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Challenge of Cross-Channel Marketing: Few Marketers Understand It, Yet It’s Essential for Driving Sales Growth…

Cross-Channel Marketing Strategy: Large numbers of marketers (78%) believe that cross-channel marketing is either important or very important for driving sales growth in their business, according to a study; increases efficiency and improves marketing campaign return on investment and customer relationships. And yet, it’s surprising how unprepared most marketers are to actually implement a cross-channel marketing program…

Cross-channel and multi-channel are often used interchangeably but there is a difference: multi-channel marketing refers to sending out the same message to your audience using a variety of different channels (e.g., email marketing, direct mail, mobile…). The channels in multi-channel marketing work independently and are generally not coordinated; more of a silo approach. Whereas, cross-channel marketing still uses multiple marketing channels but it’s much more coordinated, orchestrated, personalized approach: One message reinforces the next message and leverages the benefits of the specific channel by driving audiences to action, as opposed to just repeating the same message. It’s much more tightly integrated and looks at the interactions holistically– not only how customer is receiving the communication but also how they’re responding to it; which it takes into consideration before sending out the next communication…

According to Forrester: In a nutshell, cross-channel marketing is about making all media channels work together to drive better results and provide a better experience for today’s customer. For customers, a better experience means– meaningful outreach by brands based on customer’s demographic; where they want to connect, where they are, and what they care about… For marketers, better results mean– increased sales…

cross cross_media_500In the article Study Reveals Marketers Continue to Struggle with Cross-Channel by Campbell Phillips writes: According to new research only 14% of marketers understand cross-channel marketing… but despite that 42% are intending to increase their technology investments in this area over the next 12 months… Cross-channel marketing is often heralded as the future for brand and product managers, enabling organizations to adapt and tailor campaigns in real-time to changing customers behaviors in any platform. As such, marketing becomes more tailored, personalized for each customer and therefore more effective…

According to Glasner; the customer’s path to purchase is becoming increasingly complex, making it more difficult for brands to cut through the noise… to be successful in this environment, marketers must have access to real-time data, interpret it and than respond quickly, confidently and appropriately. However, research indicates 91% of marketers are unable to maximize the insights from their data in order to accurately affect marketing strategy. Further insights from the research:

  • 57 % of marketers say they have no clear strategy when it comes to cross-channel marketing.
  • 42% say there’s a lack of knowledge among their team on what cross-channel marketing is or how to analyze relevant data.
  • 38% admit that a lack in their budget is restricting their ability to perform.

In the article Paradigm of Cross-Channel Marketing by Aniruddha  Bhattacharya, Laukik Desai write: Multi-channel marketing operates channels in silos. Cross-channel marketing, on the other hand, leverages the benefits of a channel then hedges drawbacks by use of alternate channels… The main purpose of cross-channel marketing is to coordinate efforts across channels and to drive a consistent message for marketing campaigns.

Cross-channel marketing uses different channels; as a function of time, targets, or message it carries… and it ensures an enhanced ROI by optimizing channel usage and higher interaction among the channels at regular intervals. The decision to pursue a cross-channel marketing strategy is an outcome of various factors, primarily; market forces, product maturity, customers profile… and these elements drive marketers to choose this approach…

However, it’s the optimum value creation opportunities that cross-channel execution offers– versus the multi-channel approach– that propels the decision for its use more than any other factor. Instead of looking at marketing as only providing message to customers, one must look at it as providing customer experience. Also, marketers should have a storyboard of customer experiences across all possible touch points.

Before finalizing strategy, all options must be considered by reorganizing the frames of the storyboard to ensure that all the interactions present a uniform marketing experience to the customer, and drives home a unified message. With lines between channels fading, marketers should not invest in overlapping channels without a clear-cut strategy.

Measuring and analyzing customers’ path through the marketing experience helps in leveraging different contact points, and structuring measurement metrics. It also puts the product in a context that is familiar to the customer. For a cross-channel marketing strategy, it’s imperative to have response attribution systems that can give insights into the effectiveness of a channel.

Hence, for a successful cross-channel marketing strategy rollout it’s imperative that the organization align three pillars of its organization with the cross-channel strategy:  process, technology, people…

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In the article Cross-Channel Campaign Management Trends by Suresh Vittal writes: We surveyed over 150 marketers and customer intelligence professionals on their use of cross- channel campaign management solutions. While some of the findings were not a surprise, the study revealed many interesting data points that are worth revisiting. Some of the key trends the study revealed were:

  • Marketers focus on longer term relationships– over 40% have stayed with the same provider for more than 3 years.
  • Marketers focus on just a few key channels like email (84%), direct mail (66%), and web site (55%).
  • Integration capabilities and costs are the key selected drivers when it comes to cross-channel campaign management solutions.
  • Despite the renewed focus on retention; few marketers can claim to be skilled at managing customer churn.
  • While the majority of the respondents were not net-promoters, few were actually inclined to switch providers.
  • Marketer satisfaction and dissatisfaction is hard to pin down. Marketers were all over the map on their thoughts about their solutions. Broadly, the highest levels of dissatisfaction were with contact optimization, online/offline integration as well as inbound/outbound integration.

Never have marketers been more challenged to find the right mix of messaging and media. Customers have only short bursts of time throughout the day and with limited attention spans they can easily ignore marketing messages. Also, they put more trust in their online communities than in marketing messages and many customers are willing to pay more for a product or service, if the purchasing process is more convenient…

These and other changes in customer behavior warrant the need for an integrated cross-channel marketing strategy. Marketers must touch the customer at multiple points throughout the day with different media-channels to extend reach and build frequency. These touch points must include a strategic mix of email, social, search, online display, direct mail, mobile, content marketing, and traditional media…

Most critical in cross-channel marketing are two fundamentals: Consistency and Metrics. Consistency in a cross-channel marketing strategy means not only carrying the brand image and vision throughout the messaging but using each channel to reinforce each promotion or seasonal marketing initiative. Use each channel as an opportunity to move the customer further into the buying funnel… Metrics is where the real magic happens. With an integrated cross-channel marketing strategy that includes all digital marketing elements–  you can better track customer behavior over time and improve your messaging, timing, and channel integration. It’s also a really good way to show return of investment (ROI)…

The first step is to set measurable goals for each cross-channel campaign; identifying the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are most important to the success of your business, e.g., awareness, leads, new customers, transaction counts, revenue… Then, set up your campaign strategy to measure these KPI’s at each stage in the consumer’s interaction with your messaging…

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Traditionally, connecting with customers was executed through single-channels like email, mobile, catalogue, web… Then you moved into multi-channel marketing because for improved communication by producing targeted strands of campaigns that suited the individual circumstance. But how do you execute effective and consistent campaigns across all channels?

Enter cross-channel marketing: As you move towards integrating your marketing teams, you must ensure that your customers receive consistent messaging. Make sure that your entire team is on board with same information and not just offering customers information on products they’ve already refused: 84% of customers walk away from a company that don’t link up or understand or responsive to their engagement across channels; the best approach as a brand is to cover as many touch points as possible across all your channels…

Effective cross-channel marketing techniques allows you to have a complete understanding of your customers– their intentions, purchasing habits, social community engagements and web visits…

According to Ron Person; building a cross-channel marketing organization requires three processes: 1. Create a cross-channel marketing strategy: Build the brand. Be cost-effective. Strive for customer intimacy. Be a leading edge innovator. Focus on the niche. 2. Integrate cross-channel activity: Having a single point of integration brings all your marketing results together in one location. Make the results from email, marketing automation, social campaigns, webinars… culminate in a sale…

3. Measure a common cross-channel metric (i.e., engagement value): Metrics are critical; for example, measuring how engaged customers are no matter which channel they use… and by tracking the accumulation of engagement value– for each marketing channel, each campaign, or each asset, you can easily identify the marketing approach that adds the most value.

When you know the value attributed to each channel, you know which one produces the greatest return to the business. When you know the value attributed to each campaign, you know which campaigns, no matter the type, that produced the greatest results… When marketers are able to pull together these data points and access a more unified view of the customer experience, over time, then they can begin to see the true lifetime value of each marketing channel and optimize the experiences that work…

Cross-channel marketing is not simply new technology; it’s a new approach to marketing that requires newer and smarter technology. Customers are already expecting to communicate with a brand on their terms; they are– always-on and channel agnostic. If marketers wants to connect with customers, then customers demand relevance and meaning based on not just where they are, but who they are and what they like.

The transformation of customer behavior is result of widespread adoption of mobile, social, web technologies integrated into their everyday lives. As result, conventional marketing strategies are disrupted; simply adding channels to the strategy is not enough– marketers must think about how these channels can work together to drive more value and better information…

 

Changing Face of Global e-Commerce: More Personal, More Mobile, More Channels, More Selection, More Convenience…

E-commerce: A good e-commerce user experience is unobtrusive and transparent– ‘it just works’… The best content in the world won’t drive revenue if nobody sees it…ecommerce 1357822839_470932899_1-Ecommerce-Portals-Sector-10E-commerce: Build a business, not a website. An e-commerce website is a business– first and foremost; the website is merely the commerce delivery channel. An effective e-commerce site begins by understanding and defining the business strategy, goals, and metrics for the site, and then crafting a website that is tailored to meet those site objectives.

Begin with 5-Ps: Proper-Preparation-Prevents-Poor-Performance: You don’t build a house without an architect and a blueprint, and you shouldn’t build website without a digital equivalent. If you want your digital ‘house’ to crumble, the surest way to ensure failure online and waste untold time and money is to skip proper planning and jump blindly into implementation.

A successful e-commerce business must deliver real economic value… The Internet has torn up the rulebook by which businesses have traditionally operated, and the new rules are still being formulated… According to Evans and Wurster; companies must be prepared to repeatedly revise their ideas and strategy as their e-commerce business evolves. They must also be prepared to rethink, radically– the structure of their organizations and not shrink from making major changes to operations. The future of e-retail is global… there is an increasing trust and confidence in purchasing online… e-commerce is becoming an integral part of any country’s economy and should be considered so…

According to Helen Thomas; e-commerce trends for 2013 clearly pose a win-win situation for both the brands and their customers. Online retailers will have to build distinctive strategies to suit their business motives, whereas consumers will be ‘picky’  looking for better alternatives. Companies will have to spend more time building brand loyalty by consistently providing a great user experience for both existing, as well as newly acquired consumers. The trends that are shaping e-commerce are: Go Local! Go Mobile! Go Cashless! Get a Video, Share it Social Media! Get Short, Simple, Original Content!

E-commerce Market Trends: B2C e-commerce sales in 2012 grew 21.1% to top $1 trillion for the first time, according to new global estimates by eMarketer. This year, 2013, sales will grow 18.3% to $1.298 trillion worldwide, eMarketer estimates, as Asia-Pacific surpasses North America to become the world’s No. 1 market for B2C e-commerce sales.

Sales in North America grew 13.9% to a world-leading $364.66 billion, in 2012– a figure expected to increase 12.2% to $409.05 billion, 2013– as more consumers shift spending from physical stores to retail and travel websites– thanks to lower prices, greater convenience, broader selection and richer product information. But despite strong growth, North America’s share of global sales will drop from 33.5% in 2012 to 31.5% in 2013 as Asia-Pacific surges ahead. B2C e-commerce sales in Asia-Pacific grew more than 33% to $332.46 billion in 2012.

This year, 2013,  the region will see sales increase by more than 30% to over $433 billion– or more than one-third of all global B2C e-commerce sales. The rapid growth in Asia-Pacific sales is a result of several factors. Three Asia-Pacific markets– China, India and Indonesia– will see faster B2C e-commerce sales growth than all other markets worldwide in 2013, while Japan will continue to take a large share of global sales. China, unsurprisingly, is the primary driver of growth in the region.

The country will surpass Japan as the world’s second-largest B2C e-commerce market this year, taking an estimated 14% share of global sales, as its total reaches $181.62 billion, up 65% from $110.04 billion in 2012.  The U.S. will remain the single country with the largest share of worldwide B2C e-commerce spending, at 29.6% in 2013– down from 31.5% in 2012 despite relatively strong growth. This will continue throughout the forecast period, though China is closing the gap fast. In 2016, China will have 22.6% of the worldwide market vs. 26.5% in the U.S.

China also boasts the highest number of people who buy goods online in the world– nearly 220 million in 2012, according to eMarketer– a result of increasing Internet penetration; burgeoning middle class with growing trust in online shopping; government-driven campaigns to promote consumerism; improved infrastructure; greater product selection and services offered by online sellers and retailers.

According to eMarketer, B2C e-commerce sales in the U.S. will grow 12% to $384.80 billion in 2013—after growing 13.8% to $343.43 billion last year– as average B2C e-commerce sales per user reach $2,466 this year among those who buy goods online in the U.S. Average spending per user is lower in China– set to reach just $670 this year, eMarketer estimates– but the sheer growth in China’s digital buyers is staggering. The country will nearly double the number of people buying goods online between 2012 and 2016, eMarketer estimates, resulting in considerable upside for B2C e-commerce sales in China through the forecast period.

In the article Trends That Drive E-Commerce Strategy by Heather Clancy writes:  Retail businesses are in the middle of one of the most profound business model transitions for the industry ever, as consumers transfer their shopping habits to mobile devices and e-commerce Web sites. So where should business development executives and merchandise managers’ focus their attention?

A recent analysis from Forrester Research (U.S. Online Retail Forecast, 2011 to 2016) offers some sign-posts. Overall, the research firm believes we’ll spend $327 billion annually by 2016; that compares with $200 billion spent in 2011. Here are five trends underlying that prediction:

  • Higher percentage of sales from existing online shoppers: While new shoppers are driving increases in e-commerce activities, existing ones are actually more of a factor. Forrester predicts that the average shopper will spend $1,738 annually by 2016, compared with $1,207 in 2011. So, it’s imperative that retailers consider– technology, Web site design principles, and incentives that encourage people to fill their online shopping carts with more items.
  • Fourth quarter remains dominant cyber-season: More than 70% of the shoppers who purchased items online during the fourth quarter of 2011 said that they did so because of deals and promotions, Forrester reported. In November and December 2011, e-commerce accounted for about 15% of overall holiday sales, which is a much higher percentage than during other times of the year.
  • Keep an eye out for flash sales sites: Forrester calls out sites that offer what we used to call ‘fire sales’ in real world retail. These are sales where the prices keep dropping, as long as merchandise lasts.
  • Online loyalty programs are more of a factor: Forrester reported that in 2010, about 9% of shoppers belong to new frequent buyer programs. In 2011, about 12% of online shoppers were members of such clubs.
  • The tablet is driving mobile shopping: The smartphone is extremely important for when shoppers are in stores, but the tablet is more likely to be used for researching and for browsing products online. In addition, shoppers were more likely to ‘place an order for physical goods’ using a tablet than a smartphone.

In the article Develop an E-commerce Pricing Strategy by Mark Hayes writes: With the advent of highly competitive pricing tools, winning the online pricing war can be lose-lose for e-commerce retailers. Large online retailers have an advantage in competitive pricing, as they can set the price low enough to run smaller retailers out of business. But there are other ways to compete – and it all starts with developing (or at least thinking about) an e-commerce pricing strategy:

  • Know your Margins: The reality of online retail pricing is that the lowest price doesn’t always win. In fact, pricing battles usually end with you pricing your products too low. When you consistently price too low, your customers will always expect the lower price, even when it is unsustainable to your business. As a result, you could lose those customers over time.
  • Know your USP (Unique Selling Proposition): What makes you different? Every company has to tackle this question to determine their value proposition and target market. With pricing competition at an all-time high, retailers have to ‘think outside of the box’ when crafting a marketing or promotional strategy for their online store…
  • Lose-Leader (Selling Below Market Value): Highly discounted pricing can be advantageous if paired with the appropriate merchandising strategy. The Lose-Leader Strategy assumes that an item sold below market value will encourage customers to buy more overall… The end goal is to sacrifice losing money on one item in order to make a profit on the rest of the products sold (i.e. cereal cheap, milk expensive).
  • Offer Incentives: Once you know your margins and price accordingly, then you can offer  incentives to motivate your customers to buy. Even if you can’t sustain an ultra-low price in the long-term, you can always offer limited time pricing to reach these customers… Being savvy with your incentives allows you the ability to garner attention to your products, and build a reputation for having good deals, without breaking the bank.
  • Diversify Product Offerings: To offer a diverse product offering that will sell, e-commerce store owners must first understand their market demand… Having a better idea of what your customers want gives you the opportunity to sell and generate profit from diversified products. The end result of proper diversification is that online retailers will offer bad options to emphasize the good, driving customers to act based on perceived value.
  • Test your E-commerce Pricing Strategy: As with many things in e-commerce, one size does not fit all, so it is important to measure and test the success of changes you make to your online store’s pricing strategy. Ideally, every change should be tested and validated with an analytics tool…

While e-commerce sales will grow for all industries, according to Gartner– retail, discrete manufacturing, wholesale distribution, entertainment, and travel/leisure industries have the greatest potential for growth. No surprise here. But, keep in mind, that if you are a solopreneur or a small, completely virtual firm, you have a huge competitive advantage over larger companies trying to digitize their sales efforts.

The companies that learn how to make each customer experience a stellar one will stay at the head of the industry. Gartner sees the changes in– mobile, social and globalization as the 3 most important reasons to evaluate your e-commerce marketing strategies. The wide availability of cloud technology and finely honed market research are some additional reasons to reevaluate your product marketing strategy.

With globalization, one of the most overlooked strategies is– how well you are able to market to the needs of individual international customers. For example, while Americans prefer uniqueness and individuality; the Chinese prefer long-term relationships…

There are a number of challenges for e-commerce businesses on the horizon, and companies that adjust first– then their success will come easier and swifter… This is scary time, but for brands and companies who get it, who are able to make sense of it, this is an exciting time, a time of great opportunity… But for those who don’t– well, try something else…

 

Flipping the Sales Funnel–Bottom Side-Up: Turn Customers to Advocates to Salespeople– Shift Funnel Priority-Prospective…

Flip the funnel– turn strangers into friends, turn friends into customers, turn customers into salespeople. ~Seth Godin

Funnel: It costs roughly five-to-ten times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, and yet companies continue to disproportionately spend their budgets on the ‘wrong’ end of the funnel, e.g., the mass media, awareness side…

According to Joseph Jaffe; we haven’t paid enough attention to the ‘right’ end of the funnel, the word-of-mouth component that essentially acts as a multiplier for future business. The economic impact of an active, engaged, and loyal customer is tremendous. When you consider customer acquisition for your business, think about this question for a moment: How much of your sales come from repeat business versus first-time customers?

Now contrast that against how much money you spend against each segment. If you are embarrassed by the gaping disconnect, don’t worry; you are not alone. But, what if you did something about it? What if you turned everything on its head and instead of ending with a customer purchase, you began with it? What if you focused the lion’s share of your effort, energy, and budget on keeping customers versus attracting them? What if you could correct this imbalance and, in doing so, not only get your customers to keep coming back for more, but they tell others to do so as well?

According to Joseph Jaffe; do 180 on everything you thought you knew about sales and transform your existing customers into your best salespeople…  Selling is a funnel: You put undifferentiated prospects in the top… some of them hop-out; unimpressed with what you have to offer… others learn, hear from peers, compare offerings, and eventually may come out the bottom; as customers. If you’re like most salespeople, you’ve been trying to shovel more and more attention in the top of the funnel…

Here’s a different idea: What if you flip the funnel and turn it into a megaphone? What if you could figure out how to use the Internet to empower the people– who like you, who respect you, who have a vested interest in your success…The re’s little doubt that technology has changed things, the way we are influenced and how we influence others. Social media isn’t old-time marketing– it’s different… Here’s what you need to know…

Successful businesses understand that customer engagement does not end with the sale, but rather it begins with the sale (i.e., bottom of traditional sales funnel)… Traditionally, we prioritize limited resources and time on trying to find and convert new prospects (i.e., top of the funnel), whereas keeping those hard-earned customers (i.e., bottom of the funnel) has often been an afterthought. That’s because, until recently, there was little we could do to keep existing customers that was drastically different from the tactics used to attract new ones.

Historically, the best you could do after turning a prospect into a customer was to provide a great customer experience and just hope they come back to buy more– and, bring their friends with them. However, technology, e.g., social media, email… has changed the game. Social media is about recognizing that existing customers are your best assets. Also, technology enables us to influence consumer behavior, both before and after the sale by reaching out to existing customers… as easy as clicking– share or tweet buttons…

In the article Flip the Funnel: Are Your Existing Customers Working for You? by Bienalto writes: Companies must see existing customers in new light, and turn the old model of customer acquisition on its head. For example, instead of focusing all energy – and budget – on acquiring new customers, spend more time nurturing existing ones… Too many organizations under-serve existing customers– using automation, offshore call centers, technical solutions… as quick-fixes that don’t ultimately satisfy customer needs.

These organizations become complacent once a customer has jumped on board, and leave them to fend for themselves. However, the buck doesn’t stop once the sale is completed; rather the work is only just beginning. There must always be room for both; acquisition and retention… It’ about having conversations with customers, getting involved in community hubs, boosting customer referrals… call it– commendations, contents, conversations…

According to Joseph Jaffe; flipping funnel expands the number of customer connections, conversations, potential conversions– through repeat purchases and referrals– due to new shape of the acquisitions process that widens instead of narrowing at the bottom of the funnel …Retention-New-Acq_08-23-11_b

In the article Magical Marketing Funnel by Peter Cervieri writes: Companies spend a lot of time and money to acquire new customers, as evidenced by the hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year on print, radio, TV, billboard advertising… Once a customer is acquired, however, the company pleads poverty, and not much time or money is spent on servicing a newly acquired or lifelong customer.

However, over the next decade, business will be held accountable and judged no longer by ‘what they say’, but in fact ‘what they do’; no longer by ‘promises they make’, but by ‘promises they keep’. And this scenario, marketing’s role is one of collaboration, partnership, unificationThere is a shift from campaigns to commitments and flipping the funnel, and transforming sales from an uninvited guest to a welcome and invaluable one.

According to Joseph Jaffe; we funnel all these people down to handful who might purchase our product/service, but we never ask: What the hell are we doing? That is, why do we spend all of our time with people who; a) don’t know about us, or b) don’t care about us knowing about them? Its nuts because it’s not only outmoded, it’s actually doing us harm. Instead of spending millions trying to funnel the universe down to a handful, we should focus on that handful and use our creativity to figure out how to make the most of them.

A successful business today isn’t built on idea of one transaction per customer. It’s built on idea of multiple transactions from multiple customers. This may sound insanely obvious, but how many companies operate that way?

In the article Flip Traditional Marketing Funnel by Stan Phelps writes: If you subscribe to the principle that, 80% of your results are generated by 20% of your efforts, then I respectfully posit the Phelps corollary: 80% of traditional marketing efforts will net you 20% of the results. According to Joseph Wanamaker; half the money spent on advertising is wasted… the problem is that we don’t know which half.  

However, I think 50% is an understatement… however, there is a huge flaw when you focus the majority of your sales efforts on the purchase funnel: That flaw is ‘the revolving door effect’. If the majority of sales are mainly focused on prospective customers, you may only be adding 10% to 25% of new customers per year: But, many companies might say, well that’s great; sign me up right now for an increase of 10% to 25% of customers per annum.

But, the big issue is that most businesses have huge problems with retention: It may not be uncommon to lose 10% to 25% of the customer base in a given year. The net effect is that you might negate all of your gains, and in essence create a ‘revolving door’ by ignoring existing customers. The overwhelming traditional view of sales is mainly about acquiring new customers. Eighty to ninety percent of marketing budgets are aimed at getting new customers in the ‘purchase funnel’. We’ve become so preoccupied about generating ‘awareness and interest’ that we forget about our most important asset– existing customers.

We must be change; ‘flip the funnel’, but first heed Pareto’s Law and ensure that the existing 20% is generating a strong ROI. Once you’ve earmarked that vital 20%, it’s time to put the other 4/5ths to work by ‘flipping the funnel’ and putting the focus squarely on existing customers. By putting the focus on existing customers, you can generate three benefits: Reduce attrition, Increase profit, Promote loyalty.

In the article Purchase Funnel is No More by Robin Grant writes: The ‘purchase funnel’ is one of the main tenets of marketing theory, but we’ve intuitively known for a while that it no longer holds true– if it ever did. According to McKinsey Research; examining purchase decisions of almost 20,000 consumers across five industries and three continents, and came-up with what they call the ‘consumer decision journey, which says: The funnel concept fails to capture all the touch points and key buying factors resulting from the explosion of product choices and digital channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning, well-informed consumer.

A more sophisticated approach is required to help marketers navigate this environment, which is less linear and more complicated than the funnel suggests. We call this approach the ‘consumer decision journey’. Because of the shift away from one-way communication– from marketers to consumers– toward two-way conversation… marketers need a more systematic way to satisfy customer demands and manage word-of-mouth.

The most important thing is to make sure that marketing activities– are aligned with consumer’s behavior– how they research and buy products… companies need to look at their messaging in light of where they have the greatest opportunity. The key touchpoint that most influences consumer’s decision is consumer driven– word-of-mouth, e.g., talking to friends, internet searches, third-party sites…

Most businesses spend roughly five-to-ten times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, and yet companies continue to disproportionately spend on the ‘wrong’ end of the funnel, e.g., the mass media or awareness side. What they haven’t paid enough attention is the ‘right’ end of the funnel, e.g., the word-of-mouth component that essentially acts as a multiplier for future business.

The economic impact of an active, engaged, and loyal customer is tremendous… same is true of opposite scenario, namely, the impact of angry customers and negative word-of-mouth or referrals. Using the flipped funnel model… transforms existing customers into your best salespeople.

According to Steven Noble, Forrester; the funnel model’s value as a framework for sales is finished and a new model; the customer life cycle provides a better fit: It puts customers at the center of effort, involves the entire brand experience, and describes an ongoing relationship… The customer life cycle transforms how you talk and think about the digital world…

According to Seth Godin; Every business has its 1%: Every business has a group of customers so motivated, so satisfied, and so connected that they want to tell the rest of the world about  you and what you do. Your challenge is to give these people a megaphone. To switch your view of the market from a vertical funnel (i.e., attention at top–sales at bottom) to a horizontal one, in which ideas spread from each customer to another… it’s the funnel for the digital age… 

Understanding How Public Opinion is Shaped, Measured, Changed, Managed– is Crucial for Enterprise Success…

A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion ~Chinese Proverb… Too often we… enjoy the comfort of public opinion without the discomfort of thought ~John F. Kennedy… Public opinion in this country is everything ~Abraham Lincoln

Public opinion is a largely uncontrollable phenomenon that had the power to make – or break – a company’s reputation and potential for success. While the influence of public opinion is as strong as ever, the practice of public relations has given savvy– businesses, politicians… measured control over how they are perceived by their target audiences and general public.

Public opinion can be defined as the complex collection of opinions of many different people and the sum of all their views or as a single opinion held by an individual about a business, social, political topic… The meaning of public opinion has changed dramatically over time.

The English term public opinion dates back to the eighteenth century and derived from the French l’opinion, which was first used in 1588 by Montaigne. Adam Smith, one of the earliest classical economists, refers to public opinion in his ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’, but it was Jeremy Bentham, the famous utilitarian Philosopher, who fully developed theories of public opinion…

According to Herbert Blumer; public opinion is discussed as a form of collective behavior which is made up of those who are discussing a given public issue at any one time… Although  reality of public opinion is now almost universally accepted, contrasting understandings of public opinion have taken shape over the centuries, especially as new methods of measuring public opinion are applied to politics, commerce, religion, social activism…

However, according to Ian Welsh; public opinion does not matter– it’s irrelevant. What matters isn’t what the public thinks, what matters are what the public does… Nearly all scholars of public opinion, regardless of the way they may define it, agree that, in order for a phenomenon to count as public opinion, at least four conditions must be satisfied: (1) there must be an issue, (2) there must be a significant number of individuals who express opinions on the issue, (3) there must be some kind of a consensus among at least some of these opinions, and (4) this consensus must directly or indirectly exert influence.

In contrast to scholars, those who aim to influence public opinion are less concerned with theoretical issues than with the practical problem of shaping the opinions of specified ‘publics’, such as employees, stockholders, neighborhood associations, or any other group whose actions may affect the fortunes of a client, stakeholder…

Politicians and publicists, for example, seek ways to influence voting and purchasing decisions, respectively– hence their wish to determine any attitudes and opinions that may affect the desired behavior. It’s often the case that opinions expressed in public differ from those expressed in private. Some views– even though widely shared– may not be expressed at all…

In the article Public Opinion by Daniel Yankelovich writes: Public opinion is not static. People’s views about an issue develop and change over time from disconnected, poorly informed reactions to more thoughtful and considered conclusions, from changeable public opinion to settled public judgment. This process evolves through distinct stages and unless one understands where people are in this process, survey results can frequently mislead.

People often approach an issue initially with strong, emotionally laden feelings and opinions, which tend to be unstable and changeable. People may not understand an issue or problem particularly well. They may not have thought through the consequences of their opinions, and resist confronting realistic costs and trade-offs. The quality of public opinion at this stage is raw and unformed.

However, when people’s views progress… their ideas become solid and stable, and they accept the consequences of the views they hold. When public opinion is fully developed, opinion surveys reveal reliable and stable picture of people’s thinking, picture which accurately reflects their values, priorities, and beliefs…

In the article Are Public Opinion Polls Really Accurate? by ‘thisnation.com’ writes: How many times have you looked at the results of a public opinion poll and wondered if the results were accurate? Who did they talk to? Is it really possible to measure the entire nation’s opinion on something by asking less than one thousand people a question or two? Believe it or not, when conducted properly, public opinion polling is generally quite accurate.

Conducting good survey research, however, is no simple task. To be accurate, survey questions must ask a select group of people– what pollsters call a sample– which is representative of the larger population. The questions themselves must also be good indicators of the opinions or attitudes the pollster is trying to measure and the questions must also be asked consistently from one person to the next.

Public opinion polls must generally be read with caution. Moreover, even accurately measured public opinion is often based on limited or inaccurate information and people are prone to change their minds. Survey research, however, when conducted properly, provides an accurate portrait of the– attitudes, beliefs, opinions, preferences of people…

In the article Managing Public Opinion by Linda Fanaras writes: The psychology behind public relations makes it more valuable than advertising in developing brand identity and garnering brand loyalty. According to the Public Relations Society of America; public relations… is a communications discipline that engages and informs key audiences, builds important relationships and brings vital information back into an organization for analysis and action.

Truly, the primary function of public relations is the development of relationships with target audiences, which will have a positive affect on public opinion. This can only be achieved once preferences, needs, and desires of these audiences have been fully researched and understood.

This research serves as the foundation for both; messaging that resonates with audiences, and developing public relations strategies that deliver positive business results. A quality public relations strategy should include; market and target audience analysis, key messaging, tactics… 

Where the tactics are defined by the benefits to– brand visibility– tailored to the unique needs of the target audience. All tactics should be consistently measured and evaluated, so as to ensure connectivity with target audiences and improve outcomes.  The creation and execution of customized public relations strategy is an essential investment toward the achievement of long-term business performance goals… Public opinion is not the name of a ‘thing’ but a classification of ‘things’.

According to Phillips Davison; the principal approaches to the study of public opinion may be divided into four partially overlapping categories: quantitative measurement of opinion distributions; investigation of the internal relationships among the individual opinions that make up public opinion on an issue; description or analysis of the political role of public opinion; and study both of the communication media that disseminate ideas on which opinions are based and of the uses that propagandists and other manipulators make of these media.

The rapid spread of public-opinion measurement around the world is a reflection of its many uses. Governments have increasingly found surveys to be useful tools for guiding their public-information and propaganda programs and occasionally for helping in formulation of policies. Private businesses and associations have made frequent use of polling techniques.

Most of the surveys done for businesses come under the heading of market, rather than opinion research and are primarily concerned with product preferences, but large numbers of business are also concerned with public issues, such as; government regulation, economic outlook, community relationships… The art of public opinion rests not only on the measurement of people’s views, but also on understanding the motivations behind those views.

No matter how strongly they are held, attitudes are subject to change if the individual holding them learns of new facts or perspectives that challenge his or her earlier thinking. This is especially likely when people learn of a contrary position held by an individual whose judgment they respect. This course of influence, known as ‘opinion leadership’ is frequently utilized by publicists as a means of inducing people to reconsider– and quite possibly change– their views…

Public opinion polling can provide a fairly exact analysis of the distribution of opinions on almost any issue within a given population. Assuming that proper questions are asked, polling can reveal something about the intensity with which opinions are held, reasons for these opinions, and the probability that the issues have been discussed with others. Polling can, occasionally, reveal whether the people holding an opinion can be thought of as constituting a cohesive group.

However, survey findings do not provide much information about the opinion leaders who may have played an important part in developing the opinion. Polls are good tools for measuring ‘what’ or ‘how much’. Finding out ‘how’ or ‘why’, however, is the principal function of qualitative research… Well-run polls may constitute one of the most systematic and objective sources for public information, and means by which journalists, politicians, business leaders… learn what the general public is thinking…

Other things being equal, leaders who pay attention to public opinion will be better able to understand the groups they are trying to influence and better equipped to communicate overall. However, it’s possible for bias to enter into the polling process at any point, especially in cases where the entity commissioning the poll has a financial or political interest in the result or wishes to use the result to promote a specific agenda…

Also, opinion surveys can help the public by stimulating discussion of specific issues, problems… Apparently, the public itself has a lot of confidence in opinion sampling; when asked, in survey, if they think polls are good or bad? 73% said, they are good thing, while 21% admitted they didn’t know. The modern polls are designed to report– they do not usually pretend to solve problems. Whether the public is actually swayed by the results of opinion polls is hard to say.  

Businesses, public officials, media outlets… have increasingly come to depend on public opinion polls to gauge public sentiment. The selection of interviewees by the method of random probability sampling is essential for a good poll– i.e., every person in the population, theoretically, has an equal chance of being selected… But even with random probability sampling the best polls contain a margin of error, which means the results can vary by a defined probability depending on the size of the sample…

Opinion is an active propelling factor. The opinion of people is made up of different views or currents of sentiments… one writer says; when some opinions develop more strength than others (with larger numbers) or more intensity of conviction, then it begins to be called public opinion…

Rethink and Reinvigorate Marketing: Maximize Impact– Paradigmatic Shift in Marketing Strategy… Market Trends…

Marketing: It’s the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future. ~Clay Shikry

Competitive marketing means staying ahead of the curve. In the wild world of marketing, the last mile is the most critical and often the most overlooked. Global brands will spend millions on traditional advertising and related marketing infrastructure, but spend little or nothing on making a smooth handoff to sales. The marketing world is constantly shifting and changing, and to stay ahead of the game, you need to be on top of – if not ahead of – the latest marketing trends. Sure, the methods you use are worth continuing, but you need to keep your eye on the ball…

According to Chris Marentis; based on current data and trends, you should see innovation, expansion, automation, and refinement across the entire marketing industry, including; delivery mechanism, cross-channel marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing and social media marketing… According to Sid Shah; next year will be eventful for digital marketing, for example; mobile traffic will continue to sharply rise; cross-channel and cross-device measurement will be paramount; marketing will become even more granular; marketers will understand true value of social.

According to Vishal Sankhla; social outreach and analysis are important components for making marketing campaigns successful, and should garner just as much time and preparation as traditional campaigns. As more social sites emerge– further fragmenting the landscape– using the right technology to locate, monitor, analyze, and engage audiences will make or break marketing programs…

According to Audrey Howes; This year marked by quickly changing marketing landscape, for example; mobile will surpass desktop, visualization will reign supreme, personalization will become even more important, and local marketing will be the new, old thing… According to Rob Eleveld; this is a year of content marketing, mobile usage, and email marketing. Marketers will look for more efficiency and utilization of multi-channel tracking, reporting  for integrated channel campaigns to deliver real-time results at a lower cost…

Lines between traditional media and new content formats will continue to blur as journalists and bloggers will be distinguished by the content they create and their influencer reach… In search of optimization, more companies will move select sales responsibilities ‘up-funnel’ including; CRM operations, lead and opportunity qualification– into the marketing department… According to Richard Hanna, Andrew Rohm, and Victoria Crittenden; marketing can no longer be about solely– capturing attention via reach; instead, marketers must focus on both; capturing and continuing attention via engagement.

This calls for a blend of both traditional and social media, which requires new approaches to media strategy– media that does not simply replace traditional media, but rather expand media choices so as to capture– reach, intimacy, and engagement. Social networks aren’t about web sites: They’re about experiences. The ever-changing and evolving marketing best practice continues to show that the right mix and blend of traditional and new media is the best approach to branding… The parallel worlds of marketing— blogs, podcasts, e-marketing, mobile, text and social media platforms…– provide an overwhelmed variety of choices and challenges for the year ahead…

In the article Social Media Strategy: Marketers Need to Revisit by Tricia1000 writes: Social media marketers need to reflect more on current social networking practices in terms of– value, grabbing attention, and future prospective… It’s interesting to note how fast new social media sites are being adopted, but just as interesting is how many of them eventually disappear.

The keys marketing priority must include; rethinking current social media networking practice and how social media networks can better meet the needs of their customers… A social media strategy should focus on at least these three aspects:

  • Value: People visit social media sites to gain something from the experience. This can be to socialize with online friends, getting the latest news and resources playing games, to name but a few. By providing value to its customers; the business reinforces brand and creates loyalty.
  • Attention-grabbing: The social media network must also grab and keep the attention of its users. A social media site must offer something different to its users so it can continue to grow.
  • Future prospective: It’s important to sustain the business’ presence on a particular social media network. A social media site must be relevant to the business’ target audience, both today and planned strategy for the future.

In the article Digital Trends You Need to Embrace by Kent Lewis writes: Digital marketing trends that no marketer can afford to ignore include; social media, video, search engines, mobile, and marketing automation. Key strategies and trends are:

  • Evangelizing your brand via social media marketing: The current thinking regarding how your business should interact with customers via social media is already becoming outdated. The old mode of one person, one voice does not offer the depth and breadth of a multi-faceted approach which involves all employees. I recommend turning social roles upside down, focusing on integrating social media throughout your organization, driven by a social media evangelist. In the evangelist model, the role is that of chief brand officer/ CMO/ editor-in-chief/ director all wrapped into one.
  • Maximizing your media via video marketing and YouTube: Video provides the ultimate storytelling medium; if a picture is worth a thousand words, then how many words is a 30-second video at 30 frames per second worth? According to eMarketer; U.S. online video advertising spending will grow 52.1% to $2.16 billion in 2011, before reaching $7.11 billion in 2015. In terms of social media platforms for video, YouTube is the 800 pound gorilla and the second most popular search engine by volume. A few YouTube stats: 60 hours of video are uploaded every minute, over 4 billion videos are viewed per day, U.S. consumers exposed to a YouTube homepage ad are 437% more likely to engage in a key brand activity on the same day than those unexposed, and 70% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the U.S. As such, you cannot afford not to create your own channel. To be truly effective, a YouTube channel should contain videos for all four stages of the sales cycle: awareness,  interest, intent, and purchase..,
  • Penguin-proofing your search engine optimization efforts: Over the past two years, Google has made a series of updates to  its algorithm, collectively known as Panda and Penguin. Most business owners felt the impact of penalization immediately, but it is important to confirm that your  poor-quality content and suspect inbound links. To solve the problems, once identified, simply reverse or de-optimize  the elements and resubmit to Google once you have 100% confidence the website is clean.
  • Mobilizing your marketing: Marketers have scrambled the past year or two in order to find a solution to the mobile challenge. After years of hypothesis, mobile is finally upon us, and there are a variety of elements to consider when developing a mobile marketing strategy. Before you get started, however, conduct the necessary research up front to minimize your investment and maximize your ROI. Don’t forget to develop KPIs, embed necessary analytics, and start small with limited testing before committing significant resources. The three key mobile strategies: mobile-friendly websites, mobile ads, and SMS and email messaging.
  • Automating your marketing: A marketing automation platform helps develop and analyze marketing campaigns and understand prospects and customers. While core functionality focus on automating marketing campaign development, management, and reporting, these platforms also offer critical lead management capabilities, including; lead scoring and nurturing.

Marketing leaders are asking questions about how to effectively attract, influence, and retain customers in this age of increasing media options and decreasing customer attention spans. According to Shelley West; four topics we hear most often include: Omni-Channel Customer Experience: How do I create a seamless experience that is relevant and engaging across channels – including; digital, social, traditional media, and bricks and mortar? Integration of Tech and Marketing: How do I effectively leverage and integrate the new technology available today, such as; customers listening tools, marketing automation, and ROMI attribution?

Understanding the Customer Journey: How do customers travel the path to purchase in this age of digital, social, and mobile and where are the points of drag along the way? Marketing Talent for the Future: What skills and capabilities do I need to hire for and develop to ensure our function is properly equipped to deal with the rapid pace of change in the marketplace?

When taken together, these questions paint a picture of world in which the only constant is change: New technology, media options, new customer segments – all of which need to be identified, understood, worked into a marketing plan, and executed expertly. Certainly it was easier when all marketing leaders had to do was chose which of four big networks to run advertisements and then calculate the GRP. But we are finding that ‘big is making way for small’, reach for depth, and mass for personal. And that means many marketers need to rethink things all together…

According to SmartMediaTips; last year was the year of the social network. Pinterest has become the third biggest social network in the U.S.; Twitter surpassed 140 million users by its birthday; and Facebook brought Instagram for a cool $1 billion. Everyone from B2B right through to B2C has embraced these social media powerhouses, and rightly so.

Search engines are starting to place more relevancy on socially generated content. So if you’re not getting social – you should be. In 2013, your online marketing strategy will rely heavily on social sharing and content generation. To be seen as an industry expert, your social media presence will become more important, and networking will drive more traffic to your site…

A recent study reported that worldwide tablet traffic will far exceed mobile traffic in 2013. New wave of ‘mini tablets’ hitting the market means– tablet strategy– making sure your websites are properly built for devices, and tailoring your marketing to the users… Marketing must implement effective strategies that target these audiences. The web is changing and marketing must lead the change…

Integrated marketing is nothing new; we have been combining our marketing strategies for years. But in 2013, digital marketing will play a bigger role when combined with more traditional campaigns. For example, networking events have been a strong tactic for many years.

But next year, we will begin to see a rise of the digital event. Webinars are commonplace and easy-effective way for reaching out to customers and peers all over the world. In terms of your marketing strategies, this is one trend you should be keeping an eye on. Participating in digital meetings, Twitter chats, and Google+ Hangouts will become the new way of communication with customers…

According to Kate Freeman; probably the biggest error brands have made as they venture into mobile is that they think mobile is the same thing they’re doing for the website, just down to a 4-inch form. Mobile is an entirely different medium…

Marketing on mobile devices must be– timely, personal, contextual relevant (people expect their phone to be customized to them), in order to work…  Marketing must get smarter– listen, learn, understand– who, why, what, where, how much… Now, take a step back, and get to know the customers… they are different, global, personal…

Social Media Madness… Love It. Hate It, Embrace It, Reject It… It’s Mad, Mad World: Survive and Thrive with It…

Social media landscape is crazy… there are; apps, games, analytics, blogs, commerce, ad networks, mobile, photo, video… who knows what else is out there lurking… but despite the insanity, you can’t ignore it…

Has it become a mania, madness, addiction, obsession, dependency… epidemic for social media sites? Does Facebook, Twitter… have us hooked?  That’s what a study conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business found. Researchers gathered 205 participants and monitored their ability to resist daily temptations, including; the urge to check social media sites. For one week, subjects that ranged in age from 18 to 85 were asked to let researchers know how strongly they wanted to give into various temptations.

The results suggest that the urge to check social media pages is one of the strongest temptations out there. The temptation to log on to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites is more difficult to resist than temptations to smoke, drink and even sleep. According to a recent study released by non-profit ‘Anxiety UK’ over half of social media users polled said; Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites had changed their lives– and 51% of those said it’s not been for the better. Forty-five percent of responders said they feel worried or uncomfortable when email and Facebook are inaccessible, while 60% of respondents stated they felt need to switch off  their phones and computers to secure a full-fledged break from technology.

In other words, it’s not being on social networks that makes people anxious. It’s being away from them. The findings suggest that some people need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than being controlled by it, says Nicky Lidbetter. Data revealed that two-thirds of respondents had more difficulty sleeping after using social media, and 25% admitted to difficulties in their relationships because of confrontational online behavior…

The survey was conducted by the Salford Business School, University of Salford, where 228 participants were polled… While the study consists of a small sample size, Salford’s data backs up other information on social media addiction. In a recent study ‘Mobile Mindset’, found that 73% of people would panic if they lost their smartphone, while another 54% admit to checking their phone while lying in bed…

But are social media users anxious because of social media, or do more anxious people gravitate toward digital interactions? If you are predisposed to anxiety it seems that the pressures from technology act as tipping point, making people feel more insecure, overwhelmed,  says Lidbetter.

A similar study at University of Bergen measured Facebook user addiction; found people who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more than those with lower scores on those traits, probably because those who are anxious find it easier to communicate via social media than face-to-face…

In the article Caution: I’ve Been Diagnosed With Social Media Madness by Carolyn Goodman writes: There are so many social media options now available, my head hurts. My palms get sweaty at the mere whisper of a new site. If I get one more invitation to join some random, seemingly important group, I think I’ll weep. As a marketer, I feel a lot of pressure to keep up with it all, primarily, so I can talk to customers about how they leverage these forums as strategic marketing opportunities.

But in reality, it’s not possible to do that… While there are certainly more social media options in the B-to-C world, we B-to-B marketers are under intense scrutiny to understand and learn how to have, at the very least, a point of view on what these options are and how to use them appropriately for business. Its Herculean task and it cannot be accomplished under normal circumstances.

So I’m officially raising my hand and shouting to the world: Stop This Madness. I’m going to spit out the social media Kool-Aid, stand tall, and promise, on my honor, to be only as social as I need to be, while spending my time on more important marketing initiatives. Won’t you join with me to find a cure to social media madness?

Fling open your windows and shout it with me: I’m mad as hell and not going to take it any more… Then go back to learning and creating marketing solutions that drive your business forward. To that end, I’m going to embrace these four directives:

  • I vow to maintain an updated LinkedIn profile– and respond to inquiries to connect when they make sense.
  • I promise I won’t tweet every day just to be able to claim that I don’t tweet regularly.
  • I won’t use my Facebook stamp to let my friends know every time I’m in a new location… unless it’s someplace impressive like one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
  • I’ll stop posting videos of my kitten playing with string on YouTube. Despite the fact that I get millions of hits worldwide. It’s not fair to my kitten, and surely viewers have better things to do.

In the article Social Media Madness by Blogenstein writes: I am not one for collecting friends. I’d rather have 50 friends on Facebook that I know well and care about than 500 or 5000 people who I know/have known/met randomly in a bar one night. It’s almost like the personal has gone out of our online social interactions and we’re just talking with a bunch of random faceless people.

Similarly, with something like Twitter I keep my follow list down, and will occasionally remove one or two to keep things manageable. This is a combination of interest levels– (Do I want to follow you? Does having you in my feed improve things? Do I often see you in twitter conversations, or have twitter conversations with you?)– and feed overload where I need to read all the tweets.

The fact is having too many people in my feed means I have too many tweets to read. For a while I tried catching up on the overnight tweets, but since most of the people I follow are American they have a 5 hour head-start on me in the morning which makes it take ages. I don’t bother any more. I don’t see not following someone, or unfollowing someone as a sign of; I don’t like them. It’s more that I can’t fit them into the budget that is my social media.

Likewise whether they are a friend on Facebook or not, really doesn’t have any impact on actual friendship & real life social interactions. If social media status matters that much to you, maybe you’re not that much of a friend in the first place…

In the article Social Media Madness– Does Everyone Need It? by Melisa Labancz-Bleasdale writes: In our constant quest for faster, better, newer… we have invented, embraced, and quickly discarded social media mechanisms at a blistering rate. Every business looking to capitalize on social media madness should examine what they have to offer, and what they stand to gain before funneling their marketing dollars into social media programs. They should than carefully consider which channel is best for what they are selling and whom they are trying to reach.

Companies should also consider the amount of time and energy they have to maintain their social media outreach. A large part of the business-to-public exchange is in; the volume, frequency and relevancy of the messages. Twitter is likely a bad place to set up shop if you aren’t prepared to engage daily. As it is for all communications channels, it’s important to choose the correct vehicle for distributing your message. Vehicles like; blogs, podcasts, Twitter… have helped many B2B’s increase awareness and market share. 

Communications experts believe that part of the problem organizations have in successfully utilizing social media is that they believe it’s a separate entity, instead of seeing it for the tool that it is– another means of expanding the existing communications and marketing efforts. Few argue that business should avoid social media altogether, but it’s entirely possible to build successful PR campaigns without it.

According to McGrath; social media is just one possible channel; albeit one with great potential… and, whether you’re a B2B organization or not, the degree to which you use it should depend on your audience and what you’re trying to achieve. 

According to Mustafa Dill; I’m a firm believer in ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you always should.’ When prospective clients want a Facebook or Twitter account, I always ask them, ‘why?’ If they can’t articulate it, and they usually can’t beyond– ‘well everyone else is doing it’– then we’ll drill down to identify a specific goal. Social media for me is about user behavior as they seek solutions; if you can offer a content-based solution, then great. If not, wait until you can and, in the meantime, keep analyzing your customers’ behavior until a solution presents itself.

According to Lori Donovan; I think it’s all part of knowing the audience. If you audience isn’t on Facebook, you don’t need to be there

In the article Social Networking Sites Are a ‘Modern Form of Madness’ by telegraph writes: They may be a venue to socialize and keep in touch with people, but social media websites; Facebook, Twitter… are making people less human by isolating them from reality… says Prof. Sherry Turkle, MIT, way in which people frantically communicate online via social networking sites can be seen as a modern form of madness.

In her book, ‘Alone Together’, Prof. Turkle writes; people are become more isolated from reality due to social networking sites because technology is dominating our lives and making us less human, Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, technology is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world... We’ve invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, yet we have allowed them to diminish us...

Her warnings, and those from other cyber-skeptics, follow the death of Simone Back; a woman in Brighton who posted a suicide note on Facebook that was seen by more than 1,000 of her ‘friends’. Yet none of them called for help, instead they trading insults with each other on her Facebook wall…

In the article Social Media Madness by Suz Trusty writes: Social media is here to stay; it’s in some very profound ways, revolutionizing how we communicate and also how we and companies are perceived. If you want to bet on a sure thing, bet on use and acceptance of social media as means; 1) connect and communicate with customers and prospects; 2) share valuable information (how-to’s?) and experiences; 3) build brand awareness; and 4) market products and services.

Become familiar with it so you can pick and choose what works best for you and your operation, and what you can reasonably do with it, given the many other tasks you and your employees must perform. Start by determining, if just a website and email are enough to keep you connected. Does communication through social media; Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, YouTube… help your company? Do research and explore the options… But, don’t let social media drive you mad…

Igniting Business Growth– Shift from Fear to Fearless: Sharpen Drivers, Break Barriers, Release Brakes, Overcome Plateau…

Business growth: Impatience is an outcome of restlessness. Restlessness is the outcome of an incubated idea. Once the idea virus gets in, it leads to restlessness and action… The impatience of one person gets enlarged and, next, the entire associated workforce gets reverberating and the work gets rolling faster than it would have otherwise– Infectious impatience. ~Mukesh Ambani

Most often the barriers to business growth are not the fault of; markets, or customers, or technology… but, the business itself: Business growth always comes from within. If the organization is not ready to grow, innovate, increase market share, enter new markets, increase profitability… then, the business is destined to fail.

According to Denise Corcoran, recession breeds fear in the business world. Challenge for all executives and entrepreneurs are to go against ‘herd mentality’ and drive your own growth reality. There are realities, constraints, and uncertainties that we must engage just to stay in the game. However, we have more control over our business future than we realize. You are bigger and better than any problem, no matter how looming it seems.

The key is where you put your focus… and to what extent you are willing to step up your game, i.e., wiser and bolder. Step up your inner game, and cultivating a fearless mindset for growth:

  • Play To Win vs. Play Not To Lose.
  • Cultivate Innovative Strategies and Actions.
  • Enforce Fierce Accountability.
  • Be Like a Rock; Flow Like a River.

In the article Four Growth Drivers You Can’t Afford to Overlook by Bill Thomas writes: It’s estimated that up to 90% of business strategies fail to deliver their intended value. Those failures (whether partial or total shortfalls) are often due to one of two reasons.

First, strategy did not sufficiently focus on customers, markets, and create a unique source of value for those markets.

Second, despite having a compelling customer-centric strategy, the organization was not capable of executing that strategy. The first reason is external and relates to market drivers, while the second is internal and focus on organizational growth drivers.

Companies who consistently design and execute successful growth plans apply the same rigor, discipline, and follow-through for both sets of drivers. The most successful companies go a step further by identifying and leveraging the linkages between the drivers. The current economy presents leaders with an ideal opportunity to reposition not only their business, but their organization for growth.

Specifically, there are four areas of opportunity that are prime candidates for critical review and improvement. Experience and data show that companies that address all four areas will outperform those who don’t. By analyzing the external and internal growth drivers for each area, and identifying key questions or issues for each area, as it relates to growth, then this process will provide a  foundation for optimizing each area in your organization.

While the term ‘company’ is used– these principles apply to both for-profit and non-profit organizations. The four areas are:

  • Strategic Rigor, Alignment and Execution: Rigorous planning process and strategy… an organization that’s aligned and accountable for executing that strategy.
  • Operational Efficiency: Organization that is structured; top-to-bottom and end-to-end for efficiency, agility and creating customer value.
  • Segmentation and Differentiation: Progressive and proven approach to segmenting and leveraging the various sources of customer value and organizational talent.
  • Changing and Leveraging Culture: Management guidance and tools to drive and enable the attraction, development, engagement, and retention of that value and talent.

In the article Can’t Move Forward? Probably Your Parking Brake Is On by Rick Holbrook writes: In the book ‘The Success Principles’ the author, Jack Canfield, provides techniques to help people move forward on their personal development and improvement. Many are proactive techniques, which he likens to pushing down on a car’s gas pedal to go forward. He also points out, however, that it’s possible to move forward easily just by releasing the brake.

His basic message is to let go of the negative thoughts, perceptions… that we have accumulated over a life time; in what may be call legacy issues. According to Canfield, first release the brake; after all it’s difficult to drive forward with the parking brake on… Using this analogy, companies have legacy issues too and just like with people moving forward effectively always means releasing the brake and dealing with the legacy issues, first.

In big companies legacy issues might be; recruiting talent, organization flexibility, management skills… In his study of small companies (less than 500 employees) James Fischer found that there were very subtle but real legacy issues that put the brake on business growth. He labeled them ‘hidden agents’, because they are; bigger than when they first appear, hard to diagnose, partially submerged…

He found ‘hidden agents’ affect; leadership effectiveness and  business  performance. Many business leaders waste energy by first pressing down on the gas pedal (not releasing the brake) with expensive new initiatives, which then struggle because of the effect of ‘hidden agents’ at work. To move forward you must first release the brake by uncovering the hidden agents, then press down on the gas pedal with new growth initiatives….

In a study by ‘Ernst & Young’ they show that high performing businesses take charge of their own destiny. These businesses have a laser-sharp focus on executing against the four drivers of competitive success: Customer reach, Operational agility, Cost competitive, Stakeholder confidence. Then, each business strikes the right balance with each driver in relation to the other, both– strategic and tactical.

The study says that high performing companies are laser-focus on their customers, such that it runs like a thread through the entire organization. They determine the strategy– where to sell, what to sell, and how to sell. Also, these companies are alert to the impact of economic turmoil; local and global, on their markets and customers: They act quick to mitigate customer issues, and re-establish focus and re-engage relationships.

They are highly disciplined to identify, understand, and respond to new patterns of customer demand, and they are driven by superior execution, and support of customer expectations. High performers have a much greater awareness of the importance of access to markets using; multiple distribution channels, partnerships, joint ventures… Risk is an important issue and rarely underestimated … high performers have reduced their appetite for risk, and have adopted a more cautions approach; due primarily to the current economic environment…

This Ernst & Young survey confirmed earlier surveys that found that; speed and flexibility are the most important enablers, for companies, to respond to market opportunities and threats, quickly: Quick response helps companies to react to customer needs faster, hence to gain or hold market share, or  if necessary; to just back off… speed of action is another attribute of high performers…

A combination of; quick response, speed of action, and flexibility are essential for business to cope with positive or negative changes in markets, competition… or federal regulation.  However, the most important attribute of top performing companies is their ability to create a harmonious company culture that strongly connects employees and management.

It nurtures high-quality relationships in the work place, which is a key factor for effective engagement, growth, success… high performance companies invest in people, encourage innovation, and find inventive solutions to attract, retain, support, and motivate smart and highly talented people…

Adversity can be a great motivator. The goal is to ignite a virtuous cycle of value-added growth, productivity, profitability, job creation… If government policy makers remove barriers that act as a disincentive to invest, as well as, create the conditions in which business can thrive, the private sector can provide the skills and capital to deliver the innovation the world needs.

According to an article by ‘Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Charles Roxburgh’; public-private business partnerships can offer significant growth opportunities for both the private and public sectors… they suggest: Bring private capital to public works; Close the skills gap; Build public–private partnerships…

A public–private partnership (PPP) is a public and private business venture which is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies. Public-private partnerships can cover everything from toll roads to sports stadiums… The idea is to combine government money or influence with business know-how to produce better, more cost-effective products, services, and other outcomes.

However some experts say; let’s not get carried away with the prospect of public-private partnerships solving the planet’s problems. Getting commercial leaders and doers and thinkers to help with government mandates is one thing; inviting commercial enterprises to feed at the government trough is another. As a principle, public-private collaboration makes good sense. But the extent of that collaboration needs to be watched closely… 

According to Hillary Rodham Clinton; The problems we face today will not be solved by governments alone. It will be in partnerships– partnerships with philanthropy, with global business, partnerships with civil society…

Governments need their own productivity revolution… For example, McKinsey’s research shows that the public sector has substantial opportunities to increase its efficiency and effectiveness by being more open-minded and leveraging private involvement in delivery of public services. The potential economic gains are compelling. If governments can increase the public sector’s productivity by 1.5% annually (in line with what private industry has achieved over the past three decades), they could generate benefits worth $1 trillion a year.

While need for increased public-sector productivity is urgent at all levels of government, the case for public–private cooperation may be easiest to make at city level, where most future global growth will occur. A majority of successful cities are already notable for a high degree of collaboration between the private and public sectors. But more must be done, especially to tackle the economic problems that blight many large cities, globally.

Some estimates show that public–private partnerships could account for as much as 40% of operations and maintenance budgets in large cities across the world. With a few notable exceptions, business leaders have been slow to raise these issues.

When executives make their voices heard, they too often issue narrow calls for lower taxes rather than advance broader ideas for creating a dynamic pro-growth agenda. It is time for the private sector to take the lead in making the case for driving growth though public-private partnerships for innovation and investment…

Growing healthy, vibrant, and competitive businesses are the key to prosperity for all citizens… engaging in public-private partnership development to create additional jobs, improve public institutions is a sustainable and inclusive growth opportunity, as well…