Built to Last

A trail of links from LinkedIn led me to an excellent essay on FastCompany entitled ‘8 Rules For Creating a Passionate Work Culture’. In it, the author – Paul Alofs – profiles the rules on the foundation of which an empire can be built:

1. Hire the right people
2. Communicate
3. Tend to the weeds
4. Work hard, play hard
5. Be ambitious
6. Celebrate differences
7. Create the space
8. Take the long view

The rules seem simple… maybe too simple. But, there is a lot of wisdom in those paragraphs. For instance, most of us know that hiring the right people is critical to success, but don’t exactly know how to go about it. Alofs offers many helpful hints…

There is no shortage of impressive CVs out there, but you should try to find people who are interested in the same things you are. Asking the right questions is key: What do you love about your chosen career? What inspires you? What courses in school did you dread? You want to get a sense of what the potential employee believes.

 

If you had a dozen straight-A students who were from the same socio-economic background and the same geographical area, you might not get much in the way of interesting debate or interaction. Great cultures are built on a diversity of background, experience, and interests. These differences generate energy, which is critical to any enterprise.

Read the entire post. And, make an attempt to put it to action.

Email Marketing Essentials

As a business, we may get tempted with the possibility of buying out a large (cheap) database of email ids and sending them promotional emails in the hope of registering a less-than-one-per-cent conversion. The costs are so minimal, it’s totally worth it, right? Wrong.

The cornerstone of any communication with your customer is permission, and many organizations ignore this golden rule.

Back when I was Business Head at Experian, we organized an industry event to help prospects and clients grasp the essentials of the Email Marketing business. What followed is a BusinessWorld feature entitled Don’t Cry For Email Yet, based on discussions with your’s truly. Here is an excerpt that you can use as a guideline of best practices, if you are just starting out with Email Marketing…

  • Don’t spray and pray! Spamming inboxes with bulk mails will not work. The economics might initially seem attractive. But in the long run, there is reputational damage so permission-based email marketing works best.
  • Make sure the email is integrated with Mobile. 69 per cent mobile users delete if an email does not open properly on their mobile screens.
  • Test your email before sending it out – Most successful email marketers test the subject line and content on a sample group before they send mass mailers. Only if the subject line arouses enough interest for a user to open it, does it get sent out.
  • Don’t put out irrelevant stuff. Most email marketers don’t realize the damage they do to their brands when they cross-market and put out stuff that is totally irrelevant to user.
  • Always have an unsubscribe option. Global best practices of permission-based email marketing is that they need to give users a choice.
  • Avoid spam traps. The minute an email marketer sends emails to an email account that has not been used for long, he gets identified as a spammer.
  • Never purchase mailing lists – This largely applies to markets like India where most such data is not quite above board.

Read the entire article, here.

How To Be A (Great) Client

If you’ve never worked with a consulting firm, you may not know that Consulting success depends as much on the quality of the client, as the caliber of the consultant. Is there such a thing as a good, or great, client? Can that formula be replicated by others who seek to improve the effectiveness of their engagement with consultants, or with vendors of any kind?

This post by Seth Godin lists most of the essentials. Here are the points that resonated most with us:

 

Simplify the problem relentlessly, and be prepared to accept an elegant solution that satisfies the simplest problem you can describe.

After you write down the ground rules, revise them to eliminate constraints that are only on the list because they’ve always been on the list.

Pay as much as you need to solve the problem, which might be more than you want to. If you pay less than that, you’ll end up wasting all your money. Why would a great innovator work cheap?

Cede all issues of irrelevant personal taste to the innovator. I don’t care if you hate the curves on the new logo. Just because you write the check doesn’t mean your personal aesthetic sense is relevant.

Celebrate the innovator. Sure, you deserve a ton of credit. But you’ll attract more innovators and do even better work next time if innovators understand how much they benefit from working with you.

 

There are a number of valuable insights in that list, some of which require a great deal of maturity to acknowledge and accept. On our part, we would also like to add the following…

 

Do your homework on the “canvas” and what your specific need is, before you meet prospective vendors.  e.g. If you’re out to get a website for your business and know “nothing about website design”, at least spend some hours surfing the web and noting down the sites you like and the ones you don’t, including the Why.

Know the kind of customer you’re trying to attract, and how they are likely to behave. There is just no substitute for that clarity, and only you can bring that clarity to the table.

When you ask someone for a recommendation of a vendor, specify that you’re looking for someone you can trust not to cheat you, nothing more. The evaluation of their competence in relation to your need should be entirely up to you.

There will always be a way to get all of it (or some of it) done at no cost or low cost, but every approach has its limitations. For example, the code/design you used may not scale with your evolving needs. Understand the tradeoffs involved, and go with a low/no cost, only if the tradeoffs are acceptable.

 

Print the list out and check against each item.  You will surely be better off, no matter what your endeavor.

Digital Marketing, Done Right

If you have always wondered how to tackle the basics of “Digital Marketing”, this should help you get started…

First things first – Do you have a good sense of your target customer? What does he or she look like? What kind of phone do they use? What would their education levels and sophistication with Technology be? Where would they likely spend most of their time? So on, and so forth…

Marketing is, essentially, about addressing customer needs in a relevant manner. And, digital marketing is no exception. You need to go where the customer is, and offer your product or service to them in a manner that they can identify with. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your customers look like you and behave like you do. The key is to understand their needs and wants, and try to offer the solution that best matches those needs.

Digital may not be the answer you’re looking for. If your target group shows poor adoption of online media, you may only get limited results from spends on digital avenues. For instance, if your customers get most of their information from a newspaper, advertise there (or post an insert if you’re on a budget).

Once you’ve established that Online is the right vehicle for you, here’s how you can go about it.

The digital modes of communication available at your disposal include:

  1. Email
  2. Mobile
  3. Social
  4. Web

Each of these modes may exhibit dimensions of Own, Rented and Bought.

For example, Own Email means email ids of your own customers and prospects (filling your lead forms), whereas Rented Email refers to email campaigns you can run on other databases (if you have the permission to reach them). Similarly, Own Social means your very own Facebook fans or Twitter followers, whereas Bought Social includes paid advertising on Facebook.

Don’t try to be everywhere at once. Instead, choose one or two modes that you think you can manage well, and run carefully-thought experiments on them. Think of the metrics you want to focus on, so you can capture relevant data from day one. Before you begin spending, you should have some sense of what success (or failure) will look like for your promotion or lead generation exercise. Rinse and repeat for every new mode of promotion.

If all this is too overwhelming, or you simply don’t have the resources for it, hire a professional who understands this space and the objectives your business is trying to achieve.

A word of caution: It helps to have a sense of how your suppliers’ business model works. e.g. If your agency or platform of choice makes money based on the throughput of emails on your behalf, it may put a premium on increased email deliveries, and less on privacy, customer engagement, efficiencies, etc.

Remember, the mode you choose to promote your product or service on, should depend on your understanding of the target customer behavior. As always, go where your customers are. And speak with them in a language they follow…

Real engagement is built brick-by-brick with each honest interaction – not through a spray-and-pray campaign.

Wearable Computing: A Quick Primer

What the heck is “Wearable Computing”?

Basically, the term “wearable computing” refers to small devices worn on the body that display information to you when you need it the most. That currently includes a wide range from specialized tools like fitness trackers (think FitBit) to smart watches (think Pebble / Moto360) to the now-famous but just-discontinued Google Glass.

So, is it just another glass screen?

Well, yes and no. In many cases, it is another glass screen, but one with significantly smaller real-estate.

You can’t design for a 1-inch or 2-inch screen by keeping the existing UI and making things smaller. You need to think about the context in which the device will be used, and design accordingly. And, that means a fundamental re-think of the User Experience, as it were.

Let’s get better acquainted with AndroidWear…

AndroidWear is a good place to begin understanding the wearable platform. As the website reports, “Android Wear extends the Android platform to a new generation of devices, with a user experience designed specifically for wearables”.

In essence, it is a simple, glanceable UI that is context-aware.

Key elements of its User Interface include:

  • Cards – To display useful and timely content
  • Pages – Supplementary information displayed on additional cards
  • Action buttons – To take action on a notification, or offer limited control for apps
  • Selection list – List of items / choices to select from

Tell me more!

According to Google, “The Android Wear UI consists of two main spaces centered around the core functions of Suggest and Demand.”

Suggest works like GoogleNow, offering information in the form of cards that can be swiped to reveal more or dismiss them.

Demand launches on the command: “OK, Google”, and can be used to perform a variety of tasks on demand. e.g. Set reminders, perform search, etc.

Depending on your device of choice, you can also explore additional functions like choosing new watch faces for your smart watch, using a low-battery Ambient mode, and initiating actions that get completed using your phone (i.e. companion device).

Is that all?

Well, in many ways, we’re merely scratching the surface of this platform. The upcoming Lollipop version of Android will have far more exciting features in store for your wearables.

The good news for developers is that many of the core functions are already built into the Android platform, so that no additional code is necessary to push notifications from apps to wearables. Using advanced features will, however, require some code.

For customers, the promise is that a well-designed wearable device will allow you to get to the information that matters most, with minimum interaction time, resulting in precious minutes being saved.

What you do with those minutes, though, is entirely up to you…