Leadership in Technology: surviving the “magic weekend”

Leadership in Technology: surviving the “magic weekend”

This blog is written by Gillian Thomson, Director of GT Limited. With a background in engineering and almost 20 years’ experience across a variety of industries, Gillian helps businesses to get the best out of their people. She specialises in leadership development, team effectiveness, conflict resolution and HR strategy & support. You can get in touch with Gillian by email at gillian@gt.limited and follow @GTLimitedUK on Twitter

Leadership and the magic weekend

Whilst not unique to technology industries, the “magic weekend” is a phenomenon that’s common in this field. Excellent technical specialists are promoted to positions of leadership because they are great at being technical specialists. Not necessarily because they have great leadership skills. On Friday, you are part of the team. Then by Monday, you are leading it. You often get very little support for the transition, and are just expected to know how to deal with all the challenges that come with being a leader. This can be even more difficult when you are friends with the people you are now responsible for leading. So how can you ease the transition and become the leader you know you can be?

Get to know your team

You may think you already know your team, especially if you were peers before now. But do you really know them? Take time to understand their aspirations, their strengths, what they need support with, what they are looking for from you as their leader. Consider using a tool such as Emergenetics® to understand thinking and behaviour preferences and help the team work more effectively together.

Letting go

One of the hardest challenges for new managers is letting go of the detail. They need to delegate that to others, trusting others to do the work that you consider yourself the expert in. Be clear on the desired outcome, but allow the team to get there in their own way. It may be different to yours, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong! I often use a tool called ‘setting the waterline’. Consider if you were the captain of a ship. If the ship’s engineer discovered a hole the size of a penny at the top of the hull above the waterline, and he was perfectly capable of fixing it. There’s really no need for you be involved. If, on the other hand he discovered a hole that was letting in gallons of sea water under the water line, then you probably need to know. Talk to your team about where your waterlines are. What are the things they can just get on and do, what are the things that you really need to be involved in?

Ask questions

What do you think? How does success look like? Which barriers do you see right now? What would you do next if time/resources/money were not a constraint? The questions you can ask as a leader are limitless. Effective questions unlock the potential of our people. Allow them to figure out the answer’s themselves and give them confidence that they can deal with new situations that they face. Be careful of “Why” questions such as “Why did you do it like that?” as they can come across as judgemental.  Don’t feel like you always have to have the answer.

Learn to Listen

Effective listening is one of this most important skills a leader can have. Usually we’re not actively listening, but waiting for our chance to speak and thinking about what we’re going to say next. Or mulling over that important email that came in just before you sat down for a catch up with your team member. Take the time to properly listen when you are having conversations with your team

Give feedback well

Giving effective feedback is an art. And all too often leaders save it up for the end of year appraisal when it is overwhelming and the individual will likely only focus on the 1 negative thing you told them, and not the 20 great things. Give feedback (both positive and constructive) in the moment, as soon as possible after the event. Be specific about the situation or the behaviour, make it future focused and make it factual – avoid assumptions

Embrace conflict

Managing conflict and difficult conversations are the top two things that leaders say they find difficult to do, according to research from the CIPD. But we need conflict and disagreement to drive innovation and creativity within the team. As leaders, it’s important that we know how to manage conflict constructively. Invest some time in learning these skills and you’ll reap the dividends, not just with your team and potentially across all areas of your life!

5 Simple Ways to Conduct Customer Research

5 Simple Ways to Conduct Customer Research

Many businesses start with a good idea. The idea is exciting and you usually can’t wait to start making sales! But hang on. How do you know who your customers are? It won’t be everyone so you need customer research.

Customer research is a key part of building a business plan

Customer research allows you to develop a deep understanding of who your ideal customer is. Knowing your ideal customer means you can design the right sales and marketing strategies. This post will highlight a few simple ways that you can conduct customer research for your business:

Social media

Social media makes it easy to find out information about people and brands. You could spend some time researching keywords related to your business. On Twitter, you could search for hashtags and find the people who use them. Tools like Hashtagify can help find related hashtags as well as their popularity. Start following relevant people and brands. Use the hashtags in your posts to build an audience.   Another research tool is Facebook Ads manager which has an audience insight dashboard. It’s typically for creating ads, but it is also a great resource for research.   Say you want to be a horse riding instructor. On the Ads manager screen below, you might look for people with an interest in horse riding. The insights show you the gender mix, age, marital status, typical job titles (incidentally, 36% are in Sales!) etc.  You could get more detailed by adding more complexity. Use the information you gather to build a customer profile.

69% of people with an interest in horse riding are women, Facebook Audience Insight, Feb 23, 2017

 Competitors

Your competitors’ websites are a good source of information. These websites often have an existing client list that you could research, learning more about what your ideal customer could look like. Researching your competitors also gives you an idea of what your unique selling point might be. For instance, as a website designer, are you the cheapest, the most hi-tech or do you offer ongoing support that some of your competitors might not offer? Take time to understand what each of your main competitors offer. Compare that to the customer needs you seek to fulfil. The more detail you have, the most clearly you will see your ideal customer.

Offline research

Offline engagement such as events, conferences are valuable for research. While there are a ton of online resources for research, don’t neglect traditional methods of interacting. Events held in your industry and/or your area could be a huge opportunity to meet your potential customers. Find out the key events, and try to attend a few. Before you attend, have an idea of the kind of questions you want answers to. Start with general questions like, “What do you like the most about your current phone line provider?” Rather asking if they would switch to a new service you are offering. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick is a great book that teaches how you might approach customer research. It works for situations when you’ve just bumped into someone and you are making small talk.

Online tools 

For instance, YouGov has a wealth of data. Anyone can access the free version. You simply select an interest, and YouGov will show you the typical persona with those interests. Let’s go back to the horse riding instructor. Using YouGov Profiles Lite, you can search for people with an interest in horse riding. YO! Marketing customer research YouGov

Easily search for “horse riding” as an interest of your target customers

YouGov then shows me the persona of a typical horse riding enthusiast. You get information on demographic, lifestyle, personality, favourite brands etc. It’s interesting how it corroborates and builds on the data from Facebook Ads manager. Truly a great resource! YO! Marketing customer research YouGov horse riding girl

YouGov profile: Women aged 18-24 who work in home and gardens, real estate, energy and utilities, Feb 23, 2017

Family and friends

Your family and friends are often our first stop for customer research but it is often not the most reliable indication of whether you understand your ideal customer. Your family and friends don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they tend to say what they think you want to hear.   Still, this is a good start. They can provide a good steer if you ask the right questions. Instead of asking, “Would you buy from my jewellery range?” You could ask who their favourite jewellery designers are and what they love about them. Ask what they believe is missing from the product or service. This way, your customer research becomes more reliable and unbiased.

We originally published a version of this post on http://relocateguru.io on 02 March 2017
The Importance Of Content Marketing In Your Business

The Importance Of Content Marketing In Your Business

This blog post is by Annika Rautakoura, Content Manager at Smarp. Smarp provides an employee communication, advocacy and engagement tool for building influence and engaging employees through content.

 

With digital and social media mowing the content landscape, content marketing has become the core of building up brand awareness and an online presence that drives business.   The importance of content marketing has not gone unnoticed. Currently, 73% of B2B marketers include a plan to operate content marketing as an ongoing business process. It is not simply a campaign (Content Marketing Institute). The focus of content marketing investments have shifted from just content production to content promotion. It’s a combination of these both that ultimately determines the success of content efforts.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a long-term strategy based on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high quality content relevant to them on a consistent basis. “Eventually, when customers make a purchase decision, their loyalty already lies with you. And they will purchase your product and prefer it over competitors’ products”, says Neil Patel.   Why is this? Let’s look at some of the reasons.

Building trust

Content is a way to increase brand awareness by building a voice and authority online. It’s about creating an image of honesty and expertise in your respective field. How does this happen? Certainly not overnight.   It takes consistency; being accurate and not misleading your audience. Posting on a regular basis keeps you visible to your audience, and posting consistently helps your audience form habits around the consumption of your content. In other words, audiences can expect you to provide certain types of content in a timely fashion.   Trust also calls for grabbing the attention of your audience in the right way. You can do this by encouraging employees to participate in content production, connecting with the right influencers and giving shout-outs to brands and people with engaged audiences. When audiences spot your content through familiar or influential people, they are more likely to take that next step towards purchasing.

Lead generation

Content marketing is a way to start discussions around topics that are important for your business and attract the interest of people and organisations tackling with issues your services can provide solutions to. Researching your audience and targeting this audience based on what they’re looking for is the key to get leads.   By having the right lead qualification processes in place and having different types of content to provide for leads at different stages of the purchase funnel, you can turn your leads into business. A well-established content strategy means that you need to work less to find leads, when leads will find you through the content path that you have laid out.

You can measure and adjust

Not investing in the right technology and tracking system for managing and measuring the performance of your content marketing efforts is like trying to hit a moving target in the dark. There is little point in producing or sharing content with no means to adjust any setbacks or build on successes.   Here are some tips on with content.   Tip: focusing on conversions is valuable for witnessing the actual effects of your content, i.e. action taken after consuming it, whether this means subscribing to a newsletter or downloading an e-book.

Boosting thought leadership through content marketing

Investing in content marketing supports your efforts to get messages across to your target audience. You can also build up a brand image through stories that provide readers with something they can relate to. Content that showcases the company’s achievements. For instance, case studies and user testimonials focused on the client are valuable for highlighting the results of your business. Content that brands the company as an employer allows for more personal material, such as behind-the-scenes articles. If you’re not yet convinced on the importance of employer branding, remember that your current or former employees have as much power in sharing the word about your brand.

What type of content works?

Blogging B2B marketers with using blogs generate 67% more leads (TechClient). The amount and intensity of blog posts is dependent on resources and strategy. More is more, but quality should always be kept in mind.

 

Social media A foolproof way to drive traffic to your site and the content you produce. It’s also an easy way to showcase your industry by linking to relevant third-party content that you consider to be of value to your followers. Social media efforts should always be tied to your overall content strategy, so that they have a maximum impact for your marketing goals.

 

Visual content is gaining in importance. The use of visual content in articles published by marketers increased by 130% between 2015 and 2016. Social media tools like Instagram and Snapchat are alive and well, and increasingly investing in features for companies. Especially in the B2B industry, people wish to see products in practice.

What’s it all about?

Everything boils down to having a strategy and executing efforts with the goals in mind that they contribute to. It’s about experimenting and learning from your efforts, doing your best to educate and attract readers, and raising their interest with your expertise.

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