2012 blog review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

I’m happy that this represents a c. 30% increase in views from 2011, especially as I didn’t write any new posts between June and December. In total, the site’s had over 4,200 views since mid 2010 when I first started blogging.

In 2013, I’m committing to publishing posts far more frequently than in 2012, so I hope you find them useful. I’d love to hear your feedback, so feel free to leave a comment on any post or drop me a line.

In the meantime, thanks for following my blog and I wish you and your loved ones a healthy, happy and successful 2013.

What Spongebob Squarepants taught me about Social Media

SpongebobIf ever a picture told a thousand words, it’s this one, which recently appeared in my timeline on Facebook- sadly because a ‘friend’ had ‘liked’ it.

The complex relationship between God, cancer and Spongebob Squarepants must have passed me by, but it illustrates the beauty and the curse of socially referred, user-generated content- quality control is only as strong as the weakest link in your network.

It’s annoying when spam appears in your timeline from large brands, but this is no more annoying than an ad and you tolerate it because of the huge benefits that ‘free’ access to a tool like Facebook brings. Plus, you know it’s an algorithm’s ‘opinion’ rather than one of your nearest and dearest actively engaging with the content by clicking ‘like’.

I can’t help contrast this with my LinkedIn timeline. No doubt helped by the removal of automated twitter feeds into LinkedIn, the stream of updates from my professional network of over 550 contacts on LinkedIn (some of whom are also Facebook friends) doesn’t suffer the same pollution of ‘like spam’.

Accepting it’s not in any way scientific, there appears to be a clear difference in behaviour by the same people on Facebook as on LinkedIn. Hardly ‘hold the front page’ stuff, I know, but with more and more talk of the drive from “B2B” (business-to-business) to “P2P” (person-to-person) communications being fuelled by social media, there’s clear evidence to me that people do fluctuate between their “work” and “personal” self, and use separate social media platforms to power these dual personas. For this reason, I struggle to see how Facebook will ever evolve into a truly valuable social media tool for engaging B2B audiences.

Maybe 2013 will be the year Google+ really starts to take off. The segmentation possibilities that its ‘circles’ functionality give you help alleviate some of the issues I’ve touched upon above.

How do you use social media tools? Do you have different platforms for your ‘work’ and ‘personal’ self? In what ways do you manage your digital personal brand using social media?

Are you ready for the big day?

So it’s that time of year again.

The excitement starts to build. You count down the number of ‘sleeps’ until the big day. You know you’ve been good all year, but has this been noticed and will it be rewarded?

Don’t worry, your annual performance review meeting will be here before you know it!

Now, there are some excellent line managers out there who take the annual review process extremely seriously, really taking time to consider your contribution to the team and wider business objectives throughout the year. But they’re only human. They’re likely to have a number of annual reviews to do, so you need to make it as easy as possible for them to see and understand the impact you’ve had on the business over the past 12 months. It’s your career, after all.

I’ve illustrated my top 3 tips using a legal metaphor, not to suggest that your career is ‘on trial’ during the annual review meeting, but it’s certainly a ‘hearing’, and needs approaching with preparation, structure and care. This post is intended to help you get your annual performance message heard.

Close up of man writing in a notebookGather your evidence

Ideally, and most likely according to your company’s HR policy, you’ll be regularly reviewing your objectives and progress towards them with your manager throughout the year. In the real world, however, this can sometimes get lost amongst the day to day pressures of working life.

It’s vital, though, to keep a note of your achievements in whatever way works best for you. One of my former team members had a ‘brag file’ where they’d accumulated positive feedback from project stakeholders as the year had progressed, along with detailed metrics and results from the projects they had worked on.

Don’t just focus on the ‘whats’, though. Are there any behavioural or attitudinal ‘hows’ that you’ve consciously worked on in the past year? What did you commit to in your personal development plan, and what successes or challenges have you had? How have you adapted these development goals as the year has progressed?

Ask the 10-15 stakeholders that have the biggest impact on your ability to succeed in your job (peers, subordinates and superiors) for their open and honest feedback about your performance over the past year. You can use simple frameworks like Stop/Start/Continue or even ask for some candid feedback over an informal coffee.

Present your caseClose up of briefcase

Even if you do have a significant ‘brag file’, don’t be lazy and include it all. If your firm has a template, use it. Be guided but not constrained by its structure, ensuring you address the key elements of the process. Be prepared to add selective supplementary documentation only where it helps illustrate your achievements.

Tackle your shortcomings head on. If any parts of your year haven’t gone so well, or you’ve missed one or more of your key objectives, it’s best to acknowledge these and demonstrate that you understand why they happened, what you’ve learned from the process and what you’d do differently next time. If it’s highlighted a particular skill that you need to brush up on, now’s a great time to enlist your manager’s support in developing it.

Most importantly, consider the needs of your manager at this time of year. Sending a 14 page document is more likely to enrage than enthuse. And as for timing, I’d suggest you send the paperwork and accompanying evidence to them at least 1 week in advance of the review meeting- that is, assuming you want them to actually read and reflect on it ahead of your review.

Two men in suits having a conversationBe prepared for cross-examination

This doesn’t mean that your review meeting should be in any way confrontational!

I’m simply suggesting that reading around your specialist subject (you and your performance) means you will be able to talk confidently and with structure around how you feel the past 12 months have gone. Be honest with yourself about the highs and lows- your stakeholder feedback will help inform this if you’ve asked a truly representative sample of those you work with.

Really take the time away from your desk to prepare for your review meeting. Step back from the process and the paperwork to reflect on the previous year and what you’ve contributed to the business (and to your CV). What are your goals and ambitions for the coming year? Share them with your manager- contrary to popular belief, they are not a mind reader!

Well managed performance review meetings are a two way process, so make sure you take this opportunity to ask your manager for their thoughts on your performance and to get any further support you need in setting and achieving your personal and organisational objectives for the coming year.

How do you communicate your achievements to your boss? Do you have a ‘brag file’, and what sort of things do you keep in it? What other ways have you seen to proactively manage the annual performance review? I’d love to hear your comments.

Twitter no longer LinkedIn

There’s no doubt we live in a digitally connected world.

But, with the growing number of mobile apps and platforms, it is easy to forget exactly how it’s all connected.

So I welcome yesterday’s news that tweets will no longer be displayed on LinkedIn- as should everyone that hasn’t appreciated the impact that automated cross-posting can have on their digital personal brand.

I use LinkedIn for professional networking. I’m ‘virtually’ suited and booted whenever I’m on the platform and am certainly in ‘work mode’. Yet I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen a tweet appear in their LinkedIn timeline and thought, ‘why are you sharing this with me?’.

The way I look at it, most people wouldn’t dream of bursting into a business networking event in their shorts and running vest and shouting “I’VE JUST COMPLETED A THREE MILE RUN IN 26MINS 19SECS”. So either they’ve forgotten these tools are connected or they simply aren’t thinking about the impact of the updates on their audience.

Although this automatic link from twitter has now been broken, it serves as a timely reminder to take a look at the what, why and how to manage your digital personal brand using social media.

  • WHAT tools do you currently use? Make a ‘map’ of how they’re all connected and ensure you understand what automated cross-posting is happening as a result.
  • WHY are you using them? Ask yourself about your audience on each of these platforms and how your updates impact their perception of you.
  • HOW can you effectively add value to your audiences using automation tools, but only once you’ve defined your ‘digital publishing strategy’- what will you send, to whom, how often and why?

There’s a number of tools that are out there that can help you to schedule and automate updates across a number of platforms. Personally, I’m a fan of TweetDeck, but the tool to use first is the one you have between your ears to make sure your digital publishing strategy adds value to your audience and fully aligns to your digital personal brand.

What do you think about Twitter’s move? Are there any downsides for users? Do you have a digital publishing strategy or any digital personal brand guidelines?

Managing your digital personal brand

We marketers sometimes forget that we also have personal brands that need building and managing. So it was great to be able to spend a day reflecting on this last week with a range of digital marketing and personal branding gurus at Digital Empower Conference 2012. The packed agenda was too extensive to do justice in a blog post, but I’d like to share my key takeaways for those who weren’t able to make it. At the time of posting, slides from the day were still available from MMC Learning.

First off, Lesley Everett talked about how a personal brand builds over time, like a pearl, constantly adding layers with every interaction on and offline. I particularly liked the way she described the importance of finding your ‘authentic self’, built around your key beliefs and value drivers. She then made the case for personal branding by attributing the following ingredients in building a successful career:

  • 10% doing your job
  • 30% attitude and behaviour
  • 60% visibility and exposure

I’m sure the proportions might cause some debate, but I agree completely that the importance of having a visible personal brand (on and offline) has never been more vital than it is today.

Next up, Mike Berry gave his insights into the most important elements of building a personal brand:

  • Creating great content
  • Getting in front of your target audience
  • Developing a big ego and a thick skin (not everyone will like you, some will hate you!)
  • Transparency at all times
  • Working hard at self promotion

He urged us to think as we would with any brand – know who you’re targeting, offer value as well as being visible and show you’re the solution to the problem they have.

Dr Dave Chaffey needs no introduction as anyone who has studied digital marketing over the last dozen or so years will have read one of Dave’s books. It was great to meet him in person and hear his ten steps to creating digital strategy for your personal brand:

1) Commit to having a strategy and resourcing it. 62.73% of businesses don’t have a strategy. Think of yourself as a publisher- who are you competing against? Peers? Other news sources? Other consultants?

2) Know what you want...your brand goals. You can’t build a credible personal brand without developing long form content. Therefore you must have a blog to develop a personal brand online.

3) Find your audience and specialism tools such as Ubersuggest and Tweetlevel will help you to find topics on which you can develop content.

4) Create your target personas. Develop 2 or 3 personas for people you’re writing your blog for. Be more understanding of the pain points facing your users.

5) Define your personality. It’s worth investing in the template for your blog, helping you to stand out and be more credible, rather than standard WordPress themes.

6) Define your online value proposition. Define your core brand proposition first…what can you offer? What you do? Where you do it? What makes you different? Have this in a side bar visible on EVERY PAGE.

7) Create your content publishing approach. Have a contract with yourself on how often you’ll update your blog.

8) Growing your footprint through Social Media – resources such as the CIM’s Social Media Benchmark will help you keep up to date on latest trends in adoption and usage.

9) Growing your footprint through SEO

10) Define your publishing platforms – define what you’ll do on which platform. Be aware that marketers often chase the latest new thing, and be careful how much time you commit to anything other than the established networks.

Annmarie Hanlon was up next with some great LinkedIn tips and urged delegates to ensure their profile was 100% complete. Her recommendations for action for your professional online network were:

  • Fix the fundamentals (e.g. 100% profile completeness)
  • Organise your content plan
  • Schedule updates
  • Have useful, interesting conversations
  • Tag your connections on LinkedIn
  • Share knowledge, events and ideas
  • ACTIVATE your network

Following lunch, David James kicked off the afternoon session with “Marketing Me: the truth told better”. This involved eating cat food, as he used to be known as “the cat food man”.

Tweet about David James eating cat food at #DECon2012

A high impact (albeit slightly bizarre) way to kick off the afternoon but he had the audience hanging on his every word as he talked of his experience of ‘being different’ in order to stand out and build his own personal brand. He built a strong argument for standing out in a crowded market – by being different. He has talked about the management styles of drug dealers and Osama Bin Laden- making him different and enabling him to stand out. Very thought-provoking stuff. Diving into and absorbing his deck from the day will be well worth half an hour of your time.

After another session from Dave Chaffey on 21 ideas for effective blogging (check out the deck), Peter Rees called on marketers to “cull the dull” in thought leadership and innovate to be something different and better than the competition. Become a deep expert in your field- thought provoking, maybe even contentious- but not lists of ‘5 this’ or ’10 that’. Be in it for the long haul and commit to updating/maintaining on a regular basis.

Kevin Read at Bell Pottinger Business & Brand gave the PR agency perspective of having planned communications across a wide range of global clients and sectors. Reputation as an issue is now owned by the board, which wasn’t the case 10-20 years ago. Digital media has caused us to think differently about reputation management, but there’s no single, correct answer, according to Kevin. Whether or not digital and traditional communications teams would/should merge is a subject of much debate, but Kevin advocates that synergy comes from the best of both.

Finally, but by no means least, Marialena Zinopoulou discussed her 10 most inspirational online influencers. Once again, the deck is well worth a look and in many ways this session might have worked better in the morning as the content links so strongly to Lesley and Mike’s- these are the guys who have been there and done it!

Overall, I thought the day was extremely valuable and thought provoking and I’d highly recommend you look out for DECon2013…by which time I may have had chance to implement some of this best practice advice!

I’d be interested to hear any thoughts or reactions from readers, whether or not you were at the conference. How important do you feel developing your personal brand is? What are the barriers to you achieving this (real or perceived)? Do you have any examples of success stories you can share here?

M&S Bank- Viva La Evolution!

I recently ran a Financial Services Marketing workshop at the CIM Northern Conference, entitled “Viva La Evolution”, where I urged FS Marketers to evolve the way they gather and use knowledge to think about their customers, their market and themselves.

One of the tasks I set the delegates was to look at the risk of new market entrants from firms in highly trusted sectors and that had excellent customer service. Marks & Spencer was one of the companies I used in this scenario planning exercise to demonstrate the need to ‘look for competitive threats in unusual places’ and to ‘regularly review and update market response plans’.

So Friday’s news that Marks & Spencer is to launch M&S Bank in the summer came as no great surprise to me, with the intention to offer a current account from the autumn and mortgages ‘at a later date’. With over 3 million customers already using M&S Money, the near immediate cross-sales potential of the current account is massive. Add in the fact that M&S has 21 million customers and the business case writes itself.

What did surprise me was the rebrand from M&S Money to M&S Bank. The word ‘bank’ has developed negative connotations in some quarters and the move shows clear confidence that the strength of both the M&S brand and the M&S Bank proposition is materially different (and better) to that offered by ‘traditional’ banks. It certainly looks compelling, as customers will have access to branches that are ‘open twice as long as high street banks, seven days a week’, and will have 24 hour access to online banking.

This is all made possible thanks to a joint venture with HSBC, who describe this as “our most significant innovation in retail banking since we launched First Direct”. Nothing to be worried about there, then.

What do you think about M&S’ move? Do the high street banks have anything to worry about? Or will customer apathy and a renewed focus on increasing customer service levels be enough to hold onto their customer base?

Here’s the slide deck from my workshop last month.

Diamond Jubilee – a Right Royal Rebrand?

As much of the nation struggled to get back into the swing of working life on Wednesday, I couldn’t help reflect on a weekend during which I felt the ‘rebrand’ of Britain’s Royal Family was complete.

I’ve never considered myself to be a royalist, but having seen the transformation of a nation’s mood (OK, helped by 2 extra days off for most of us) over the weekend I wondered whether we were witnessing the fruits of a ‘strategic review’ of their brand positioning? If it was, here’s how I saw it hang together:

1) Showcase event for ‘Brand Britain’: There’s no doubt that there will have been a positive and material impact on ‘Brand Britain’ as a result of these celebrations and not just from the millions watching on TV around the world. The streets, riverbanks and parks of London came alive in a celebration of positivity. Bring on the Olympics!

2) Commitment to deeper ‘customer engagement’: We appeared to witness a statement of intent to make the Royal Family more visible, accessible and open. The schedule of events Queen Elizabeth II attended over the weekend would make the most voracious networker shudder. The fact that the celebratory tour continues across the country allows those outside of London to experience a bit of Jubilee Fever at first hand.

3) Injection of a renewed sense of fun: Throughout the weekend’s activities, all the members of the Royal Family genuinely appeared to be having fun, even during the sideways torrential rain in the freezing cold for the Thames River Pageant.

The Royal Family has attracted more than its share of controversy over the years, so hopefully these will be the last fireworks coming from Buckingham Palace until the next celebration:

What do you think? Has your perception of the Royal Family ‘brand’ changed following recent events? What would you do differently if you were their brand agency?

What can marketers learn from Tom Frankenburg?

By now you’ve probably heard all about Tom Frankenburg, a guy from Nottingham (my home town) who is giving away a £1,000 holiday for 2 to Malta after splitting up from his girlfriend and finding it difficult to sell. Tom tells the story much better here…

Over the last 24 hours, the views on YouTube have doubled to about 54K views and I can only see this going through the roof over the weekend as the word spreads.

Coverage from the BBC, Huffington Post, Metro (who put it under their ‘weird’ section – a sad reflection on how acts of kindness are viewed IMO) and many others seem set to make this a story that keeps on running.

So what can marketers learn from Tom’s story?

  • Focus on a creating a message that is so remarkable you cannot help but share it
  • Deliver that message creatively yet authentically – Tom’s storybook approach, combined with nice editing makes this video fun yet believable
  • Leave a legacy- I hope Tom’s new phrase catches on and eagerly await the launch of the #makelifeyourbitch fashion range, with a percentage of profits for good causes…just a thought…

Nice one, Tom.

CIM Spring Conference 2012

The Forum, where BBC East is based

The Forum, where BBC East is based (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Along with around 100 other marketers from across the East of England, I attended the CIM Spring Conference for the first time last week at The Forum in Norwich. I’d encourage you to visit the conference microsite where I understand the slides will soon be available, so this post is intended to give a flavour of the content along with the key takeaways.

The event was chaired by Rachel Sloane who was an excellent host and facilitator throughout the day and provided a seamless link through the array of content, asking highly relevant questions and sharing personal anecdotes that really helped stitch the sessions together.

First up was Eamon FitzGerald, a former management consultant and wine blogger who is now Wine Development Manager at Naked Wines and travels the world finding new wine makers (a tough job, but someone’s got to do it).

We learned how in just 3 years the business has grown to 200,000 customers and now ships 10,000 bottles of wine every day with sales in 2011 totalling £20M.

The business philosophy seems to be built around a lovely phrase Eamon used throughout the day, whereby they strip out ‘what you can’t taste’ in the wine. For example, as all sales take place online, packaging is less important so heavy bottles, corks and fancy labels aren’t needed.

Key takeaways

  1. Invest time and money in creating a product so good that people want to talk about it anyway, rather than focusing on building a social media strategy (i.e. “strip out what you can’t taste”)
  2. An engaged and relevant audience can be a source of finance. £120K was raised in just 8 hours to fund Carmen Stevens (the first black female to graduate in winemaking in South Africa) to make her own wines

Next up, Luisa Leone of Cambridge-based Hewitsons LLP gave an overview of the potential pitfalls of marketing around the Olympics.

I won’t be able to do Luisa’s content anywhere near enough justice here, so look out for her slides on the conference microsite. As an acid test, if you’re planning on running any kind of campaign that includes these words… 

…then STOP!

Key takeaways

  1. If you’re even thinking about referencing the Olympics in your marketing activity there’s probably a provision in the act that prohibits it, so check the CIM’s Marketing the Olympics Fact File.
  2. Get professional advice
  3. Repeat 1 and 2!

After coffee we heard Robert Jones from Wolff Ollins and UEA give a fast-paced overview of the concept of ‘Brand Next’ by illustrating how the “5 immutable laws of branding” were mutating.

  1. Positioning….to purpose
  2. Persuasion….to platform
  3. Consistency….to variation
  4. Ownership….to becoming boundaryless
  5. Control….to liberation

I found the idea that these ‘laws’ of branding were mutating to be extremely thought-provoking and we could have had a whole day conference dedicated to this subject alone. Again, I’d recommend looking at Robert’s content from the day.

Key takeaways

  1. Marketers should remind themselves of Robert’s words before embarking on any new product development “Old model: Make people want things; New model: Make things people want”
  2. The Wolff Olins report, “Game Changers” is well worth downloading

Ben Strutt, Head of Industrial Design at The Cambridge Design Partnership kicked off the afternoon with a lively and participative session which was a great way to avoid the post-lunch lull these events can sometimes have.

He talked about the need to create products surrounded by an ‘ecosystem’ of touch points, the value being derived from the experiences generated. He introduced us to the Dollar Shave Club to illustrate the point that ‘More value = more unmet needs, more effectively satisfied’. At the time of writing, this had achieved 3.9M views in just over 3 weeks:

He then talked us through a case study for Akzo Nobel‘s Dulux brand, where the challenge was to make painting more convenient. By observing video footage of people using the product, they gleaned the insight that there were a number of stages that people went through to get to the desired end result (perfectly painted walls)

  • Purchase
  • Prepare
  • Paint
  • Clean up

The answer was to develop a product system, containing a durable and a consumable, and thus the Dulux paint pod was born.

Key takeaways

  1. More value = more unmet needs, more effectively satisfied
  2. Creating a product system provides a number of benefits to consumer and producer alike
  3. The cost of technology is plummeting, so use it to deliver more value to your customer base

For more of Ben’s thinking, check out the Wired article on ‘designing for greatness’.

Finally, Julia Kenyon, Head of Global Brand, BBC Worldwide gave an excellent overview of the regeneration of the Doctor Who brand in 2005 after a break of 15 years. The show is currently sold to 185 territories worldwide and celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013.

Julia discussed the challenges involved when people want content NOW, not when content creators want to give it to them and the need to seek mutually reinforcing, distributed digital ecosystems. This is not just about creating websites, but going where your customers are. The advice was to put your content on the platforms that are successful in reaching your target audience- why would you not ‘fish where the fish are’?

As the show is only on 13 times a year, Julia discussed the need to create engagement with the fans in other ways in a digital world and after building a presence on Facebook as recently as 2 years ago, it now represents their most successful ad platform.

Key takeaways

  1.  Know your fans; Go where they are; Be interesting; Be generous; Don’t just talk, listen
  2. Whether fans of a TV series or customers of just about any business, I would argue the above still applies
  3. Use social media insights to inform business decisions. Through analysing Facebook data, BBC WorldWide were able to demonstrate the large number of fans in Germany, which led to them selling the rights to German TV

Final thoughts

I have been to conferences in London at 5-6 times the cost of this event and haven’t learned half as much so will certainly be heading back next year. Well done to the CIM East of England team and I look forward to seeing next year’s programme.

Giving marketing a rebrand- step 3

Ivory Towers

Ivory Towers (Photo credit: James F Clay)

In previous posts on the theme of ‘giving marketing a rebrand’, I have suggested a number of steps marketers can take to raise their profile, credibility and effectiveness. I have called for them to Fight the Fluff and Manage the Magpie.

In this third and final post in the series, I feel it’s time to Trash the Tower.

Marketers are sometimes perceived by other functions as living in an Ivory Tower which, according to Wikipedia, is a place “where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life”.

Sometimes we are worthy of the ‘ivory tower’ perception because we have become internally focused and disconnected from the customer. Sometimes workload and organisational politics conspire to make it harder than it should be to spend more time with front line staff and customers, but how else will we get to hear firsthand accounts of how the products and services we are marketing solve (or cause) customer problems?

Does this sound familiar? If so, when was the last time you were able to escape the confines of the head office ivory tower and hear the customer’s voice at firsthand?

And I mean truly firsthand, not sitting through a 72 slide debrief on ‘wave 58’ of the latest customer satisfaction survey (showing a 3% improvement from ‘wave 57’ but with a +/- 5% margin of error!).

Here are three practical ways in which you can reconnect with everyday life in your customer’s world and learn some actionable insights to improve their experience:

  1. undertake regular customer site visits with front line staff and witness firsthand how your product or service is used in their business – look for new ways in which you can tell these stories to prospective customers
  2. listen to customer calls in contact or service centres – your colleagues in these teams have more experience of the day to day client experience than most in the organisation, so make sure you tap into it when developing new initiatives and campaigns
  3. read the 10/20/50 most recent customer complaints – look for emerging patterns and identify an issue you can own and solve, even if this means stepping outside of your organisational silo to do so

How do you gain actionable insights in your team? What are your best practice tips for getting out of the ivory tower and listening to the customer? Where have you seen innovative techniques employed that you wouldn’t expect to see being led by a marketing team?