Friday, 26 October 2012

Content Strategy: The future of marketing




The future of marketing is all about inbound marketing: Content strategy


content strategy: enables you to hit your  target


If you can see a trend you have missed it!

In a world of continual change seeing what is happening is often difficult to understand until the paradigm shift has occurred. Many companies are struggling to stay ahead or even in the game of online marketing. Many companies are moving towards online marketing content strategy or as marketing people call it inbound marketing. This major shift in culture and one needs to be fully understood.  
  
I have just had an old-fashioned marketing communication from a well-known brand, asking me to make an immediate purchase offering me a FREE upgrade for a new phone, my automatic response is not to be interested, at all because they have not demonstrated that they understand my specific needs. That made me thinks and write this article to explain why in today’s online world that old marketing technique is now as un-effective as a double glazing salesman offering me 50% off!

It’s a complete shift not just an add-on

In a world where everyone is online all the time, the amount of information is drowning people, from Linkedin to Facebook and Twitter the rise of smart phone connectivity has promised much change to marketing but until recently only early adopters, high value and niche players could see what it meant to the marketing process.

Social media is the first platform where content strategy is being seen

Like many changes, it is not until the change becomes tangible does its impact become visual to many marketing departments that enables them to successfully influence a company’s marketing policy. This is considerably harder to convey when there is no tangible evidence of marketing results attributable to hard to track invisible marketing shift. Unlike the shift to direct marketing where direct connectivity between outcome and result can be seen through a transparent return on investment, online inbound marketing is struggling to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Pace is outstripping understanding

Currently content marketing relies heavily upon invisible and poorly understood online activities. Simply put, the rate of change is outstripping the knowledge base of the marketing industry, creating a gap between the understandings of marketing by decision makers. The routes causes of this is that not only are customers sourcing information in newer ways but the platform they are using, the Internet indexing is also changing ever faster, Goggle will make over 600 changes to way it scores content. Rapidly changing customer preferences, coupled with changing technologies and an ever changing platform results in the lack of certainty of what is working and why. By the time you’ve worked out what works it has already changed.

That speed is creating problems for social media to be able to convert this rate of change to make money. This continual change, both step and continual upgrading, makes it difficult for the industry to understand how to build sustainable pipelines of business.

content strategy is important to fully understand


Content Strategy also creates confusion.   

Content strategy marketing process, one that now focuses on creating online and open platform engagement, online PULL; rather than internally controlled PUSH marketing methods, traditional marketers often struggle to understand the process let alone feel uncomfortable with the concept. This is not unreasonable, given the history of marketing in the last 50 years has always focused on the traditional pipeline of generating and then controlling customer decision-making, content marketing turns that on its head. People investing in inbound marketing are asked to spend money on losing control of the potential customer by letting them make an open decision about how and when they engage with your brand. 

In the mid 1990’s I remember designing a website to support a brand. No one was interested until it was live and people could see something online. A director then said, “That’s great let’s print it off and send it to all our customers”               

Dialogue NOT monologue

The inbound marketing process is about generating an open dialogue, rather than a structured marketing process. It lets potentials, prospects and suspects move in and out of your control while they select you, rather than being controlled by you.

The Content Strategy Process

  1. Listening – Online is now the first port of call for 78% of web users.   
  2. Creating – Great content that answers need and demonstrates expertise.
  3. Engaging – Is about being talked about and developing a dialogue with audiences
  4. Transforming – Is about continual engagement, moving them from suspects to purchasers
  5. Growing – Requires creating perpetual momentum developing new and developing loyalty


Traditional marketing models of developing engagement such as AIDA are still highly valid but instead of just focusing on a immediate winning proposition through a grabbing hook, attach a liner and sink them in a simple linear model for winning customers. Content strategy marketing demands  multiple engagement tools which include cross referencing other parties creating competitive collaborative working to generate awareness, giving away FREE content in white papers coupled with fast and slow acquisition tools in decision making.

The strategy needs to be explained better

Moving to a content strategy is about moving from PUSH to PULL, not about the Internet platform, it is about understanding the importance of open unrestricted dialogue rather than material generation and in reality it is not just about the Internet although this is where its impact is being seen today, but equally will encompass every marketing platform and process. The growth of mobile technology will further the pace and realisation of content strategy.    

Like to learn more? Then see article What is Content Marketing or contact us at Cowden Consulting or see our website or social media channels for more about Cowden Consulting:-





Richard Gourlay services: business planning, strategic planning, business development, strategic marketing, Return on Investment, director development, director mentoring.


Cowden Consulting is based in just outside Sheffield in Derbyshire and works with businesses throughout the UK.

Labels: brand strategy, content strategy, inbound marketing, marketing strategy, mobile strategy, online strategy, pull strategy, push strategy, strategic planning, strategy

Friday, 1 June 2012

Are you living your VALUES or are you just a Dreamer

Values matter in BUSINESS more than ever as Ikea have found out



In today’s information driven world, how you do business matters as much as the business you do as Ikea the iconic Swedish furniture retailer found out in 2012. Its green credentials were dealt a massive blow. 

Ikea only 16% sustainable wood


Ikea’s failure to achieve its own most modest target of 30% of its wood products to be from certified sustainable wood, will damage it its credibility heavily with its key audiences. The fact that it only hit 16%, has a massive blow on the values it professes as promoting sustainably sourced materials and to its environmental positioning, compared with Homebase (78%) and B&Q (77%), which won the best green award 2010. 

The excuse given in its defensive press statement is that it has sacrificed the values of sustainability for rapid growth and protecting its profitability (£2.3billion), but short term greed like this can cost dearly on both growth and profitability over the long term.     


Ikea’s staff not telling the truth


This corporate failure was made worse by staff telling customers in store that its products are from sustainable sources, when they are from illegal logging in places such as Russia. This insatiable drive for growth, which so often undermines trusted names, may damage the Swedish brand’s position as the leader in the flat pack market significantly, as it will now undergo microscopic environmental and customer scrutiny.   

Ikea’s soft “long term” aspirational statements on their website with links to the Rainforest Alliance are unlikely to be seen as enough in the modern world where green wash marketing such as this are quickly exposed and penalised. When the spotlight of the green world is turned on, it is difficult to hide in the shade.

The World Bank suddenly in the late 1980’s promoted its ‘green credentials’ by promoting itself as having employed ‘an environmentalist’, to offset its image of chopping down forests for cash crops. This green wash story was quickly exposed when it was pointed out the World Bank employed some 5,000 economists, what difference would/could one environmentalist make?          


Values must be transparent


The way you provide your product or service and to whom, says more about you than how much business you do. Being big in a highly segmented world is no longer the determination of success. How you do your business now determines your current credibility and future success. Credibility is as much about your values in becoming successful as about the success you have. Mohamed Al-Fayed for example, despite buying Harrods, never shook off questions about his background.
Your values as an organisation as demonstrated by everyone inside your organisation matter to both existing and potential customers in choosing to do business with you. People have choices and they can now exercise them more freely than ever before, and that means customers can access information instantly to make choices that are more informed. Ikea’s staff misinforming undercover Times reporters about their sustainable and certified sourced products at a number of shops are one symptom of Ikea’s rapid growth boardroom culture.      


Values Must Live the Moment


Almost everything in life is in real time and instantly communicated to circles of influence and beyond. A restaurant having  bad night can have a poor reputation before the starter has even been cleared away as customers post live feed back to sites such as Qype or Trip Advisor . Therefore, before the waiter, maitre d’ or chef knows what’s happening the world outside already does by Twitter and Facebook and are cancelling their reservations in their droves.


Why clean lavatories matter?


The old adage that if you want to know how clean the restaurant kitchen is, inspect the lavatories, because they tell you how the restaurant values cleanliness, is a great example of modern customer awareness. Do you live your values or just post them on your website? Is the question customers want to know in establishing and experiencing trust with you and your brand.   


Rail companies learning fast


The recent story of the man on the train talking too loudly causing enraged customers to Tweet  complaints about his behaviour which was picked up by a duty manager hundreds of miles away who then contacted staff on the train to track down the loud caller and asked him to quieten down.  
This story is very much testimony to the growing demands of customer expectations, immediate online response, not waiting for passing train staff to react. This story is part of the reputation shift that train companies are actively pursuing.    


Values are in the detail


Values matter, they define the real differences between companies. How British Airways treats its customers through the values it embeds in its entire organisation is what makes it different to other premium airlines and distinguishes it from them, and from the bucket providers such as Ryanair. 

However, as everyone de-layers in response to changing business models, cost and modernisation requirements, values can be lost in the rush to modernise and compete in new ways. BA’s changes to its premium dinner menu, introducing exotic main courses such as crocodile and ostrich sounded good but simultaneously cutting the After Eights, so there was not to go around 1st class passengers was a classic example of getting its values wrong in its customer’s eyes.  


Values Must Involve Everyone


If you value your customers then remember everyone needs to smile in their role, if you believe in providing excellent customer service then don’t cut your front of house staff numbers.

Too many companies’ ideas of communicating values are to place a statement on a website, brochure, at reception and on the induction training programme. How many companies look at the strategic advantage of values and embed it into people’s roles, asking staff to define their role by those values by redefining their role to live those values?  How many companies review those values as outcomes in winning and retaining customers?


Values as seen by Customers


Customers, potential and existing, are drowning in choice what makes you stand out to them is the values you own and can demonstrate. Statements on walls and websites always sound good, (possibly, because they are written by marketing people who do not work there) but unless the company lives them then they do more damage than good. Over promising and under delivering is a growing experience for everyone today.

Whether it is a London hotel, stating it’s exclusiveness, as evidenced by its 5 star, pretty pictures on the website of its presidential suite and over the top statements such as “sumptuous 5 star accommodation” the jaw dropping price tag. When you turn up and find a broom cupboard with not enough space to turn around in let alone swing a cat, and you are one of 500+ rooms filled with bus loads of tourist on a package holiday then company values are under pressure.  

The same is equally true for staff, why should people stay loyal to you if you don’t live those values and enshrine them in every one of your people. Do they live it or lip service it?


New companies creating values


New companies have the unbridled opportunity to define their values from the start. By building them into their business model throughout the entire process from the beginning, providing value and clarity with every new role and new person, they can use their values to maximum leverage for attracting their chosen customers and staff.

So Googles' “DO NO HARM” value won many plaudits, breaking down the concern about the is was then rightly questioned by their policy in China of being seen to be supporting censorship (try typing Tienanmen Square Massacre into Google in China it never happened!). Now there is a good argument that rightly says any Google is better than no Google, but the contradiction against their stated values upset many Google Supporters elsewhere in the world.

Your values should come from within. What do you stand for? What does your company do? How should everyone do it? What does excellence look like? Some classic questions to understand the values you offer. I often ask people to think of an animal or car which best describes there organisation   


Keeping Values Alive       


Established companies inherit values, often without realising they have them in place, “its how we do it around here” type phrases are often values hidden inside everyday activity. Keeping values alive is often hard in rapidly changing under-pressure environments. Changes in leadership, particularly when cross industry leadership is introduced or when new pressures are introduced from changing ownership for example often end up throwing out the hidden value of a brand in the race to achieve short-term results.  

Everyone entering a company, particularly top executives, must understand the core heritage values any organisation has, how they are owned and expressed. The best way to achieve that is for new people to present those values back under peer group review and add to them with the changes they intend to introduce. New products/services need to incorporate core values and learn to demonstrate them in new ways as new channels of communication are opened up.  

Values checklist

  • Are your values visual to your team and customers?
  • Does everyone know your core values, have you checked?
  • Can all your people translate them into their daily role?
  • Do people see the company values in other people’s roles within the organisation?
  • Do customers comment on those values in their dealings with your company in formal and informal feedback channels?
  • If you can only answer confidently to only points one and two then you are not living your values. If you cannot hand on heart even answer those two them its probably time to look at your values in a lot more detail. 


Values, the official ethos of a how a company operates not only drives the behaviour but also defines the entire organisation's existence, it answers the question why it exists.

The values people live become and codify the culture within the business of how people do things inside any organisation. The culture is what people inside and customers from outside any organisation experience, it is how people behave within the workplace. It is the reason why in a command market your customers buy from you not from the competition.    

Posted by Richard Gourlay

Labels: brand strength, customer confidence, Google, Homebase, honesty, Ikea, Ryanair, transparent business, trust, trusted brands, values, values business, values matter


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The power of WHY to consumers


Will they BUY?

In the old days people used to buy what companies did, what they made, where they sold it and bought what they promoted. That was the age of big marketing and sales budgets, when big adverts worked, by driving demand through pushing products down channels, offering promotion and celebrity endorsement to generate business. 

The age of the Unique Selling Proposition we are special because..... so you will buy! It was the 1980 and 1990's so the world did as it was told: “we make what you want because we tell you want you want because we know about your needs”.      


Honest is essential

Then ethics came into play. As the internet began its infancy, the power of globalisation was laid bare by the internet. people asked more about how companies did things? Where were products sourced and how became important. Why were the premium footballs, such as those which David Beckham kicked, being made by blind children in India for a few rupees. Why were the clothes models wore being made in sweat shops where workers earned less than for a dollar a day? 

The internet changed how the media could communicate, explaining how household names operated and could afford those huge marketing budgets. This forced companies to change their practises (not their policies though) by educating and fighting back against the likes of Naomi Wolfs’ No Logo expose for example.

How business operated mattered, and so in response companies upped their awareness of their social impact and visibility through corporate social responsibility. How people did things mattered not just when the likes of Bhopal and Exxon Valdez disasters struck, but in everyday life. 

Fair-trade has become a household name in consumer goods, with high street stores vying for credibility of having an ethical policy, supporting local goods and having transparent policies of how they operate. This gives more confidence but leaves companies open to further scrutiny and often to unsatisfactory answers to vital key questions, not at least within developing countries, who are now the fastest growing emerging markets for many brands.


Why! - should I buy from you?

The biggest question which consumers and business now asks people is why businesses are doing these things.  Everyone has become so empowered with information sources that people want to buy the WHY, not the what. Buyers want to understand the ethics of the company and importantly the people behind the decisions it takes. Customers want to know that these decisions accurately reflect the real cultural and values that company has, not just the marketing hype, which the brand portrays. Today this is the real power of the internet.

What’s the real purpose of the company, who and what is driving it and what does it really believe in and stand for. No longer is a small donation to a local charity enough to say it supports the community, customers want to know how much, who gets involved, is it company wide and deep or just a year end tax saving.

What do the decision makers really value, their life story, their values really matter, and how they treat all their people now determines as much if not more in buyers minds than the value the products communicate.       

In fact the world has changed completely, confidence comes not from what you say but why you are saying it. The educated and informed world means that its not just politicians who have seen their reputation tarnished but any business in any sector who does not explain it why factor.

No matter what sector you are in, understanding the still emerging power of the internet in sustaining your reputation is essential and never more so than in explaining why you are in business and why you matter.

Like to learn more then contact us at Cowden Consulting or see our website or social media channels for more about Cowden Consulting:-





Our services: business planning, strategic planning, business development, strategic marketing, Return on Investment, director development, director mentoring.
Cowden Consulting is based in just outside Sheffield in Derbyshire and works with businesses throughout the UK.

Have you felt the full power of the Internet Tsunami?


Have you felt the full power Internet Tsunami?  

Has the world moved for you, or did you miss it? The world of business has shifted but many businesses don’t seem to have noticed the great shift in power away from companies to the customer.    

We all see the impact of the Internet in every market sector, well above the growth of online shopping or the growth of smart phones and the online move of insurance and music online. While these shifts and the responding growths of new consumes are just beginning to be understood, this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.  

The Great Paradigm Shift

As our understanding of this shifting paradigm slowly emerges and evolves. It takes time for its impact to be fully understood and its impacts to be really appreciated. In the same way as the impact of the introduction of domestic electricity, which subsequently facilitated the introduction of the radio, which spread communication, did in previous generations. So the rise in power of the Internet is more than just our ability to look stuff up and buy consumer goods online.  

This paradigm shift has certain key features, which makes the rise of the Internet generation far more dramatic in its impact to business today.
Unlike many previous innovations, the move online has been done in an infinitely scalable way, making it financially accessible using technology which is therefore low cost and software which is build on open and shared platforms. Rather then being a premium service only open to the super rich, such as the introduction of the car or the television, which limited the accessibility of the technology to those who could afford it, the move online has been introduced to all levels of society.

A Global Movement

This global shift, supported by governments and industry to reach and penetrate all and every strata of society and on an almost global reach is a new global phenomenon creating a universal shift.

Whether in New Guinea or Newfoundland, you can get a 3G signal, with many countries like India and China just leapfrogged the copper wire landline systems of the 20th century through large parts of their country’s moving straight into the 21st century, avoiding unnecessary cost and rapidly accelerating progress throughout their country.  The Arab spring was not achieved by any three letter acronym news agency or Rupert Murdock’s media empire, but by new young mobile online generation who created, sustained and drove the rolling revolutions.        

The result of the internet revolution is that the world has made a huge step forward almost overnight and that has changed more than just the way we buy some products, it has in fact changed the way we think, and act.  This universal overnight movement has also solved the adoption dilemma for new technology. For companies to achieve a launch of a new product or service they had to achieve certain volume and this can now be achieved without geographic boundaries and often bypassing traditional routes to market, achieving profit without having to invest huge amounts of capital in awareness marketing.             



Empowered Intelligence

This paradigm shift has moved the way we think to such an extent that everything has changed. When in 1906 Admiral Sir John Fisher invented the Dreadnought in 1906, the Royal navy had 1,000 ships of the line, the Dreadnought made them all redundant overnight. Suddenly and globally, to be a superpower it was not the number of ships you had but how many Dreadnoughts you had and a new arms race had begun as every other battleship become redundant. 

In the same way, the introduction of always available high speed broadband has made so much of business thinking redundant, not just in the collapse of use of directories such as yellow pages, dictionaries or our communication. Today people have empowered intelligence, the ability to become informed by scanning a QR code, or connecting to a highly rated source they can become more than informed, they can become actively empowered.

Networked Learning

The internet is now driving people to think and do things in different ways across many age and economic cohorts. Its not just the young buying music or consumers doing their shopping online, although both have delivered huge shifts in culture to these markets.  People’s first mental response to knowledge and decision making is now to click, look-up and become informed. 

No-longer relying on our embedded historical mental heritage or through experts’ advice, people are now researching and networking their knowledge and our learning, widening knowledge and creating expert communities on almost every subject matter possible. For example to become an expert on social media you could do an online course or you could click onto Mashable and become an expert within hours. Anyone and everyone can become an expert, exposing consumer and business choice to new forces and opportunities.   

You may have heard the old adage that there is more computer power in a simple watch today than on the Apollo 11 spacecraft which took man to the moon. People have at their finger tips more knowledge about companies than even the most informed company is aware off. Users groups, expert forums and review sites empower and drive decisions, in a far more effective way than traditional marketing channels can persuade customers.

In just in the same way that the Arctic Monkeys pioneered emerging through an online community following, rather than through the plugging and playlist approval to get on the radio. Today the same today is true of consumer both in consumer and business markets.    
The power of the internet is yet to be fully understood. For some it has been like a Tsunami, just as a record shop or an insurance salesman. To many others though it is an unseen force, they know its there but not what or how it operates and effects their business. But it is and it will. The sooner business wakes up to these changes the better placed they will be to compete without feeling they have one hand behind their back.

Like to learn more? Then contact us at Cowden Consulting or see our website or social media channels for more about Cowden Consulting:-






Our services: business planning, strategic planning, business development, strategic marketing, Return on Investment, director development, director mentoring.
 
Cowden Consulting is based in just outside Sheffield in Derbyshire and works with businesses throughout the UK.

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