flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘business strategy

Think change in your market, not growth

The 1st opportunity that marketers have kept to themselves is that we can change with our markets.  Markets flex and morph quite naturally.  If we are fixed on growth, or grabbing market share, we are sadly missing the point.  Our reports need to be about change.  How is our market changing?[!]  When we closely in touch with the heaving, sighing, pulsating, shape-changing nature of the market, then we are in the game!

The 2nd opportunity marketers don’t tell us about is that we can move up the value chain. We can expand the margin in each hit.

Noobes and margins

Now I know that when we are new in business, we are obsessed with getting any hits, making any margin!

Please don’t be distracted though. Psychology comes into play here.  Getting started is fundamentally linked to getting finished!  If there is one thing that psychologists know, it is that when we know what we want, we ‘go like a train’. If we are not ‘going like a train’, if we are procrastinating, we don’t know what we want.  It is really that simple.

And how do we know what we want?  By getting out there and trying out the choices. We humans think better when real experience is in the mix. We don’t get anywhere when we are going against the flow or when we are telling people that we want one thing one day and another thing the next day. We confuse them and ourselves.   So we get out there, to learn how the world works, and to be clear about the parts we want to be part of.

That’s why noobes are no different (except psychologically) from people who have been in the game a while. We are constantly learning the market and figuring out what part we want to ‘play in’.

Low cost or high differentiation

Business strategists will tell us one of the first things we must think about is whether we are going to “buy them cheap and stack them high” or “do something very special for a few people and charge a lot”.

Obviously, in real life, there are permutations on the theme. The point is to be clear in our own minds what we are doing and experiment wisely so that we get clearer and clearer as we take small steps to get experience.  When we are unclear, we muddy our offering and our customers are unclear what they are buying and unsurprisingly, don’t buy!

Use social media to figure out whether to be low cost or high value

Now social media, doing business in virtual space or via the cloud, gives us opportunity for experimenting safely in the ways we can’t in real life.

We get window shoppers in the real world.  In the virtual world, we get a lot more. If we are wide awake, we might notice slightly different people arriving to have a peek.

Real life is so constricting

Let’s take an example.  Let’s imagine that a granny comes and peeks in our teenage store. In the real world, we have limited choices. We can’t run down the street and talk to her – who will mind the shop? We can’t drop what we are doing to entertain her – we have other customers. We can’t change the entire shop’s display to answer her questions.  We have teenage customers who come to do teenage things.  The real world has constraints – real constraints.

In the virtual world, it is dead simple to add another room!

But in the virtual world, we can add another “room” quite easily. Granny can look around our teenage store and we can lay out another page that allows grannies to talk to other grannies about their concerns. We don’t have to shut them out or exclude them. We also don’t have to demand that they pretend to be teenagers with teenage concerns. Any social media site like Facebook, Ning, etc. allows them (and us) to set up new pages, new groups and new activities.

We can also ‘run down the street’ after some who just peeked and didn’t stay. Google Alerts give us some idea of where they go. We can go and look and ask them, or people like them, what they are looking for. Herein lies the possibilities. Our peekers may be shy but we can get them to open up!

Stay clear by keeping your ‘virtual bundles’ clear

How does this relate to being clear, you might ask?  Teenagers and grannies? Aren’t we getting mixed up. Quite possibly. We can mix up anything.

I want you to remember that we didn’t begin by being all things to all people. Grannies arrived in the normal way that markets morph as their that underlying social networks twist and turn, shrink and replenish.

Our teenage store brings grannies to see.  People explore the world more readily online where they can window shop discreetly. Rather than shutting out unexpected visitors, we can draw them in.  In the virtual world, we can do that without watering down our offering to our primary market. Virtual real estate is very cheap compared to real shops rentals!

Some virtual bundles will allow you much better margins per hit

To continue the example- I have no idea what grannies will spend in your new store, or spend in the next door store buying gifts for their grandchildren, but you get the idea.

Your business will morph naturally with the morphing of the market – if you decide to dance in step with it.  If you try to make the market dance in step with you, you’ll get nowhere very fast.

Social media allows business opportunities to find you .  .  . if you want to be found

My message is this, by looking out for change you may find opportunities to increase the margin per hit.

It is a big mistake just to look at your numbers. At the end of each evening, also ask yourself how you were surprised. What was unexpected?

Are opportunities arriving at your site that you aren’t seeing because you have developed the tunnel vision (of greed)?

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Jon Ingham is on to something good.

How can we leap-frog ahead of our competition by using social media?

How can the easy interaction between staff members, whether on the intranet or on Facebook and Twitter, build a stronger team?

How does our combined strength on Facebook and Twitter build more loyal links between us and our customers?

New IT has always give competitive edge

IT boffins have always been brilliant at looking at how a new technology allows us to put old working practices in the trash, leap-frog over our competitors, leaving them in a mad scramble to catch up.

The social nature of the two-way web gives us the opportunity to jettison old norms about social structure and leap ahead with tighter relations.

Who will win the social media race?

One of the interesting features of these revolutions is that it is usurpers who tend to use new technologies.

Barack Obama used my.barackobama.com to mobilise door-to-door canvassers and to raise money $ by $ because he was coming from behind. The Conservatives have been quicker to jump on the social media band wagon because they are trying to wrest the lead from Labour.

In business, we see Best Buy coming in to challenge big box companies with their ‘pull’ HR – work any time like a university lecturer – just get it done.

We see students playing David and successfully challenging the Goliath HSBC.

HR is taking its place with leading IT

Jon is chairing a session at the Social Media in Business conference on October 23rd. He will be surrounded by geeks who will tell you the ins-and-outs of being found on Google and managing your blogging policy.

HR is taking up the chance to be strategic

Jon is doing what I’ve always liked doing: asking how can we change the rules to give us permanent competitive edge?

How do the people, and the way we arrange them, give us and edge on our competitors? How can we take our competitors by surprise and make them chase us?

Oh what fun business is when we treat it as a race!

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Social Media Strategy

Social media strategy is like our marketing strategy, our HR strategy, our IT strategy, or indeed, strategy for any part of our business.

Our social media strategy is part of our overall business strategy and it looks specifically at the events, opportunities and difficulties that we expect to encounter in the next five years.  Our strategy plan and document describes what we intend to do about the challenges and events as they occur.

Because social media strategy is so new, our social media strategy is likely to begin with “we don’t know what will happen in social media but we do know that we will use it more”. “We also know that younger people will expect us to use it and older people may have difficulty understanding it”.  We know that we are going to need resources to monitor developments, develop policies, and deliver training.

A loose structure is probably the best to use.  In a large corporation, I would pull people who are interested in working in social media into one place.  I would survey our skill levels across the corporation, and I would organize unconferences to suggest ways to use social media in part of the business.

Far from banning Facebook at work, I would encourage it – but in a thoughtful way.  I would ask associates how they would feel if our business encroached their personal space.  I would ask them which of their friends are interested in our business.  I would bring together their ideas about how we would use social media, and their thoughts on the opportunities and risks that social media brings, and about the policies and training that we need.

Social media as business strategy

The wider question about social media in our business strategy is a lot more interesting.  When we jump up two levels of management to the Board and ask “What business are we in?”, we find that businesses are changing dramatically because of social media.

At this level, the specifics of social media are less important. At this level, the general principles help us think about the way whole businesses will change.

Now if we are in a business like deep water oil extraction it may be quite difficult to imagine how social media will change our business.  If we are in a knowledge and service business like universities, it may be hard to take in that our industry may just get trashed by this emerging art form.

It is very likely that our Directors, being older, have little ‘feel’ for changes on the horizon. It is also very likely that the Gen Y in the business have neither a ‘feel’ for our business nor indeed, the conceptual understanding of social media to be able to brief the Board on the possibilities.

Herein, therefore is another task for the ‘social media function’ – to gather ideas – wild and woolly or concrete and specific – any ideas about the impact on our business.

The purpose of a social media unit

The purpose of that unit is not to define the answer.  That is the work of the Directors.

The purpose of the unit is to structure the conversation so that Directors can start to ask better questions.

We are winning once the Directors are asking good questions for the social media strategy group to answer.

Wouldn’t it be fun to do this work?

And for your business and mine?

  • What are the questions that you ask about your business and social media?
  • What questions are you asking?
  • What puzzles you?
  • What would you like to know more about?
  • What do you dismiss with a wave of your hand – and so really should put back on the table?
  • Where will social media put your business significantly ahead of your competitors?
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Male and female ostriches "dancing".
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Don’t ask who will be employed now

Today I commented on Jon Ingram‘s post about the way HR managers are responding to the recession and remarked that we should not be like the proverbial ostrich – head in the HR sand, butt in the breeze, where it is likely to be shot off!

Ostriches can run really fast (I’ve ridden one). A kick from them will also de-gut you as effectively as a kick from a giraffe.

So why don’t they run or attack, which they sometimes do?

Well, partly, they are none to bright (easily dazzled and then captured by reflecting the sun off your watch into their eyes).

But they are hoping that if they are quiet, that they will be safe.

So I am not going to be quiet.  It does not make me safe.

But I’ll also be kind, and tell you why I am blathering on about the wild animals of southern Africa.

Is the knowledge I acquired in southern Africa of use here?  Well, some is and some isn’t.

The point is that the competencies of yesterday are not necessarily valuable tomorrow.

We must distinguish what of yesterday we can take forward to the future.

We can respect the rest.  We can reminisce about it. But some belongs to the past and will not contribute to the business models of tomorrow.

Don’t bury your head in employment sand!

The questions we have to ask, and should ask each year in our strategy review are:

  • What competencies is this business or my career based?
  • How are these going to change? Incrementally, or suddenly and discontinuously requiring radical back-to-school training?

And in a bad downturn, we should also ask:

  • Can I use the slow time of the downturn to re-train and get some early experience in these new technologies?

Strategies for employers and employees

Employers should be actively building their team around the technologies of tomorrow.

Employees who have switched-off employers should be networking hard to find and build the team that is coalescing around the markets and technologies of the future.

Ask who will be employed in the future?

Here is a simple procedure

1  Grab an old shoe box

  • For one month, on an A5 envelope, every day write down one url to the future of your field with some notes about why you think it is important.  Date it!
  • For one month, on an A6 envelope, write down the contact details of a person who seems to be heading towards the right future and the nature of your contact with them.  Date it!
  • On the back of some other suitable scrap, jot down a daily diary of “what were the main events of today and WHY DID IT GO SO WELL”.  Keep your rough-and-ready diary in the box.
  • Print out a calendar.  Mark off each day and “don’t break the chain”.  Get the creative thinking charged up and humming.

2  At the end of the month, review and repeat

  • But this time discard one of the A5 and A6 envelopes as you add a new pair each day.
  • Keep the rough-and-ready diary going and remember to end by asking the question “WHY DID THE DAY GO SO WELL?”
  • And remember “don’t break the chain”.  Do this exercise daily however roughly.

You’ll be in the future before me!

Now, you’ll be in the future before me, so let me know how it goes. I’m particularly interested in how many months it takes you.  My guess is three at the outside.

And when you’ve done this,  we’ll “make a plan” to come back to rescue the ostriches!  We’ll have a figured out a role for them by then.

Right now, lets go out,  scout the future and be there when it happens!

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