Dispel the myth

Having spent time with some very inspirational people at a conference recently, I recalled something Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of the Open University, shared more than 10 years ago. I have never forgotten it and it holds true today more than ever before.

Employers are concerned that if they invest in, train and certify their staff, those individuals may leave the company to grab an opportunity to earn more money elsewhere. Yet money is not the number one motivator, as we have seen over and over again from numerous people studies.

“What if I train and certify my staff, and they leave?” asked one employer.

“What if you don’t train and certify your staff, and they stay?” was the quite brilliant reply?

The shortest messages are usually those with the greatest impact.

We must dispel the myth.

Is Marketing dead or different?

Social media has seriously impacted traditional marketing, but is marketing dead, as claims Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide and one of the smartest thinkers around? He said recently:

“The role of marketing has changed. There is nothing new anymore. If marketers are just hearing about something going on then it is already old in today’s world. Speed and velocity is everything today. Marketing’s job is to create movement and inspire people to join you. Everyone wants a conversation. They want inspiration. Inspire people with your website. Don’t just interrupt, but interact. Asking about Return on Investment is the wrong question today. You should be asking about Return on Involvement.”

Thought-provoking indeed. Globally recognised universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are putting entire courses online for free. Why? Because you can’t earn a degree on YouTube, and if that’s where today’s students are hanging out, it becomes free marketing. The best students have a choice where they study and platforms like YouTube are how to reach them.

Amy Cosper, Editor of the excellent US-based magazine Entrepreneur, talks about customers as active participants in companies, brands and collaboration.

Last word to Kevin Roberts: “The big idea is dead. There are no more big ideas. Creative leaders should go for getting lots and lots of small ideas out there. Stop beating yourself up searching for the one big idea. Get lots of ideas out there and then let the people you interact with feed those ideas and they will make it big.”

The social tools and technologies allow us to have a conversation with customers old and new, invite opinions and evolve our business. That is how marketing has changed.

The Facebook Way

Since its IPO, the media has attacked Facebook from every angle. I would like to take a moment and highlight some of the positives to come out of camp Zuckerberg.

You have to give credit to its creativity, its ability to scale and allow millions of people to connect on a social level. You also have to applaud the platform now used by the likes of British Telecom, Heinz and others to get closer to its customers. Heinz in particular is brilliant at marketing via Facebook, involving their customers in creating products such as the new balsamic vinegar-flavoured ketchup and their personalised ‘Get Well Soon’ can of soup. I have said it before, the future of marketing is not about campaigns but conversations.

More importantly for me, when you dig a little deeper into the empire, you start to understand the Facebook way – Mark Zuckerberg talks about moving fast and breaking things. Facebook, like Google and others from its generation, launches products quickly, listens to what its customers are saying and adjusts accordingly. New online furniture company Made.com has built a great business entirely on this model. In some ways, if you don’t develop this way, you will be left behind. At Apple, the iPod is now almost obsolete, and two-thirds of its revenues come from products invented after 2007. At printer giant HP, the majority of revenue stems from products that did not exist a year ago.

Mark Zuckerberg narrows his focus to two things – having a direction for the company and what it builds and assembling the best team possible. The talent in Menlo Park cannot be doubted. We can learn from this model. On a more local level, my good friend Kypros, CEO at Ryman, the UK’s best stationery company, talks about how they differentiate. It is no secret. Go into their stores – the formula is the same. They find great people, train them well and look after them. The attitude cascades down from CEO throughout the organisation and extends to its customers every day.

Technology or not, it’s all about the people. Always.

Using technology to drive the best marketing of all – Word of Mouth

There is some interesting research and debate around technology facilitating word of mouth marketing. I have always believed that nothing competes with shaking hands, making eye contact and building relationships, but Facebook and other social platforms are adding something else by creating conversations and driving engagement.

Brands are constantly seeking ‘likes’ and ‘recommendations’ from users and marketers are always looking to find those individuals who can spread the word very quickly because they are well connected – we call these people the ‘one-percenters’, yawners or sneezers!

The fact is, you tell one person something in the office, they will typically share it with one or two others. If you tell them on Facebook, it is likely that you tell an average of 140-150 others.

While word of mouth is more commonly understood in face-to-face contact, it is more about recognising what drives people to talk about things, then applying appropriate tools and platforms to create that engagement. British Telecom famously ran a series of adverts for their broadband service where Adam met Jane and after years of uncertainty they got married. BT cleverly tied the TV ads into email invitations and a Facebook page that encouraged the public to vote for the wedding dress, wedding car and music for the couple’s first dance. 500,000 people voted. That is some success.

Heinz have done it brilliantly with their ‘Get Well Soon’ can of soup that can be personalised and sent to an unwell acquaintance via Facebook, and my favourite of all is Blendtec, a blender company with more than 150 million views on YouTube taking requests from followers (in the thousands) to blend anything and everything. An ordinary product doing extraordinary things, creating buzz, conversation and deeper engagement.

Word of mouth is ultimately people talking about cool things, brands, events, products and stories that have raised levels of interest, regardless of tools or tech – just as I am doing now.

Keeping IT cool

Gadgets are the new cool – everyone wants the latest mobile phone, iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy and a myriad of others. In fact, at the recent CRN PartnerConnect conference at the Ricoh Arena, where we talked about cloud business opportunities and mobility, our CEO Todd Thibodeaux brought all of these devices with him in his hand luggage and showed them to the audience, which generated a combination of laughter and interest. Todd also talked about making IT cool (http://blog.comptia.org/2011/05/09/making-it-cool/) and I would like to pick up on this.

When I present to audiences about some of the trends in technology, eyebrows are always raised when I ask about engaging our young employees and utilizing social media for business. Why? The younger generation are digital natives and they live and breath the technology that so fascinates my generation. For them, it is their oxygen, a gateway to the outside world. They also understand how it works, how it connects, and how to maximize it, so why do we push back and in some cases not allow social media sites in the office during work time. My view is that we should encourage its use, and also invite the younger generation to tell us how we can build sites to target the new generation on the platforms they are so comfortable with. That is how we can tie “cool” and “IT” together, and create a new harmony in the workplace. More importantly, by doing this we make our companies a more exciting place to work and we will attract the new generation to want to work for us. Today they have a choice, and those with the skills and talent will decide whether they want to add us to their CV. They are vitally important to our success, regardless of how cool we think our company is – we must engage them on their terms, because they are both our workforce and our customer of tomorrow.

Above was the view at the Ricoh Arena from my room when I drew the curtains in the morning. What a great idea to combine corporate hospitality suites with hotel bedrooms to maximize use of the space. Another cool.

New Marketing

The share price of H&H Imports jumped $50 million in one day after 50 Cent tweeted about the company. Investigating further, it seems companies have worked out that celebrity endorsements can catapult their product to the headlines. Some are paying celebs anywhere from $100 – $10,000 per tweet to promote their brand. New marketing indeed, although just spotted here in the UK that the authorities are looking to clamp down on this – spoilsports!

Going Social

I have no idea how tomorrow’s devices will shape up, but I do know they are taking over the world and most of us will be online for longer. There are 1.8 billion internet users (half of them from just 5 countries), Tencent in China is the largest social network with 637m users, the ramp-up time for new products in this space is setting new records (28 days to sell the first million iPads), Oprah has 4.5m Twitter followers, commerce and shopping is now on your handheld device, and Steve Jobs (genius) remains king of the jungle! Are you a part of the Facebook/Apps/Google revolution – is your company and product fast/easy/fun – if not, you are standing still, and may well get left behind.

Backwards to go forwards

Followed an interesting series of articles/videos/conversations around networking and the “new” Twitter. In conclusion I agree with Seth Godin, who said there is little value in building large numbers of followers. It doesn’t benefit them and it certainly adds almost nothing to your objectives. What you need to do, and I agree, is find the 10, 20, 25 people who are key to your network; the influencers, the one-percenters, the sneezers, call them what you will, who have an impact in your career, decisions, network and future. The people that make things happen. Doesn’t that sound more managable?

TV debate

Twitter is adding a new dimension to television. Watching TV whilst tweeting is like listening to live commentary. It also turns a solitary pastime like watching TV into a communcal one, and you get to have your say. It is time Twitter was incorporated into plasma TVs for same-screen action and TV audiences for political debates include the Twitter brigade.

Chicago Week

Facilitated the global sales meeting in Chicago this week. Lots of creative ideas, dialogue and exchange by a team of people who flew in from 10 regions around the world to strategise and focus activities for the rest of the year. Marketing, events for our members, product strategies and social media were the highlight of the week. Pictures above contrast a team concentrating on the sessions during the day and a night out at the United Centre seeing the Chicago Bulls play Utah Jazz one evening. A very satisfying week.