Values matter in BUSINESS more than ever

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Values must be transparent

The way you provide your product or service and to whom, says more about you than how much business you do. Being big in a highly segmented world is no longer the determination of success. How you do your business now determines your current credibility and future success. Credibility is as much about your values in becoming successful as about the success you have. Mohamed Al-Fayed for example, despite buying Harrods, never shook off questions about his background.

Your values as an organisation as demonstrated by everyone inside your organisation matter to both existing and potential customers in choosing to do business with you. People have choices and they can now exercise them more freely than ever before, and that means customers can access information instantly to make choices that are more informed. Ikea’s staff misinforming undercover Times reporters about their sustainable and certified sourced products at a number of shops are one symptom of Ikea’s rapid growth boardroom culture.

Values Must Live the Moment

Almost everything in life is in real-time and instantly communicated to circles of influence and beyond. A restaurant having  bad night can have a poor reputation before the starter has even been cleared away as customers post live feed back to sites such as Qype or Trip Advisor . Therefore, before the waiter, maitre d’ or chef knows what’s happening the world outside already does by Twitter and Facebook and are cancelling their reservations in their droves.

Why clean lavatories matter?

The old adage that if you want to know how clean the restaurant kitchen is, inspect the lavatories, because they tell you how the restaurant values cleanliness, is a great example of modern customer awareness. Do you live your values or just post them on your website? Is the question customers want to know in establishing and experiencing trust with you and your brand.

Rail companies learning fast

The recent story of the man on the train talking too loudly causing enraged customers to Tweet  complaints about his behaviour which was picked up by a duty manager hundreds of miles away who then contacted staff on the train to track down the loud caller and asked him to quieted down.
This story is very much testimony to the growing demands of customer expectations, immediate online response, not waiting for passing train staff to react. This story is part of the reputation shift that train companies are actively pursuing.
The values that a business lives really matter to customers and to the brand reputation.

What Makes a Great Brand (Part 1)

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Despite what marketing people passionately believe most people don’t think about brands, they just get on with their lives. The coffee they buy, the supermarket they go to and petrol station they visit happen almost by accident. In Britain today we are too busy to think through these everyday inconsequential purchases, focused on saving time, not forgetting something or rushing from place to place on a tight deadline. So do brands matter and if so why and how?
Consumer Choice
Let’s start with the basics, the consumer has choices, endless choices if they choose to use them, but in many everyday cases as in my examples above, the consumer sacrifices those choices for simple expedience. The inability to see (or value) brand differentiation, between Starbucks and Costa, between Tesco and Morrisons between BP and Shell, and yet they each fight for space in consumers minds through tiny differences which if we stop and think about do actually exist and we the consumer do actively value.
Despite what marketing people passionately believe most people don’t think about brands, they just get on with their lives. The coffee they buy, the supermarket they go to and petrol station they visit happen almost by accident. In life today we are too busy to think through these everyday inconsequential purchases, focused on saving time, not forgetting something or rushing from place to place on a tight deadline. So do brands matter and if so why and how?
 
Perception is Everything
Consumer choice is therefore the perception of the brand we hold at the time of making that purchasing choice. It is the conscious decision consumers make based upon how they feel about the brand at the time they choose to consume that product or service. So a brand needs to be more than just an image, more than just a recognisable label and more than just a mission statement. What makes a great brand is the sustained feelings which it provides its customers.  That brand presence, the perception in someone’s mind is an accumulation of all the marketing elements which are planned into the deliver of that product and service to the customer.  Often just called the extended marketing mix (the 7P’s) which define the areas of proactive marketing which integrate together and support any brand from Poundland to Rolls Royce.
A brand through is also more than cold marketing elements pulled together, it is also the feeling and values which underpin any brand. Its culture and ethos coupled, codified and defined by its leadership are essential elements in creating and sustaining any brand. When you are thinking about a brand, its not just the branding, it is so much more and it must all start with the customer.

Content Strategy: The future of marketing

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The future of marketing is all about inbound marketing: Content strategy

If you can see a trend you have missed it!

In a world of continual change seeing what is happening is often difficult to understand until the paradigm shift has occurred. Many companies are struggling to stay ahead or even in the game of online marketing. Many companies are moving towards online marketing content strategy or as marketing people call it inbound marketing. This major shift in culture and one needs to be fully understood.
 
I have just had an old-fashioned marketing communication from a well-known brand, asking me to make an immediate purchase offering me a FREE upgrade for a new phone, my automatic response is not to be interested, at all because they have not demonstrated that they understand my specific needs. That made me thinks and write this article to explain why in today’s online world that old marketing technique is now as un-effective as a double glazing salesman offering me 50% off!
 

It’s a complete shift not just an add-on

In a world where everyone is online all the time, the amount of information is drowning people, from Linkedin to Facebook and Twitter the rise of smart phone connectivity has promised much change to marketing but until recently only early adopters, high value and niche players could see what it meant to the marketing process.
 
  
Like many changes, it is not until the change becomes tangible does its impact become visual to many marketing departments that enables them to successfully influence a company’s marketing policy. This is considerably harder to convey when there is no tangible evidence of marketing results attributable to hard to track invisible marketing shift. Unlike the shift to direct marketing where direct connectivity between outcome and result can be seen through a transparent return on investment, online inbound marketing is struggling to demonstrate its effectiveness.
 

Pace of change is outstripping understanding

Currently content marketing relies heavily upon invisible and poorly understood online activities. Simply put, the rate of change is outstripping the knowledge base of the marketing industry, creating a gap between the understandings of marketing by decision makers. The routes causes of this is that not only are customers sourcing information in newer ways but the platform they are using, the Internet indexing is also changing ever faster, Goggle will make over 600 changes to way it scores content. Rapidly changing customer preferences, coupled with changing technologies and an ever changing platform results in the lack of certainty of what is working and why. By the time you’ve worked out what works it has already changed.
 

Content Strategy also creates confusion.   

Content strategy marketing process, one that now focuses on creating online and open platform engagement, online PULL; rather than internally controlled PUSH marketing methods, traditional marketers often struggle to understand the process let alone feel uncomfortable with the concept. This is not unreasonable, given the history of marketing in the last 50 years has always focused on the traditional pipeline of generating and then controlling customer decision-making, content marketing turns that on its head. People investing in inbound marketing are asked to spend money on losing control of the potential customer by letting them make an open decision about how and when they engage with your brand.
 
In the mid 1990’s I remember designing a website to support a brand. No one was interested until it was live and people could see something online. A director then said, “That’s great let’s print it off and send it to all our customers”    
 

Dialogue NOT monologue

The inbound marketing process is about generating an open dialogue, rather than a structured marketing process. It lets potentials, prospects and suspects move in and out of your control while they select you, rather than being controlled by you.
 
The Content Strategy Process
  1. Listening – Online is now the first port of call for 78% of web users.
  2. Creating – Great content that answers need and demonstrates expertise.
  3. Engaging – Is about being talked about and developing a dialogue with audiences
  4. Transforming – Is about continual engagement, moving them from suspects to purchasers
  5. Growing – Requires creating perpetual momentum developing new and developing loyalty
 
Traditional marketing models of developing engagement such as AIDA are still highly valid but instead of just focusing on a immediate winning proposition through a grabbing hook, attach a liner and sink them in a simple linear model for winning customers. Content strategy marketing demands  multiple engagement tools which include cross referencing other parties creating competitive collaborative working to generate awareness, giving away FREE content in white papers coupled with fast and slow acquisition tools in decision making.
 

The strategy needs to be explained better

Moving to a content strategy is about moving from PUSH to PULL, not about the Internet platform, it is about understanding the importance of open unrestricted dialogue rather than material generation and in reality it is not just about the Internet although this is where its impact is being seen today, but equally will encompass every marketing platform and process. The growth of mobile technology will further the pace and realisation of content strategy.