Category Archives: Social Business Strategy

Why Vision Should Be The Raison d’Être (Reason of Existence) For Any Business or Organization

In the wonderful book of Proverbs, King Solomon states:

 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Why is vision so important? Do organizations really face the threat of “perishing” or extinction if their vision statements are not spelled out clearly and openly for all stakeholders to read and understand?

According Wikipedia’s entry on Vision Statement a company vision should include the following traits:  “general enough to encompass all of the organization’s interests and strategic direction:

  • Challenging: not something that can be easily met and discarded
  • Clear: defines a prime goal
  • Concise: able to be easily remembered and repeated
  • Future-oriented: describes where the company is going rather than the current state
  • Inspiring: motivates employees and is something that employees view as desirable
  • Stable: offers a long-term perspective and is unlikely to be impacted by market or technology changes

Marketoonist_F_Mission.Statement.Clichés_1

Any organization’s vision should be the “raison d’être” or the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence just like human beings should understand why they were born and what their awesome destiny is! In his book “Delivering Results: A New Mandate for Human Resource Professionals” author David Ulrich makes this fundamental claim:

“It is more important to know who you are than where you are going, for where you are going will change as the world around you changes.”

In many ways the vision of a company is its core ideology. Leaders pass away, services or products become obsolete, market dynamics shift, new technologies disrupt the way we work, but core ideology / culture in a great organization endures as a source of guidance, inspiration and motivation. An organization’s culture or core ideology provides the glue that holds an organization together as it expands, diversifies, and develops workplace diversity. What held and still holds the Jewish people together despite the fact that they have been centuries without a homeland? The principles and core Ideology of Judaism. Core Ideology / Organization vision should be the common purpose, the enduring ideals and principles that bond the entire workforce towards a shared purpose and vision.

I love the “little weirdness” Tony Hsieh promotes in his company Zappos.com. Tony knows that the “WOW customer experience” is never terminal or achieved; it is an ongoing attempt and effort to service all stakeholders for a company that “happens” to sell shoes and handbags.

___CM_F_Zappos_Delivering.Happiness

“One day, 30% of all retail transactions in the US will be online. People will buy from the company with the best service and the best selection. Zappos.com will be that online store. Our hope is that our focus on service will allow us to WOW our customers, our employees, our vendors, and our investors. We want Zappos.com to be known as a service company that happens to sell shoes, handbags, and anything and everything.”

Some of the questions leaders should ask themselves is how their organizations are being perceived by all stakeholders when management is not “in the room”. What is the press saying about their companies? Such a study could bring surprises since management and workforce/customer perceptions are often divergent as exemplified by the following slide:

___CustServ_F_Mission.Statement_vs._Real.Company.Philosophy_2

Ten fundamental questions organizations should regularly ask themselves:

  1. What do our workers and customers say about our organization?
  2. What are the values our organization creates for our workforce, vendors and investors?
  3. What are the core values driving our company vision?
  4. What is the core purpose or raison d’être (reason of existence) for our organization?
  5. What are the values our company provides to our consumers?
  6. What is our company known for?
  7. What are the values our organizations creates in the world
  8. What is the renewable and sustainable contribution our organization makes to our environment?
  9. What is our organization perceived for: cutting edge or bleeding edge?
  10. What makes it peculiar to work for our organization?

____CM_F_Culture_Staff.Treatment

The goal  of making a profit does not belong to a company vision or/and its core values: Making money should be the outcome or the fruit of a company’s labor and hard work!  In Part part two of this series, we will look at two main tenets of company vision: core values and core purpose.

 

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„Change Fixes the Past. Transformation Creates the Future“

With a striking sketching and a short title, Tanmay Rova  captures in a few words one of the crucial differences between change and transformation.

“Change fixes the past. Transformation creates the future”  —Tanmay Rova

ESN_F_Tanmay.Vora_Change_vs._Transformation-600x600

John Palinkas from CIO Insight gives us additional insight that differentiates transformation from change:

“Change uses external influences to modify actions, but transformation modifies beliefs so actions become natural and thereby achieve the desired result.”

—John Palinkas | http://www.cioinsight.com | @JohnPalinkas

I love the French word “clairvoyance” for the term vision. My native French combines “clair” meaning “clear” and “voyance” meaning “vision” or according Wikipedia, “the alleged ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through extrasensory perception. Extrasensory perception has nothing to do with any Cartesian Excel sheet, a business plan or a to-do-list. It is the combination of a vision, motto and credo that touches our heart and moves us emotionally towards action.

All the musical technique (mastery of an instrument, knowledge of scales, harmony and chords) involved into a bebop Jazz musician improvising on Dizzy Gillespie’s wonderful classic “A night in Tunisia” is irrelevant to most listeners. It is the sound, the colorful melody line, Dizzy Latin influence, the dynamics and the way the theme and music transports us into the delight and pleasure of listening (for those of us who enjoy Bebop Jazz).

We’ve all experienced this emotional inner drive that compels us to buy “things” we don’t need. Organization alike should consider this emotional side of humans and translate it into a clear vision, mission and value statement. An inspiring company vision will rally its workforce towards a cause that transcendences religion, beliefs, personal idiosyncrasies or well known disagreements between Sales and Product Development. Company vision is difficult to express when one of the core priorities is the next quarterly “Frankfurt Main share-value.” The transformational vision given by management should inspire, motivate, and move the entire workforce behind a common clear (clairvoyance) vision. Simon Sinek comes here to the rescue with his excellent insight, pointing out the importance of our dreams (clairvoyance) that inspire people and move them towards action:

Clipboard Image001

Vision does not express itself best within a business plan, an Excel table or a to-do-list. Transformation goes beyond physical change; it is first a mental or “spiritual” exercise. Our western business models are built on rationale and for the most part non-renewable and non-sustainable short term profit. Character traits such as empathy, forgiveness, love, and unconditional altruism towards others are rarely part of a job interview! These character traits belong to the necessary building block any organization needs to display in order to thrive and grow. How should we then quantify and ratify character traits such as empathy, forgiveness, love, and unconditional altruism towards others into a business plan or an Excel table?

CM_F_Who.Wants.2.Change

That’s where an organization’s culture comes in. A company culture reflecting an organization’s vision, mission and values based upon extrasensory perception for each individual to identify himself or herself with! An Organization’s culture all co-workers, partners, and customers can identify with and support.

 

 

Five Crowd-Sourcing Lessons Learned from a Retail Business Moving its Shop Location

Manuka Wholefoods is a remarkable little shop owned by a family of New Zealanders living in Chichester (West Sussex) in the southern part of the United Kingdom.  Manuka Wholefoods retails a full array of organic products such as grocery, dairy products, fruit and veggies, skin and body care, nutritional supplements and organic wines.
 
For personal reasons, the Manuka Wholefoods business owners had to travel right before relocating their shop within Chichester.  Beyond the traditional emails sent to their customer database, the on-site working crew, led by highly capable and motivated Shop Manager Claire Burgess, decided to give customers a little map-flyer helping them to visualize the new location.
 
1. First, start the crowd-sourcing project within your own team
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Creating a readable map everybody could understand turned out to be a challenge. Claire could have printed out the typical Google map, had it photocopied and “voila, here you go customers, take it or leave it!  But insightful Claire Burgess wanted to go a step further. She decided that not only should customers understand and be able to read her map, but more importantly customers should be able to visualize the new shop location.  In order to create the best possible drawing, Claire first sought advice from her own team.  By doing so, she enthusiastically included them in the project while gaining their motivation and support.  
 
2. Crowd-source with own employees for personnel engagement and motivation
 
The three Manuka Wholefoods team members had different views and expectations on what the map should look like.  After briefly conferring with each other, they all decided to try out a Google version.  At that time, the Google map seemed the logical choice since the team could perfectly understand the directions from the old location to the new. 
 
3. Test your idea and ask for genuine feedback from your crowd
 
Claire Burgess went one step further.  She started showing the map to her customers, and asked them if they could visualize and understand where the shop was going?  Although 80% of Manuka Wholefoods’ customer base is from Chichester, most of the customers to whom the map was shown had genuine difficulties reading it and understanding where the shop was moving to.  Claire’s team realized that many of their customers did not know the street names or names of the city landmarks.  The team had to pause and accept the fact that the map they created and perceived as logical and easy to follow, came across to the majority of their customers as confusing.  The quintessential lesson they learned was the fact that they did not find out until they genuinely started to ask.
 
4. You miss the point if your business gets it, but your “crowd” or customers don’t
 
Manuka Wholefoods’ sales team started asking customers for suggestions.  It became clearer that a readable map would have to be made from scratch.  Unneeded street names were removed.  Thanks to the help of many customers, the map became a crowd-manufactured effort featuring four arrows originating from the former shop and ending at the new location.  The customers preferred a map overview with directions along the main roads rather than the most direct route along unfamiliar streets. Furthermore, customers then requested that it would help if pictures of known landmarks and shops could be added to the map to create a complete visual of the new location.
 
ManukaWholefoods is moving-medium 
5. Assume nothing and get your crowd’s attention
 
Although posters announcing the move were strategically placed, these seemed to be of little use unless pointed out to customers. In this day and age, we are all busy, preoccupied and in a rush.  We see but do not read; we hear but do not listen! That’s
why folks, with any message you want to communicate, you’ve got to get people’s attention.  We all are creatures of habit. We often overestimate the relevance of a message by genuinely assuming that people are interested. 
 
Once the map had been finalized, 750 copies were personally given out by Claire Burgess and her team.  Furthermore Manuka Wholefoods will have to distribute additional flyers to encourage its customers to create new shopping habits. How many customers will forget and realize that the location has changed when suddenly faced with the old empty shop?  Over the next three to six months, Manuka Wholefoods will have to remind, coach and reward customers for having adjusted to a major change:  shopping at its new location.
 
What is your crowd-sourcing experience as a business owner?  What are some of the lessons you’ve had the chance to learn? I am looking forward to your comments and suggestions:  Until next time, I wish you all a successful week. 

 

Six Reasons Why Social Business Strategists should read Jacob Morgan’s “The Collaborative Organization”

I purchased Jacob Morgan’s “The Collaborative Organization” on Amazon UK at its full price.  “The Collaborative Organization” is a strategic Enterprise Social Software guide and a monumental must read for any CEO, CMO, CIO and CCO (Chief Culture/Customer Officer) wanting to successfully implement Enterprise Social Software within his enterprise.  Erik Brynjolfsson, coauthor of Race Against the Machine writes: “Most business leaders understand how critical collaborative tools are to the success of their companies.  What they need now is a guide based on hard data and practical experiences that show how to put those tools to work.  Morgan fills that need with this book.” 
“Rapid pace of change is occurring in technology, human behavior and business culture” writes Morgan.  It is imperative for organizations to check and if necessary update obsolete intranet/extranet platforms and radically transform internal and external communication.  Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lew Platt once said:  “If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times as productive.”  Please bear in mind that Morgan has a full array of added case studies on his Chess Media Group website adding tremendous value to the study of his book.
 
The Collaborative.Organization-medium
 
1. Enterprise Collaboration Tools bring real advantages to companies willing to implement social business software solutions.
 
Among the top reasons for enterprises considering the implementation of Enterprise Social Software (ESS) Morgan’s top six are:
– Connecting colleagues across teams and geographies (72%)
– Increasing productivity (65%)
– Fostering employee engagement (60%)
– Fostering innovation (59%)
– Capturing and retaining institutional knowledge (59%)
– Enabling access to subject expert (54%)
Morgan uses many case studies to back up his enterprise social software exposé. 
 
2. Accelerate the serendipity of weak ties with the use of social business software solutions
 
“One of the most visible changes for companies is often how horizontal communications lines open up across various enterprise silos” writes Morgan.  He discusses the risks companies are facing by not implementing social software tools as well as the possible threats to be faced while implementing them.   
 
3. Excellent delivery of the technology landscape
 
Morgan’s technology landscape is a strategic overview social leaders will greatly appreciate when considering their social platform menu.  Morgan and his Chess Media Group have done a meticulous job at surveying all the different collaborating platforms, and the percentage of companies using mashups, wikis, blogs, prediction market platforms, forums, Ideation platforms, RSS feeds, micro-blogs, collaborative file sharing and social email and much more. 
 
4. Social Enterprise Software evaluation matrix
 
Morgan offers an excellent vendor evaluation matrix, which is very well presented and easy to use.  It will help social leaders to rank ESS vendors according to specific areas such as::
– Vendor management, product roadmap and viability
– Ease of use and intuitiveness
– Price
– Features
– Technology integration and security
– Customization and integration
– Product features: people
– Support and maintenance
– Vertical expertise
 
5. Adaptive emergent collaboration framework
 
Morgan delivers another useful matrix with five core areas:
– Goals and objectives (company, department, metrics, customers and employees)
– Organizational culture (leadership, mutually beneficial value, change management, openness and evangelists
– Process (escalation, information management, automation)
– Technologies (tool selection, integration, training, adoption, maintenance and upgrades)
– Governance (best practices, guidelines, employees, customers, metrics)
Morgan recommends a maturity model of adoption made of seven steps and the different milestones achieved during their implementation.
 
6. Culture and technology are the two most important drivers
 
Morgan stresses enterprise culture and how it is one of the most crucial pillars of Enterprise 2.0 when attempting to establish the right foundation for hybrid, intern and external communities to communicate and engage.  Morgan quotes Carl Frappaolo “Culture is the single greatest potential asset or detriment.  A culture conducive to collaboration will compensate to some degree for awkward processes and inadequate technology.  In contrast, a culture not conducive to collaboration will ignore, or in the worst case sabotage, even the most sophisticated technology and process approaches to open transparent sharing.”
 
The Chess Media Group has meticulously researched and produced a superb textbook for any CCO, CMO, CIO and CMO to assist him or her into implementing enterprise social software.   Morgan has delivered another crucial piece of the social business puzzle on how to prepare, organize, evaluate, measure and drive the adoption of social software tools.  Although Morgan has written a superb work, one frustration remains: the somewhat poor quality of the charts and figures as displayed by the publisher.  A little more effort could have been made in order to enhance this work.  The Collaborative Enterprise belongs to the text-books every social business strategist needs to own.  My personal thanks and kudos to Jacob Morgan for having published a wonderful book that greatly contributes to the new discipline of social business strategy.

Six Reasons Why Social Business Strategists should read Mark Fidelman’s Socialized!

I bought Mark Fidelman Socialized! on Amazon at its full price (no discounts or coupons from Mark) and just finished devouring it. Fidelman  delivers a fundamental work that greatly contributes to the heated debate of Social Business development.  Fidelman not only shows, but proves how quintessential it is for businesses to harness the power of social.  Not only with tools and technologies, but first with their immediate communities aka company workforce.  Time is ripe for dismantling the prevailing command-and-control leadership style. The militaristic/hierarchical leadership approach ought to be replaced with Jon Husband’s Wirearchy structure.  So why should you read Socialized!Social Media ROI expert Dr. Natalie Petouhoff: “Fidelman’s ability to simplify key concepts like the Digital Village, Darwin’s Funnel, and the Digital Network, gives the reader a unique and important understanding of the power of Social Business. You’ll be sorry if you don’t read this book before your competitors do.”
 
Mark Fidelman: Socialized http://amzn.to/10gw8CR

Mark Fidelman: Socialized http://amzn.to/10gw8CR

Fidelman and his team interviewed business leaders around the globe in order to present to us a state-of-the-art social business road-map.  Fidelman lives and breathes what he writes.  He is the sort of individual any social minded person ought to connect with; either on Twitter/LinkedIn, and Forbes where he is a regular contributor.  Socialized! not only talks the walk but most importantly walks the talk.  It is a practical text-book backed up with countless case studies and examples anyone aspiring to become a social leader should be aware of and study
  
2. Culture, culture and more culture is the foundation to any social business undertaking
 
Fidelman emphasizes culture as the 101 prerequisite to any potentially successful Social Business Strategy.  Fidelman: “Why after all do we insist on employees following our orders, and why do we call it insubordination if they question them? … Yet the companies that are leading in today’s world recognize the benefit of an empowered workforce that feels connected to the organization.  Empowered employees understand not only how to make great products, but more importantly how to create cultures that continue to make great products well into the future.”  Socialized! will assist CMOs and CCOs (Chief Cultural/Customer Officers) not only to analyze their existent Social Business state, but provide them with a detailed 10-point Social Business Culture development program.  
 
3. Building first an internal digital village and then an external digital network
 
Once the infrastructure of a cooperative culture has been established, business leaders will need to handpick the internal evangelists and shepherds (regardless of their rank) who will co-create their internal digital village — the nuts and bolts to any Social Business foundation
 
CXOs need to remember that becoming a Customer Service or/and Customer-Experience oriented company first  requires the emotional support and buy-in of their internal communities or “Smart Tribes” (as coined by Christine Comaford in her brand new book).  These “Smart Tribes” or internal communities represent the company’s intrinsic power that will transform the  traditional working communities into enthusiastic business advocates.  
 
After the creation of an apropos culture and the establishment of the right people foundation, the social team will need to select the social media platforms and its supportive collaborative technologies (Intranet/Extranet/SCRM/Social Business Software).  This will make sure that the Social Business community sets up the proper internal tools to construct its external digital network.
 
4. The new Social Business Playbook
 
Youtility author Jay Baer states: “Socialized! is an imminently readable, practical, and modern guide to social business.  The playbook section alone is worth the price, and then some.  Fidelman has added an important piece to the corporate social transformation puzzle.” Fidelman:  “In practice, management should provide the right atmosphere, guidelines, technologies, and opportunities for employees to thrive.”  Socialized! delivers a 15-point playbook: here are some of the highlights:
 
– Building an internal and external community
– Connecting and empowering thought leaders
– Recruiting a Chief Social Strategist or a Chief Cultural/Customer Officer
– Becoming an own media publisher, which makes me think of Michael Brito’s upcoming book: Your Brand.
– Replacing traditional inbound marketing with content marketing
– Leveraging employees, suppliers and partners to foster innovation
– Enhancing customer support to become the strength of your company
– Using Gamification to engage employees, partners and customers
– Creating the potential for serendipitous relationships
 
This last point is my favorite and reminds me of the romantic comedy “Serendipity” starring John Cusack and  Kate Beckinsale.   Fidelman himself gives a wonderful example of serendipity with StaffUnity:  an automated employee lunch club system provider.
 
5. The rise of the social employee
 
Fidelman  makes the case that, social networks, consumerization of IT, mobility, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device: smartphones, phablets and tablets) and cloud computing are all being part of the social and technological developments a 21st century enterprise cannot fail anymore to ignore. 
 
6. Measuring the ROI (Return On Investment) of a Social Business Strategy
 
Fidelman stresses that social business initiatives should only be undertaken if those can be measured.   He goes on to say: “Before starting any social initiatives, you must first identify objectives such as:  “improving customer relationships, product innovation, acquiring and retaining employees and growing revenues.” 
 
 
Image Credit: PulsePointGroup.com: The Economics of the Socially Engaged Enterprise

Image Credit: PulsePointGroup.com: The Economics of the Socially Engaged Enterprise

 
Social Business metrics and ROI are  very well documented in a 2012 study by MIT in collaboration with the Deloitte institute.  The Economist Intelligence Unit and the PulsePoint Group published a study showing that 81% of interviewed leaders agree that social engagement has the following tangible benefits on the following areas:
 
– Project management
– Innovation
– Collaboration
– Efficiency gains
– Cost saving
 
In conclusion, Fidelman’s Socialized! is a management textbook that provides all the necessary steps for a clear pathway towards a successful social enterprise journey:  
 
1. Reviewing the existent culture of an enterprise
2. Setting up an internal digital village
3. Attaching an external digital village to the internal one
4. Establishing a social business strategy
5. Measuring Social Business ROI
6. Reviewing, correcting, adapting and repeating
 
Any leader wanting to understand the implications and repercussions  of a Social Business development program should study and dissect Socialized!.  Kudos and thanks to Mark Fidelman’s altruistic attitude for having taken the time to give us one of the best researched Social Business Strategy text-books ever written thus far. 
 
 
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10 Ways for Small and Medium Business to Establish a Social Business Strategy (2/2)

Our world is getting more complex every day.  Technology evolves at a speed that is hardly possible to keep up with.  In Part one, we reviewed the first five ways SMBs can set up a solid social business strategy:
1. Regularly review and refine your company mission, values and goals
2. Keep transforming your content marketing into convenience marketing
3. To blog or not to blog
4. Transform your website into a social hub and its visitors into co-creators
5. Carefully choose your social platforms
 
So here are the five last ways SMBs can establish a solid foundation for a social business:
 
6.  Reinforce and share your company vision
 
Share your company vision to employees, suppliers, customers and prospects on your company website.  Communicate your company vision on all your social networks. Reinforce your core values to customers, suppliers, prospects and anyone your business is coming in contact with.  I can guarantee you that it will be a rewarding experience for both your company and your customers who will better identify your vision and enthusiastically share it with the communities of their choice.  Zappos is well-known for its outstanding company culture and the way CEO Tony Hsieh runs his interviews for both cultural fit and skills requirements. On Zappos’ company blog, Tony publicly shares some of his correspondence for anybody to read: management, co-workers, clients, prospects and suppliers alike.  This is a superb way of spreading company culture while avoiding misunderstandings, promoting transparency and informing everyone.  
 
21st Century World
 
7. Create a dual strategy by combining your brick and mortar shop with a state of the art HTML5 web presence
 
Strive to create a superb online and personal shopping experience while rewarding your customers with loyalty perks and status.  Shoppers often use smartphones and tablets to get access to relevant information.  About.com has qualified three main distinct search types being made on the internet: “answer me (46% of all searches), inspire me (28% of all searches) and educate me (28% of all searches). Wouldn’t it be a great idea to make “answer me, inspire me and educate me” the three-dimensional crusade of your content marketing strategy?  Ask your customers, both online and in your shop, what answers they are looking for?  What inspires them? What educates them?  Gather your customer data directly into your database: the business headquarters of your people-centric customer information center.  This custom-made marketing know-how will help your business tailor make your content marketing output and assist you schedule personalized marketing messages via email or SMS.
 
8. Social, local, mobile (SoLoMo) and free Internet access
 
Would you rather have customers and prospects find out about competitive pricing inside or outside your shop premises?  If they search within your business, it might be easier for you and your staff to find out about competitors’ pricing and promotions.  It will also grant you the chance to intervene and give away “spur of the moment” discounts while bringing in more sales.  Providing customers and prospects with free internet access is a sure way to keep them inside your brick and mortar shop is not it?  No matter what, customers will find out what they want so you might as well give them the chance to do it while there are “browsing” around. It’s time for your business to harness wireless technology and give your visitors the shopping experience of their lives.  Why not consider an indoor positioning system (IPS) and lead your prospects to the right aisles? Why not consider near field communication (NFC) and QR codes to provide visitors with more product information?    
 
QR Codes Europe
 
9.  Free is a wonderful motivator
 
We all love free things don’t we?  The concept of free automatically appeals to our human nature.  Would it be possible to provide your business with a little coffee and snack corner? Could you add a few tables for prospects to linger around and visit?  This could be a wonderful opportunity to create a local’s corner while gathering precious ideas about business dos and don’ts.  Ask your customers what they expect from your business and reward the top ideas with prizes (first, second to five and 11th to 20th or more if you can). Give, share and get altruistically involved with your community.  How about giving away a free coffee for every new Twitter follower or Facebook likes?  Be creative, try new things, and encourage mistakes among co-workers and team members.  One last word of advice from Dan Erwin: “Shift your networking orientation from getting to giving and your long-term success is assured.”
 
10.  Refine your web and shop loyalty program
 
Loyalty programs should become digital and mobile. There are clients combining web and shop loyalty programs who can adapt their products to your specific needs and beyond.  It is fundamental for customers to get rewarded.  Customers both love rewards and status.  Status gives a sense of belonging, a feeling of being part of something bigger.  Among the 36.8 million followers Lady Gaga enjoys on Twitter, she concentrates on the top 1% she names her “little monsters” … “These fans evangelize for her and bring new fans in the fold”.  Lady Gaga understands her fans’ needs to emotionally wanting to connect with her and goes as far as interrupting her concert while calling one of them on the stage with her.  The more customers purchase, the more unique their reward and status development should be.  Think of airlines bronze, silver and gold levels as an example.  Rewards and status are the motivation that channels patrons into buying more of your products and services, but also to evangelize your business.   Be creative, different, and provocative, and reward your customers with an exhaustive loyalty program that shows genuine gratitude towards them. 
 
Now it’s your turn. Which advice would you give a combined brick and mortar digital shop for it to thrive in this contemporary business environment? Looking forward to your comments and suggestions.
 
 
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10 Ways for Small and Medium Businesses to Establish a Social Business Strategy (1/2)

Our world is getting more complex every day.  Technology evolves at a speed that is hardly possible to keep up with.  The amount of information is exploding and as Clay Shirky points out, we need to avoid filter failure.  We are at the threshold of intelligent marketing because now, Big Data is available.  We are moving from descriptive and predictive to prescriptive business intelligence.  How do we establish an effective business strategy, the one that will give our businesses the necessary room for successful growth and development?  What should its priority list look like?  Social media, blogging, inbound or outbound marketing, curation of information, website updating, brick and mortar shop, digital shop?  Trying to answer such a complex question within a ten point two parts blog article is a daring undertaking, but here is a modest attempt at doing this.     
 
1. Regularly review and refine your company mission, values and goals
 
This could be a daunting task, but a simpler way of restarting the process is to review your unique selling proposition (USP) and then divide it into three sub-categories: company mission, company values and company goals.  Having a sharp and targeted vision is quintessential for refining and pursuing a suitable strategy.  Reviewing your mission is crucial as business opportunities and changes do take place.  IBM, in the mid 80s, was the personal computer leader. IBM wrote US$ 16 billion of losses under the baton of Lou Gersten with 35.000 workers made redundant.  IBM finally sold its mainframe business in 2003 and, under Ginni Rometty’s leadership, concentrates on three core areas: analytics, cloud computing and emerging markets. Should IBM have failed to adapt and change, who knows if IBM would have become the thriving social business leader it has been now for the last several years. 
 
IBM-Social-Business_Ginni.Rometty_01 
A challenging way of applying technological trends could be to ask yourself if you could “create your 140 character brand promise”?  Can you summarize your company’s strategy in 35 words or less? The shorter and the clearer, the easier it will be for your communities to understand your mission and purpose.  It will help your business to energize its community while making it an active part of its purpose and vision.  Here are three USP examples which are each worth billions of dollars:
Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.”
FedEx: “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight”
M&M’s: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”
 
2. Keep transforming your content marketing into convenience marketing
 
Traditional marketing is no longer sufficient.  Businesses which mostly concentrate on their own activities and products are promised a tough time ahead.  Today there are many companies that master innovation and customer experience by creating and listening to their communities. Such companies like IBM, Amazon or Starbucks give their customers the opportunities to consult, advise and recommend new products and services.  Starbucks understands that some of the best ideas come from their own grass root marketers, the ones entering their coffee-shops day in and day out.  Could there be a better source of feedback than the one coming directly out of their customers’ mouths?  
Consider your website as a customer hub with people coming and going, uploading and downloading information. The more your business listens to its community, the more focused its content marketing will be.  Some of the platforms to distribute your content could be  how to, tips, recommended sites and resources, books, authors, literature, recipes, videos, interviews, podcast, webcast, webinars and so much more.
 
Image Credit: www.hyken.com

Image Credit: http://www.hyken.com

3. To blog or not to blog

It’s great to hear what Chris Brogan has to say about blogging:  “No matter what, the very first piece of social media real estate I’d start with is a blog … It’s a website, with lots of built in features that make it useful from the search perspective, and simple from a content creation perspective…”  Blogging is like jogging for the brain.  Euan Semple once said:  “You do not know what you think until you write it down.”  At first blogging could be a strenuous way to ratify your thoughts, but the best way to freely express your personal ideas, views and expertise.  A blog is all yours and you may write (within reason) whatever your heart desires.  To blog or not to blog, this is the dilemma and the sooner your business starts the easier it will get. Blogging, like jogging, takes training, dedication and relentless commitment.  Avoid blogging about your products and services.  Concentrate on answering, sharing and inspiring.  Give your community what they want.  This will be the first act into bringing traffic to your website, and a natural way to gain traction and attention. 
 
4. Transform your website into a social hub and your visitors into your website co-creators
 
Amazon is a fabulous example of information crowd-sourcing.  When inquiring about books, the first thing most of us do is to find out about customer book-reviews.  Amazon has long understood that their website is not about them, but about the communities reading the books it sells.  It’s about letting visitors write reviews, comment on other people’s reviews, create groups and meet like minded readers.  It’s about customers’ wish-lists (a fabulous way of gathering marketing information) and remembering their interests, likes and dislikes. Amazon is a platform where people meet, read, comment, upload videos reviews and create personal profiles.  A company’s website should altruistically answer, inspire and educate its community.  It is not about your products or services, it is about your community, their worries, their interests and what inspires them.  Consider reserving enough space for uploading videos, reviews, articles and for giving your visitors the chance to become your website’s co-creators.
 
5. Carefully choose your social platforms
 
According Wikipedia, “Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks … It allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”  Social media is the new technological platform businesses use to promote physical or digital goods.  Social media networks should be kept to a minimum: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube.  Pick three or four and get professional help.  A Facebook and Pinterest expert like Mari Smith will save you time and money as she keeps up with ongoing platform changes and updates. Mari will provide you with the necessary support while you concentrate on your business.
 
In part two, we will review the last five fundamental points connected to the ongoing review of a successful social business foundation.  
 
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