Is there a Social Media Bubble?

Social Media BubbleSocial media represents the real world network we all desire but prefer to access from the comfort of our couch, desk, or coffee shop. We can effectively ‘keep in touch’ with many more people at one time than if we were to plan coffee, lunches, dinners and phone calls. The old standard email among friends has diminished. Instead, we say, “Didn’t you see my Facebook post?” For individuals, social networking is a big win. What about for business? Does social media efficiently help businesses grow revenues, reduce expenses, and build a brand? The answer: it depends.

Social media is a powerful tool as part of an overall strategy and aligns well with organizational functions such as customer service, HR, marketing, and sales. DataKey consults with CEOs and leaders of mid-market companies in dozens of industries who are primarily concerned with business growth. Organizations that identify a target market, define their customer needs and fine-tune content to build engagement use social media more effectively than those without a well-defined marketing strategy.

Social media is often more useful in B2C organizations for lead generation, voice of the market / customer and customer support. According to Nielsen[1], there’s a 92% trust level with a recommendation from a friend, vs. only a 29% trust level from the advertiser itself. Social media has enabled a more informed consumer who now gathers third-party reviews, references and ratings before visiting your website or making a purchase. Once a customer (or potential customer) follows your company on social media, they are more much likely to make a purchase. According to one study[2], “64% of Twitter users and 51% of Facebook users are more likely to buy the products of brands they follow online.”

Case in point: Pretzel Crisps[3]. They launched a $1.00 coupon on their Facebook page. Within 36 hours, their fan base grew from 5,000 to 12,000. So, they launched another coupon – Buy One, Get One Free. Only this time, they didn’t tell their fans. No matter – fans found out on their own and the “letting you in on a secret” factor had a viral effect that exploded the fanbase from 14,000 to 29,000.  Now it’s at over 250,000. But fans just tell one side of the story.  The redemption rate for the fist coupon was 87%; the redemption rate for the second was 95%, and annual sales increased 93%.

The case is not as clear for social media for B2B business development and sales. We did a poll of 25 mid-sized B2B business owners and found that none of them are using social media as a major component of their business development strategy. In some cases, it is gaining traction where digital natives are the organizational buyers and leaders. Yet, business leaders are constantly being bombarded with messaging about “getting social” and the new “integrated marketing.” Perhaps we are experiencing a social media bubble where it is hyped to the point of not being realistic. Where is the ROI?

There is a big downside and RISK in ignoring social media – it’s ever-evolving, businesses are constantly innovating new ways to use it, and the last thing you want to do is fall behind. Undoubtedly, the value to all companies in any industry will only continue to grow over time. So even if you’re one of those B2B companies that doesn’t see the value today, it’s essential to keep your eye on social media trends and be ready to invest when you can gain an advantage.  Any well-developed marketing strategy must include a comprehensive social media plan – even if that plan is to watch and wait – now and in the future.

DataKey Difference: Anticipating ever-changing demands in the marketplace has never been more critical, especially when the competition is only a mouse-click away. To make data-driven management decisions, it is essential to fully understand the market, prospects and customers. DataKey will bring knowledge, experience and best practices to your door and translate them into techniques that will create results for your company. DataKey is accountable for recommendations and implementation. Contact us today for an initial consultation.

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3 Ways Mid-Market Companies Can Innovate

If you are a mid-market CEO, you need to be concerned about innovation. If you’re like most mid-market CEOs outside of the technology industry, you’re probably concerned that your core product(s) are or are becoming a commodity where price is dictated by the market. As a result, these you have internal cost pressure while profit growth has slowed or is starting to decline. New competitors are entering the market, competitors are taking your business, and/or consolidation is happening because scale is the only way to get better business results. Innovation is the way out of this dilemma. Here are three ways mid-market companies can be more innovative.

Innovate!Look at Consumer Products

Consumer product innovation happens at an amazing pace. Think about any product, even a commodity – for example, toothbrushes. The toothbrush itself is very basic, a handle with bristles. But with clever innovation, the toothbrush became more than just a plain old piece of plastic. Bristles were produced in different colors and lengths, handles became different shapes, battery operated toothbrushes were introduced. These days, kids listen to hit music in their heads, played by a toothbrush!

Now think about your products: what features or functions can you change? If you sell flowers in pots, make the pots stand out, perhaps the pot can be a different shape or a brighter color than your competition. If you make industrial products, create a distinguishing feature such as the shape and color. Your objective is to make your product more innovative than your competitor’s so it will stand out in the market.

Create Product Roadmaps

Technology companies at the very front end of the innovation process are continually updating their product roadmaps, always searching for new ways to improve their products and services. The search could be done by their own R&D organization, by partnering with startups, or by simply buying key technology components. All the companies that make mobile phones – Apple, LG, Samsung, etc. – have roadmaps that span years into the future. When you buy that phone in the store, you are getting a product that was conceived at least 18 months before.

Do you have product or service roadmaps? Once you identify what features or functions you can change, determine how much investment you need and an approximate ROI. If the financials make sense, then figure out how long it will take you to implement that change. Focus a small team to produce the new features and functions. Build on the first change, making your product or service roadmap into a guide for years to come. Consistent review and updating of the roadmap must be on your management agenda.

Value-Add Services

Product and service companies are often one and the same. The service often takes the lead role in creating value, especially when the product is a commodity. There are hundreds of examples all around you – just look for them! Enterprise Car Rental will “pick you up.” You buy an iPhone from Apple, and then you need iTunes and the app store to go with it. A local store or restaurant gift card is a service that helps you give a gift and helps the store with cash flow and more customers.

Are you creating new value-added services? Just like a product roadmap, services improve your connection to the customer, create repeat business, and generate new revenue streams. The internet makes services easier and more affordable to offer services than ever before. For example, if you sell or rent industrial equipment, connect your equipment to the internet to track usage, then sell customers monitoring services and predictive maintenance plans. Think about the information you have about your customers or the industries you serve and leverage that information to develop a value-added service.

DataKey Difference: Strategy is directly connected to tactical planning to ensure successful implementation. Generate inspiration towards a profitable and sustainable future for your company through innovation.  DataKey has the tools and experience your company needs to create effective strategies to help you creative innovative products and services, specifically tailored to your company’s industry, products and customers. With DataKey as part of your team, make innovation a top priority and start building towards your potential today.

Build Competitive Advantage – Trend Advantage Part 3

Introducing DataKey’s Trend Advantage article series – learn how to recognize and capitalize on marketplace trends to accelerate your business!  [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3]

Clarifying a vision of the future is intended to ignite the creative minds of your R&D engineers, marketing and new product development teams. Companies that act now to analyze future mega trends are able build competitive advantage. Trend Advantage is a process to assess mega trends that are just starting to build today, and to design actions so that your company can profit over the long term. The entire process is based on three steps as shown below. This is the third in a series of articles that explains the steps in greater detail.

Turning Marketplace Trends Into Competitive Innovation

You will want to encourage the ideation process by helping your team to find the gaps from where your company is today and put the plans in place to create the vision you describe. A structure for your idea will help to focus the brainstorming – and ultimately selection – process for specific projects that represent the best business opportunities.

Initial Brainstorm

Bring your creative thought leaders together into a room and review the vision for the future in all the areas that apply to your business. Review and discuss the vision so that each person has a good understanding of the mega trends and the rationale that drives the vision. The objective of the brainstorming activity is to ultimately design near-term actions that will allow the company to take advantage of the vast change that is inevitable. This goal is often achieved over a series of workshops mixed with additional research, formation of sub-teams, and team expansion.

Evaluate Ideas

After your initial investigation, you may have multiple topic areas to explore further. Brainstorming and planning begins with the future market needs.  Focus on the mega trends and vision in each topic area and complete the grid below to help you determine which ideas are most viable. An example based on automobile connectivity and infotainment is provided in the table below.

Automobile Connectivity and Infotainment
What is important in the
Market in 2015 – 2020?
Ÿ Drivers are distracted in the car, not safeŸ
Gen Y Drivers want always-on connectivityŸ
Passengers want access to entertainment, like at home
Business and Technology Challenges Ÿ Cars are not connected to the internetŸ
Few automotive manufactures have adopted service models like the ones we typically offer
Laws / Rules / Standards
/ Expected Behavior
Ÿ Upcoming laws for electric vehicle efficiencyŸ
Expectations for driver safety and control
Competition (Who / What) Ÿ Other automotive suppliersŸ Google, Amazon, Apple, entertainment services
Strategic Alignment and Opportunity Ÿ Aligned with growth strategy in Automotive marketŸ
Aligned with growth strategy in services
New Business, R&D Topics Ÿ Infotainment services for automotive passengers delivered via the internet

In-Depth Exploration

In the above example, the team has successfully narrowed the market vision to the new business or R&D topic “infotainment services for automotive passengers delivered via the internet.” Once that is accomplished, they can then shift the focus to the traditional business planning using PEST, eScan, SWOT and business strategy tools for further refinement and planning.  The business planning may include a look at the industry focusing on topics such as:

  • Current State and Projected Industry Outlook
  • Major Challenges/Threats
  • Regulatory / Political Impact on Industry
  • Current Consumer Trends
  • Current Technology Trends
  • Emerging New Products / Leading Companies
  • Ecosystem: Potential Partnerships / Alliances.

DataKey Difference: Strategy is directly connected to tactical planning throughout the organization to ensure successful implementation. Generate inspiration towards a profitable and sustainable future for your company.  DataKey has the tools and experience your company needs to create effective strategies to interpret and evaluate mega trends, specifically tailored to your company’s industry, products and services. With DataKey as part of your team, take your long-term strategy off the back-burner and start building towards your potential today.

Ready to learn more?  Read the rest of the series [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3] or contact DataKey today!

Imagine the Future – Trend Advantage Part 2

Introducing DataKey’s Trend Advantage article series – learn how to recognize and capitalize on marketplace trends to accelerate your business!  [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3]

Understanding mega trends and their potential for strategic change in your company is critical to long term survival and profits. Companies that act now to analyze future mega trends are able build competitive advantage. Trend Advantage is a process to assess mega trends that are just starting to build today, and to design actions so that your company can profit over the long term. The entire process is based on three steps as shown below. This is the second in a series of articles that explains the steps in greater detail.

Turning Marketplace Trends Into Competitive Innovation

Once you have identified the mega trend impacts, validated your assessment of those impacts, and positioned yourself to take advantage of the oncoming wave of change, it is time to inspire others around you to see the future the same way. While it’s tempting to look at market share, CAGR, ROI and other business case metrics, the unfortunate fact is that the numbers are all SWAGs about the future that cannot be gathered or confirmed. In some cases, the market is so new that a business case would not provide sufficient investment justification.

So what can you do to get your company on board? You are not promising immediate payback; instead, you are asking the company leaders to position the company for a longer term survival and profits.  To be successful, you’ll need to create a vision of the future that’s compelling – it must be believable, rational and, most importantly, inspiring. Keep in mind that the vision needs to satisfy the needs of the audience at almost every decision level, from the Board of Directors and top management to the leaders that manage the resources working on the new projects – perhaps in R&D, the CTO office, Product Innovation Labs or New Product Development.

To successfully reach all these groups, the idea needs to be visual and conceptual while still appealing to the power of data-driven decision making. You may need to create a vision in multiple areas depending on the scope of your business. Mock-up diagrams, use cases, and supporting data about the trend are all essential tools for making an effective and cohesive case for your vision.

Below is one example of the future of automobile connectivity and infotainment. It is easy to imagine that all of these elements that exist in a different form today could be put together and integrated into the environment of the car for safety, driver information, multi-purpose analytics and entertainment. With the vision clarified, it’s easy for top management to sign-off on the project. Your creative R&D engineers, marketing and new product development teams can begin the process of ideation, find the gaps from where your company is today, and put the plans in place to create the vision you describe.

Example of How Mega Trends Spark Innovation

DataKey Difference: Strategy is directly connected to tactical planning throughout the organization to ensure successful implementation. Generate inspiration towards a profitable and sustainable future for your company.  DataKey has the tools and experience your company needs to create effective strategies to interpret and evaluate mega trends, specifically tailored to your company’s industry, products and services. With DataKey as part of your team, take your long-term strategy off the back-burner and start building towards your potential today.

Ready to learn more?  Read the rest of the series [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3] or contact DataKey today!

Mega Trend Strategy – Trend Advantage Part 1

Introducing DataKey’s Trend Advantage article series – learn how to recognize and capitalize on marketplace trends to accelerate your business!  [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3]

Companies that act now to analyze future mega trends are able build competitive advantage. Trend Advantage is a repeatable, reliable process to assess mega trends that are just starting to build today, and to design actions so that your company can profit over the long term. The entire process is based on three steps as shown below. This is the first in a series of articles that explains the steps in greater detail.

Turning Marketplace Trends Into Competitive Innovation

A mega trend is defined as a gathering of changes, changes which are slow to form but nearly impossible to reverse. Mega trends significantly influence the direction of the future with far and wide reaching impact on society and business alike. In 2010, Frost and Sullivan described dozens of high-impact mega trends[1]  that covered all areas of life and all geographies of the world.

While the timing of the business impact for your company may not be imminent, these mega trends cannot be ignored. Business strategists, general managers and R&D leaders that attend to the mega trends will create near-term actions to take advantage of the vast change that is inevitable, and that can carry a thriving and profitable company into the future.

Social media is a good example of a mega trend that has come upon us recently. It started small with Web 2.0 and built up over time to see mass adoption through companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, and now Pinterest. In the early days of social media when MySpace was dominant, the idea of social networking didn’t move far beyond the college campus. Today, companies are scrambling to take advantage of social media as a new avenue for customer engagement and to buffer competitors who seek to erode customer loyalty.

Now is the time to identify the next trends, those that are just starting to gain steam and that will change your business in the near future.  The question to ask is, “Which trends are out there that are most likely to impact my business? And, how do I identify them?”

1. Assess Impact Potential

Consider the business you are in right now. Compare your business to the Frost and Sullivan mega trends to see if there is a positive, neutral or negative impact. For example, “Smart” is the next evolution after “Green.” According to the Smart mega trend, devices will have embedded sensors and processors which can handle the basic processing of environmental information. Imagine that your home heating and cooling system automatically deciding if the A/C or heat should be on based on the temperature inside and outside of the house.  How could your business be changed with this kind of sensor technology?

2. Validate the Trend

Second, gather additional validation of the mega trends that you believe will have an impact. Research the technology, investment and demographic changes that are fueling the trend. Are all of these factors logically supporting the trends? If so, that’s a clear indicator that this trend may be worth investing in.  For example, in 2020, today’s Gen Y will be between 24 and 36 years old. They are the future corporate managers, business owners and purchasers. They are social, have a preference for video, and expect 24/7 internet connectivity. How well will your business serve their needs?

3. Focus & Gather Resources

Third, narrow your focus to the mega trends where your business could benefit most by a change in products or business model. Identify companies already working in this area and how your company can leverage their knowledge, products or services. Similarly, identify individuals in these companies and find ways to enter into their network so that you can become knowledgeable as well.

Understanding mega trends and their potential for strategic change in your company is critical to long term survival and profits. Take action today to start to identify mega trend impacts, validate your assessment of those impacts, and position your company to take advantage of the oncoming wave of change.

MegaTrends Word Cloud

DataKey Difference: Strategy is directly connected to tactical planning throughout the organization to ensure successful implementation. Generate inspiration towards a profitable and sustainable future for your company.  Don’t let mega trends catch you unprepared.  DataKey has the tools and experience your company needs to create effective strategies to interpret and evaluate mega trends, specifically tailored to your company’s industry, products and services. With DataKey as part of your team, take your long-term strategy off the back-burner and start building towards your potential today.

Ready to learn more?  Read the rest of the series [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3] or contact DataKey today!

Constant Progress: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Successful business owners know that the only way to thrive is to grow and change with the market by making use of smart strategic planning and clearly defined annual goals. Where many companies flounder, however, is in their commitment to those annual goals. Juggling day-to-day demands and unexpected emergencies doesn’t leave much time to even breath, let alone to devote to making progress on longer-term goals. Making time for those goals, however, is often the factor that sets a great company apart.

As you completed your last 3-5 year strategic planning exercise and determined what your company needs to accomplish over the coming years, you likely put much time and effort into creating S.M.A.R.T. goals, that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. If not, start by reviewing your list of goals and revising them to be better formulated. Be specific not only in what you want to achieve, but also who is responsible for achieving it, and make sure that you’ve set a specific date by which this goal needs to be realized. “Someday” or “sometime next year” is not going to cut it – you need to hold yourself (or the goal owner) accountable for achieving the goal in a measurable amount of time. Equipped with your goals, you’ve already laid the foundation for achievement, but you absolutely must follow through to ensure success.

A regular goal review meeting is a critical tool for following through on longer-term goals and pushing everyone within the company to continue making progress against those goals. On monthly or bi-weekly basis, company leadership and managers with ownership of goals should gather together for 30-60 minutes to discuss the status of each goal, in particular focusing on any goals which aren’t progressing or are at risk (e.g., need scope clarification scope, require resource reallocation, or are experiencing budget issues). In addition to creating openness and improving communication, a dedicated review meeting fosters a clear sense of accountability across the company and builds a strong incentive for employees to carve out time each week to devote to longer-term goals, lest they show up to the meeting empty handed in front of their supervisors and peers.

To ensure constant progress a goal review meeting should strive to follow certain operating procedures:

  • Measure progress. With measurable goals and a set deadline, it should be easy to map out major milestones that occur every few months. Hold goal owners accountable for reaching those milestones and at each meeting ask them to provide a numerical estimate (50%, 80%, etc.) of how close they are to achieving the next milestone.
  • Leverage tools. A graphical chart or color-coded spreadsheet that can be projected for everyone to see gives a clear at-a-glance picture of which goals are on track and which aren’t. Utilize a Green/Yellow/Red system to denote which goals are at risk and assign one person who will be responsible for updating the tools before, during, and after each meeting.
  • Prioritize meeting time. Spend the first 5 minutes of the meeting reviewing recent accomplishments and celebrating hitting big milestones on time. The rest of the meeting should be devoted to discussing goals in progress, particularly those that are at risk.
  • Brainstorm together. With all of the company leaders and managers in the same room, there’s a lot of talent and experience in one concentrated area. Use this resource to run quick brainstorming sessions to generate ideas for overcoming challenges and unblocking goal progress. Focus on three key areas, scope, resources and timeline.
  • Set expectations. End the meeting with a quick rundown of who is responsible for doing what by the next meeting so that no one leaves without a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Even better, assign an individual who is responsible for keeping notes and sending a list of action items out via email after the meeting.

DataKey Difference: Strategy is directly connected to tactical planning throughout the organization to ensure successful implementation.  The best laid plans can easily go awry if they aren’t constantly monitored. DataKey has the tools and experience your company needs to create and align effective goals and to help you gauge progress against those goals by designing an efficient review meetings process specifically tailored to your company’s needs and culture. With DataKey as part of your team, goal owners are held accountable for achieving company strategy and equipped with the know-how they need to get there. Take your long-term strategy off the back-burner and start achieving your potential today.

Download a PDF version of this article here.

Keys to Serious Strategy and Planning

Every company, large and small, needs a long term game plan to sustain, and better yet, improve their competitive position. Strategic planning is the only way to ensure that the long term plan for a company evolves with the change in environmental factors, the company’s core capabilities and the competitive factors in the industry.

You believe the leadership team of your company is aligned and working toward the same outcome – growing a competitive, increasingly valuable business. You work hard; your team works hard; managers do their best; employees are loyal.

It’s all great, until you realize that your business metrics are stuck – or worse – sliding in reverse. As a business owner, you want those metrics to be improving every day, every month, every year.

Companies have difficulty fully realizing their vision. Planning is difficult in the face of strong competition, declining market share, and shrinking profit margins. DataKey recommends that the Strategic Planning process be conducted over a short series of working sessions to understand the longer term company strategy and business goals. The best companies tackle strategy and planning to take advantage of new market opportunities, improve profits, and grow the business.

Below are top tips and characteristics to accelerate your strategic plan.

  • Capitalize on your company’s unique strengths which introduce a truly fundamental advantage in the marketplace. Make a move that increases your differentiation; the competition follows you.
  • Clarify the future direction of the company, the desired state over a longer time horizon, as well as, the specific steps needed for near-term success. Your strategic progress needs to be measureable.
  • Facilitate the development of a robust challenge statement and strategic vision that will have the full support of the management team. Your strategic intent must stand up to challenges. Unless your leadership team is aligned to the right strategy, nothing changes.
  • A clear, concise, written strategy will stand the ‘test of time’ and be the compass for business decisions and execution. The leadership team needs true consensus at the strategic level to guide day-to-day decisions and action.
  • Strategies for creating value have shifted from only managing financial or tangible assets to include measuring intangible pieces critical to your success such as brand recognition, internal growth and customer goodwill.
  • Establish goals for the upcoming year or two, and develop the annual action plan to move the company towards the desired state. Action plans need to consist of measurable objectives with target deadlines.
  • Each goal must be assigned to an owner from your management team, who is responsible for detailed planning, progress and proactive risk mitigation.Goals must be fully developed down to specific action plans with budget assigned.
  • The management team can hold each other accountable through a monthlygoal review process to ensure progress towards the goals by managing obstacles and risks.

DataKey Difference: Strategy is tightly linked to tactical plans throughout the organization. By following the above recommendation your company mission, strategic objectives and business goals will be thoroughly defined, aligned and integrated.

Download a PDF version of this article here.