Category Archives: Management

Uber As Verb? Or, Guide To Smart Diversification?

Yesterday, Uber launched a completely separate app utilizing their infrastructure in a super smart way – delivering food. They had been testing a version where drivers had a pre-selected set of food items for quick delivery in limited markets. They launched a menu every day, and if you wanted any items, they were meant to arrive in 10 minutes. With this new app that’s launching only in LA for right now, they’re making any item off of multiple menus available quick and conveniently – though they’re not promising it in 15 minutes. Beyond food, what they are delivering is a great example of how a company can diversify services without taking away from the core.

UberEats

Far too often, tech companies (and start-ups in general) are far too quick to change direction due to a perceived shift in the market, a side comment made by an advisor, or an investor who is looking only for a certain type of product to invest in. When they do that, the original sight and what the entire team was moving toward often lost in the jumble – without nearly spending the same time spent on SWOT testing the initial idea.

Don’t get me wrong, if the market is shifting or the original idea needs to be refined, you’ve got to address it – you just need to do so with the care and clarity of the original direction. Alternatively, you can smartly make the shift keeping your product at its core and effectively diversifying your offerings.

Sometimes those offshoots/mutated products are happy discoveries or accidents. You might have taken a cost-effective left-turn to see where you might end up and then found a pot of gold. Uber’s find might be exactly that. They’ve always been in the business of having drivers all over the place picking up products (people) from one place and bringing them to another place. Transfer the product to food instead of people and you’ve got Uber Eats – and an entirely new vertical (food delivery) shaking in their boots like the taxi industry before them.

If you want to have that agility in the future, perhaps the correct time should be taken to create a core product that can allow flexibility and the right attitude to try things and move your business smartly.

The Path to Success In The Face Of Ad-Blocking Technology

AdBlock

Many publishers and planners alike are lamenting the adoption of ad-blocking technology and the growth in its use by consumers. Even with the race to the lower end of costs per impression/action/conversion/whatever, there are strong revenue models in place where many businesses are reliant on those traditional methods for survival. The thing is, there’s a way to shift those dollars while also providing real value to the brands and the consumers they are looking to draw near. Unfortunately, many (like Barry Lowenthal  and the commentors on his Tech Insider post on this very subject) are choosing to believe that the sky is not falling and there is still a huge audience that still cares, so they are not paying attention to the shifts that are available directly in front of them. Luckily, we all have examples of this new (old) form of revenue all around us – integrated sponsorship.

What isn’t addressed in the space between skipping ads via ad-blocking, fast-forwarding or flat-out ignoring them – as we grapple with ways to maintain revenue – is that the consumers advertisers look to attract are searching for, and finding, value in other ways. Those consumers find that sponsorship of content that helps them learn, explore and discover resonates more strongly than programmatic advertising – which might only bombard them with innocuous advertising that either doesn’t provide relevant value or wastes their space with places/companies/communications they’ve already experienced.

We’re seeing the ad-blocking workaround online, on television, in music, within gaming and even overlaid in out-of-home. Monies that are diverted to the integrated presentation of content are more valuable if done properly than if just purchased at the scale that we have been seeing. When you look at the changes in browsers, the user engagement experience within mobile devices and the new announcements by Apple, the same-old, same-old is daunting. Yes, the shift might require different skill sets, reporting, integration and no easy way out. But, if the right steps are taken, the sky might not fall. Actually, the audience will see and, more importantly, care.

Sound Strategy Can Leverage Fumbles Into Wins For Smart Companies

Fumble Recovery

Too often, sports fans get upset when their opponent wins by way of a fumble recovery or one good play that enables a close victory. They exhort, “they were lucky!’ Or, “it was just a lucky bounce.” But the real truth is that the opposing team was just well prepared.  How many times are there balls up in the air for people to pounce on – only to see the ball fumbled out of play? How many times have people been faced with an opportunity, but aren’t prepared to walk through the door and take it? How many times have companies had a chance to gain a huge client, but aren’t prepared to deliver the right proposal in the allotted time? Just like the fumble recovery, preparation and strategy are much stronger determinants of wins than luck.  Gord Hotchkiss nails this ideal directly in his post about strategy on MediaPost. The thing is, he still attributes the element of luck in relation to success when the real truth is that sound strategy allows companies to create the element of “luck” by acting quickly and decisively due to preparation.

The truth is, strategy has been prepared and looked at in the wrong way for quite a long time. They are often set in absolutes with no room for flexibility or agility. They are often created by people who are too close to the product or don’t have the time to take a step back and evaluate their place in the market appropriately. And, perhaps most importantly, they don’t place the intended audience at the core of their considerations.

Creating a strategy with an eye toward what the audience is looking for and allowing for flexibility provides a key foundation that enables all members of the team to fluidly evaluate what’s going on in the environment and make moves or decisions that are based on the strategic core. It also provides the insights for the correct questions to ask when trying to determine whether that bright shiny object is the right direction or a complete waste of resources.

Once a proper strategy has been set in place, the fun’s not over. The team has to be fully educated on the thoughts and ideology behind it so that they may act on it without hesitation. There needs to be a clear understanding how it fits within the company’s ideals and mission – for if it’s not clear, maybe you need to dig back into building the strategy. All of this leads into strong leadership that enables the team to best capitalize on opportunity.

Hotchkiss provides an extremely gratifying illustration of the ROI value in the following:

Let’s imagine that two companies, A & B, both launched this year with $10 million in sales. Over the next 20 years, both companies were subject to the same rhythms — positive and negative — of the marketplace. But, because of superior leadership and management, Company A was able to more effectively capitalize on opportunity, giving it a 14% advantage over Company B. In 2035, what would be the impact of that 14% edge?  It’s not insignificant. Company B would have grown in sales to $21 million, with growth of just over 100%. But Company A would have sales of almost $290 million. It would be almost 14 times the size of Company B!

Smart strategy (and strong leadership) doesn’t dissolve the need for luck, but it does provide that preparation and foundation for the leveraging of whatever comes your way to turn a possible fumble into a win.

VidCon Teases Keys to Engagement in a Shifting Marketplace

John Green Presenting the VidCon 2015 Industry Opening Keynote

John Green Presenting the VidCon 2015 Industry Opening Keynote

Attending a conference like VidCon can wear a person out – especially if the person is not the predominant target. With the majority of attendees being teens and pre-teens that are exceedingly enthusiastic about the YouTube celebrities, it’s far to easy to overlook what is truly special and energizing about this movement.  Vulture’s Bryan Moylan attempted to do this and, while he did capture some solid elements, they were nowhere near what the reality was in the Anaheim Convention Center. By actually attending VidCon, there are no promises that an older generation will completely “get” what’s going on. But, the sooner everyone realizes that the motivations of the majority generation of VidCon attendees is drastically different than the generations that came before, we’ll be quicker to get into the media innovations that will truly make a difference in the future.

One would think that being a part of the Industry Track – the most expensive entry – would count as being a bona-fide member… The thing is, being away from the groups of Creators and Community meant more than being on a different floor physically – it meant being in a different thought process of why people would want to participate in mediums that are so self-celebratory. Even though John Green (VidCon Co-Founder as well as the writer of Fault In Our Stars and a business partner with his brother, Hank, in starting VidCon as well as a burgeoning video/content industry) mentioned in his Industry Track Opening Keynote that only 18% of their company’s revenues came from advertising revenue, so many of the following tracks allayed the conceit that, somehow, we need to figure out how to work the traditional forms of media into this new phenomenon.

Attending VidCon confirms that the traditional media conceit will absolutely not work among this crowd, nor any crowd/generation beyond it. Certainly, there were numerous speakers that tipped their hat to a need for change in the way big business is done. We all know that it is easier and/or quicker to promulgate change when you are not really a part of big business (yet), but it was disheartening to hear from some brand people about how they needed to break into the content and disrupt the movement that is disrupting the norm. It just isn’t gonna happen.

Vulture’s Moylan does capture some essence from afar as it relates to the community that this community is a part of – one of shared experiences among large crowds that, without the internet and the new mediums, they would have not had the opportunity to connect with. Absolutely, there are chances to expand upon social good and education in addition to entertain. You just can’t overlook what this movement is writing the book on – true audience development.

As long as we keep our way-we’ve-always-done-it hats on, they are all looking to be movie stars. Take those hats off and we see it for what it is – people using a medium to build and foster audiences in ways that couldn’t be done previously. The most important thing to Creators – at first, at least – is gaining and fostering their audience. With relatively basic, YouTube-integrated products, they are more successfully doing what large brands with huge amounts of data and resources aren’t even aware that they need to do.  In the same way that Creators are working exhaustively to build an empire that they have no idea where it will lead them, the Community is looking to support and look up to those who put themselves forward in authentic ways.

Brian Solis of Altimeter put it succinctly when he said that traditional media’s challenge is in, “figuring out Attention Spans and Engagement”.  A huge, flourishing community is already on their way to determining what draws their attention and engages them. We just need to step in the room, stop projecting our beliefs and, just observe. We’ll hopefully get the point soon enough…

Mapping The Cost Of Innovation

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Many companies claim that they place an emphasis on innovation – and to a point, they are delivering – but when it comes specifically to marketing and buzz generation, companies set themselves up to fail in the innovation category.

Sure.  They may execute a campaign that utilizes a new technology or create a video that goes viral and generates an insane amount of views. They might even develop a marketing product that revolutionizes the industry or makes use of an existing product in ways nobody thought of before. But when it really comes down to it, most companies fail when bringing innovation to their marketing because they don’t plan or spend in the right way that lends to cost-savings down the road. Or, even worse, the execution doesn’t align with their strategy, so it hits the intended consumers like a thud.

Many innovative marketing products could be better if they were not treated as the end-all product that is oft copied, but as something that builds upon itself. Innovation done correctly is built with future iterations in mind so that products and development can be built on or added on cost-effectively. Too often, those new product are developed for one execution and then, upon its success, they do not allow for augmentation – forcing companies and their vendors to start from scratch.

Numerous factors lead to innovation that is not cost-effective.  Sometimes, due to a lack of vision or strategic planning.  Others might be due to a company’s lack of determination in supporting ongoing innovation expenditures. And then sometimes, products just don’t work out. All of those factors, are reasonable explanations for the waste of money but they don’t need to be. It really comes down to the ability to have long-term vision and communicate objectives well.

With the right executives supporting the long-term innovation play – where a specific near-term ROI may not happen – the environment can be ripe for marketing success for quarters and years to come.

Here’s how you do it — think more than one step ahead. Auto manufacturers build concept cars with the full knowledge that the car as a whole might not make it to the dealer, but components like auto-parking most likely will.  With that vision toward the future derivatives, even an unsuccessful campaign is not a waste of money. Be thinking of what components might be re-used in the future and make sure your team and vendors build those elements accordingly.

Granted, some form of smoke and mirrors is a component of your innovation process – and not in a devious way – you might think of innovation as putting the cart before the horse.  What it does is build an environment of hype that points to a vision of what the future could be. Be prepared to create assets that just show off what you are planning to do in order to effectively communicate expectations within the company. Utilize communication and spin control. If innovation is treated solely as a magic force that nobody has insight into, it is doomed to fail in the long run.  Even the major technology companies that have super-secret labs share some of their developments internally and sometimes, even externally. Maintaining to others that you are doing really cool things under a shroud of mystery will only lead to further questions on the money that’s being spent. Conversely, communicating too much without conveying the ultimate vision can be almost as damaging.

To the finance types, developing key KPIs to measure your success is a necessary component. Innovation is not an always-win proposition. You may not find huge marketing numbers to point to a winner. Come up with those elements that prove its working.  Is it money saved on future campaigns?  Is it press coverage of your marketing products? Is it related to time-to-market for future products? Is it tied to sales? Brand recognition? Whatever it is, make sure that is known to your team and management. Without those clearly understood KPIs, you’re effectively spending a lot of money on just an illusion…

When all is said and done, there needs to be an environment or atmosphere that welcomes trial and error. Intrinsically, there is no other undertaking that comes across so much success and failure with few traditional methods of measuring both. It is those corporations and organizations that truly embrace innovation (and not just tout that they are innovative) who most consistently bring successful innovations to market. Sometimes innovation can seem just outside your grasp (as an individual or an organization) but with vision, communication and execution, it will come back x-fold in marketing and revenue streams you might not have even considered at the onset.