Content

Great content undertand your audience give them what they want

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty Four (1949) opening lines. From 30 great opening lines in literature, The Telegraph.
Wonderful writing, but to call it “good content” would be as silly as calling The Lark Ascending “good content”. I do get irritated by what seems the overuse of this term “content”. Do we think, “I must have some good content when I go on a date with this prospective girlfriend/boyfriend?” In fairness in an age of automation and mass communication, we need an all-embracing term for this “stuff.” So, what’s great content: it is something helpful, interesting and perhaps even entertaining. Understand your audience, and give them what they want. Christmas Day, a Wedding, any special event, a good piece of copy, a website page, a targeted email all need good content. Some things haven’t changed since the dawn of time, some change with technology and innovation. There is more focus on content, the word, in recent years, so I thought I would look at the importance of good content. But separate what has always been important from more recent online aspects. Because simply, great content: is something helpful, interesting and perhaps even entertaining. Understand your audience, and give them what they want.

Is there anybody out there?

The definition of content is information of material, something contained in what you deliver which might be written or an event for example. In business, the key thing is who is this stuff for. Charity, retail, consumers, engineering, UK, overseas…you understand…in other words, what sectors, what country and so on. And to use a current popular term, create a Buyer Persona profile – a representation of your ideal customer – so you know what content to produce for them. The phrase “it’s all about you” is a good one to keep in mind. And it’s easy to forget in a busy work environment, when we all have targets to hit, products, services and content to share with our audience. But do they really want to hear more and more and more about the latest z factor 3 fastest and bestest on the market we’ve got to offer? Well, actually they might, but at the right time. First we all as the audience, as people choose what we want to go to, enjoy, read, buy, dip into. And intelligent suppliers get to understand that.

The Essence of good Content Creation

  • A great image or video, which is relevant, funny, engaging and interesting.
  • A strong headline with impact.
  • Sub-headlines which are clear to guide your reader for easy scanning.
  • Connect with your targets. You empathise, you understand their problem and perhaps give solutions. Give some answers to the problem. With actions people can take-away.
  • A good title tag, meta description which summarises the article or page.
  • Helpful links to other content

Some Other Practices to Avoid

  • Pages with no original content, or limited original content.
  • Scraped content – taking content from other places on the web and publishing it on your own site.
  • Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value.
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords.

It’s not what you do

Coming back to my original point, about the overuse of the term content but accepting the need for description for material and things we deliver to customers. Automation increasing will be used by all of us to deliver content. It relies on mapping the way people do things, how we buy, along the customer journey. How To Create A Customer Journey Map. And sharing helpful content at each point on that journey, what is described as the funnel. Some of the skills that work well in this new world include:

  • Customer journey mapping.
  • Inbound marketing – not pushing out to people but having useful content people can find on their journey.
  • Social Media – content creation, targeting and a growing list of skills.
  • Storytelling – a nice video here with Julian Friedmann on the art of storytelling.
  • And if course digital marketing – Google The Digital Garage, great self-help videos.

All this is great content: is something helpful, interesting and perhaps even entertaining. Understand your audience, and give them what they want.

Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

chesspiece - strategy

Effective Personal and Business Strategy

How to do strategy. Avoid tactics, have clear goals, direction, and review the situation for your relative capabilities and resources then go and win. It’s how I look at my tennis matches each week. Work or play, strategy gets me from here to where I want to go. The problem with articles on strategy, and indeed writing about it, is that it can easily stray off onto other topics – especially if you are in marketing. So, let’s avoid detailed marketing plans and keep to the essence of strategy. It derives from the Greek word strategia “generalship”, strategos – stratos “army” and agein “to lead” (Oxford dictionary).

Good Strategies means Choice

Generals, CEOs or you and me when we have done “good strategy” is one thing i.e. after the event, you can look back at success. But what intrigues me is the real skill in strategy is being put into a business or any situation and deep in the thick of it, producing a strategy that works. How do you do this? So, what do you start with? What do you do and not do? In a competitive world, where you and I are busy, and impatient, what do we remind ourselves to do, under pressure to be “strategic” but not to procrastinate, or equally to be impetuous? And why bother?

The Essence of Strategy

My answer to this is, first, be clear what your objective is. This is not a strategy, but you need a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Strategy is about getting from where you are now to that goal. You may set goals of course. I do with my work and play. I write stuff down. And then like a tube map a strategy gets me there. As this excellent video says strategy is about asking yourself 4 questions:

  1. Where do we compete?
  2. What unique value do we bring?
  3. What resources and capabilities do we utilise to deliver that value?
  4. How do we sustain this?

My shorthand for this is, REVIEW, USPs, RESOURCES, IMPLEMENTATION
A point here on the importance of focus. The entrepreneurs and business people I admire are good at decision-making – they thrive on it. Nick Hixson has a great video on it
here. Follow the 80/20 rule i.e. the Pareto Principle that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.

Great Strategists

The great generals who mastered strategy all had vision, were decisive and were great leaders. Notable military strategist include Sun Tzu who wrote The Art of War, Napoleon probably the greatest modern general, and later President/General Eisenhower, to name just three. There are great political strategists such as Gandhi a visionary, Martin Luther King and right back to Aristotle. In two sports I love cricket, Mike Brearley was a brilliant captain, he is interviewed here. Roger Federer is a brilliant tennis player, who makes thousands of decisions and is above all a great sports strategist, as described in this video. I feature him on my strategy Pinterest board here.

Find some Tools that work for you

The biggest challenge I find is staying in control. Don’t let tools, templates or even agencies and advisors take over. When you read about Napoleon or even Branson and alike, they wrote their own script. From years of working with agencies and suppliers in marketing and indeed across all areas of business, I am wary of experts. But I also welcome genuine innovative help. As Steve Barker, my colleague in our enterprise TakeControl says, you stay in control. The best advice is to always keep your objective clearly in mind. Henry Mintzberg is a marketing hero of mine, for his Emergent Strategy philosophy of adapting your strategy – being agile – to customer and market conditions. Here are some practical strategy tools for you:

  • For new businesses and startups see Dorset Business Angels Resources page here
  • My mind-map is simple way to plan your strategy here
  • A more detailed strategy from Professor Malcolm McDonald – How To Create a Strategic Marketing Plan here
  • For CIM Members – How to Create a Strategic Marketing Plan here And How to Deliver a Smart Strategy here
  • 12 MANAGE has some great tools – create a free account here

More Resources for You

Strategy Videos
Hixsons Business Advisors – Strategy Nick Hixson, Peter Drucker Society Europe Associate.

The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy – Michael E. Porter Professor Harvard University.

How Strategy can really work – by Roger Martin.

What is Strategy? By David Kryscynski.

Good Strategy Bad Strategy – Richard P. Rumelt.

Strategy SlideShare

What if Peter Drucker Taught Enterprise 2.0 Strategy?

Of strategies, deliberate and emergent – Henry Mintzberg.

What is Strategy? Michael E Porter, Harvard Professor.

Strategy Blogs, Twitter Sites and Good Places to Visit for Thought Leader Content

The Thinkers 50 – launched in 2001 the recognised global ranking of management thinkers. It has been published every two years since.

Twitter Top 100 – most followers

Prospect Magazine World Thinkers 2015 – most influential list – includes Russell Brand at #4 and Thomas Picketty at #1.

Strategy Marketing Content

Content Marketing Institute – developing a strategy

Strategy History including military strategy

Sun Tzu – The Art of War documentary video

War and Business Strategy – the parallels.

33 War Strategies that help you win in life.

Help

Good luck and as I said…How to do strategy. Avoid tactics, have clear goals, direction, and review the situation for your relative capabilities and resources then go and win. As Sun Tzu says, “In the midst of chaos there is always opportunity”, I would say, that is especially where there is opportunity!

Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

Angel Investors

Can I be a Dorset Business Angel Investor?

Yes, you can be a Dorset Business Angel Investor if you are either a High Net Worth or Sophisticated Investor. See more on our Dorset Business Angels (DBA) website about this. Membership payment rate is £30 per calendar year, invoiced/due annually on 1 January each year (irrespective of when in the year you join) with no upfront joining fee. The Dorset Business Angels network operates in and around Dorset, bringing entrepreneurs, investors and business catalysts together to accelerate the growth of start-up businesses.

Membership Benefits from UKBAA

Dorset Business Angels are registered members of the UK Business Angels Association, the national trade association representing angel and early stage investment in the UK. This membership benefits includes:

  • access deal flow, regular exchange between investors and those engaged in the angel finance market
  • access to Government(s), key opinion and decision makers
  • raising awareness and promoting angel investment
  • promoting good practice and establishing industry standards
  • as a resource of information, expertise, market intelligence, key trends for both investors, entrepreneurs and their advisers.

Other DBA member benefits

  • access to four Investor Dinners
  • access to the JustInvesting online platform where our pitch deals are loaded and shared with members, plus opportunities to share in funding rounds from previous pitches. Please see our DBA Investor Guide if you need any help on how to access the platform or email moc.tenretnitbnull@nniugknarf who manages this for our members
  • notification of deal opportunities outside of events that arise via on-line communications
  • news and opportunities from UK Business Angels 30+ networks, VCs and crowdfunding partners plus links to our network of financial partners
  • access to our partner offers for example Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra events we can special access to – we highlight to members as these arise

UK Business Angels Association

Dorset Business Angels are members of UK Business Angels Association UKBAA covering Dorset and the south of England. Jenny Tooth CEO of UKBAA speaks here about the organisation. UKBAA is the national trade association for angel and early-stage investment, representing over 160 member organisations and around 18,000 investors. Business angels in the UK collectively invest an estimated £1.5 billion per anum and are therefore the UK’s largest source of investment for startups and early-stage businesses seeking to grow.

UKBAA’s members include angel networks, syndicates, individual investors, early-stage VCs, equity crowdfunding platforms, accelerators, professional advisers and intermediaries. UKBAA acts as the voice of the angel investment community and strives to build and connect the angel investment ecosystem so as to ensure a coherent landscape for financing high-potential entrepreneurs.

Our Events and Pitches for 2017

We run dinners every 3 months for our Dorset Business Angel Investor members and pitchers. There are four companies who present their business plans for investment at the beginning of the evening from 6.30 p.m. until 8.30 p.m. for investors to consider if they wish to invest. This is followed by a dinner and coffee, where investors discuss the presentation, socialise and share ideas. Our events for 2017 can be seen here. And this year once again we have another Conference following our other two highly successful conferences, more here.

How the investment process works

When you come to one of our Dinner pitch events, you will see that businesses pitch by presenting for about 10 minutes. Pitchers then answer questions, which you as a new member may contribute too if you wish. The presenters leave the room, which gives a chance for investors to discuss their pitch. My colleague Frank Guinn, chairs this discussion. He will ask investors, if there is any interest? This does not mean, we are asking for definite investment from anyone at this time, merely expressions of interest to take it further. People will usually put up their hands to let him know. You may for example be interested and show an interest. We collect the names of interested potential investors and a person to lead this next stage. In some ways this is too early to call the first steps of due diligence, which technically it is. It can include:

  • Reviewing financial, business plans and documents in more detail, if necessary with NDAs
  • Agreeing in the investor team allocation of roles, dependent upon experience, time, level of potential investment and other factors – there may be a lead investor chairing the group
  • Meeting the directors and perhaps a site visit
  • If all is going well, contributing ideas to the team
  • Again if all is going well, the investors will then begin to take a view on the level of investment each person wishes to make versus what is on offer by way of equity and any other involvement with the company
  • The offer of investment can then be made to the directors of the company and hopefully a deal is struck with agreed targets, milestones and a business plan

If you have an questions about becoming a Dorset Business Angel Investor contact us  or Frank Guinn at ku.oc.slengassenisubtesrodnull@nniug.knarf and equally or if you have a business plan you can email us.

Contact me if you would like to know more.

Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

Expect Chaos don’t be Chaotic in your Startup

chaotic Bert Rainbow Bert

Should you expect chaos or calm for your startup? Reid Hoffman the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn wrote recently that to successfully grow your business, you must “expect chaos”. However, whilst you may expect chaos don’t be chaotic in your startup. How does this chaos manifest itself? Staff turning up at 3pm? Plumbing failing every day? This may be a tad extreme. Although, you may, like me have experiences of similar or exact situations like this. What he is getting at, I believe quite correctly, is that “Plan A” never works. And when the rubber hits the road, you should constantly adapt and make fast decisions, or fail. It may be rather colourful language to call it chaotic. Although at times it is. If you can be agile, and ready  to expect chaos don’t be chaotic in your startup but be ready with your strategy and team.  Adapt to the chaos to be successful and grow. Here are some ideas on what to do to avoid chaos and get organised.

Get Organised

I work with many entrepreneurs, who buzz with ideas, but some are disorganised. Thinking up a great idea is fine, but to make money, it’s about generating customers, cash and of course netting out profit. Experienced entrepreneurs recognise the milestones for getting organised. And also the key players who are needed. This is not a universal blueprint for all startups but, I’d say it reflects many company’s allocation of tasks for getting your startup organised:

  • The entrepreneur – ideas generation, decision maker, inspiration, leadership
  • Chairman – board strategy, fundraiser, shareholder, stakeholder and external relations – an interview with the McDonald’s Chairman. Difference between CEO and Chairman video.
  • CEO/MD via the business Plan – setting strategy, culture, leadership, financial oversight. Video on the role of the startup CEO. Another startup CEO video.
  • Division/Department Heads – formulate operational tactics. Building your startup team video.

This is quite and instructive video on what a board should do, if a little robotic! The role of startup boards – video.

Chaos

So, we may get organised, but what is this chaotic world Reid Hoffman is alluding to? Why did the LinkedIn billionaire describe the startup business environment as chaos? Chaos comes from the Greeks, and refers to the formless or void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos. I suggest these are some of the challenges a startup and indeed any business faces:

  • Unpredictability
  • Competition
  • Resource are limited

A marketer would use Porter’s Five Forces model here which highlights:

  • Potential entrants
  • Buyers
  • Substitute products
  • Supplier power

And on wider scale a PESTEL analysis of these factors:

  • Political
  • Economic
  • Social
  • Technology
  • Economic
  • Legal

The difference these days is not in the issues but how you deal with them. What you do as a team. There was probably never any point in producing a plan, who reads them? Unless you first work out what you will do with it when you have identified the issues. So, in the above cases, you first identify what’s happening on regular basis. Perhaps with a short team session. Then agree, what are the THREATS and OPPORTUNITIES and then your STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES to deal with these. Why do this? Because when problems occur you will have a better chance to have rehearsed what to do. Many decisions will of course need to be made based finding out more information still, “as stuff happens.”

Decision Making in a Chaotic World

Working with wealthy, successful business people, from SMEs, PLCs, Government and Professional Services – in other words from all backgrounds, I see various characters but some common traits in decision-making. And decision-making strikes me as a critical factor in business. Is it just good judgement? In other words, intuitive skill gained with age? Possibly in part, but I think there is also in part a science to it. In other words, you can break-down, forensically, aspects to problem solving in doing business, the key to growing a business. And this is where decisions need to be made. Here are a few ideas for you. First, our Pinterest Page here has infographics, SlideShare and videos for you. Some other top thinkers and contributors on decisions we recommend are:
Nick Hixson – fantastic videos on decisions and heuristics i.e. rules of thumb for good decisions
Ted Talks about decision-making here including AI
More advanced –  Experts and Decision Making: First Steps Towards a Unifying Theory of Decision Making in Novices, Intermediates and Experts here

Expect the Unexpected

Henry Mintzberg strategy guru says plan for the unexpected, see his model here. Essentially have your objective in mind and just keep adjusting very regularly. If you can be agile, and ready  to expect chaos don’t be chaotic in your startup but be ready with your strategy and team.  Adapt to the chaos to be successful and grow.

Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

Peter Vision

Vision, mission and objectives – do they matter?

Vision, mission and objectives – do they matter? They do in passionate, close-knit teams with a mission to hit growth and financial objectives. Directors and shareholders need them for more expansion and perhaps debt funding opportunities. When an organisation gets bigger or you are part of it and hear words like vision, mission and objectives in planning meetings, it can seem boring. It can also be bad leadership and management if the terms are used inappropriately. We work with people who have new ideas and ask, how do we get funding or interest for our idea? The answer is, write down a plan so it can be shared. And within it there is no golden rule saying you must have particular headings or paragraphs. However there are many templates, formats, websites and guides on the internet – and here are some. And by looking at lots of these guides to business plans some key areas of information are clearly needed. Plus, by talking to people who have been successful, entrepreneurs and also the finance community, a picture emerges. I am just looking at the vision, mission and objectives: why they are important, and how they differ, and can help focus your planning.

Vision

A vision statement gives your organization’s objectives, ideally based on external foresight, intended to guide internal decision-making. A vision statement is not limited to business organizations and may also be used by non-profit organisations. A vision statement is a company’s road map, indicating both what the company wants to become and guiding initiatives by setting a defined direction for the company’s growth. Vision statements ideally have less revisions than operational goals which may be updated constantly. Vision statements can range in length from short sentences to paragraphs – which is not ideal!  One definition of a vision statement according to BusinessDictionary is “An aspirational description of what an organisation would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action.” The difference between a vision and mission statement is nicely explained in this video by Bruce D Johnson.

Mission 2

Mission

In answering Vision, mission and objectives – do they matter? Next do you have a purpose? A mission statement is a short statement of your organization’s purpose, with the scope of operations: what kind of product or service you provide, primary customers or market, and geographical region of operation. It may include a short statement of such fundamental matters as the organization’s values or philosophies, the business’s main competitive advantages. It is important that a mission statement is not confused with a vision statement. The reason why it is important that a mission statement and vision statement are not confused is because they both serve different purposes. Vision statements tend to be more related to discussing where a company aims to be in the future.

Objectives

Objectives should be SMART. This means the measure has a Specific purpose, Achievable, Relevant and Time phased. And objectives are best considered in terms of KPIs. A performance indicator or key performance indicator (KPI) is a type of performance measurement. KPIs evaluate the success of an organization or of a particular activity. It’s a level down from the mission and sometimes success is defined in terms of making progress toward strategic goals. So, there is a link for flow between the Vision, Mission and Objectives demonstrating a good understanding of what is important to the organization.

WHY?

Simon Sinek has a famous viral video where he says you need to by asking “why?”, when creating a vision. See it on our storify page with other content on this topic. This is what makes companies such as Apple rise above competitors. So why do you do what you do? Then how do you do it and finally what do you do. Your Why, fits neatly into answering the original question, vision, mission and objectives – do they matter? Yes they do as we map our way through our lives, this map of adult life is a good guide to this.

For more on problem solving using analytical and creative tools contact us:
Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

Invention

Your Intellectual Property – understanding and using IP

What is Intellectual Property (IP) and why is it so valuable? What are the different forms forms of IP ? Investors always ask about IP. Every business will own some form of intellectual property, but do you know the difference between types of IP and how to protect these assets? Your business and everything around you: your intellectual property – understanding and using IP. Here is a guide with the types of IP, some tools and websites.

What is Intellectual Property?

A quick guide from the IPO video

Should I get a trade mark? IPO video

Should I get a patent? IPO video

Why is IP so valuable – The Global Intellectual Property Center explains

More IPO videos

Key Elements of UK Intellectual Property Law

See the excellent video by Sarmad Saleh here

Summary of key points:

Unfair Competition and Passing-off

Trade-marks – indicator of origin e.g. Google

  • Brands
  • Image
  • Reputation
  • Packaging

Designs

  • Appearance
  • Ornamentation

Copyright

  • Creative
  • Music
  • Books and literature
  • Drama
  • Sound recording
  • Coding

Patents

  • Inventions when it is new and not obvious (and industrial application)
  • Pharmaceutical sector typically and also:
  • Tech sector

Law of Confidence – deals with confidential information

  • Trade secrets
  • Know-how
  • Private info
  • Can you license it?

Other Rights

  • Plant Breeders
  • Semi – conductor chips

Every business will own some form of intellectual property, but do you know how to protect these assets? The IP Health Check online tool is free to use and will help you answer these questions.

  • trademarks
  • trademarks overseas
  • patents
  • copyright
  • designs
  • confidential information
  • licensing your intellectual property
  • franchising
  • enforcement

The UK Opportunity

Presentation at the UKIS User Group event held at BEIS on the 20th March 2017 intellectual property and the industrial strategy. Presentation given by Will Steele from the IPO view here.

Research at the IPO for you

The IPO carry out and commission research relating to intellectual property, patent applications, trade marks and copyright – view here.

For a complete set of Guides from the GOV.UK website on IP

An excellent complete set of guides on IP can be found here

Make sure you have a Cunning Plan!

Always make sure you have you ducks lined up. Do any IP within the context of a common-sense commercial, business and marketing plan – here are some ideas.

Some Useful IP Resources for You

o i solutions Intellectual Property Pinterest page here has various infographics and sites which we link to. We cannot guarantee the quality of content and those outside the UK will obviously not relate to UK law, but you may find them helpful. And we also have summary information, videos and slideshare sites on our storify site here.

Contact us here for if you want to speak:

Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

Peter Eales CIM

Your name, I was thinking about it

Do you like your name? Do you like your own name, your personal, your Christian Name? I do, I mean, Iike mine but I know people who have changed their first names. I wonder what their parents felt? Pretty traumatised, I would have thought?! Because that says something more than just the name, it says something about the relationship between the child and the parent. Some would say, “no, you are making too much out of a name: what’s in a name”. I would suggest an awful lot! Your name, I was thinking about it. Your own name, company or organisation name is a brand, heritage, something with a unique value. Invest wisely in it and the more valuable it becomes.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing – the CIM

Let me take an example of the CIM which was founded as the Sales Managers’ Association in 1911, 116 year ago. In 1921 it was incorporated as ISMA – the Institute of Sales and Management Association. We have a loyal team of volunteers who organise events and activities in Dorset, I am a past Regional and Branch Chair. Recently someone said, “it’s not important what we call ourselves, we could be Dorset marketers, CIM is not so important…”. Nobody else agreed. Why? Well, because of the brand. Does that mean just because the name’s has stuck around a long time?  As a CIM Chartered Marketer they would expect me to point out more than this as key components to a brand, I would say what is important when it comes to a brand is:

  • logo: CIM has invested heavily in new branding
  • other visual identity including:
    • colours
    • use of space as per corporate guidelines
    • typography
    • layout
    • imagery
  • brand personality
  • type/quality of products and services
  • customer service philosophy
  • associated brands
  • comms channels
  • marketing approach
  • business and social networking
  • tone of voice

These are just some of the components (here are more on our Pinterest site), and I will not comment on how well or poorly the CIM does in any given year. However it is global and is over 100 years old with royal patronage, and with huge brands as customers. When I joined it was to maintain my contact with the latest in marketing practices and link to a network of professional marketers, which works for me!

Dorset Business Angels and UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA)

Another example of branding in action is with Dorset Business Angels (DBA) where I am a founder director. We have managed to create a successful brand and were very clear that we needed the support of UKBAA, which is recognised globally as our industry body. We wanted to be accredited by them which we are. We pay to be a member and abide by their code. We engage with key local financial services and local government stakeholders, putting back any profits into DBA, not paying any directors. One of our key members David Ford, Chairman of UK top digital and branding agency Bright Blue Day, our supporting sponsors, is our brand adviser so again here we invest time and effort to share our clear vision, and develop an attractive and modern brand to the market place. Our brand and name is clear and says it all.

Yes, your own name is something with a unique value. There are various regular reports on brand value such as the Interbrand Survey included on our storify branding page here.  As this and all analysis shows on branding, the more you invest wisely in it the more valuable it becomes to you.

Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

 

Eureka

That Eureka marketing moment when customers solve their problem

HOW TO HELP A CUSTOMER SOLVE THEIR OWN PROBLEM. Is there anything more satisfying than removing pain from a customer, and seeing a smile on their face as they realise you have “sorted it” for them? A business owner/director, recently said to me, “aahh, that’s it Peter, I knew you’d be able to solve our marketing problem.” This was after I helped on a LinkedIn issue. I did a marketing plan for him a few months before, for a confused marketing manager he was mentoring – that was fun too. Another story…a marketing director spotted me in the reception, of the offices she works in and said, “Peter, can you spare me a moment, I have a problem I need your help with..?” Now, it’s always exciting but equally it fills me with a little trepidation, the trust people have in me: as if I have a magic wand! But I am delighted to help and flattered. In this case what appeared to be a challenge with Google Analytics but was actually about prioritising marketing objectives and also knowing the right person to do some e-design. Incidentally we sorted both at the subsequent meeting. So, it got me thinking. How to solve marketing problems, is there a typical pattern? And the 5 marketing eureka questions: the moment when customers solve their problem.

What’s Happening Out There?

This is the first question i.e. “what’s happening out there” or review, the market and background. Never just jump into solving a problem. Don’t be impetuous. There are some great tools out there dependent upon your specific challenge. I started in sales, before moving into marketing and I think that still probably the top model for advanced selling is Huthwaite’s SPIN selling with SITUATION and PROBLEM the first two letters in the acronym (IMPLICATION and NEEDS-payoff being the last two). The point being that to do a good selling job and indeed good marketing job, we all need to understand the situation and problem. SPIN is about helping to ask appropriate questions, so it directs you to ask questions to find out what is the situation and problem? Another first-class tool is BOSCAM, an acronymn used in Project Management to help you through the process of running effective projects. It can be used for all kinds of stuff you do at work including marketing. I use it here for BACKGROUND and later on will return to it – OBJECTIVE, SCOPE, CONSTRAINTS, ASSUMPTIONS AND METHODS – as it provides useful headings to guide you through all kinds of work. So, the question again here is, what is the background to the marketing challenge i.e. don’t rush into the product, promotion, pricing or distribution (or whatever) challenge – check what is going on. A full marketing plan would look at PESTEL i.e. Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal issues. Whilst closer to home you need to check the market, competition, suppliers and so on which is where Porter’s Five Forces is always helpful here.

What’re Your Key Issues – SWOT or TOWS organises this

Anyone worth their salt, knows a SWOT or TOWS analysis is not done in isolation. You do this after other audits, research and reviews including the PESTEL and Porter Five Forces analysis. This enables you to take that information and insert it, into the appropriate areas of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. However, you will probably come up with some additional ideas. Here is a SWOT template from the CIM and a video explanation.  The key lesson is to 1. get the data to inform the SWOT upfront and then 2. create ideas and solutions and action plans from the analysis.

Cunning Plans – Strategies

Have you ever read about Napoleon? An amazing man. The best book I read on him was by Andrew Roberts, Napoleon The Great which recounts how he was self-made from a modest background to become France if not Europe’s greatest strategist. Like other brilliant strategists, such as his nemesis Wellington or later on Churchill or earlier Julius Caesar, he could strategise. What does this mean? It means he was brilliant at and able to:

  1. assess options – with effective and decisive decision making so that he could:
  2. in battle, and matters of state and politics direct troops and his people to winning positions most of the time
  3. create clear plans so knew where he wanted to get to – strategy is about getting to an objective with a plan
  4. produce innovative ideas and strategies
  5. create a huge empire across Europe early in the 19th Century

The lesson from him and similar strategists, apart from the obvious, I believe is to review the situation, and assess your options in any given situation.  Then based upon where you want to get to, for example if you company has a profit target for the year, decide on an appropriate strategy. Napoleon actually whilst innovative with his introduction of novel forms of legislature and education, also with his corps formations in the battlefield, was not flexible enough at Waterloo and relied too much on his usual tried and tested formulas so lost the day (plus suffered a little bit of bad luck with the Prussians arriving in the nick of time!) Henry Mintzberg stresses the importance of changing your plans and strategy as needs be, more on our storify page here.  Strategy is perhaps the most important of the 5 marketing eureka questions.

Put a Number to It – KPIs

Hard bitten entrepreneurs always say, you have to put a number to it, for it to mean anything. Peter Drucker, the father of modern management first coined the phrase “Management by Objectives” in his book, “The Practice of Management” in 1954. There’s a very useful site for management templates 12 Manage which has more on this and other templates. The key to KPIs being the need for a KPI to be:

  • specific
  • measurable
  • achievable
  • realistic
  • time-bound

A point worth noting is, the difference between a strategy and an objective. The former being how you are going to do it with a plan, the latter the measurement.

In the Mix – It’s not Just Promo

If you think of a market stall, and something you might buy there, for example an apple. First of all I choose this because marketing and the market place derives from thinking in terms of a market. So what goes into your decision? First the apple itself, a nice big red, fresh one suits me! So the product. But if it is priced at £5 that is not good but equally at 1 pence I would be suspicious, so pricing is important too. The stall owner may catch my attention shouting out, “5 apples for a pound” or there may be a special offer, that’s the promotion. And the market itself is an experience and way of getting a variety of products i.e. a distribution method. I like dealing with jolly stall owners and i.e. the people as long as the parking is ok – ie the process. It all goes in the mix.  The key point being, marketing is not just about promo or even product: it is about the whole mix, in order to help answer one of  the 5 marketing eureka questions.

For more on problem solving using analytical and creative tools contact us:
Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

Peter and Robot

Minimum viable product checklist

Do you love Mad Men’s Don Draper in scenes such as when he says “Happiness is the smell of a new car…” or “The most important idea in advertising is new…it creates an itch, you simply put your product in there as a sort of calamine lotion….A deeper bond with the product is nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent. In Greek, nostalgia means literally the pain from an old wound…far more powerful than memory alone…” He spoke these words as he famously wound through projected images on the Kodak carousel, see here and he described it as ” ..a time-machine…the carousel…”. We don’t all have the best adman on the planet to promote our products. In the case of Kodak, they did have some pretty innovative ideas 50 years ago. Good business, great marketing starts with what the well-known term a “minimum viable product” or MVP. The message in the blog is look at your project, service, or product idea and test it is viable before doing any promotion. Here is a minimum viable product checklist. The best agency or Don Draper in the world cannot save a flawed idea. And we’ll give a simple MVP checklist.

1. Market size

Whether you are selling locally, regionally or globally, what is the opportunity? One way to assess this is using the Google Keyword Planner  to see how many people search for the product or words associated with it.

2. Competitors

1. A simple Google search
2. SpyFu looks at your competitor’s most profitable keywords here
Google Trends helps you assess what your competitors are up to here
Why not set up an alert on competitors? Do it on Google alerts here
3. Gartner competitive reports here
4. Social network, monitor them online
5. Ask customers – simple!
6. Attend conferences, exhibitions and trade shows
7. Phone them up!
8. Hire your competition
9. Watch who they are hiring
10. Conduct a survey

3. Market potential

What is the gowth rate for your market? You will probably know from trade bodies, governement statistics, and sources such as Google Trends The UK Office of National Statistics is excellent here. Whilst locally we have a fantastic resource in Dorset with Economic Development Officers such as in East Dorset and Christchurch here.

4. Product availability

Who else supplies the product or something similar? When we have a pitch event, this is a question investors always ask, so you need to be well prepared for this. Not just in terms of competition but in terms of understanding potential demand for your product. You may be swamped with demand and not able to cope! Or there could be seasonal challenges dependent upon whereas it is available from.

5.Targets and Personas

Who will buy the product or service? This is always one of the most critical questions which we write about on our Personas article here . Buyer Personas the vital first step for inbound marketing. Some people call these profiles, they are fictional, representations of your ideal customers.

6. Pricing

As Nick Hixson of Hixsons Business Enablers says, “Customers care about prices. But they are certainly not the only thing they care about – and your business and marketing strategy should mirror that fact.” See our Storify board on pricing, with video, Slideshare and guides here.
The main pricing strategies are:
Pricing at a Premium. With premium pricing, businesses set costs higher than their competitors. …
Pricing for Market Penetration. …
Economy Pricing. …
Price Skimming. …
Psychology Pricing. …
Bundle Pricing.

7. What problem are you solving?

Be clear about the problem your product is solving. The more you describe, see, hear and feel your customer’s pain (!) the better the cavalry solution you offer…

8. Regulation

Is there any regulation to stop you selling the product or indeed to help you keep out competitors once you are marketing?

9. SKUs

Stock Keeping Units when selling in volume, Colour, Size and other variation is a key consideration.

10.Product lifespan

Depending on the type of product, there will be a lifespan either because it will degrade or, go out of fashion, or become out of date due to market progression.

11.Seasonality

What are the fluctuations across the year?

And Finally…

Her is a great post, 15 ways to test your MVP here which shares very practical ideas to save you money and time. Think you might have forgotten something on your minimum viable product checklist? Well if you are the nervous type, or very thorough, here is a marvellous Chartered Institute of Management Checklist (CIMA) that covers MVP and in fact the whole business plan see here.

For more on problem solving using analytical and creative tools contact us:
Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

Buyer Personas o i solutions

Buyer Personas – the vital first step for inbound marketing

Buyer Personas the vital first step for inbound marketing. Some people call these profiles, they are fictional, representations of your ideal customers.

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Which character, Hamlet, a comedian or who will walk on your stage?  How to target customers.

Personas help us all – in marketing, sales, product management, and customer services –  picture the ideal customer we’re trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real people. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.

These are what we cover in our typical planning and strategy sessions you can read about here. It is also the first step in SEO, search engine optimisation, and for focusing you on what to write, and for whom to write with your marketing.

Buyer Personas detail questions to ask

Role

What is the persona job or role? The job or role title?
How is the job measured?
What is a typical day?
What skills are required?
What knowledge and tools does the persona use?
Who does the persona report to? Who reports to them?

How roles, and work is described varies across organisations, companies and sectors, so by asking questions, doing your research and really digging into the persona you get to see, hear and feel what they are about.

Goals

What are they responsible for?
What does it mean to be successful in their role?

You may get different information on this from your research and from those doing the work and organisations themselves. That’s why it pays to take a little time on getting your homework done on this.

Challenges

What are their biggest challenges?
How do they overcome these challenges?

These challenges can be about processes, people, targets, finance all manner of issues. There may be patterns that emerge you will find? There could be best practices that are followed by many in these roles.

Company

What industry or industries does their company operate in?
What is the size of their company (revenue, employees?)

Public or private sector, organisation size by employee and turnover are factors here.

Watering Holes – Networks and Associations

How do they learn about new information for their job?
What publications or blogs do they read?
What associations and social networks do they belong to?

Many people belong to professional associations such as chartered bodies for example chartered accountants or marketers where they will need to complete a minimum number of accredited hours or measured amount of annual training to stay up-to-date with latest best practices.

Personal Background

Age
Family (single, married, children)
Education

Particular profile information may vary for all personas or show patterns in particular fields.

Shopping Preferences

How does the persona prefer to interact with suppliers (email, phone, in person?)
Do they use the internet to research suppliers or products? If yes, how do they search for information? What types of websites do they use?

How people work with suppliers and search for information is another useful piece of background for building the persona.

How to research your personas

When creating forms to use on your website, use form fields that capture important persona information. For example, if all your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about company size on your forms. You could also gather information on what forms of social media your leads use by asking a question about social media accounts.

Interview customers either in person or over the phone to discover what they like about your product or service.

Look through your Contacts data to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content. Take into consideration your sales or customer service team’s feedback on the leads they are interacting with most. What types of sales cycles does your sales team work with? What generalizations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?

Persona Template from o i solutions ltd

You can contact us for any help completing Buyer Personas the vital first step for inbound marketing

Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited