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Starting a home business is an exciting prospect for many, but only a fraction of would-be entrepreneurs succeed in making and running an enterprise. Coming up with a great idea is good, but doing your research, setting realistic goals, and creating a workable action plan is what transforms “could be” into “is.”

Setting goals can be helpful in every area of your life. Goal-setting can enhance motivation, self-confidence, and independence.1 When it comes to establishing a business, having a plan is crucial.

According to Bernard Ferret, a senior business counsellor with George Mason University’s Small Business Development Centre, good goals are “based on solid research, provide a clear direction, and set expectations for all involved.”

In this article, you’ll learn what an action plan is and how to create one that really works for your home business.

What Is an Action Plan for a Home Business?

An action plan acts as your guide to ensure your organization’s vision and goals shine through. It often describes the way your business will use strategies to meet already-set objectives. A good plan not only addresses what needs to be done, but the how, when, and who of what is involved with the task as well. It should clearly outline strategies to meet your objectives, and include deadlines and possible obstacles.

NOTE: Your action plan will need constant revision as your business evolves. When you are creating an action plan, work to make it as complete, clear, and current as possible.

To create a successful action plan, you need to go into the process fully prepared, Ferret said. Prior to joining George Mason University, where he advises hundreds of clients and leads business counselling workshops, Ferret ran his own successful home-based business.

“There are two things they should ask themselves: ‘Is this business a good idea?’ and ‘Can it be successful?’ ” Ferret said. “The only way to know is to speak to people about it. Conversations reveal habits, likes, dislikes, etc.”

Ferret suggests talking to at least 100 people about your ideas, products, and/or services before diving into the concept. According to him, the more people you talk with, the better. In addition, educate yourself with help from books, online courses, or videos surrounding your industry.

When done correctly, your written action plan will break down the steps you need to take to meet the objectives you’ve set for your business. For instance, to establish your home-based business, you likely need a permit and license from your local government.

NOTE: In most cases, businesses are required by the IRS to get an employer identification number (EIN).2 The online portal from the IRS makes it easy to apply, and helps with filing your taxes.

The Power of Marketing

According to Ferret, a key factor many new small-business owners neglect to think about when creating their action plans is the importance of marketing. Along with this, many new entrepreneurs don’t realize how long it may take before they break even on their investments. According to Ferret, no matter the industry you are in, an action plan should focus extensively on marketing strategies.

“Branding is a long-term, strategic practice that includes the company’s image, logo, and look, but it also includes the opinions of your customers,” Ferret said. “Spend time on developing a marketing communication strategy based on what you learned from those 100 conversations.”

As the business owner, it is important you take a leadership role in setting goals. According to a recent study, your marketing ability has an impact. The study found that in small- and medium-sized companies, if an entrepreneur had strong marketing skills, it had a positive effect on the company’s ability to successfully meet goals.3

TIP: There are many online resources you can use to set goals, both as an individual and for your company team. PositivePsychology.com, for example, offers three free Goal Achievement Exercises you can download on your smartphone or computer.

Set SMART Goals

When working on your action plan, take extra care to clearly define your goals, and make them SMART. This concept—S.M.A.R.T. goals—was first introduced in a 1981 article written by three professionals: George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham.4

  • Specific: It’s important to make your goals detailed and precise when creating them. If you’re in sales, for example, a possible goal may be to sell 100 widgets in the month of May, rather than simply “sell more widgets.”
  • Measurable: As illustrated in the example above, set goals that can easily be quantified.
  • Attainable: Make your goals realistic based on your current financial situation, experience in the industry, and access to resources. Don’t be so conservative that you limit yourself; you should challenge yourself yet still be realistic.
  • Relevant: Think about whether the action you are planning to take will move you closer to where you need to go. Is it going to be effective? With limited time and resources at your disposal, you need to keep your efforts specific to what works.
  • Time-Bound: Setting hard deadlines for accomplishing tasks will keep you focused on the goal in front of you.

In addition to setting SMART goals, it takes a certain amount of discipline as well as the development of good habits to yield results.

“Even if you are not at an office, you should be working eight hours a day,” Ferret said. “Multitasking is the death of effectiveness.”

TIP: To ensure your business is thriving, consider creating a home workspace, if possible. By having a dedicated space to conduct business, you’ll limit distractions and focus on the goals in front of you. It also is beneficial to stay organized with the help of digital calendars, reminders, and notifications.

Find a Team and Hold Each Other Accountable

Finding a team as a home-based business owner can take some effort, but it’s an essential part of a successful business. This doesn’t mean you have to have several employees. Even if your business is a sole proprietorship, there are other ways to create a support system.

Whether online or in-person, there are various business-oriented communities you can join. These groups can offer support, share experiences, and also provide mentoring opportunities. A few examples include:

There are Small Business Development Centres in every state, as well as SCORE, a non-profit that seeks to foster vibrant small-business communities through mentoring and education. SCORE, in partnership with Constant Contact, has created action plan templates during the global health crisis to assist small businesses and organizations in recovery.

Evaluate Your Progress

Having SMART goals is important, but making the time to review and update those goals regularly is key. At prescribed times, whether weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly, take some time to evaluate various elements of your action plan. What is working? What isn’t? Are you meeting the deadlines you’ve set for yourself?

As you gather experience and learn new information about the industry, your products or services, yourself and your employees, you may realize some adjustments are required. Don’t be afraid to make a course correction—it may help you see better results. Revising your action plan can make it much more useful, and also make you a better business owner.

Feature Image Credit: The Balance / Ashley Deleon

Sourced from the balance

By Julian Paul

A proven 3-step approach to personal branding

Recently I took the Marketing New Realities and the Personal Brand class by the great

as part of my MSc High Tech Entrepreneurship at

. There were many brilliant concepts covered. But the core centered around how the world increasingly emphasizes this fact: A brand’s credibility and existence now rely on what customers say and do rather than what the brand wants them to do.

Before going into my three main takeaways, let me share two case studies I felt were quite impactful to myself and the broader class.

The North Face — Question Madness

The North Face video ad campaign with extreme athletes as the stars. YouTube

What an ad! This campaign portrays the uncomfortable and scary truths. Something not often seen from big brands… pain and broken bones are ugly, but they define the daily lives of extreme athletes. The North Face knows this and shows the entire world they understand exactly who their customers are.

Further, The North Face decided to take a user-generated content (UGC) route with a strong focus on empathy which translates directly into a sense of belonging with their core audience. Because of this, they literally did not need to put any product front and centre. Rather, their brand and product is the athlete — no matter where they are. As a result, their entire brand now resembles the safety and support system that allows athletes to survive extreme conditions — which translates into their secret sauce:

  1. The customer is the hero.
  2. The customer is the marketer.
  3. They helped people belong.

Heineken — Worlds Apart

A short video on Heineken’s “Open Your World” Campaign. YouTube

Phew! What a shocking video and context. Mark posed some great questions to this case study. Who is the target audience? Why would this sell more beer? Let’s get into what I think about it…

The target audience is those who think our differences are greater than our potential to connect. It’s a beautiful analogy to the way the world is seemingly trying to divide us among our identities. And it offers the antidote: Heineken Beer. Heineken is treading a thin line between encouraging alcoholism and highlighting the culture it enables.

I personally believe it is clearly the latter. As a beer consumer myself I can relate to the environment filled with deep conversations that occur in a typical pub, bar, or even at home… I think you know what I am talking about. So the answer to the second question is also very clear to me: this campaign would definitely sell more beer. Its message is inclusivity from all political or ideological ends.

My 3 Main Takeaways

Building on these two case studies, I collected three main takeaways that resonated most with me. Now, if you know me, then you understand how much I love mental models and processes. So, my takeaways are designed for a personal branding beginner (like myself). And personal branding begins with producing inhuman amounts of content… the following points relate to a process I have identified from this class and am applying to myself. They are meant to be applied top to bottom. Let’s get into it.

1. Apply AIR with your initial content

I know it’s cliché, but content is king! Simple, right? Not really. Creating content that actually connects with people is difficult. AIR makes this easy:

  1. Authentic = Are you real? Is what you’re sharing honest?
  2. Interesting = What value does it add? Is it tangible?
  3. Relatable = Does it connect to your target audience?

People believe and trust in what they see and experience. AIR relies on consistency and trust. The key to AIR is community-driven.

Be of the community, not just in the community.

Once you nail AIR, you create acts of advocacy that will move customers to connect and communicate with other customers. This only comes from creating and sharing content, increasing buying decisions as a result.

Mark says this best:

“Know who your super sharers are and tailor your content angle towards them.”

I say in addition, you need advocates, not followers.

2. Define your customer island

Personal branding is the marketing of today. And marketing is about all things human. It’s about emotions. So you should aim to create the marketing of no marketing: enable your customers to create and share your/their stories. Do this by understanding what they are into. And once you define that, you can group them into customer islands (imagine a Maldivian atoll as a reference), where the name of the game is word of mouth (WOM) marketing.

This might seem very difficult, but there is a simple solution: Think about creating talkable stories and approach the following types of influencers: celebrities, creators, and advocates. Each has its unique use case and its effectiveness will depend on your application.

Once you understand your customer islands and which influencer type you need to gain access to each, you will receive feedback from a whole range of customer segments that were totally agnostic to your personal brand. Beautiful, right? So analyze carefully and choose wisely.

If you create your personal brand, you create your island. And those who identify with it, will come to you.

Mark categorizes customer islands under human-centered marketing, which he built a beautiful manifesto for. Check it out here.

3. Leverage RITES to scale your content

Expanding on the ideas of customer islands and creating your first consistent content series with AIR, I loved this model as a way to scale bigger and broader as a creator. Once you’ve ticked all of the five RITES boxes, you will be able to connect with your island like never before:

  1. Stay Relevant
  2. Be Interesting
  3. Be Timely
  4. Be Entertaining
  5. Become Superior

Mark goes on to state that your personal brand is a business. So, as with any business, you should know that the customers are in control. Even more so in the age of personal branding. Be wise and make your personal branding efforts less about ego and more about the people on your island. RITES allows you to discover and frame the type of content you need to grow your personal brand to new heights.

The internet is all about giving away value and enabling others

Coming Full Circle

I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it. Needless to say, the ideas put forth are interpretations and learnings I took away from Mark’s class. However, the approach and condensation of them are my own. My hope is that you receive the same amount of value as I did. Thanks so much for all of these concepts

. It’s been a pleasure!

More insights from Mark’s class

My final realization

Personal branding is here to stay. So why not master it and create the island thousands of people are waiting to join?

Feature Image Credit: Austin Distel on Unsplash

By Julian Paul

Sourced from BetterMarketing

By

The advertisement industry has seen many revolutionary times when the campaigns changed the face of the earth. From banners ads to digital ads, the average American is exposed to a few hundred to a few thousand ads every day. The use of new technologies helped the businesses to win millions of new customers and even helped the candidates to win the elections.

The advertisement industry has seen many revolutionary times when the campaigns changed the face of the earth. From banners ads to digital ads, the average American is exposed to a few hundred to a few thousand ads every day. The use of new technologies helped the businesses to win millions of new customers and even helped the candidates to win the elections. Direct mail campaigns proved to be the biggest player in the whole marketing game. Even in the age of digital ads, print mail still proved to be the most useful marketing method for every business.

Here are some marketing campaigns that made the biggest impact on the global communities.

1. The Pause that Refreshes by Coca Cola

The current idea of the Santa Clause is thought to be introduced by Coca-Cola. In reality, the same concept of Santa Clause has been around for years. Coca-Cola simply put all the ingredients in a compelling way to showcase the idea to the world.

The ad campaign by Coca-Cola gave a whole new idea to the world. Since then red costume of Santa Clause has become an essential part of events.

2. Real Beauty Campaign by Dove

This was an intelligent move by Dove where they used visual content to describe the fact that only 4% of the females consider themselves beautiful.

FBI agent draws the woman after she explains herself and then another stranger is asked to describe the same woman. The drawings from both subjects are totally different.

3. Red Bull Stratos

In 2012, Red Bull ran a promotion where Felix jumped from 24 miles in space. He became the first person to break the sound barrier without using any type of vehicle or rocket.

This ad took over the internet and attracted millions of new customers from all over the world.

4. McDonald’s’ “Our food, your questions”

McDonald asked the users to ask a question about the products. McDonald also answered all of these questions so the doubts can be cleared.

This was a bold move but this campaign helped to strengthen the trust of users in the food items offered by McDonald’s.

The Use of Print Media in Your Marketing Campaigns

Direct mail has always been on the top of the list of every company and brand. Print mail has been used even in presidential elections. When it comes to influencing the masses, direct mail has always proved to be the most effective and useful method. The twist was the use of APIs that made direct mail marketing whole better. Since the use of APIs for marketing, the world has seen a whole new phase of advertisement.

Conclusion

Most of the marketing campaigns were meant to offer special results for a specific event or period. Concepts and technologies like APIs for print media are going to stay here for long. Now, almost every marketing agency and campaign are somehow using the power of APIs in one or another way.

By

Co-founder and managing partner at Toronto Digital Marketing Agency Edkent Media. I write about anything related to digital marketing.

Sourced from Thrive Global

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

By Frank Landman

When marketing becomes too much to handle, most businesses assume that they need to hire an employee or outsource to a contractor. But don’t be so quick to grow your payroll. It’s possible that you could automate many of these tasks with streamlined digital solutions.

4 Powerful Ways to Automate Your Marketing

By its very nature, marketing is an activity of scale. In order to successfully build up your business and grow your brand, you have to get in front of as many people as possible. But if you’re trying to handle all of your marketing efforts manually, you’re probably exhausted. There’s simply too much for any one person (or department) to handle alone. And this is where automation comes into play.

Automation – which is basically the strategic combination of software, applications, and artificial intelligence to streamline time-consuming processes and produce results at scale – is a powerful tool that is not deployed nearly enough by small businesses and growing brands. But if you can pick the right spots to automate your marketing, it could change everything.

Whether you’re nursing a small start-up or you have a booming business that’s bursting at the seams, the following solutions could provide exactly what you need at this precise moment in your company’s life:

1. Automate Email Campaigns

Did you know that more than 68 percent of businesses spend seven days or more on the production of just a single email? (It takes 14 percent of businesses a month or longer to push out an email!)

Or did you know that most companies are in the process of producing between one and five emails at a time?

We’ll let you do the math…but that’s a lot of time spent building and sending emails. And yet nobody is denying the value of email. So the question becomes, how do you automate your email campaigns so that you can enjoy the benefits without unnecessarily wasting hundreds or thousands of man-hours each year?

One answer is to leverage an email marketing platform that allows you to use automations and triggers to streamline these touchpoints. Any major email marketing platform is going to have similar features, but we’ll use a tool called ActiveCampaign to illustrate how effective this can be.

Within the ActiveCampaign platform, you can create individual campaigns that are automatically managed using “triggers.” A trigger is any event that your business can track – like subscribes, unsubscribes, form submissions, email opens, web pages visited, links clicked, purchases made, or specific dates (like a birthday or customer anniversary).

Once one of these triggers is “tripped,” you can create an automated email sequence that’s sent out to that user. This sequence can include anywhere from one message to a dozen or more (sent out at predetermined times and intervals).

Once you draft the email copy and create the campaign, it all happens automatically…at scale. Whether you have 10 people on your email list or 100,000, everything happens flawlessly. It can literally save you thousands of hours every year.

2. Automate Content Promotion

Content promotion is another time-consuming element of marketing that we hear a lot of people complain about. And while it is time-consuming, it can be automated without much effort. You simply have to develop a plan and create the right processes on the front end.

Here’s one dead-simple process you can replicate:

  • Step 1: Sign up for a social media management tool like Buffer or Hootsuite, which allows you to manage all of your accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) from one place.
  • Step 2: Create an account for a tool called Zapier. This is an automation service that makes it easy to connect apps and create powerful automated workflows. It works great for marketing and content promotion.
  • Step 3: Create an automation process (called a “Zap”) that connects your blog’s RSS feed to your Buffer or Hootsuite account. Optimize it so that your blog post is shared to each of your social networks every time the RSS feed refreshes with a new blog post.

That’s just one example of how you can automate content promotion using Zapier. There are literally dozens of other ways to spread your content without lifting a finger. If you haven’t explored these opportunities yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

3. Automate Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is the lifeblood of successful companies. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t collect enough data to produce meaningful insights and takeaways. And of the companies that do, just a small percentage are able to make sense of the data they collect. Automating customer feedback and analysis could be a vital decision for your business moving forward.

There are plenty of ways to automate your feedback loops, but we’ll touch on just a couple. The first approach is to use an advanced SMS text survey software like Delighted to procure instant customer feedback in a convenient and streamlined process. Here’s how it works:

  • You craft a simple survey within the Delighted platform and initiate a campaign.
  • Each customer receives the survey in an SMS format.
  • Customers reply with a numerical score to each question.
  • The Delighted platform responds with a free-form follow-up question.
  • Customers can provide a more detailed explanation in their own words.
  • Data is organized for easy analysis.

If you have a Zapier account, you can trigger surveys to be sent out after specific actions are completed in a customer’s lifecycle.

You may also find it helpful to automate feedback related to customer churn. (This is especially important for subscription businesses that rely on customer retention to sustain revenue.) There are tools that can be leveraged to send out exit surveys any time a customer cancels a subscription and/or fails to upgrade from a free trial. These surveys won’t do anything to keep the customer, but they can give you a good idea of why people are leaving.

A third option is to automate your feedback analysis by using a “customer sentiment” tool. Services like MonkeyLearn can “read” your feedback and effortlessly organize all responses into general theme-based buckets. This lets you identify and group common pain points, which makes it easier to track customer sentiment and address pressing issues as quickly as possible.

4. Automate Lead Generation

You might assume that automation stops at lead generation, but you’d be wrong. While there are certain aspects of lead generation that can’t be handled by an algorithm, this list is growing smaller by the year. Thanks to advanced technology and artificial intelligence, lead generation automation is more practical than it’s ever been.

Chatbots are among the fastest-growing technologies in this niche of advanced tech. They can be used to automate and enhance the overall customer experience by increasing engagement and initiating high-value touchpoints that would otherwise go ignored.

One of the more impressive use cases for chatbots involves the use of Facebook’s native Messenger platform. Because regardless of how much experience you have or what type of skills you possess, you can create interactive chatbots with no coding required.

Facebook chatbots are basically automated customer service agents/sales reps that empower your business to engage with Facebook prospects at scale. And while you’re probably not going to close deals on Facebook Messenger, these bots are excellent “setters.” They can indoctrinate prospects into the funnel and provide a steady flow of pre-qualified leads to your actual sales team.

Here are some examples of powerful ways you can leverage Facebook Messenger chatbots to assist with lead generation:

  • Blast out content and share it with your most loyal followers
  • Conduct quick webinar signups and get people to show up to live events
  • Automate your drip campaigns and nurture leads
  • Send out appointment and event reminders so that people never miss an engagement
  • Provide powerful customer service (including answering FAQs and giving out directions)

As mentioned, you can build your own bots for free (and it’s relatively easy for anyone to learn). Rather than having to code, you simply create logical workflows that operate on an if/then basis. These bots can take some time to build (depending on how intricate you want to go), but will ultimately save time when deployed on a large-scale basis.

Reduce Bloat With Automation

Automation can’t solve everything, but it can provide relief in areas where you need it most. Advanced technology, like the solutions outlined in this article, prevents bloat and allows you to scale without having to continually add more people to the payroll. It’s an efficient way to manage resources and grow in a timely and sustainable manner that respects both the brand and the bottom line.

You don’t have to implement each of these solutions today, but it would be wise to take action as soon as possible. Pick one area where you stand to improve the most and put that strategy to work.

Then, once you have that piece in place, move on to another one. It’s through this diplomatic yet proactive approach that you’ll find results.

By Frank Landman

Frank is a freelance journalist who has worked in various editorial capacities for over 10 years. He covers trends in technology as they relate to business.

Sourced from readwrite

By

A year on from Covid-19’s first lockdowns, nations and economies seem to have better control and growth is on the mind as a semblance of recovery is in sight, particularly in Asia Pacific.

Even within this chaotic situation, the region has shown signs of faster recovery than many other parts of the world and are even providing learnings to other parts of the world on how best to navigate through the challenges. While that is heartening news, it also leads to the question on how ready are brands from a creative standpoint to navigate this new and emerging reality?

To help marketers unravel this critical puzzle, The Drum and Adobe have put together a power-packed panel with senior representatives from formidable brands like Lego, Unilever, IBM and Diageo. These top brand leaders will come together for a 60-minute session with live Q&A and deep-dive into the key challenges that the marketers and creatives are facing in producing content that engages customers as well as connects with them, at scale.

The session will discuss how a good mix of talent and technology can help in unlocking the answers to these challenges and allow collaboration to thrive in a new hybrid way of working. It will also look at the following key themes:

  • The changes that the brands have had to navigate and adapt to since the pandemic began
  • ​The evolving creative approaches
  • Raising the role of creativity in driving business goals
  • The emerging face of creative collaboration in the new world

The discussion, on 21 April 2021, will be moderated by Charlotte McEleny, The Drum’s Asia Pacific publisher, who will be joined by Michael Stoddart, director, strategic business development (APAC) at Adobe, Grace Astari Italiaander, creative lead – innovation at Diageo, Primus Nair Manokaran, head of creative at The LEGO Agency (APAC), Kartik Chandrasekhar, global brand vice president of Lifebuoy at Unilever and Isabella Bain, sales and creative associate director at IBM.

By

Sourced from The Drum

McDonald’s and GoFundMe do it well

In today’s digital world, we are constantly bombarded with noise, information and marketing, making it near impossible to remember every message that you scroll past on social media. However, if they do it right, you remember what those brands made you feel.

People do not want to be sold to.  They want to feel safe. They want to feel heard. They want to feel some sense of normalcy.

No industry practices empathy marketing better than the music industry.

Think about the latest album that you listened to on repeat. What made you love that music so much? Most likely the campaign, music or artist made you feel something. The artist and their team use empathy to relate to their target audiences, and they frame the music in a way that makes the album/single super relevant to their audience. Even in music, there are campaign best practices. There is no one end-all-be-all growth hack to make a song soar to the charts. What made artists successful was their ability to connect with their audience on an emotional, intimate and meaningful level.

For example, Justin Bieber put out a song called “Lonely” this year, and it spent 23 weeks on Billboard’s Global 200 Chart and peaked at Number 5. Bieber used vulnerability to share his own story and empathy to connect with us all on a deeper level.

So how does this translate to brands? How can brands embody empathy to build trust with their audiences? Here are recent examples of brands doing it well:

McDonald’s has been leaning into the most impactful emotion there is: nostalgia, making us crave their experience as we scroll through social. Something as obscure and random as popping the buttons on a soda lid conjures up the emotions associated with McDonalds, e.g., road trips, memories with friends, etc.

GoFundMe felt the fear and anger of the world as cases of hate crimes toward the Asian American & Pacific Islander community surged. They did not simply make a statement, but they also used their platform to build the AAPI Community Relief Fund to create a centralized resource for people to turn to and support. They felt the universal emotions of fear and anger and acted upon it with empathy.

Webflow created a whole new event experience for its community. The company used empathy to understand that its community was burned out. Zoom fatigue was real. Webflow created a custom Gather Town space that made the event interactive, gamified and fun. The physical action of sitting at their desks was the same, but the experience was personal and full of empathy and will be extremely memorable for the company’s guests.

You can use your superpower of empathy in a meaningful way. It’s the importance of writing to people’s emotions, not just the target demographic. By using language that involves them and makes them the focus of the conversation, you can make your audience feel something.

By Pat Timmons

Sourced from ADWEEK

By

1. If brands are hoping to stay relevant and keep up with the content creation phenomenon, 2021 needs to be the year of Empowering Employees to Power your Brand. It is plain and simple—employee censorship on social channels is a disaster for brands. We can no longer control the message folks. The social framework is “bigger and stronger” than our puny frameworks. Instead of fighting it every step of the way, USE it to your advantage, or you’ll pay a steep price in diminished return… especially during these times of change and uncertainty. Your employees are the best way to humanize and personalize your brand… and truly the best way to scale relevant, contextual content creation

Did you know that employee created content (ECC) receives eight times more engagement than content shared from the company itself? On top of that, employee content extends brand messaging by over 500%. Crazy, right? So why aren’t more companies getting employees engaged in content creation? It’s well known that companies with engaged employees outperform their peers; involving employees in content creation can help to create a sense of common purpose.

The truth of the matter is that the social evolution is a business evolution. Only by changing our old frameworks can we possibly hope to keep up—because social media and the way communication is evolving, along with so many other applications during the pandemic, have completely altered the business landscape. #ROE… Return on Employees.

2. Changing shopper behaviour creates a land grab for retailers and brands alike. Established brands like Nike are making huge strides to connect directly with shoppers, preparing for a future where a good portion of retail is direct. Upstart brands including AllBirds, Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club have been pushing incumbents to embrace more flexible channel strategies as well, and the trend is expanding exponentially in 2021. Incumbents and challengers alike are exploring all kinds of channel mix combinations although with a common tactical thread… all brands are seeking direct relationships with shoppers instead of relying on third party retailers… especially with how the #Covid19 pandemic has dramatically altered shopping behaviour.

3. Customer Experience with our Marketing… we worry all the time about customer experience with our employees, product, purchase, and service, BUT we have overlooked a critical part of the customer experience, and that IS how “our” marketing affects “them.” We’ve got data coming out of our ears, so tracking the results of our marketing efforts in terms of dollars and cents is becoming easier and easier. However, all these efforts only measure the upside of banging consumers over the head (how many more clicks, shares, engagements, and ultimately sales, do we get). No regard is given to the downside numbers. What we are NOT tracking is the point at which our customers turn from just annoyed, too fed up with our bot stalking and algorithm tweaking.

I think we need to spend as much time finding ways to track the negative effect of our marketing efforts as we do the positive ones. Every brand that continues to bang your customers or followers over the head again, and again, and again – without regard to the damage it is doing to brand equity – is going to suffer as we move forward in this customer, “my media, my commerce, my way”, world.

Marketing will truly win when humans control the machines, instead of the machines controlling the humans. 

By

Sourced from Ted Rubin Straight Talk

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Agency mergers are a fact of life in the ad industry, but a badly managed process can wreck what was originally great about a business. We gather advice and wisdom from agency chiefs on navigating the M&A maze.

A smart merger or acquisition can take a business to the next level. But after the champagne’s been corked and the confetti swept aside, the hard work isn’t over.

To find out how best to dodge the pitfalls and potholes of the M&A road, we picked the brains of agency bosses at recently acquired or merged businesses.

For Lee Beattie, managing partner and chief executive officer of John Doe Group, a merger was the best way forward for her business, Glasgow-based Wire, to grow. ”We’d reached a point in Scotland where we had won all the best agency awards and we had what we considered the best clients.”

While she and business partner Pam Scobbie had seen success pitching to bigger clients down south, the lack of a London outpost was holding them back. ”It was really bloody difficult,” she says.

So, building on an existing relationship with fellow PR firm John Doe, they embarked on a merger to bring the two firms together. ”We wanted to be up for certain brands… and [John Doe managing director Magin Trewhella] wanted to grow the agency. It felt like a jigsaw puzzle coming together,” she says.

In an ideal world, Beattie says she and her three now-co-owners would have taken a week to sit down and ”bolt through all this stuff.” Instead, the process took a year, longer than is typical – there has been a pandemic to deal with, after all. The newly merged John Doe Group is now pitching for work with a combined headcount of 40, and just announced its first win as a combined enterprise with the Highland Spring account.

Nicolas Roope, co-founder of Poke, recalls its 2013 acquisition, and later merger with two other agencies, by Publicis. He and his partners wanted to continue to grow their business, but market conditions were hardening.

”We thrived in our first 10 years because the incumbents didn’t have a clue,” he says. ”But we got to the end of that period and thought that there probably wasn’t long left for agencies like us as independents. Scale was going to be a problem if we didn’t act.”

Poke shopped around for buyers for about a year before choosing the French conglomerate. ”A lot of the value we’d created at Poke was intangible. We wanted to find somewhere where they appreciated what we’d created. Arthur Sadoun [now chief executive of Publicis Groupe] was driving our acquisition… he was very ambitious, he understood the challenges their network faced – and he understood where we were coming from, the value we were bringing to the table.”

After the original sale in 2013, the company was bedded into the wider network over five years; Roope departed in 2018, after organising its merger as Publicis. Poke. ”It was a parting gift – figuring out how to strategically position this merger enterprise and create something new. But once that merger was completed… I didn’t really have a natural position to occupy, so that was the moment to step out.”

Without the hurdle of an acquisition to deal with, mergers between network agencies can generally proceed quicker. So when WPP decided to merge digital shop VML and storied ad agency Y&R in 2018, it moved fast. Planning for the consolidation began just two months before the merger was unveiled, according to global chief executive officer Jon Cook.

”We moved from conception to launch very quickly,” he tells The Drum. ”We announced we were going to merge at the start of the next year… which bought us some time. While everyone knows it happening, you still have a moment to breathe and put the infrastructure in place. It was a good lesson.”

Team journey

Mergers can rearrange the tectonic plates of a business, leading staff to fear that career trajectories are askew. Moving at speed meant Cook’s team could quickly address one of the biggest areas of concern: assuring the staff of both agencies that they still had a berth.

Transparency and timing are key, he says. ”I learned to be very transparent about what I knew. If you can identify why you’re doing this, what the new brand will be and why it will have value – and communicate that with complete confidence while at the same time being very clear about what you don’t yet know – people are generally going to understand.”

According to Stephen Maher, chair and chief executive officer of the freshly merged customer experience agency MBAstack (formed after MSQ acquired MBA), it’s important to ”reassure everyone that there aren’t going to be redundancies.”

”I just think you have to be upfront. We said that, fundamentally, nothing’s changing. It’ll be the same people, the same relationships and the same culture. There will be refinements, but there will also be more resources because we’ll have more people.”

Beattie advises: ”You have to talk to the team at the right time, when you’re certain that it is definitely going to happen and you can actually answer their questions. Everyone’s going be thinking: what does this mean for me? If you can’t answer that, you probably shouldn’t be having the conversation.”

Managing internal announcements is a little easier when staff number in the dozens. For VMLY&R, hundreds of agency leaders needed to be brought into the fold in advance. ”You need to make a judgement on how many people you need, and can trust, to get the right amount of work done before an announcement. If you have too few you’ll be ill-prepared when you announce. And if you have too many, you’ll run the risk of communications being leaked,” Cook warns.

As the agencies integrated together, Cook says that particular attention was given to managing staff concerns. ”I was sure people would see the value and the strategy in it. But I was nervous – would everybody be able to find their place in that new company? My ultimate fear was that someone would feel smaller as the company got bigger.

”We put a lot of work into making sure that no person felt smaller. We have a lot of people so I can’t say without exception, but I feel we’ve done a good job of making it so you get bigger as we get bigger,” he explains.

Still, some departures are to be expected. Between location changes and the transition to a larger organization, ”you’re going to lose a bunch of people,” says Roope.

He recalls that persuading Poke’s ”extraordinary, eccentric” team was tough. ”One of the biggest challenges of the whole thing is taking the team on the journey. You have to accept you’re moving into a new reality – you can’t take everything that you’ve built. For more seasoned staff who’ve seen these things before, they’ll know what’s coming. But it’s particularly acute people for who’ve been with you for a long time.

”There’s a lot of fear about the consequences of being acquired – did that mean we were going to be like every other Publicis agency?”

Despite occurring during a pandemic-fuelled recession, both the MBAstack and John Doe Group mergers were completed without redundancies. VMLY&R lost about 1% of its global headcount in the wake of the move, though Cook states this was due to ”natural efficiencies” rather than a concerted cost-cutting effort, and that its staff numbers have since grown anew.

Client confidence

Just as important is communicating a new consolidation to clients. A spokesperson for AKQA, which merged with Grey last year, tells The Drum: ”The key focus areas are our clients and employees. This is also in line with key decisions around communications and operations.

”Clients were consulted early in the process to gain their feedback and highlight the additional benefits of the businesses working more closely together.”

For Beattie, ”the important thing is: what does it mean for them? What are the benefits each client is going to get from the merger? Or is absolutely nothing going to change?”

Cook explains: ”It’s critical to reach a certain amount of your client base before it happens, so they have some trust, a heads-up and a feeling of ownership about the decision.”

He emphasizes the need ”to communicate clearly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it… to communicate that nothing of the goodness of your relationship will change or go away. And to communicate the new value of the bigger company.”

”Once those assurances are in place,” says Cook, ”client partners become start to become very interested in what new capability you have that can help them move their brand forward.”

Name games

When it comes to unveiling the new combined agency, language is important. A consolidated agency’s name can broadcast continuity – as in the case of double-barrelled monikers such as Wunderman Thompson – or a new start, as in the case of Superunion, which was formed from five older branding shops.

While VMLY&R’s acronym doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, Cook argues it was important to keep the identities of its constituent parts intact. ”We have a lot of letters. I’m the first one to make fun of our long name… but in exchange, you’re not losing the heritage of either of these two brands.

”There’s no way we wanted any part of the company to feel marginalized or lesser. It was too bad we didn’t merge with a company with some vowels, because we could have made a word out of it.”

Similarly at MBAstack, Maher says the name was settled after a collective decision to retain both brands. ”We felt it was the right thing for the market. And it sounds a bit better, with MBA first and Stack second.”

For Dentsu agency iProspect, which recently relaunched after absorbing Vizeum, a new handle wasn’t deemed necessary. Amanda Morrissey, global president of iProspect, explains: ”The reason for this is two-fold… firstly, and most crucially, we wanted to spend more of our time and energy on building solutions for our clients than building our own agency brand.

”Secondly, the iProspect brand name already has a huge global footprint and is universally synonymous with digital excellence that has performance at the centre. We therefore felt that keeping the name was the right thing to do, as so much of the brand notoriety is already in place.”

Culture clashes

Definitions of a successful merger also differ. For AKQA, it’s simple enough: ”Success of the collaboration is measured by the recognized increased opportunity for both our clients and employees.” Elsewhere, success isn’t so closely tied to balance sheets. Much of the post-merger work focuses on making sure the working cultures of each agency still exist in a meaningful way.

Maher admits it’s ”a journey not a destination,” and says MBAstack will likely take six months to knit together. The business has a new website in the works, and both the Stack and MBA teams will soon be moving to MSQ’s new offices in Covent Garden when lockdown subsides. ”It’s a work in progress. We’re going to keep evolving,” he says.

Roope says that the benefits of Poke’s sale to Publicis only were only illuminated when its team reluctantly moved from its Shoreditch base to bigger premises across London. ”It was only really when we stepped into the building that network started to pay… because we were much more integrated,” he says.

True success came, he says, when Poke began to influence the rest of Publicis’ operations. ”We brought fresh thinking, a different perspective when at the time it was a monoculture that was absolutely above-the-line. We weren’t the only catalyst in that, but it reinvigorated the London side of the network,” he says.

While merging two global giants together is a complex endeavour, Cook says he was confident of success just two months in. ”We gathered 200 of our top leaders to [VML headquarters] Kansas City, from all over the world. And you could just feel a sense of unity, a sense of pride. We knew this was going to work.” By the time the team touched down at Cannes the following summer, things were coming together and business had picked up, with a 14% increase in billings in the UK.

”Walking into Cannes, we already felt we had a swagger. We were getting recognition for the work for our clients that this new company had done… that was a good message that we’re doing what a great agency is supposed to do, and that’s great work.”

A month after from her business’ rebirth as John Doe Group, Beattie doesn’t yet have the privilege of hindsight. The teams of each agency were already well acquainted, with the merger built upon an existing relationship; the two businesses already shared client work. Having avoided a direct culture clash, she’s confident the consolidation has already begun to yield results and achieve their major goal – puncturing the London bubble.

”It’s definitely already working. We’ve just won our first new account. We’ve done more pitching in the last couple of months than I did in over the whole of last year.”

By

Sourced from The Drum

By Kirsty Sharman.

After launching in April 2020, Clubhouse has already been downloaded 10 million times and has around two million weekly active users. In the grand scheme of things, this might sound like a small amount — especially if you consider that Facebook has 2.7 billion active users on its platform, Instagram 1 billion, Twitter 330 million, and Snapchat 301 million.

But the amount of hype that Clubhouse has generated in its relatively short lifetime is oddly disproportionate to the number of users it had acquired. I’ve heard and seen Clubhouse references every single day for the last few weeks, which would usually be expected for an app that just hit 100 million downloads… not 10 million! What gives?

Although Clubhouse is a social network where all members can do is talk (and listen), a remarkable amount of the conversation (and attention) is actually happening beyond the app itself.

While this could be down to the fact that it has several high-profile members — I’m talking about Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West, and Drake, for example — its clout is being driven by the fact that it’s so hard to get into.

The FOMO is real!

[Read: Oh no… ‘Senior Clubhouse Executive’ is now a thing]

Clubhouse might have opened its doors around a year ago, but there’s always been a burly bouncer standing outside. A digital queue that feels like it never ends. And if your name’s not down – you’re not coming in. Even now, if you download the app, the best you’re going to do is be put on the waiting list… unless you are directly invited.

Clubhouse has got everyone wanting to get inside, without blowing a fortune on marketing. This kind of hype usually costs millions of marketing dollars to achieve. 🤑

How exactly has Clubhouse achieved this?

By modernizing the oldest marketing channel in the book — word of mouth — or referral marketing as we call it these days.

 

 

Word of mouth works, just ask Google 

We can go all the way back to 2004 for a great example of word-of-mouth marketing in action. Gmail is obviously now a Unicorn with 1.8 billion users around the world, but 17 years ago the name Google was not in any way one that would have been associated with email.

When it was first launched, Google only allowed a few people access to the service, offering each of these ‘beta’ users the ability to invite a few more friends and family. The referral program was so successful that invites to Gmail were up for auction on eBay at the time.

 

 

FOMO is a potent human emotion, and it can be engineered 

Exclusivity might not seem like the best way to build a business. Common sense surely dictates that you want to get as many customers as possible. But this isn’t necessarily true — it’s no good tempting millions of people onto your platform all at once if they don’t stick around.

Clubhouse’s reliance on referrals also means it’s able to attract the right kind of members in the right kinds of circles — a key ingredient to create FOMO.

It really is this simple: if a product or service is worth talking about, people want to tell their friends. By growing its membership through a referral-based model, Clubhouse is tapping into existing networks of friends, families, and colleagues. People who already trust each other and know each other’s tastes, likes, and dislikes.

This means that when your friend recommends a product, you find yourself wanting it even before you’ve clicked that link.

Referrals can save you millions 

If a company has a good product or service, customers will want to refer their friends. You just have to give them a reason to refer and make it easy for them to do so. If you get this right you could save millions on marketing. 🚀

To me, Clubhouse’s incredible success showcases the true power of referral marketing and also its simplicity. By contrast, countless businesses have spent millions on ads attempting to build that kind of trust (and noise), when all they needed to do was ask their customers to refer their friends…

It’s now easier than ever to follow the likes of Clubhouse and Google — so go for it! Easy-to-use marketing tools have made launching a referral program simple and affordable, so there really is no reason not to give it a try!

By Kirsty Sharman

Kirsty founded Referral Factory, a leading referral marketing platform that makes it incredibly easy for any business to build their own referral program. Besides being an entrepreneurial powerhouse, she acts as a growth marketer, product builder and was Listed in M&G as one of 200 Young South Africans to watch.

Sourced from TNW

By Martin Zwilling

Traditional marketing and media are just not enough to attract and excite today’s generation of customers.

Feature Image Credit: Getty Images

By Martin Zwilling

Sourced from Inc.