past, email was largely considered its own section of an overall marketing strategy. However, the goal of email marketing campaigns is increasingly to drive traffic to social media platforms, where that traffic can be presented with a company’s social media marketing campaign.

  4. Digital marketing budgets will increase
    Perhaps the most fundamental trend in digital marketing is the fact that the industry is growing rapidly. With the number of Internet users increasing and knowledge about how to monetize that traffic increasing at the same time, it makes sense that budgets directed toward these efforts would grow as well.

    According to recent reports, about 80 percent of companies are expected to increase their digital marketing budgets in 2015, with the vast majority of those companies expecting to increase their budgets between 5 and 15 percent.

    At the same time, the number of workers in the digital marketing industry is expanding as well, with digital/social, content creation, data/analytics and mobile strategy among the skills most highly valued by marketing agencies hiring new employees.

Sources

Categories Digital, MarketingTags , , , , , ,

Integrated Marketing from Concept to Measurement

Integrated marketing requires that businesses align their marketing processes in a way that continuously improves the customer experience. Understanding the how your processes feed into each other as part of an overall plan is a crucial first step. Successfully integrating these processes along with establishing KPIs ties together the goals of each department into a single unified strategy to enable supporting larger goals.

There is a way to create order out of chaos. The growing complexity of marketing makes it crucial that companies document, define, and automate their marketing processes. In order to be effective, processes within the following categories, which overlap to some extent, must be defined and integrated:

  • The execution process is often referred to as campaign management. This is the communication arm of marketing, and often deals with both outbound and inbound marketing as well as analyzing leads and customer value.
  • The operations of a marketing department include budgeting and resource allocation. Processes include marketing performance measurement, campaign planning, strategic planning, marketing systems and data capture.
  • Analytical processes are used to create predictive models and to analyze the data gathered to measure the results of a marketing program.

While implementing a marketing automation solution can more than double the output that a marketing team can produce, one must do her homework before implementation.  The success of marketing automation implementation does not primarily depend on the selected software, and it is not only about automation. Cross-functional coordination must be formalized by integrating the processes above and setting KPIs that focus teams on achieving corporate goals.

Process alignment creates truly integrated marketing programs.

Integrated marketing is powerful and effective. Each customer or prospect interaction reinforces your brand, increases awareness, and builds trust over time. By coordinating the customer journey across marketing channels, marketing investments become more efficient and effective.

You can integrate your marketing programs by following a few simple steps:

  1. Customer Experience.
    Integrated marketing aligns campaign management, marketing operations, and analytical processes to create a closed-loop around the customer. Create processes that focus on improving the customer experience in ways that will increase satisfaction (thus loyalty), drive revenue for the company and reduce marketing costs.
  2. Conceptualize.
    Set objectives and brainstorm ideas, keeping an overall focus so that everything aligns. Analytical and operational factors carry more weight at this point, while execution processes focus on understanding the target segment and the needs of the customer.
  3. Create a plan.
    Use analytics to understand your audience and competition and to optimize your marketing campaigns. Ensure that you address all three process categories in mind as you plan.
  4. Budget.
    Create a budget and allocate it among the various marketing programs that have been prioritized. There is no hard and fast rule for setting your marketing budget, which should be set on a based on a number of factors.  I have seen budgets in as little as 1% to as much as 35% of projected revenue.
  5. Campaign creation.
    Define and create the marketing campaigns that you have prioritized based on improving customer satisfaction.
  6. Test the waters.
    Test messaging, target segments and creative and make changes as needed. Always test, even if you think something is a no-brainer.  Human behavior is difficult to predict.  I have been surprised many times by test results of both “horrible” and “great” ideas.
  7. Analysis.
    Measure the success of the various parts of your campaign and analyze the results.
  8. Closure.
    Use the information from your results to develop the next marketing strategy.

If you follow the steps above, you can create a revenue generation loop that improves the efficiency of your marketing spend. If you need help, feel free to contact us.

Categories Branding, Digital, MarketingTags , , , , , , , ,