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 email@example.com 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.
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?
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Beulah Iriele is a Director at Soteria Business Services Limited, a UK-based business consultancy working with businesses to implement their growth and transformation objectives. Follow on twitter @SoteriaBusiness
Market research as we know it, is becoming more challenging for businesses. It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what consumers want or would pay for due to the unprecedented disruption happening in various markets.
A Post-Truth Era
In 2016, various sectors including the political and social arenas, experienced seismic changes to known and predictable patterns. Many say this was because the world may have moved into something the Oxford Dictionary terms as the ‘Post-Truth Era’. The Post-Truth Era signifies an era where feelings or emotions are prioritised above facts. Businesses could find it challenging to perform market research. Just collating facts relevant to their markets through the old way of conducting market research will not be sufficient. Therefore, businesses might need a customer-focused approach.
Customer-focused market research
Here are 3 ways businesses can perform a customer-focused market research
Engage in customer exploration
This is not only about getting feedback from customers through surveys and questionnaires. It also involves observations and one-on-one customer contact. This will help businesses understand how customers feel about your products and services. Businesses should not rely on the number of likes or followers on their social media page. Meeting customers one-on-one could help give first-hand feedback. It will also help to capture more than what customers say in their surveys and questionnaire responses.
Pilot new services or test new product prototypes
Within given markets, observe customer reactions to products or services. Observing rather than waiting for responses from feedback forms will enable businesses to understand the underlying feelings of reception or rejection of these products or services. This technique will also enable further probing into these feelings where necessary.
Focus research on the underlying factors accounting for customer loyalty
Customers often stay loyal to products and services that appeal to their feelings. Focusing on these factors will help businesses understand what drives adoption and customer loyalty through market research. For example, most people who own Apple brand products do so because they feel that they belong to some sort of elite club. Therefore, they remain loyal customers to maintain that feeling. Subsequently, Apple ensures that their products continually appeal to this feeling of elitism putting a lot of focus on Customer Intimacy as a value discipline. What other ways can businesses move from the traditional research methods to a customer-focused approach? Let us know what you think in the comment section.
This blog post is by Scott Graham, Creative Studio Manager at AVC Immedia. AVC Immedia is an Aberdeen-based agency that provides a range of creative services including web and graphic design, audiovisual, app and 3D animation.
Are you choosing a marketing agency because they’re cheap?
If I asked you to give me £500 to damage your brand in front of potential customers would you do it?
Well, plenty of you are.
The recent downturn resulted in everyone is trying to get their marketing and promotion as cheap as possible. I saw a video the other day. It looked like it was filmed by a man with one leg shorter than the other – squint, no tripod, no lighting, in and out of focus, ambient audio. This was broadcast on social media as an ‘insight’ into that company.
In choosing a marketing agency, someone at that company was delighted to have saved a few quid by paying the cheapest supplier possible. What they actually did was pay someone to damage their brand then show it to the world.
We are living in a world of fools. Breaking us down.
Instead of paying people to represent your company poorly, invest a little more time & money and get a better result. Your love for your brand will shine through to clients and you’ll come to value the difference between a cost and an investment.
But hey, it’s not me you need to show…
Here are 3 questions to help you to distinguish between cheap and good value when choosing a marketing agency:
1: Can your marketing agency scale up with you?
Every time you switch marketing companies, you have to spend some time with them to ensure they have a firm understanding of your brand. If you have to switch, each time your company’s needs grow, it costs you money. To avoid this, don’t assume the company with the lowest rates and lowest overheads is the cheapest. Find a partner, not a supplier.
2: Have they done this before?
Ask for case studies and examples that resonate with the objectives you have for your own business. If they don’t have any, then be aware that you are the one that is paying for them to build skills in that area.
3: Do you trust them?
Great ideas come from relaxed conversation. If you can’t establish a relationship of trust & mutual respect with your marketing supplier, then you’ll never get to the place where great ideas come from. You’ll tell them what you want, they’ll give you that, nothing more and nothing less. Eventually you will find that limiting and have to move on. Think about these issues when looking at your marketing provision and I promise you won’t waste your time living in a world of fools.
A version of this post was published on LinkedIn on 22 Oct 2015.
Photo credit: iStockPhoto.com | Photo for editorial use only