A value proposition is the place where your company’s product intersects with your customer’s desires. It’s the magic fit between what you make and why people buy it. Your value proposition is the crunch point between business strategy and brand strategy.
When you’re starting a new project, or a new company, you need practical 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 fairly simple tool that quickly gets you to the ‘minimum viable clarity’ required to start building and testing a product or service.
Management consulting firms want to move into the creative process, and creative agencies want to move into management consulting. It seems that everyone wants to swim upstream towards the boardroom and consult on innovation, customer experience and design thinking. The widely held theory is that there are good margins in this type of work (and let’s be honest, it is sexy as hell). But what no one really talks about is that the high-end strategy work is actually important because it leads onto the multi-million dollar implementation projects that secretly feed the biggest global agencies
Over the years, I’ve worked in several of the grey areas between management consulting, advertising, and design thinking so I’ve seen some of these macro 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 really tough questions. It almost doesn’t matter what the starting point is for a project when your real goal is to get to the deeper issues inside a business. With all these shifting agency services, 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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a guest post from my friend Tim Gouw who is a co-founder of the Dutch innovation agency Goweekly. Tim and Maarten have been working with clients on innovation, service design, business design and recently they’ve been helping clients with crowdfunding campaigns.
They got started in crowdfunding when they raised 250,000 Euros to help save a a group of local bookstores. I’ve invited Tim to share the things that he learned from the campaign as they’re relevant to equity crowdfunding and also to general community building.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.