The Bad Habit of Labeling Everything!

In these days creativity is still a rare and underused skill! Why? Are you asking, or not!!! Well, a lot of reasons can be accountable for, among them are some old habits, routines or cultural aspects that very vivid in the managerial world are still strong inhibitors of creativity. In this post I would like to focus on something I consider a bad habit, cultural or not, something that inhibits heavily creative and innovatory processes. I would like to talk about labeling. Who has the syndrome of labeling everything? 

Obviously, labels can be positive, it will always depend on what one is doing! If one is doing Market research, consumer behavior analysis or simply searching in the internet, labeling can be very useful in order to make sense out of an huge amount of information and data. Abnormally or not, the positive side of labeling coincides with its negative one. At the same time that labeling allows people to categorize and put similar stuff in a common drawer, it also eliminates uniqueness and reduces everything to a degree of similarity. By enclosing things inside drawers and boxes, not leaving them breathing nor trespassing to the neighbor, labeling avoids all the interaction and mixture between different aspects and leaves out all the creativity, innovation and outside-of-the-box effect. How can one allow the overuse of such a powerful uniforming tool in the era of differentiation and tailor made products? Creativity, innovation or even leadership need label-free environments, places where one can play around with concepts and ideas and think really outside of the box. Labels and preconceived ideas bring rigidity into processes leaving people with little ability to break barriers and try new things out, key aspect in the commencement of this 21st century.

On a different angle, I also believe that we live in a world with too much labeling and too less uniqueness! Where the first thing someone wants to do when meeting someone is to put her inside a drawer and labeling. Labeling can also be very negative when doing business and negotiating. When negotiating, please do yourself a favor and do not label people, otherwise you can end up losing the negotiation. By putting people inside drawers one is reducing the scope, missing the key information behind the obvious, blurring one’s sensibility and failing to truly understand everything involved. When negotiating, selling, doing business or leading, avoid labels, and drawers, and your likelihood of succeeding will rise exponentially.

Lessons learned, pay attention to overuse, misuse and wrong use of labeling (categorization, tagging…), it can harm your creativity, inhibit innovation, or damage your leadership and company.

Similar posts: Don’t worry be Creative!Diversity: the secret ingredient of success!How can happiness be a Competitive Advantage?Sense of Humor Keeps The Bankruptcy Away!Are you sure that you want to fit in? I am not!

Marketing and Sales: 2 Deadly Mistakes!

In my opinion, there are two highly deadly mistakes not only for Marketing and PR, but also for Sales! First, publicizing and communicate something (launch or just a campaign) to not be able to deliver; and last, not having a Marketing (going to market) nor a PR Strategy (nowadays with a good marketing strategy covering from traditional to digital a company can do a acceptable work regarding PR).

Regarding the latest one, I believe that not having a clear idea about how to market a company can be the most deadly of the mistakes a company can make. Why? 1) if a company does not have an idea about how to market itself often means that the crucial Marketing work was not done: market research, audience (clients or customers to target) analysis and its segmentation, market positiong, value chain analysis, mix to offer (product, price…). This means that a company is going to market almost blind with little knowledge of what exists, to whom target or simply where to promote and sale, killing that way the opportunity to win. 2) Do not have a value proposition to communicate or at least do not have the right means to communicate means not leveraging on the proper PR and Branding tools to create a strong a well shaped Brand; 3) No idea about market value or customer lifetime value meaning a short term vision. Well, sometimes what happens is that the company as an idea on all of these aspects but it does not have a structured approach. An old Chinese saying says: “There is no good wind if you do not know where to go”. If the company do not have a vision or a goal to pursuit the company is adrift, spending and spoiling good products, ideas, and scarce resources.

On the other side, if a company has an amazing marketing campaign supporting the launch or special activities but it does not have the correct implementation plan or team to back up and make things happen in the field the company is in big trouble too. It is like shooting your own foot! Normally this mistake happens due to miscommunication between key areas of the business like corporate strategy, marketing, PR and sales (and sometimes operations). However, miscommunication happens often between marketing and sales. Lacking liaison these two departments miss too often to properly communicate what leads to major failures in sales and commercial plan alignment and accuracy. In my opinion liaison is needed within companies, and only a few can do it properly! Sometimes one has the bricks but misses the cement to glue them successfully!

Two deadly mistakes not too difficult to avoid, and that everybody knows but no one wants to act on them! Why? Different reasons being the most strong one the difficulty felt by managers to focus on the holistic plan, leaving their own manors aside! Nevertheless, the 21st century’s challenges are not compatible with selfishness and individualism, instead they need collaboration and teamwork!

Is a Dollar spent in Marketing more valuable than a Dollar spent in Sales?

Why people put always sales vs. marketing? In my viewpoint a company cannot achieve results if it thinks that marketing is more valuable than sales ore vice-versa. What happen sometimes is that one of the two areas has a more structured or a better strategic approach. It can happen also that one of them is more tuned with business strategy and better aligned when defining plans. A lot of times marketing and business strategy are not aligned with and translated into sales strategies.

Depending on the company I have assisted to two main problems: 1) marketing departments completely out of “scope” regarding business strategy, planning unfeasible actions and strategies, and not articulated with sales strategies; 2) sales departments that are not invited to the business strategy discussion and aside the process they are asked to do things without structure; Strategy, objectives and action plan are not aligned nor translating the company’s vision. In my opinion it is a strategic problem regarding the way companies define their business strategy and consequently their business model and go-to market strategies. I believe that a better relationship between corporate strategy, sales and marketing  is key. Not to mention that the whole company should be focused in achieving the same goal and vision by doing their job. A lot of companies fail to understand that the way the different areas interact and the synergies they have are crucial to success. In this case Sales and Marketing are key areas if you want to succeed. if the Marketing understands the market as a whole and proposes an approach to achieve the goal, the sales define a strategy to implement it and achieve the same goal.

What to ask your CEO to gain her support on starting up the marketing department ?

If I were the new head of marketing with the challenging and tough mission of starting a marketing function at a SME, and for what the CEO and Directors were not aware of its importance nor sensible for its positive impact, I would probably start by asking a few questions.

So, with an adapted speech and wording toward the company’s marketing literacy, I would ask:

1) What is your mission (main Goal) ?
2) What are your objectives for the next two to three years (sales, financial, R&D, Production…)?
3) What kind of Business Strategy (plan) do you have to achieve the objectives and cope with your mission?
4) Do you have a Business model (how is your business structured, how do you make money)?
5) How do you go to market? (how do you present yourself, sale, interact …)How do you choose your products and customers? (If you choose)
6) How do you define your Sales action plan?

You can ask more questions depending on how the questions are going and the information that you are having, the question should bring not only info but also awareness to the company’s directors and CEO for a need: marketing processes and plan.

Next I would show them how marketing can help with specific examples of what I had done before, what the competition is doing and some trendy and adequate examples for social media and more traditional marketing.

After this introductory meeting I would get a mandate to try something, here is the approach:

Step 1:  settle a brainstorming session with CEO, directors and senior staff to discuss subjects related to sales and “go to market” problems and suggestions pairing them with simple marketing solutions session: a call to action session. I would prepare a set of questions to be asked and subjects to be covered: How do they go from production to market? How do they choose what to produce and why? How do they choose their customers? How do they forecast and define sales plans?

Step 2:  schedule a meeting with directors and CEO discuss all the problems/suggestions/marketing solutions pointed out during the brainstorming in a structured way aligning them with mission and business strategy. Propose the implementation of some quick measures and the definition of a marketing plan (straightforward, some quick wins, easy to understand and implement, intuitive and measurable) within a period (preferably short).

However, I know that implementing a marketing strategy (process or plan) in a small and not-sensible-to-marketing company it is not easy.

Recommendations to take away:

– must be simple
– explained and coherent with the business
– Intelligible
– have some quick wins
– exciting and innovatory (sensing unique)
– results must be set up-front with clear path to achieve them
– don’t forget to coach and do with them
– follow-up and more coaching
– do a meeting every fortnight to control and show practical results (objectives achievement)

Good Luck!

Do you want variety or is it too much choice?

Today I want to share something different with you, I went to the supermarket to buy cookies and guess what? It took me 30 minutes to choose a pack of cookie.  In the end I was tired and fade up with shopping! When looking at the cookies’ layout I felt overwhelmed. There were more than hundreds, there were thousands of varieties. I start in the layout’s very beginning and after twenty plus meters of layouts full of different cookies – chocolate, with small pieces of almond, red fruits, special recipe with butter …- I haven’t chosen yet. Why do not we have a place where we can have recommendations, top 10, news, cheapest, more expensive or even reviews? Ah, it is true I am offline I can feel the flavor but not read reviews or the top 10. I introduce you the Brick-and-mortar’s dilemma, they want to have more but in their case more is less, less capacity of making sense out of hundreds if not even thousands of one same product’s varieties – different brands, characteristics, flavors or recipes – and a headache to manage shelf space and inventory.

Digitally speaking, one can figure out how to choose and which variety to buy in a couple of minutes. Why? Because one can easily go for stats with reviews, best ranked, top 10, news…. filtering what one wants. Sometimes one can cheat, choosing online but buying offline. Some chains have both an off and online presence. Isn’t it cool? Well, it is more than cool, it is a revolution. The Internet and web brought new potential and shaped consumers opinions and interests in a new and different way. Like I mention in Being just a click away! With a click we can buy a pack of cookies or lead a brand to “bankruptcy” with a negative opinion that is transformed in a buzz effect reaching millions of people and the entire globe. It is powerful, isn’t it?

Amazon.com and eBay are two good examples of e-commerce , reviews and ranking gained a new signification with these two examples. Communities were created around them, specialists or regular people, are ranking and reviewing thousands of products every single day and “helping” customers choosing. One cannot conceive a world without influencers (people who give their opinions and make reviews on products), they help buying and choosing, they give us tips but they can also misleading us. Are they truly helping us? If you have a good sample of different people ranking, giving their opinions and sharing info then one can say that they are helping us, otherwise it can be speculative and manipulative.

Be careful one reading a review! Try to read a representative sample.

Online retailers have the whole supply tagged and filtered helping consumers buying and choosing but also pushing products to consumers. When one enters one of this sites and after a while the site generates some suggestions based on your clicks. WOW! Yep and it is not new. Digital and, besides everything mentioned before, can generate suggestions based on one clicks. A kind of basic artificial intelligence that learn with you suggesting more of what you have been interested in for the last visits. They have literally the demand in their engines they can do what a normal retailer cannot, they can influence you with suggestions tailor-made for you along your visit to the site. This is the amazing potential of digital commerce, with a log in you can do even more. The Long Tail (concept well spread due to Chris Anderson Book with the same name) phenomenon is amazing and scary at the same time. People’s buying routines and habits changed at light speed bringing a new reality a reality where an offline presence it is not enough anymore, a reality where supermarkets and chains are a bit lost not knowing what to do (going online, not going online, reshape product range…). But and on top of that online retailers can also record all the clicks and time spend with a product and replicate them through elaborated and complex algorithms suggesting other similar products to you.

Algorithm is an effective method for solving a problem expressed as a finite sequence of instructions. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing and many other fields. Wikipedia

A revolution of social habits that highly affected not only the demand but also the supply it started with a new and powerful communication channel internet and a place the web. It is amazing what you can do in digital commerce and with new technologies and IT tools.

I want variety supplied with a filter included! What will be the brick-and-mortar traditional chains? Sticking to the head of the tail, the blockbusters, and forget the tail? Is still the 80/20 rule applicable? ( 80% of the revenue coming from 20% of the products) Not sure of that!

One more aspect to be analyzed and that have a high impact in the way people interact and buy. A crucial aspect if you are a marketer, wanting to understand its audience and the best way to reach them: a more efficient, with a higher rate of satisfaction and loyalty way! Here we go again, the audience always the audience! A new way of commercializing products and services with a powerful technology supporting and enhancing it. However, all the strategies must cope with your audience choices and interests.

Ah have a look at my previous post Do you want to build a successful marketing strategy? Pay attention to the “triangle”!

Do you want variety or is it too much choice?

I entered the supermarket to buy cookies and guess what? It took me 30 minutes to choose a pack of cookie. In the en I was tired! When looking at the cookies’ layout I felt overwhelmed. There were more than hundreds, there were thousands of varieties. I start in the layout’s very beginning and after twenty plus meters of layouts full of different cookies – chocolate, with small pieces of almond, red fruits, special recipe with butter …- I haven’t chosen yet. Why do not we have a place where we can have recommendations, top 10, news, cheapest, more expensive or even reviews? Ah, it is true I am offline I can feel the flavor but not read reviews or the top 10. I introduce you the Brick-and-mortar’s dilemma, they want to have more but in their case more is less, less capacity of making sense out of hundreds if not even thousands of one same product’s varieties – different brands, characteristics, flavors or recipes – and a headache to manage shelf space and inventory.

Digitally speaking, one can figure out how to choose and which variety to buy in a couple of minutes. Why? Because one can easily go for stats with reviews, best ranked, top 10, news…. filtering what one wants. Sometimes one can cheat, choosing online but buying offline. Some chains have both an off and online presence. Isn’t it cool? Well, it is more than cool, it is a revolution. The Internet and web brought new potential and shaped consumers opinions and interests in a new and different way. Like I mention in Being just a click away! With a click we can buy a pack of cookies or lead a brand to “bankruptcy” with a negative opinion that is transformed in a buzz effect reaching millions of people and the entire globe. It is powerful, isn’t it?

Amazon.com and eBay are two good examples of eCommerce , reviews and ranking gained a new signification with these two examples. Communities were created around them, specialists or regular people, are ranking and reviewing thousands of products every single day and “helping” customers choosing. One cannot conceive a world without influencers (people who give their opinions and make reviews on products), they help buying and choosing, they give us tips but they can also misleading us. Are they truly helping us? If you have a good sample of different people ranking, giving their opinions and sharing info then one can say that they are helping us, otherwise it can be speculative and manipulative.

Be careful one reading a review! Try to read a representative sample.

Online retailers have the whole supply tagged and filtered helping consumers buying and choosing but also pushing products to consumers. When one enters one of this sites and after a while the site generates some suggestions based on your clicks. WOW! Yep and it is not new. Digital and, besides everything mentioned before, can generate suggestions based on one clicks. A kind of basic artificial intelligence that learn with you suggesting more of what you have been interested in for the last visits. They have literally the demand in their engines they can do what a normal retailer cannot, they can influence you with suggestions tailor made for you along your visit to the site. This is the amazing potential of digital commerce, with a log in you can do even more. The Long Tail (concept well spread due to Chris Anderson Book with the same name) phenomenon is amazing and scary at the same time. People’s buying routines and habits changed at light speed bringing a new reality a reality where an offline presence it is not enough anymore, a reality where supermarkets and chains are a bit lost not knowing what to do (going online, not going online, reshape product range…). But and on top of that online retailers can also record all the clicks and time spend with a product and replicate them through elaborated and complex algorisms suggesting other similar products to you.

Algorism is the technique of performing basic arithmetic by writing numbers in place value form and applying a set of memorized rules and facts to the digits”. In Wikipedia

A revolution of social habits that highly affected not only the demand but also the supply it started with a new and powerful communication channel internet and a place the web. It is amazing what you can do in digital commerce and with new technologies and IT tools.

I want variety supplied with a filter included! What will be the brick-and-mortar traditional chains? Sticking to the head of the tail, the blockbusters, and forget the tail? Is still the 80/20 rule applicable? ( 80% of the revenue coming from 20% of the products) Not sure of that!

One more aspect to be analyzed and that have a high impact in the way people interact and buy. A crucial aspect if you are a marketer, wanting to understand its audience and the best way to reach them: a more efficient, with a higher rate of satisfaction and loyalty way! Here we go again, the audience always the audience! A new way of commercializing products and services with a powerful technology supporting and enhancing it. However, all the strategies must cope with your audience choices and interests.

Ah have a look at my previous post Do you want to build a successful marketing strategy? Pay attention to the “triangle”!

Do you want to build a successful marketing strategy? Pay attention to the “triangle”!

“Does one size fit all?” was my first post about Audience and the increasing importance of understanding it before setting strategies and defining approaches. Although Audience is more than ever a key aspect on marketing, there are also two other aspects that should be deeply analysed before going on designing and implementing new plans and strategies, value proposition and vision. If a company wants to be a market leader it needs to be able to deal with three different dimensions: inside (value proposition), outside (audience) and vision vs. trends (time evolution).

What does each part of the “triangle” mean?

  • Audience: people to whom products or services are addressed, in a strict sense using an old definition it means targeted segments although, in my opinion the internet and world wide web brought dynamism to the definition making it more flexible and broad by including in it the social networks and online communities.
  • Value proposition: the value that the company propose to their customers and audience, what is inside their products and that can be of value to these people. It should also be strictly connected to the “why” the company does what it does. Vision vs.
  • Trends: this relationship should be managed at the highest level in the company producing a business strategy that being loyal to the company’s vision incorporates also new trends happening in the world, like technological enhancements and innovatory products, or new consuming patterns and behaviours.

How does the “triangle” work?

We have entered an era of radical change for Marketers, part say that traditional marketing is dead and part keep stubbornly using the old same ingredients and recipes. I believe in mixed solution where traditional and new marketing techniques are used together giving bird to new recipes and where ingredients are chosen accordingly to audience, customer value proposition and vision vs. trends. The triangle will be used as a starting point to decide what kind of techniques and channels will be used.

Why marketers need to manage the triangle?

The 21st century brought new technologies and innovations that changed the way people live, behave and interact, affecting the way business is done. Everything is today faster than ever. Individuals interact with individuals to improve products, technologies or processes, not needing companies for that changing the way business is done today. My post Are we all amateurs, aren’t we? clearly shows that people within communities interact and help without being directly connected to companies. This phenomenon makes audience and value proposition more important than ever. Therefore, Marketers’ big challenge is to be able to “perfectly” understand their audiences (the way people behave, interact and share), translate that into a value proposition that makes sense that is also aligned with the company’s business strategy (mission vs. trends).

Piu Piu … You have a new tweet!

How often do you receive “leads” for interesting readings or other info (individually, or as employee of a company)?

If you do not think about it you are wrong, the only way to stay competitive is to stay informed on new trends and ahead of your competition with better but mainly innovative solutions.If you say not too often, then you may have a problem, probably you are not following the right people or blogs. We are living in the information age but without an index or a way of sort out what is really interesting and valid for you to read you will sink in Gigabytes Terabytes of data and info without knowing what to do. Obviously, for a company a system filtering and sourcing based in Business intelligence is crucial to decode and convey accurate and interesting data but also companies can use and profit from crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing means here people and citizens of the virtual world who source, filter and tag info making it available (for those who might be interested) on the internet mainly through social media channels. They rate, tag and recommend what one should or shouldn’t read, an amazing phenomenon helping classifying tons of digital data and info.

Is it 100% accurate and reliable? No it isn’t, better than noise, though. However, you can improve quality the better you chose your connections and from who you are receiving RSS, emails or tweets the better the quality on the info you receive. Fine tuning your sources is gradual and depends on what kind of info you are interested in, you will find people sourcing info on almost everything. The Web is the best place to find, source and store intelligence on whatever you might be interested in, a brand, a company, subject or trends. Social Media is within the Web, the easiest and cheapest way to crowdsource and channel in info sourced and tagged by the “crowd”.

How can this be interesting if you are a marketer? It can help you in different ways accordingly to what you are looking for. You can have different channels for different issues. Twitter is an amazing source of info with a high variety of subjects and different levels of expertise, from the well established professional to the alternative and experimental. Imagine that you are searching info on Guerrilla Marketing, you can have the best info and the best examples of what is being done and at the same time you can also have the most experimental and alternative ideas being tested on this marketing technique. And you can apply this on almost every issue you may be interested to follow.

I must confess that it was astonishing for me to see how quick the response was to this new need created by the internet and web of having an easy and democratic system to filter and source info out of the “noise” that the web had been transformed in. Web 2.0 technologies like taxonomy and semantic helped coding and filtering, while social networks (communities) helped gathering and spreading.

Do you have good examples of crowdsourcing? An occasion when you received an amazing piece of info through the Web? Share with us!