Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Use Graffiti to Draft Your Marketing Plan

Whether I'm working with an individual client or a business team, I've always found that having an annual game plan — in my case, a marketing plan — is essential. With Memorial Day recently behind us, it means that in the corporate environment you have about three months before your plan is due (prior to fourth-quarter number crunching, you know).  So now’s a great time to start strategizing.

Over the years, I've gotten into the habit of building these plans on a whiteboard or a bulletin board. Really, any place where I can step back to take a comprehensive look, and where my volunteers, clients, or co-workers can get a gander and give their input as well.

Here are six good reasons why you should build your brand’s annual plan on a wall, just like graffiti, where everyone can see it.
  1. A strong marketing plan directs your focus and your team’s focus. It keeps you all on a clearly defined path that ensures that you make the most of the effort and the budget.
  2. A strong marketing plan forces you to articulate concrete, measurable objectives so you and the decision makers who make staffing and budget decisions know what you are working towards and make the right decisions on how to get there.
  3. A strong marketing plan provides a definitive means of tracking everyone’s progress against stated objectives.
  4. A strong marketing plan is an all-organization responsibility, but to engage your colleagues and leaders, you need to be able to show them where you’re headed, what you’re doing, and why.
  5. A strong marketing plan makes it easy to draft your day-by-day work plan. By breaking down the big ideas that comprise the master marketing plan into nitty-gritty execution, you clarify each element for the plan and define roles and responsibilities. As a result, you’re able to focus on priorities and capitalize on each member’s skill set.
  6. The Graffiti aspect is fun and encourages even shy players to provide input. For that reason I like a large whiteboard with markers in a variety of colors. 
Do yourself and your organization a favor. Take these simple measures to heart and make time to develop a marketing plan. As you're building it, post it on a wall (virtual or not). The input you receive from staff and leadership and the results ($) will be worth it!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's In Your Mobile Wallet?

I’ll admit it. I’m fascinated but anxious about using my smartphone as a wallet. Of course that hasn’t stopped me from checking my bank balance or looking for an ATM. I love the portability and the convenience but to go cashless, well — I’d need to be threatened with something like having my hair set on fire. Evidently I’m not alone. This month MasterCard WorldWide released a study that shows that the world’s consumers aren’t quite ready for mobile payments to become mainstream. 

The study examines the adoption of mobile payments globally. It produces a formula that indexes the technology preparedness of the country with their population’s eagerness to use it. They call this index the Mobile Payments Readiness Index (MPRI). This clever MPRI runs on a scale of zero to 100, with 100 representing complete replacement of your favorite plastic cards with your mobile phone.
The research sets a Mobile Readiness score of 60 as the point at which mobile devices account for an appreciable share of the payment types defined in the study. Think of it as the “hot and ready to adopt” number. Of the 34 countries that were indexed, not one received even a score of 50. In fact, the average of all 34 scores was 33.2. So according to this data, our world is not yet ready for mobile wallet prime time. But there are some interesting takeaways.
In terms of consumer readiness, 9 of the top 10 top scoring countries are located in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, with Kenya the top scorer of all of the 34 countries evaluated. This is attributed to Kenyan consumers’ extremely high levels of familiarity with and frequent usage of mobile payments, a result of few physical banks and the success of M-Pesa.
Of the 34 countries, the United States received the highest score in the environment component. This component measures economic, technological, and demographic elements such as a market’s per capita income and consumer access to the internet. The high score was a result of the household expenditure per capita in this country of three times the index average ($33k vs. $11k). This translates into we-can-afford-it, I believe.
Singapore took the top ranking in the infrastructure (can you hear me now?) component, as 100% of the population is covered by a mobile network, compared to the overall 94% index average. Within Europe, UK consumers demonstrated the highest levels of familiarity with and willingness to use mobile payments.
Why should you care? The mobile wallet represents the first major change in how customers can pay at stores since the credit card was introduced in the 1960s, and this study by MasterCard helps define those countries with the most promise for rapid adoption. Someone is going to get rich. The proof is that participation in building this digital venue continues to gain momentum and the players are some of the biggest names in technology, finance, and retail, like MasterCard, Google, Wal-Mart, AT&T, Visa, and PayPal, to name just a few. 
Smart businessmen will use this research to design solutions to make banking and the retail purchase process effortless in promising countries while creating profits for themselves and their companies. Success will be based on timing and innovation that addresses this MPRI, accurately gauging the consumers’ and their countries' readiness. So what will you and I do? Perhaps try to build on this lucrative technology while it is still evolving? Anyone besides me need the threat of a hairbrush and a match?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

LinkedIn Saddles A Dark Horse

A “dark horse” refers to a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition. This year’s Kentucky Derby winner, I’ll Have Another, is a perfect example. Sold for a paltry $11,000, ridden by a rookie jockey hardly anyone knew, and stuck in an outside post, this chestnut colt blazed past the favorite, Bodemeister, to win the Derby by 1 and 1/2 lengths. It seems last week was a week for dark horses, because in addition to the surprise Derby winner, LinkedIn announced plans to acquire SlideShare, sometimes known as the “dark horse of B2B marketing.”
Well, it does fit the definition. SlideShare lacks the size of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and its growth isn’t anything as remarkable as Pinterest. Certainly SlideShare’s typical content of corporate PowerPoint presentations isn’t capturing the imagination of the popular culture. So why has Mountain View, California-based business networking giant, LinkedIn, decided to shell out $118.8 million in a deal to buy this San Francisco-based company? 
The answer, I think, lies in SlideShare’s unique attributes that make it so popular with B2B marketers. First, it’s the users. SlideShare users have uploaded more than nine million presentations since it was founded in 2006. According to comScore, in March, SlideShare had nearly 29 million unique visitors. But it isn’t the number of visitors that’s the real differentiator, it’s the type. SlideShare gets roughly three times the traffic from business owners as is received by other social media sites, and it gets about 40% more traffic from C-level executives than LinkedIn. This means that SlideShare is the most heavily trafficked site for professional content and enjoys a unique demographic compared to the rest of the social Web. 
Then there’s the content. Moving away from boring slide decks, today’s presenters are influenced by their peers to prepare presentations that tell a story that educates and engages. As a result, this content-hosting platform, considered the world’s largest, is gaining credibility as a third-party provider of information. Here the opinion leader, like a journalist, for example, is willing to embed the SlideShare presentation into an article versus embedding the exact same presentation sourced from the business’s web address. 
Perhaps the most significant attribute is SlideShare’s premium services. These provide B2B marketers with the ability to view analytics on their visitors while building an online presence. For example, premium users can embed lead capture forms with customized fields within their presentations and then import those leads directly into their own customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This includes integration with third-party marketing automation tools like Eloqua and Salesforce.com. 
So we can see that as B2B’s dark horse, SlideShare is all about capturing a unique audience of users, specifically business owners and C-level executives. It offers the ability to upload and host video, customer design, and branding tools. It also facilitates lead capture, detailed analytics, and software integration, which means that SlideShare delivers one thing other social media sites struggle to provide — a solid return on investment. But how will LinkedIn utilize SlideShare to expand current capabilities? Will it transform or be transformed by this union? Do you love SlideShare or hate it? How do you use it? I’d love to hear what you think.