Archive for February, 2018

Fail fast, fail cheap, fail smart

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

From the Sunday Tribune

Fail fast, fail cheap, fail smart

Failure is an option that is finally getting explored in Ireland. It’s now starting to trickle through that trying something and failing is not the sin it once was. Many have been saying for years how in Silicon Valley people are trusted almost more if they have previously done something and failed. It’s not the failure per se but it’s the experience gained from work and being at the coal face. In Silicon Valley it’s “hard luck, what are you doing next?”. In Ireland it’s been a case of “Oh that guy failed, should you really do business with him?” It still exists too. Lots of companies merged or were acquired in recent years to save face.

There’s a definite culture thing at play here. Good old Catholic guilt probably contributes to this. Communities via the pulpit have always been encouraged to knock anyone that rises about their “station”. Possibly tied to that is the excuse about bankruptcy laws in Ireland. I’m not convinced strict bankruptcy laws are holding people back.

If struck off it’s hard to start new business yet there are plenty who never go as far as being struck off. Plenty of people have risen above being struck off and have done well for themselves. If bankruptcy laws are holding you back are you not creative enough or are you too risk averse?

It seems like years ago but at a conference in March Dylan Collins amongst others talked about embracing failures and mistakes and learning from them. “We have to be proud of our mistakes – It’s how we learn.”

Any fans of James Burke and his Connections programmes will know of the way discoveries throughout history were more to do with lots of trials and their errors moreso than eureka moments. A “good” failure allows the lessons learned to be applied elsewhere and lots of these combined becomes a new discovery.

Just like the scammers swarmed into seo and social media though, now I wonder will the acceptance of failure see the spirit of it twisted to: hard luck, what grant are you going to try and nobble next?

Failure when you and others/the collective learns is important. Selfish failure does not help anyone, it encourages skewing of data, hiding results and outright lying. Going back to companies merging, many that invest in companies including organisations like Enterprise Ireland and VCs have plenty of companies on their books that are probably already dead but to save face, are not publicly wound down.

I do wonder has this culture of fear of failure not only slowed or progress and experimenting but also created an even worse scenario where you can have worse failures because of the level of secrecy that happens. And what of all the things learned in them. A secret failure means others will have to trudge through the same stuff too. Can we have a Wikileaks for this stuff?

Light Speed Marketing

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Everything Internet

You may be one of a large percentage of business people sick of hearing about the Internet, apps, mobile, digital marketing, social media and Twitter this and Tweedledee that. Consider the Internet though and how it really has changed business and how it has changed itself.

We started off 30 years ago with what was a way of computers to trade information with each other without geographical limitations. Born on top of the Internet soon after was the World Wide Web that brought around the idea of websites. We had websites for a while and then social media came along that added a social and personal level to the Web. Social Media sites on the Web and that sits on the Internet. Universes, galaxies and solar systems, in a way.

The speed of change is also increasing. 5 years ago nobody in Ireland used Facebook and today 80% of the population does. 5 years ago people used mobile phones to ring each other, today that’s the 3rd most common use of a mobile.

Here are some truths though: Good business always wins through whether you’re a Facebook fanatic or shun all forms of communication. If you supply good customer service, deliver value through price or high quality, people will have the inbuilt need to let others know about their amazing find. Us humans want to connect to people and the best connections are the ones built on sharing value. We will drive out of the way to buy something from someone for sometimes the simple truth that we think they’re nice.

The good will out, good business will out, it just takes time. What modern technology does is it speeds that up. From the speed of conversation to the speed of light. This month we’ll take a broad overview of what are the main areas in digital to look at and maybe in future articles we’ll get more in depth. Just one thing: Get over being afraid of this speed, reacting by bunkering down until it goes away won’t work. Change is the new “3rd generation business”.

In some areas of towns you have the legal sector, you have the financial sector, the food market sector and the retail sector and even amongst them you can have more specific sub-sectors. Like streets that do shoes only or formalwear. Like you’d go to a marketplace with high footfalls of the right type of customer, you’d go to marketplaces online that do the same thing.

There are millions of searches every day in Ireland alone and 90% of them are via Google. As a business, if you want to be found online through searches, you need to have a website or a webpage listing your details. The important thing to note is that most people won’t Google your business name, they Google products or services you offer. With that in mind a website should describe what you can offer, not information on your name and company history, keep that for the company history. Optimising your website for this type of person is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

A tool Google offers for free is called the Google Keyword Tool and it tells you in broad numbers how many people search for a certain term. So you can type in your company name e.g. Mulley Communications and it tells you how many people search for it. 10 to maybe 100 times more people will Google what your company does than who you are. Use the Google Keyword Tool to inform yourself on what words you should use to describe your offerings and you’ll get more and better quality website traffic.

As well as searching online (think of these people as the ones that go to a store looking for something specific “I want a can of blue metal paint”) there are those that are the “I’m just browsing” types, just looking around, not looking for anything in particular. Think of those that use Facebook as those types. They’re not looking for anything but something may entice them in their browsing.

With Facebook you can set up a Business Page that in a way is like a mini-website and it’s free. On it, you can let people know what you can offer. Be careful though as people on Facebook are not looking so if you bombard them with constant pitches for business, they’ll move on. A Facebook page should be seen like a media channel itself. Inform them of things/information they like and then point out things you also have for sale.

A very popular or maybe hyped space too is Twitter, a way of having public chats with people. each update or Tweet from you is slightly less space than the size of a text message. I consider Twitter to be like a networking event. It’s a lot of work, you have to be present at a networking event to get the value and you need to work the room. Again though, if you just pitch at people instead of building relationships and engaging in a genuine way with people, people will just walk away. To me, Twitter is the most work but can be of the most value as you build longer-term relationships with consumers or potential partners.

These three online marketplaces are mostly about business to consumer, one online marketplace for business to business is LinkedIn. Something that’s a mix of an online CV mixed with an online address book. LinkedIn is really good for building contacts and you can get a huge amount of leads into companies with LinkedIn.

Of all of these options I’d go Website optimisation, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in that order if you want to be in the consumer marketplace online. An hour into working on your website will pay off for months, an hour on Facebook for weeks and Twitter a few hours. For B2B go website and then LinkedIn.

An hour taken seriously with digital marketing in any of these areas though will have a positive and valuable impact on your business. Enjoy the lightspeed effect.

Amateurs and cowboys

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

I wrote this a few years ago for the Cork Independent.

Amateurs and cowboys

Again and again in this column on digital marketing we have looked at all the new tools and techniques that allow anyone in an organisation to do digital marketing. A business can now do their own website optimisation and rank quite well in Google search results. The same business can create Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts and tweet away about the company’s offerings. Ads can be taken out with just a credit card and you can be advertising all over the web or in Facebook within minutes. The amateur class is becoming the default and doing quite a good job of it.

To quote the from the scholarly works of the great “Spiderman” – “With great power comes great responsibility”. With your amateur voice everywhere, you can be very amateur in front of a lot of people. As I write this I am looking at a business on Twitter, using their business name and they are engaing in a conversation with another business and basically suggesting their customers are stupid.

At the same time on Twitter people are giving out about the new TV ads from a biscuit company. 90% of the tweets about them are negative, if you go on to their Facebook Page it’s the same. With the way people are connected on Twitter and Facebook, others are joining in too, spreading the idea that the ads are awful to more people. Conversations are now happening offline with people asking people have they heard about these awful TV ads. All very one-sided.

It’s fantastic that for many tasks you don’t have to hire professional marketing or PR companies and can do it yourself but it doesn’t mean we should. There are some naturals out there when it comes to PR and Marketing who just don’t need professionals, they are already brilliant. We’re in the early days of social media where everyone is having a go at this, professionals and amateurs. For a while we’ll all get along/away with doing this. As the online crowd grows and matures we’re probably going to see new types of communications companies form in this space and offer their services though. This is good for those that want to use their services but also it should help up standards in social media.

PR and Marketing companies formed well after the industries they lived off were created and in the wild west of social media, it’ll be a while before it becomes more professional too. In the meantime we’ll have the amateurs having car crashes, saying things to a wide sphere when they didn’t realise it, slagging off their employer on Facebook or spamming people thinking it’s an ok thing to do. Even the companies with staff that are always on social media are still in the amateur stage and be aware of that if you are going to hire them. Lots of mistakes will happen but with them lots of lessons will be learned. Right now too we’re all more forgiving when these hiccups happen. So stick on the stetson, wear those boots and enjoy the unrestricted social media world before it becomes to mainstream and stale.