How to Use Social Media To Promote Your Business

The use of social media is now the most effective way when you need to promote or launch a business or new product. The free access to social networks for prospect identification and the ability to reach a large audience of buyers via content means every marketing or sales leader has to use these channels as part of a go-to-market strategy. When launching a new product or service,   social media provides a rich media platform that with some planning can make it easy for people to share around your message.

grow-business-using-social-media

It doesn’t seem like so long ago that promoting, marketing and launching a product whether nationally or global required a massive budget and was one of the barriers to entry the traditional multi-nationals relied upon. But the digital switch by buyers to self-educate on the social networks has re-written both the sales and marketing rules.

The following approach or any part of it can be used by anyone with the right discipline and time.

Use Facebook

Action:

Create a Facebook fan page specifically for your brand or product, then share and network with the Facebook community as it is the largest single social networking site on the web. Remember it is about engagement and then sharing. To build up your fan and advocacy base to give you that critical mass to share your stories/messages, why not offer an incentive to “like” your page, maybe by giving some merchandise or prize.

Suggested Primary Goal:

Create an incentive for people to “like” your page by providing via a free product giveaway in order to grow your fan base.

Use LinkedIn

Action:

With over 400 million business users, one of your first actions should be to create a company page, followed by joining interest groups related to what you are selling. Don’t forget to pimp up your profile with a photo and fill out as much detail in your profile as possible. Learn about “social selling” and how to use content from your blog (see below) along with other content to engage connections. You can also search and tag prospects, influencers and potential partners.

Suggested Primary Goal:

To identify potential buyers and partners for your brand or products.

Website and Blog

Action:

Thanks to WordPress, Weebly, Medium, Blogger etc it has never been easier or cheaper to create your own branded web presence and attract potential buyers (with some SEO and promotional activity). For less than €100 you can have your own domain and less than €500 can give you a fully branded website. Learn to target keywords, read up on SEO and how to share your website URL’s on sites like Plurk, Scoop.it, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest to name but a few, will start to give you a trickle of traffic to build upon.

Learn to write 1000 plus word blogs with titles like Tips, How to, A guide to or Top 10 so you can further use social media to attract potential buyers and improve your search engine results. Try to write a blog weekly but monthly at a minimum. Don’t forget to share and post your blog articles around the web.

Suggested Primary Goal

To make it easier for potential buyers to engage with you while finding out more about your business.

promoting-business-on-social-media

Product Reviews by Social Influencers

Action:

If possible, prior to formal launch try to get some external product reviews, even recommendations. As the trust between buyer and suppliers is at an all time low, peer recommendations instead of marketing blurb can give your business a much needed injection of interest. Maybe offer your product free in return for publishable references.  Apart from using LinkedIn there is a whole host of social tools (lots are free) that you can use to identify social influencers or connectors. Also do not forget journalists and online magazines, approaching them can be as simple as crafting an introduction letter with an invitation to review or sample your offerings. Ensure you put a unique slant on your business, what problem is it solving and why would people be interested in your personal story.

Suggest Primary Goal:

To gather independent and verifiable 3rd party authority as social proof, which you will then share with potential customers.

Have a Contest

Action:

Who doesn’t love a good ole a contest and they work well on Social media especially in the B2C space. Using your social media channels, offer up some real goodies (if not your actual product then something related to it). Keep it simple, you are not trying to snare emails, you chasing “share ability”

Suggest Primary Goal

Note: Get a fan base engaged before you officially launch your business or product so that when you do launch you have a fan base that could be ready to buy and spread your message for you whether that is on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The combination of your regularly updated blog, website and your social media community activity can be a powerful platform for getting in revenue faster.

Try a Quiz

Action:

It is also easy to create and publish a quiz on your website and social channels. Just do a Google search for “create a quiz”. There are some free and paid options. People like to test their knowledge and if you can relate or match the quiz to your product even better.

There doesn’t have to be a prize but you could combine it with a contest as above.

Suggested Primary Goal: To engage customers and also create more buzz.

Create Infographics or Video

Action:

The rise in popularity of infographics and video content in social media cannot be ignored. Sites like Canva, Visualize, Piktochart and Easel.ly make it easy for anyone with some patience to create stunning graphic stories. You can even create video content online but there is a higher price to be paid here, if your product is very visual then maybe a 20-30 second video for YouTube or Vimeo maybe a must.

Suggested Primary Goal: To provide some wow media formats that could go ‘viral’.

sales motivation

SlideShare

Action:

You can create a PowerPoint presentation that could not serve as a key note presentation but would also publish on Slideshare to spread your message while reinforcing your professional image.

Suggested Primary Goal: Publish on the Slideshare platform to make it easy for people to

These few tips on using social media when launching a business or product are by no mean exhaustive, what else have you tried? The purpose of the article is that with a limited budget and the learning of new skills (social selling, social media marketing, creating infographics, writing blogs, running contests etc) most of us can achieve results beyond our expectations. Oh yeah, did I mention lots of hard work but no pain no gain.

Managing a Startup Business

If you can’t find a way, then make a way!

Starting a business, any business is a brave step. But how do you manage a start-up business as well as find customers or put in place a customer acquisition strategy on tight or even zero budgets. Working with early stage and start-up companies I know first-hand how limited resources can be. The tendency for many small businesses is to focus on the product. They add in more and more features or take comfort in a well designed website or just even they talk about strategy rather than putting in place a plan to find and sell to customers so the business can getting on track to achieving  business success AKA revenue generation. The below list is some actionable business tactics to get your small business sales pipeline moving and put you on the track to success.

business-startup

Know your Target market – don’t try to sell to everyone

Product to marketing fit is critical to any business success however a business start-up should never try to be a great product to satisfy all buyers’ needs, this will simply not work as no one product will be for everyone. So step 1 is to try to focus in on one customer target group. It will make the business look more focused, knowledgeable, and professional plus it allows the business to channel its efforts into making one target group happy. The key now is to do a customer targeting exercise (figuring out who your customers are and what they want). I am not saying this is easy, especially if your business is new or you only have 1 or 2 beta customers. Brainstorm on what set of buyers or people who might need your product now by matching it back to what problem your product solves, this is sometimes called your USP- unique selling point or Value Wedge. Also check if it is a fluid market (low hanging fruit to be gathered) by doing some Google searches on related keywords. Balance the fact that you don’t want to define your target market so small or so tightly that it’s something people won’t search for. Think in terms of keywords, search terms or existing topics being discussed on forums or industry buzz.

One Swallow does not make a summer

The lesson here is stay focused on executing the business model and don’t get distracted. A good example of this is a company in the SaaS space I work with, received  a phone call from a big company about doing a demo of their product at their offices which would include a customization element. Even though the meeting went ahead, it came to nothing because my client company was not big enough nor could afford to serve companies in the non-SaaS way. They simply were not big enough to fulfil all the product amendments for this one customer or have a dedicated team to work on the project at the stage where they were trying to find the best product to market fit. This distracted the team for over 6 weeks when they could have been doing more productive lead nurturing work.

business-planning

Make a plan

A business plan will at the very least serve as a guide or a roadmap along the way. Too many small businesses talk about being agile or nimble. That is a process or a culture; it is not a business model. What this can often mean is that their limited resources are waiting to respond to the next challenge thrown before them. I am not suggesting that this is wrong as sometimes it is necessary but not all the time so try to build a business plan. The goal is to develop a sound business strategy that provides a reference framework to keep the business on track to grow by building its awareness, developing brand consideration, attracting new customers and closing sales deals.

Tip: Use this Free Business Tools to focus on your business plan to success, time is precious, do not waste it.

Develop a clear brand for your business

A branding is not just for large corporations; from tiny acorns big trees grow! This does not mean spending vast sums on branding but rather it reflects your mission, values and what your product stands for. The major action here is to determine the core attributes of your brand and promote this .Always strive to present your company in the same way, carve out an awareness level on what your brand represents (product innovation, cost leadership, service leadership ) so that it contributes to the overall business in a cost effective way.

Publish great articles

The old adage about content is king is true. Along with being a product or service company also think of your business as a content publishing house. Articles get search traffic via targeted keywords (SEO) but just as important it positions your brand and business as thought leaders. But you have to stand out from the crowd to get attention. Articles need keyword optimised titles PLUS great content, make them factual or research based to further boost readership. No point in publishing articles as a box ticking exercise, make sure the articles you publish are the best so people want to read or download them or don’t bother. Blunt but true.

A few tips on great content angles:

  • Be highly creative or controversial
  • Be the most knowledgeable
  • Have the most research
  • Write strange articles on your industry

Be Social Media Aware.

As a start-up you probably will read loads on inbound marketing, social media or social selling. Being social media aware is more than a few twitter posts or Facebook likes. Every business needs to have a presence and visibility on a variety of Social Media platforms. Create a social media plan (based on article sharing) and then schedule your social media activities so that you build relationships with social influencers, potential prospects, customers and the public. Learn the art of social selling – share to receive.

Keep it lean and mean – know which plates to spin

Like most start-ups you have a lean team so make sure you know what everyone is doing. Who is driving customer acquisition, marketing and sales? Revert back to your plan and prioritise the key initiatives (revenue and product) including major tasks such as content creation, social media interaction and social selling. Time management and knowing which plates to spin can sometimes be complicated for a small business as they dash around from pillar to post. Find and use the right tools, free business tools like Zoho or Trello should save you time or tears. Finally from me to you, a message of sincere best wishes in your business venture. Happy hunting!

Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is not about boasting or bragging, rather it is about sharing informed insights to hopefully inspire people. Thought leaders are not afraid to propose new ideas, new models or different views on a topic.

Thought leadership when done correctly can help further a person’s career or a business. Being a thought leader should mean becoming a trusted source of information on your chosen topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of the audience seeking enlightenment or education.

So here are a few tips on using content marketing as a launch pad in thought leadership for you, your business or even the team you mentor.

THOUGHT-LEADERSHIP

Thought leaders speak and present

They speak to educate not to sell. Thought leaders seek out opportunities to present as to impart their insights from research or experience. They rise to the challenge of delivering opinions so to drive debate on topics. Thought leaders advance the adoption of ideas by speaking on commercially relevant, and research backed points of view. They are dreamers and doers; they talk about “blue sky strategy” from their own research or from research gathered through clients, customers or competitors.  They rarely speak about product, brand sponsored white papers or rehashed content that copy ideas already well discussed.

Give time freely with no expectation can propel someone into thought leadership and general awareness. A good lesson here is to accept non-paid speaking engagements if it puts you in front of an audience that facilitates dialog and exchange of opinions. Regardless of the event, the audience or the setting, a thought leader will always deliver meaningful content.

Thought leaders write and share

Thanks to social media and the access to content marketing channels, a constant flow of well researched articles which you have written will keep you visibility high and credibility in-tact.  Thought leadership is not about writing a few 600 word articles and then retiring your pen, in a digital world people will soon forget you. A constant stream of articles shared across social networks and forums tells people that the author is a thought leader year worth following on a continuous basis.

Articles need to be a minimum of 800 words although most research based articles can be 1500 words plus. Longer, deeper articles demonstrate the time taken to craft the story, to prove research undertaken and ensure reference points are covered in detail.

Once an article is written, the article needs to be published. For whitepapers and heavy research based articles, a good starting point is a professional or membership based organisation to which you belong that publish articles. Explore trade publications that cover your industry or topic.  Also submit articles to local newspapers, on-line news, on-line interest groups and publications.

Consider sites like BizSugar, LinkedIn Pulse, Academia, and inc.com, Forbes or Harvard Business.  Make sure to also publish to your own social networks to reach more people and improve your profile in visibility. A few options include publishing to your own website, your blog, and post on your LinkedIn profile or to groups, publish to Tumblr, Google+ or Medium.com, send out an email with article link to clients and connections. Send out a message regarding your article on Twitter, Facebook and relevant forums you feel would benefit from reading the article.

Thought leaders publish research

Research does not have to mean focus groups or an academic background, it has more to do with , homework on the topic you are going to write about. Write about topics you have expertise in, deep knowledge and first-hand experience in. Focus on writing great content with supporting information that will make you stand out from your competitors by giving more than just a bunch of research jargon or results.

Articles should be interspersed with references, quotes, trends, external research, supporting documentation or forecasts. Though leaders will use the research element within an article to gain the readers trust when sharing ideas, creative thinking or a different view on a topic. Some research and support ideas include interviewing experts in the field you are writing about, conduct surveys, share real stories about your own experiences, tap into social media channels to gather opinions or ask someone in authority to write a footnote.

A mistake to avoid if never publish in a hurry. Save a draft, let it cool and with fresh eyes review it yourself, rewrite sections where it does not make sense, spell check it and then depending on the level of “news” within the article you could share it first among friends, work colleagues or a mentor to check for errors and give you honest feedback.

BUSINESS-IDEAS

The vision of every thought leader is to be in the spotlight. The knowledge you share can bring about business opportunities, social influence, a better job, an award or an accolade, acknowledgement from your industry or a mention in a newspaper that engages your audience to rally behind the topic you have been championing.  A constant presence on the speak, write, research channels can lead to an invitations, doors being opened and new  ventures that never possible before, including the chance to mentor and encourage other people to become thought leaders themselves.

For lots of thought leaders it is a very personal journey, a deeper reason around, why am I here, what is the meaning to my work, what would I like to leave behind? As the articles get published, the influence will grow and the exposure to inspiring people will be the most rewarding. As a thought leader, regardless of the topic or reach of your publications, you will leave a lasting legacy for yourself, other people, a bright young business brain or even an industry.

LinkedIn- No Irish Jobs

43 LinkedIn Business Groups with over 150,000 members but less than 300 jobs.

LinkedIn is a great business networking tool; however when it comes to Irish jobs for people seeking employment (sales, marketing, management) in Ireland it does not look so good. I am a member of 50 business groups on LinkedIn; of these the 43 Irish business groups I am a member of are focused on Irish business, sales, management, marketing and technology.

As the Irish economy is booming with projected growth rates of between 4.6% and 5.7% in 2015 and 2016 (rte, NTMA) and as we are well into 2015 I wanted to check out how the jobs available on my LinkedIn groups were going to be able to keep up with the skill shortage the Irish press love to write about.

The table below lists out the 43 group NAMES I am a member of, with the membership numbers and then jobs or roles available. Of the 354 roles available when you remove duplicate postings on multiple groups the number drops well below 300. Also with my Ireland Inc. hat on, I could only find 1 or 2 roles for local Irish companies, are these numbers a truer reflection on the local Irish economy, 2 roles across 43 very active LinkedIn groups?

Group Name Members Jobs
1 121 Marketing Network Ireland (First Wednesday Club) 4836 0
2 All About Business Ireland 4744 0
3 Venture Capital and Private Equity Ireland 401 0
4 The Startup Network | StartupRepublic.com 421 0
5 The Sales Institute of Ireland Group 2930 1
6 The Dublin Hub 225 0
7 The Board – Ireland 29 0
8 The “Business Owners Network” 5696 0
9 TechLudd: Digital Network 435 0
10 TechCentral.ie 568 0
11 Dublin Chamber of Commerce 3234 0
12 Startup Ireland 5347 1
13 Social Media Marketing Ireland 3120 1
14 SOCIAL MEDIA IRELAND 10430 17
15 SME Links Ireland 2070 0
16 Small Business Can 815 0
17 SALES LEADERSHIP IRELAND 2143 171
18 Paddytech 5939 1
19 OpenCoffee Ireland 1943
20 LI Mastery Ireland 28 0
21 IT Ireland 10972 10
22 Irish Technology Leadership Group 4030 0
23 Irish Software CEOs 426 0
24 Irish Software Association 4984 0
25 Irish SME’s 1919 0
26 Irish Sales Leadership Institute 408 0
27 Irish Non Executive Director (INED) Group 683 0
28 Irish Internet Association 2723 0
29 Irish Executives 22474 150
30 Irish Businesses Online 140 0
31 Irish Business Group 504 0
32 Irish Business Forums 140 0
33 Irish Business Association 996 0
34 Irish Angel Investment Forum 1351 0
35 Irelands SME Community 868 0
36 Irelands Small Business Community 5211 0
37 IrelandInc. 1223 0
38 Ireland Business and Professional Network 20000 1
39 Innovation Ireland 8491 0
40 Facebook for Business Ireland Powered By We Teach Social 3806 0
41 Enterprise Ireland 7546 0
42 eMarketing Ireland 1875 1
43 Dublin Business2Business Network 295 0
Total 156419 354
  • The 171 roles on Sales Leadership Ireland are dominated by Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, AdRoll where local SME’s seem to have very few jobs.
  • The 150 roles on Irish Executives contain a number of roles duplicated on Sales Leadership Ireland
  • Social Media Ireland had 1 local role.

What do these numbers tell us?

Well, the numbers tell us the average membership size on the 43 LinkedIn groups I belong to related to Ireland is 3,637. Again there is a large overlap with people being members of multiple groups. A quick calculation would suggest out of the 156,419 members on the groups, maybe 130,000 are unique profiles.

The numbers also tell us when roles within multi-national companies are removed there are very few open roles in local Irish companies.

I will leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions and comments. Maybe companies simple do not use LinkedIn to advertise their open positions, maybe there are none. Maybe LinkedIn is not good at getting smaller companies to advertise available jobs, or maybe, just maybe the small number of job roles within local Irish companies is an accurate reflection of the local Irish economy.

Business Mentoring

Business Mentoring

Business mentoring does not have to cost business money. At some stage in a business lifecycle some free and confidential advice from a business mentor on business or business strategy maybe the boost a company or business owner needs.  Whether a business is in start-up mode or an existing business hitting some bottlenecks sitting down and using a business mentor as a sounding board away from the coalface could be invaluable.

business-mentoring

Business mentoring is not business coaching or a business consultant looking for a day rate, it is also not someone dispensing generic management jargon with little relevance to the business. What a business mentor is about is listening and nurturing, someone with the battle scars (of success and failure) who will take the time to make an emotional investment in the business and person success.

The value of a Business Mentor.

A business mentor is someone with the entrepreneurial business experience that can be relied on as trusted sounding board, independent thinker and a sense checker who is willing to build a relationship, mostly free of charge (coffee is always appreciated). A business mentor could also fill a gap in knowledge or experience without incurring expense.

Think of business mentoring as a business helper, someone whose motivation is to take an active interest in helping the business owner or start-up succeed. The motivation for a business mentor is to keep their own saw sharp and to keep learning while they give.

Maybe this sentence sums up a business mentor, “‘a lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

To make a business mentoring partnership work, both parties relish in leaving the ego outside the door. They are there to chat, explore, discuss, educate and enjoy the time away to think. One big mistake many new or growing businesses make is to “cocoon” themselves where they forgot to reach out when things are not working.

To help find a business mentor, maybe the guide below might help.

  • What do you need mentoring on?  Decide what aspects of the business or skillset a business mentor can help with?  A retired CEO of a large company probably isn’t a good mentor for growth hacking a business on a small budget. So have an objective whether it is for sales, marketing, management, finance etc.
  • Listen and Learn. A business mentor will always seek to understand before being understood. So if a business mentors listens is the business willing to learn?. Business mentors are passionate about helping a businessperson or company who loves to learn and grow. It also means that a good business mentor understands that on-one in business takes every bit of advice blindly, so build the relationship by being honest and open if advice is not practicably.
  • Time – quality over quantity. Both sides need to invest quality time with focused sessions where the real business issues are aired and discussed in confidence. Ensure the time you need and the time the business mentor can give matches each other’s expectations.
  • Driving the discussion. The businessperson or owner drives the discussion and agenda, the business mentor is there to listen, respond and offer up feedback. Business mentoring is at its most effective when the entrepreneur sets the agenda and requests specific insights while also getting broader or deeper insights from the mentor.
  • Business mentor or business coach. The value of a business mentor is to tell it as it is not what a business might want to hear. A business coach or consultant is paid to focus on helping the business or person with specific actions or skills like selling, marketing, business development or presentation skills. Business mentoring is to advise on specific situations or business strategy issues. So sometimes a business needs a mentor, sometimes they need a business coach.

Do take the time to seek out a business mentor, someone who will genuinely care about the business and the person. A business mentor whose motivation is to see business success, business growth and the person flourish. A business mentor who brings passion, emotional involvement and real concern for the business are the keys to real business mentoring success.

Lastly, business mentoring is not a flippant decision for either the business person or mentor. The experience has to be a learning path for both sides. However, the fundamental reason for business mentoring is everyone needs a helping hand, no matter who the person or business. Business mentoring is about building relationships, they can’t clear all the obstacles a business or start-up faces, but a good mentor can certainly show a better route to get to where the person or business needs to get to.

Author Note:  If you would like to chat about business mentoring or have a business idea or plan, I am always interested in meeting. Feel free to contact me. Brian.

Business Mission- Know why you exist

Why does a business exist? Every business needs a mission and a purpose. We know the overarching purpose of any business is to acquire, develop and maintain customers at a profit however any business must fundamentally know why they exist so the effort, work and emotional investment has a real meaning to all stakeholders.

Is there too little “know why” in business? Businesses with a purpose are usually led by a person with a purpose.

vision-mission

Business vision and business mission should not be confused, business vision is about imagining the future shape of the enterprise, the business mission is about the here and now, it defines the reason the business exists and its purpose. A business mission is about personalising who the company is, what it does, and who it serves.

Writing a business mission statement should be done in consideration with the business vision and values.

  • Vision: where the business is going in the long-term
  • Mission: the business purpose and reason WHY for existing
  • Values: Who and what the business stands for

“The business person who knows How will always have a job, the business person who knows Why will always be boss”

Business mission statements means there is a primary purpose behind the business or organisation. This primary purpose is the why the business exists and about putting the business on the right course for success. The business mission must be in the DNA of the business, in everything the business does, every action the business takes, every product it manufactures, every service it provides, every communication it issues, every transaction it conducts, and how the business conducts itself.

Without a business mission, the business is a ship adrift on a dark ocean, so when the going gets tough, the business has no compass, no reference points, no why does it exists, no purpose. The lack of a business mission will impact business growth, sales and customer focus.

In the business book Purpose, by Nikos Mourkogiannis, It describes four kinds of business purpose, “starting points” that govern what great companies do and how they do it. Each of these purposes represents a kind of “holy grail” as opposed to business goals (usually more financial based), missions or visions, or even a set of values. As Mourkogiannis puts it, “Let others play with ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ and ‘management.’ Purpose is the game of champions.”

According to this theory, true business purpose can be found in: (1)discovery, the challenge of adventure and innovation characterized by dot-com entrepreneurs willing to work 24/7 in search of the new or unknown, (2) excellence, in which high standards are not compromised for short-term performance (as with Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett), (3) altruism, where the primary purpose is to serve (customers, employees, etc.) first and assume that profit will follow (as at Nordstrom), and (4) heroism, typically involving grand plans to change entire industries or even the way we live (Bill Gates and Microsoft).

vision-mission-values

The argument is that only one of these business purposes, if pursued rigorously and successfully, is required for success.

Every business mission is unique and individual to that business and listed below is a typical list it should cover:

  • The purpose and aim of the business (i.e., a definition of what the  company is and does)
  • The products and/or services the business offers
  • What the company aspires to be
  • What features/characteristics distinguish this business from its competitors
  • The businesses values, purpose and visionary goals

Creating a personalised mission statement for a business is not some exercise done in isolation, the mission statement must reflect the business’s core principles, connected to what the business stands for, it must be seen in the profile of the people the business hires and defines the culture the business is working to create. A mission statement binds the people in the company to make an impact on success of the business because everyone in the business understands and lives by the mission.

The primary purpose of why the business exists can be built around why and how the business serves everyone who interacts with it, in whatever way, and for whatever reason, at the very highest level of attention and quality the business can deliver.

A true, living business mission is about the business attributes that will draw customers centred on VALUE and RESULT. The values and results the business will deliver to the market or industry, and through, or as a result of the product or service being offered.

A good starting point on why a business exists is to look at its Values, Vision and Mission.

Values
Business or Organisation values identify the principles and ethics by which the entity on and its people conduct themselves and their activities.

Vision
Business vision is about the future, an aspirational description of the desired achievements of a business. A business vision asks – ‘Where is the business going?’ or ‘What will the business look like when we get there?’

Mission
As stated earlier, vision focuses on the future; the business mission concentrates on the here and now. A mission statement defines the fundamental purpose of any business. It identifies who the organisation is, what it does, and who it serves.
Where a business vision statement is aspirational, a mission statement is more practical. The mission statement should communicate, in an easily understandable manner, what the organisation does and possibly for whom.

Know Your Business “Why”

“Why does my company exist?”

In Peter Drucker’s book, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask about Your Organization, Mr. Drucker writes “A mission cannot be impersonal; it has to have deep meaning, be something you believe in — something you know is right. A fundamental responsibility of leadership is to make sure that everybody knows the mission, understands it and lives it.”

Here are some examples of business mission statements:

Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Apple: Bringing the best personal computing experience to consumers around the world.

Facebook: Give the people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Netflix: To revolutionize the way people watch movies.

The business purpose is the most powerful tool a business can have when it comes to attracting and inspiring the best people or talent, focuses the businesses activities and guiding strategic plans.

Business and Leadership

Business leadership can be hard to define but it is a title many aspire to regardless of company size or industry. But is business management different to business leadership and which of these traits (leadership or management) is the most valued when promoting someone to a senior role. Is the term “business leader” being overused to the extent that it is rendered nearly meaningless?

business-leadership

business leadership

The press and online articles are full of sound bites and quotes from business leaders. What are these so called business leaders?. Business leadership was once deemed to be a wealth generator, someone who took a risk, set up a business to create wealth while generating employment or was instrumental in delivering huge growth for a company. So are the real business leaders people like Bill Gates,Michael Dell, Larry Ellison or Steve Jobs to name but a few right down to the heroes of a local economy, small business people who create opportunity and employment for their local area.

Anyone with a Twitter account and a blog is a Business Leader.

It is important to state that titles are an important aspect of any organisation, business or company. They indicate a certain level of achievement, authority and responsibility. However leadership used to mean something specific. High level executives. Leaders of industry. Time was you would never call a middle manager or a front-line supervisor, a leader. Today it seems when anyone kind of picks up the ball and runs with it are called people or business leaders. What we’re really talking about here are people who are engaged in the business. So we have become accustomed to seeing the term business leadership being used in a very broad sense.

This is probably the reason middle or senior managers in large multi-nationals often get referred to as “business leaders” in press articles. Most do not define business strategy, how the business operates, the culture  or the direction of the business. So the business leaders we often see quoted in the press in most cases are business managers (even if they do have the title VP or director they are in reality managers). Title inflation, self-proclaimed titles, and title overexposure are the cause of dumbing down leadership titles. When titles are overused or abused, they lose their meaning.

Business leadership has nothing to do with titles. A C-level title, does not automatically make someone a “business leader.” In fact no one really needs a title to lead. The reality is anyone can be a leader in their community, sports club, in family, all without having a formal title.

There are lots of business managers who aspire to be business leaders but lots more do not. Having an MBA with a C level title while working within the cushion of a large organization does not a business leader make. The role of these business managers is to “Implement”. That is to take the pre-defined strategy and Business goals and implement them whether its sales,marketing,finance or product. They may lead the unit or division from a tactical stance but they do not lead the business.

The world seems to fallen in love with titles and in a centralised decision making business world maybe bigger titles such as VP or Country Manager are a way of compensating for the true role a manager is expected to perform.

Business Leadership has nothing to do with level of seniority or someone’s position in the hierarchy of a company. Too often in business, when we discuss the company’s leadership we are most likely referring to the most senior executives in the organisation. They are just that, senior executives or business managers. Leadership does not automatically happen when you reach a certain pay level. Hopefully business managers can work to earn the title business leader but there are no certainties.

If you are reading this article hopefully you love business and business strategy, the cut and trust of sales,marketing, trying to win a customer, managing people to deliver higher results but this does not make us a business leader. Knowing ones place in the business world is healthy and honest. First and foremost “Know Thyself”. No need to perfume the pig, a great manager is a great manager, no need to embellish it with titles that do a disservice to the title “business leader”, a title many aspire to but only a small portion ever really earn the right to be called it.

Not everyone in business sees themselves as a potential leader.  Maybe it is really about being the best at their job they can be.

However for people who want to continue the business leadership journey, then maybe it is a process of influence, which stimulates and maximises the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal. Real business leadership stems from influence, not title, authority or power

A few tips to build up a leadership profile includes (A) they learn to act like a leader: to manage their image in a genuine, authentic way. (B) They are straightforward; they tell people what they stand for, and then stand for it. (C) They are inspirational and learn what motivates people. They are optimistic and use emotion in their communication. (D) They know the people they are leading and help them develop and (E) They stimulate people, make people think and make them take responsible  but always with the positive support of a business leader knows they must provide.

A Strategy for Business Success

The strategy for business success are built around three pillars: The Product, The Market and The Team. Each pillar or a combination will most likely determine the success or failure of a business. The core pillar or strategy to focus on is “the product to market fit”. In business schools they say that a business fails for two reasons, lack of funding or lack of strategy execution. Strategy execution should centre on getting the product and market fit right. If the product to market strategy execution by the leadership team is not right, the cost to fund the business for customer acquisition, sales, marketing and product development increase to the point where value cannot be captured.

What causes business success?

In business which strategy pillars contributes the most to success of the enterprise, the team, the product or the market? Or put another way “what is the biggest cause of success”? Also which is the weakest link: a bad team, a weak product, or a bad market?

Let us briefly dig a little deeper into these three pillars. Investors and venture capitalists often say they don’t invest in businesses they invest in people, so the team can be defined as the potential effectiveness of the CEO, co-founders and senior staff relative to the market opportunity. Can the team execute against the market opportunity they have identified, will their effectiveness overcome any lack of experience, and has the team the ability to deal with the “never seen it before” obstacles.

The product can be defined as to what problem is it solving and how impressive is the product to any customer or user who actually uses it: How easy is the product to install/set up and use? How feature rich is it? How fast can the benefits be seen? How transformational is it? How well-crafted is it? How has it been tested and what were the results?

The market is the size, number, predictions and growth rate, of those addressable customers or users for the product.

One other pillar that has to be planned for is “the Cost of Customer Acquisition”; meaning that the cost of acquiring a customer is lower than the revenue or profit that customer will contribute. The rate of customer acquisition has to do with execution and the ability of the team to move enough prospects through the sales funnel. Remember also that product quality will not create market size; Steve Jobs learned that lesson with his NeXT business. What a business needs is a desirable product, a big enough market and an economical way to target it.

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So which pillar is the Number.1 building block for business success?

If anyone conducted a survey amongst business people on the question of which is the most important factor in business success, they probably would get three different answers.  Some will say team, some on the product, while others will choose the size of the market.

As written about earlier in this article, if you ask entrepreneurs or VCs which of team, product, or market is most important, many will say team. This is an obvious answer because most of their knowledge and reference points in the beginning is the team as the product may not be built or ready to market plus the market will not have been fully evaluated yet.

Marketing and techies will say the product is the most important factor. The business is product driven, creates great products, then markets buy and use the products. The most valuable companies today are brands such as Apple and Google because they build the best products and without the product there is no company. Right? Try building a great team and having no product, or a great big market and having no product.

This leaves “The market”, where researchers, students of business success and business leaders will tell us that the market is the most important factor in a business success or failure. The argument is that in a big market (fragmented market or badly served by existing solutions), a market with lots of real identifiable customers, then the market needs will pull products out of the business. The market is ripe for change, has an appetite that needs feeding and the market will consume, viable products that will feed it. Maybe the product doesn’t need to be the greatest; it just needs to work. And, the market doesn’t care how good a team the business has, as long as the team can produce those viable products.

Has history shown us that the No.1 business killer is lack of market?

To expand on this a little further, maybe the business killer is not just lack of market, but more importantly a lack of product to market fit. Could the building blocks for a successful business be about being in a sizeable market with a product that can satisfy enough of that market to make profits?  Is being in business about “making things that people want and will pay for”

Take the example of search engines, smartphones, online marketplaces even cars, when there is a growing, sizeable market with an appetite for change. Is this the story of telephone directories morphing to the web as search engines, the evolution of the telephone into people’s pockets, the buying and selling of goods being streamlined online or the transportation of people becoming about journeys.

The flip-side is in a market with little appetite for change, a business can have the best product in the world and super leadership team, and it may not matter, the business is going to fail. A business can spend a heap of money digging for years trying to find customers willing to pay for a product, little reward for a lot of effort and the team eventually will disintegrate, and the business folds.

Has history shown us that the No.1 business success factor is market?

When a great business team meets a stagnant market, market wins. When an average business team meets a great market, market wins. But when a great business team meets a great market, then something really special happens. Now this is not to say a business can’t screw up a great market, it has been done many times, but assuming the team is effective and the product is accepted in the market, a great market will tend to return success for the business and a poor market will tend to return failure to the business. So does Market matter most?

A few things worth remembering

Great products are really, really hard to build. So surround yourself with a great team, as a great team will always beat a mediocre team, given the same market space and product appeal.”

Great products can sometimes create new markets. Product that are so transformative to business or consumers it creates a whole new big market and the business becomes a gorilla. Think Microsoft.

The team needs to know how and on what battle ground it will take on and beat the competition to gain market share.

As a business leader or start-up, what should you do next? Focus on the thing that matters; get the product to market fit right. Product to market fit means getting into a good sizeable market with a product that can satisfy that market and capture value for your business. Do whatever is required to get to product to market fit. Seek out people who can help build your vision, change the product, change the sales model, move to a different market, tell customers you need some customer validation for the product, whatever is required.

Lastly, build a team that can make the product to market fit happen.  A team that can go out and get customers buying the product. Next get product usage growing across a wide range of paying customers.  Customer acquisition and market acceptance of the product means the team has got the product to market fit right which means the business can grow by hiring marketing,product, sales and customer support staff. The strategy for business success will always be the product,the market and the team.  So the business plan and go to market strategy needs to address all three.

Lead Generation

Lead generation efforts whether online,social selling or via sales team can be one of the most underestimated activities in a business in terms of cost,time and the resources needed. The reality is that before a sale transaction happens (even if your B2C business is on-line), there is a process of generating leads (web traffic, inbound,outbound,on-line, events,shows, etc) and in many cases nurturing these leads over a period of time to turn suspects into prospects into sales. So before any sales happens, a business especially in the B2B environment needs a healthy and continuous pipeline of new prospects to sell to.

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Generating leads is challenge for most companies 

Generating sales leads is a daily challenge for most companies and according to Forbes Magazine, more than 60% of the marketers polled in a recent marketing survey said their greatest marketing challenge for the year ahead was generating more sales leads to fuel the sales engine, and nearly two-thirds (63%) reported that their marketing mix either doesn’t meet sales demand or they’re unsure of whether their mix is effective. Nearly 40% of those polled cited accurate measurement and attribution of on-line marketing as their biggest challenge.

Remarkably, a quarter (26%) of respondents said they do not track leads to any marketing program at all or they only attribute leads to one program. The old saying about “They know half their marketing spend works but not which half” seems to still ring true more than ever.

Lead generation can be costly (clicks, CPL, sales hunters) so the business needs to educate everyone that without lead generation there is no customer acquisition and probably no sales. It must be the role of every sales and marketing leader in a company to boost sales leads and reduce the cost of filling the pipeline funnel. This needs to be attacked on two fronts, on-line marketing (push,pull,inbound, lead nurturing) and good old fashioned sales work as lead generation cannot be the function of marketing alone. There is now B2B automated lead generation solutions on the marketplace which radically reduces the time sales agents have to spend identifying prospects.

However, lead generation is more than just implementing passive activities like social media, inbound marketing or on-line marketing tactics, the lead generation effort must work hand-in-glove with the sales teams work including social selling, hunting activities around customer acquisition and channel development. Successful companies know how to build a lead generation machine using multiple networks and sources and then fill the sales funnel with qualified prospects on a continuous basis. Most small companies fail not because of product or they can’t sell but because they can’t build a big enough sales funnel of quality prospects in a timely,cost effective way to work the sales process to drive revenue.

sales-outsourcing

There are multiple lead generation tools and resources, for social selling there is LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Owler and other business forums. For on-line inbound lead generation, communities like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr can deliver leads. B2B lead generation solutions which cut down on sales peoples time trying to get lists of prospects are provided from companies like Connectors Marketplace, Insideview, Sales Loft and Lead Genius.

Cost per Lead Generated

Regardless of where or how a business sources its sales leads, the cost per lead in customer acquisition needs to be measured across all the channels. The goal is to try and work back which channels delivered not quantity of leads or lowest cost per lead but the channel which delivers the best lead to conversion cost. An example of this is while the good old fashioned trade show might be considered very effective in generating high-quality leads, they are also expensive (maybe as much as €10,000 per lead) and what is the lead to conversation cost?.

So build a lead generation process, score or segment every lead, cost every lead and educate all the sales team that when they get handed a lead it has cost the business money to get to the point of just talking.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.