Dr Ross Brennan is the author of Business-to-Business Marketing which is the leading international text book on marketing for companies that sell their products and services to other companies. Dr Brennan’s textbook proved to be a key resource while I was researching my new book on social media ‘Tickle: Digital marketing for tech companies‘.
Dr Brennan is a co-author of the leading textbook on business to business marketing.
I wrote ‘Tickle: Digital marketing for tech companies’ primarily about B2B companies because they have unique challenges in managing their reputations online and reaching business customers. Dr Ross Brennan was kind enough to write a foreword to the book which has now been included in the latest edition. I’ve also reproduced it here as a guest blog post. Enter Dr Ross Brennan…
If you were the CEO of a large company, who would you turn to for help to recapture your lost mojo? How would you create, test and build new products? Big companies have been steadily getting worse at innovation, whereas startups have begun to eat the world. Small companies can move fast, take risks and attract talent.
Startups an bring together designers (like Jon Gold, pictured) and developers in much more creative and agile ways. (Photo: Paul Clarke and Makeshift)
The brightest minds of the next generation are spending their weekends building software in hackathons, quitting their jobs to build interesting startups and being investing in by incubators and accelerators. It’s a brave new world, but large companies are still looking for ways to become more agile.
A new trend is emerging where hot studios (that combine design, business and technology skills) are building startups from scratch for large companies. This new approach is reviving the patronage model from Renaissance Florence.
A value proposition is where your company’s product offer intersects with your customer’s desires. It’s the magic fit between what you make and why people buy it. The value proposition is one of the crunch points between business strategy and brand strategy.
The improved value proposition canvas adds elements from behavioural psychology and design thinking.
When you’re starting a new project or a new company you need quick and dirty tools to help you focus on executing things faster and better. Good strategy tools exist only to help you focus on getting the right things done. The value proposition canvas is a simple tool that quickly gets you to the ‘minimum viable clarity’ required to start building and testing.
Management consulting firms want to move into creative thinking and creative agencies want to move into management consulting. It seems that everyone wants to swim upstream to the boardroom and consult on innovation, customer experience, social media, and business design. The widely held theory is that there are good margins in this type of work (and it’s sexy as hell). More importantly, the high-end strategy work can feed into the multi-million dollar implementation projects that feed the biggest global agencies
Management Consultants and Advertising Agencies are both fighting to move into Digital Innovation Consulting.
Over the years, I’ve worked in several of the grey areas between management consulting, design thinking and public relations so I’ve seen some of these industry changes first hand. The toughest part of my career has always been finding the chink in a client’s armour that lets us get close enough to the boardroom to ask the tough questions. It almost doesn’t matter what the starting point is if your goal is to get to the deeper issues. Even so, it’s hard for clients to know who to turn to these days for advice on big problems.
Nick Bowmast is a design researcher from New Zealand. He worked in London for over a decade and now splits his time between NZ and the UK. I wasn’t quite sure what a “design researcher” does, so Nick pointed me to a blog post about his tools of the trade. It’s a fun way to understand how a design researcher spends their time and the type of work that Nick does with clients.
Nick Bowmast is a design researcher based in New Zealand and the UK.
I like understanding someone’s craft by looking at their tools. I’ve always found that reading about a professional’s equipment is a surprisingly good way to understand what they do. Most strategists are voyeurs of human behaviour. Maybe like a design researcher in a suit…
Lance Wiggs is raising a fund to invest in high-growth tech startups. He’s ex McKinsey and has been working on the Better By Design programme for a few years so he’s a super smart guy. I’m excited about his journey but he’s made some mistakes along the way that we can all learn from. There are lessons in this story for all of us who are involved in capital raising for early stage companies.
Lance Wiggs is an consultant & investor who is raising a fund to invest in high-growth startups.
It’s useful to compare a few of the new ways that early stage investing is happening around the world. Angel syndicates, follow funds and accelerator funds are some of the most interesting ways of investing in startups today. They all put a layer between you and the startup that you’re investing in. But for lots of investors that’s a good thing.
Advertising, design and public relations all have something useful to contribute to social media. But they come from very different worlds and they each have hidden biases. Customers just experience the end result, but the way a company builds their reputation can be secretly swayed by the type of agencies that a company hires to help out with their social media. Owned, earned and paid media all add up to an overall impression of the brand.
The business model of different agencies influences their approach to social media briefs.
I arrived in London at the height of the global financial crisis. Back then no one was hiring for Brand Strategists because it’s not a good look to do a new logo when you’ve just laid off 10,000 people. And it’s definitely not a good look to do a management workshop about the meaning of life to then choose the colour of the new logo when you’ve just laid off 10,000 people. So brand strategy (and in particular, the management consulting style brand strategy that I was most experienced in) had fallen off a cliff.
Getting a social media programme started for a professional services firm is surprisingly hard. My book Tickle: Digital marketing for tech companies is focused on technology businesses but professional services firms have many of the same issues as B2B tech companies (who are often selling consulting along with their software). I love helping other consultants with social media because I’ve met so many people who come across so poorly online, even though they are great in real life
Consulting to consultants is one of the hardest types of social media training because they know what they should be doing. They’re just not doing it.
Strategy consultants usually already have a social strategy but the gap is in implementation. The most common problem for product businesses is a lack of strategy and clarity. These are less of an issue for public relations and business strategy consultants whose stock in trade is strategic thinking. But somehow these firms still struggle with their own social media activities.
Each time I make a significant change in my life I have coffee with fifty people to get their views on what I’m up to. If you’re raising investment for a startup, changing careers or moving to a new city then you owe it to yourself to have coffee with fifty people before you make the jump.
50 people are a lot to ask for advice on a particular issue. For a big enough idea, it’s worth it.
Setting the goal of having coffee with fifty people forces you to be clear about what it is that you’re up to. Making the goal public (one person at a time) also makes it much stronger. Having fifty coffees is good because then you have to commit to the specific move that you want to make and tell other people about. You’ll also get input from smart and interesting people to help you make a better decision.
One of my friends in New Zealand is a full on growth hacker. He’s done everything from affiliate marketing and pay-per-click to SEO and Adwords. I asked him for a few secret tricks to help promote my new book Tickle: Digital marketing for tech companies.
Marketing a book using social media, blogging and growth hacking.
Growth hacking is the art of taking a practical, technical and analytical ‘hacker’ mindset towards marketing. I was expecting black-hat tricks and dodgy secrets, but his advice was surprisingly common sense. I’ve decided to share his advice here on the blog because so much of it is applicable to general business profile raising. According to this growth hacker, the best way to sell books is to build a professional reputation using good honest thought leadership and contributing value to the community.
We are in the middle of the biggest change in business communications since the printing press. The move to mobile email, video calling and social media has made business communications faster and potentially, more personal. When my first boss started his career they used to correspond by post which took a week to arrive. It was a big deal when the firm installed a Telex Machine (like a morse code typewriter) because the message was delivered on the same-day that it was written. It’s now easier than ever before to give an important customer a small tickle to let them know that you’re thinking of them.
New book on social media by Peter Thomson
My new book on social media for tech companies is out now. It’s all about how to use social media to target bigger and bigger clients. Too many social media books just cover mass consumer advertising and teach companies how to spam everyone. This book is for successful professionals inside tech companies and other businesses that need to build real relationships with a decision maker before closing the sale.
According to Wolff Olins, a brand exists in the overlap between commerce, culture and technology. The purpose of a minimum viable brand is to engage people without overcomplicating things. This morning we had a chance to hear from Ije Nwokorie and Melissa Andrada of Wolff Olins at the Google Startup Campus, in a talk organised by General Assembly. Ije and Melissa work with some of the biggest brands in the world so it was a little weird to hear them adopting the tools and mindset of a small startup. But the fit was perfect and the lessons were really practical.
General Assembly organised the talk by Wolff Olins at the Google Startup Campus.
To me, lean branding is an ongoing process that dovetails well with the Growth Hacking trend in Silicon Valley (identified by Patrick Vlaskovits and friends). The ‘Lean Startup’ movement has already influenced how small companies do their marketing, but it’s now starting to influence how bigger companies think about branding. The manifesto of lean is speed, agility, experimentation and iterative improvements. All of which are useful when rethinking any company’s brand (big or small).