Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

“There is a season, and a time to every purpose, under heaven”: How we learn today…

July 20, 2016

So go the lyrics from the Byrd’s classic song “Turn, Turn, Turn”. The group was referring to the fact that there is a time and a place for everything. In my mind, this phrase also applies to the options we all have today to learn what we want to or what we need to.

The opportunity to learn today for those who want to is amazing…in addition to the traditional learning venues, there are so many quality options of online material and classes to digest, with many different delivery methodologies and structures. You can learn virtually anything you want to today, from Quantum Mechanics to web coding to how to fix a shower head.

The Byrds

The Byrds

I am a firm believer in the formalized education process, but I also recognize that there are times when the right levels of skills or knowledge mean more than the experience or even the credentialing. There are situations where timing of the need may be a significant factor in the decision. In a professional setting, the modern “corporation-of-one” economy supports this need, as in many fields, the knowledge base changes rather quickly and the need may well be urgent. As indicated in the Byrd’s lyric above, there may be times (seasons) of our life where some choices make more sense than others.

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Start-up Nation and Michael Porter on Clusters

June 23, 2016

 

drone - innovation

 

It was recently recommended to me that I read Start-up Nation (by Dan Senor and Saul Singer), the book on innovation and how it is executed in the State of Israel. Having been involved with start-ups here in the United States at several points in my career here in the US, it was amazing to me that this book had never broached my consciousness. While I can be oblivious at times, in fairness, I was working marathon weeks in an “intrepreneurial” start up at the time. But still…

There are several reasons why Israel has developed this capacity, but one of the factors brought back some thinking that captured my imagination over a decade ago…the idea of economic clusters. I recognized the value of this concept while in the Direct Mail business and growing up in an area that was an economic cluster for the pharmaceutical industry, I think this was a natural inclination.

This became one of the standards on which I judged potential partnerships or mergers when previously working in the consulting field. And it certainly impacted my thinking on interacting with the internal infrastructure when building and nurturing programs/

This was an idea that was formalized by Michael Porter, whose Competitive Advantage and Competitive Strategy books had formed a great deal of my early career thinking. In his work on clusters, he highlights three points that have impact:

1. Productivity
2. Driving Direction and the Pace of Innovation
3. Stimulate the formation of new businesses

These are all important, but I think the biggest takeaway at the time for me was the first point, productivity. All players in a cluster drive each other to be more productive, a factor that leads to greater innovation and higher business formation. The fact that they are geographically grouped also adds to the productivity. Clusters tend to create an overall environment where the whole ecosystem is greater the sum of the parts.

Clusters are typically intensely competitive, yet this also allows paradoxically for greater cooperation and closer ties to partners within the cluster. This is a reality that is often discounted in the virtual world we live in, however, it is still more comfortable to know that a partner closely tied to your business is an hour away by car as opposed to halfway around the world.

Of course, clusters can have downsides too. Instead of expanding and spawning new businesses, they can attempt to consolidate leading to an actual restriction of trade and innovation. They can fall prey to industry groupthink. This often happens in instances where the cluster turns oligopolistic rather than retaining its innovative roots.

I strongly suggest reading both Start-Up Nation and Michael Porter is you are on the strategy side of innovation.

Photo courtesy of: Pankaj Biswas

“Complexity kills convenience.”

June 12, 2016

“Complexity kills convenience.”

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Terry B. Jones speak Thursday evening (for more info on Terry, see http://www.tbjones.com/ ) at the NSU Art Museum Auditorium. Terry has started several successful ventures throughout his career. It was yet another fine speaker brought in by the South Florida Interactive Marketing Association (SFIMA – https://www.sfima.com/ ).

T Jones (2)

He made several telling points during his presentation. But the one that stuck with me was the one I used for the headline of this post: “Complexity kills convenience.” I have seen the validity of this statement rear up throughout my career, but today, with the open availability of information and alternative opportunities, it is even more true. People and organizations who can create the simpler experience – one that is more convenient for others to use – will win the day, every day.

From an organizational perspective this approach of making interactions simpler and easier needs to apply to our Customer relationships, our Vendor relationships and also our Employee relationships.

One of the benefits of having some gray hairs is being fortunate to have worked with numerous organizations over a number of years. In many instances, the people in some of these organizations have often expressed the thought that “it takes a great deal of effort to work with us.” While they were most often referring to their customers, it was also reality for vendors, partners and employees who were also expected to “work hard” to maintain their relationship with the organization. This is not an approach that works very often today, as the costs and obstacles of vested parties making a switch away from that organization have been drastically reduced.

Part of this is the shift is due organizations today are leaning toward a more service driven offering. In a product driven world, (most) consumers never liked complexity. But it was often part of the “package” because of a need to buy a product to cover all contingencies, and have a useful life that justified the purchase.

This was particularly true in the B2B world, where we often invested in the more complex, expensive model because we did not know what we would need in 5 years. We had to make an investment that could return a positive ROI. Services, on the other hand, have a shorter shelf life, and purchases can be justified (or terminated) on a more immediate basis.

We see this everyday with cloud computing, subscription software, consulting, marketing services… organizations can often switch rather readily if they feel they are not getting the service (think convenience) they want. And if the service provider seeks to make that switch difficult, their competitor is more than willing to ease the transition.

In closing, I find it sadly ironic that the efforts organizations make to increase customer engagement often make life and the relationship more complex for their customers, not simpler… and simpler is what customers really want. Everyone is busy and in most cases, they want ease of use, not what passes as support from the organization.

Many times this support forces customers to think too much, engage too much and waste more of their time than they are willing to provide. When this happens, we increase the possibility of defection, not reduce it. To steal a phrase from Gerry McGovern (http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/ )…sometimes the customer just ran out of coffee…

Empty Coffee Cup

Empty cup from My Favorite Kind of Crazy –

 

 

Fridge Commerce

May 13, 2016

This post is really more of a test than anything else, as last week I wrote on this topic on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/heralding-age-f-commerce-mark-tietbohl?trk=mp-author-card ). This week I also did a video on the topic on YouTube. I wanted to find out how easy or difficult it is to embed a video:

 

As it turns out, it is fairly easy…

If She Knew What She Wants…

April 30, 2016

This line from the Bangles song in the mid 1980’s sums up the plight of the marketer today. The current marketer’s mantra is to provide the customer with what they want, instead of what we as marketers want, and then the sun will shine and all will be well. The customer will feel loved, we will have engendered loyalty, etc., etc…

However, like the song states, we as consumers (of either gender, as men often do not know what they want either)  don’t always know what we want. If we did, this consumer-centric focus would certainly be easier for marketing organizations, and more organizations would be executing successfully. However, what people articulate that they want is typically not what they really do want.

 

If She Knew What She Wants

I have been taking an online course from the University of Queensland on the topic of “The Science of Everyday Thinking”. This course makes it crystal clear that people have very little idea as to what they want and as to how their thinking processes really work. There is also a great deal of resistance to changing behavior once a pattern is established. It takes very compelling evidence to make a mental shift, and even this is often discounted depending on how it is presented.

So surveys are often misleading, social signals are often misleading, even comments on organization web sites can be misleading. In an earlier blog post, I posted the old statement from Henry Ford where he once stated “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” If Steve Job (“focus groups are worthless…”)  had only listened to what people said they wanted and looked only at past market performance, we would never have seen the iPhone (or the iPod for that matter).

That said, it can also be very dangerous to go into a market with preconceived ideas that are based solely on your organization’s needs and not ones that are founded on some kind of need in the marketplace. This is a conundrum when solved makes the difference between really good marketing companies and truly inspired ones.

So how do we do this? While there is no magic bullet, Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers suggests that the best place to start is to ask people what they have been struggling with. If you ask for thoughts in this context, people typically do know what their challenges are in a given area, and what pain points could be improved upon. This is especially true when the struggles tie into emotional rather than rational thought. Most people are more able and/or willing to report accurately from the emotional perspective than the rational if the right environment is provided.

The key here even with this method of asking is still based on brand trust and authority, which we will discuss further at later point. (There are some really good sources out there for brand authority, both on and off line. There are the obvious choices -Seth Godin for one- but I might also suggest Denise Lee Yohn, Harley Manning, Marty Neumeier, and if online is specifically your interest I would suggest reading Mark Traphagen, Neil Patel and the Moz Blog and the Kissmetrics blog specifically on articles related to building authority and trust.)

Once you have the feedback, focus on talking through and solving the problem, not building the solution…at least at until the problem is fully understood. Understanding the full nature of the problem…or your customer’s struggle…will lead to ideas on how to best solve for eliminating the struggle and making your solution the easy choice.

And for those of you who do not know the song, here it is 🙂

The Bangles VEVO Video – IF She Knew What She Wants

 

Proximity marketing…is there value?

March 19, 2016

I have been much more active lately posting and sharing on LinkedIn than on this site. I do hate duplicating content, and have not had the opportunity to do both as well as I would like.

I am going to try and work on that. Maybe I could start with a discussion thread on tracking your phone (by beacon or WiFi), as the whole issue of tracking within the store is an interesting one.

sol-proxmobile

I believe (my opinion only) that in the past couple years, consumers have become more accepting of in-store proximity marketing, if for no other reason other than it has become so much better. Understanding the likely reason to be in the store (based on past interaction with that retail brand), and ability to pinpoint specific areas of the store has definitely improved. Retailers are learning what is too much (or too little messaging) and how to gauge time in store, time in a specific area, and progress through the store in sending these messages at more appropriate times.

Yet, this is a practice that is certainly still in transition, and mistakes are still made. How this process is executed may cause consumers to get their backs up. Receiving an offer after just making that purchase is annoying. Many are opposed to the practice of having competitor’s geo-fencing another store and providing competing coupons, while others find this fascinating. Getting bombarded upon entering the store is usually not desirable.

Also, consumers may not recognize that they may have opted to receive messages from the store location itself, but may also simultaneously be receiving ads and messages from other apps that they have on their phones and other sources they have previously opted to have messages from. To say the least, at times the whole process can get messy.

Here are a few data points that all the more underline why proximity marketing may the best way ahead (note: the originator of this material certainly has a vested interest in beacon technology, but interesting still the same):

  • The average clickthrough rate (CTR) for a Facebook ad is 0.119%, according to a recent Wordstream report
  • The average clickthrough rate (CTR) for an email is 1% to 3%, according to a recent report by Mailchimp
  • The average clickthrough rate (CTR) for beacon based push notifications can be as high as 80%, according to the data published by push notification technologist Kahuna (Beaconstac, 2016).

(more on this discussion can be found here: Sheehy, A. (2013, August 19). The Mobile Advertising Value Chain.  http://www.nakono.com/tekcarta/analysis-insight/mobile-advertising/mobile-advertising-value-chain/  )

I do think that one of the big drawbacks to this type of push marketing is that not all consumers have their phones out at all times (I know…it varies by generation, but it still can be a pain to have your phone out in a department store sometimes).  That is why I am encouraged by some of the other ways that proximity marketing can be accomplished such as displaying digital instore signage of items that might be of interest if you have your phone on or through Near Field Communications (NFC) marketing, where you hold your phone close to the sensor to receive more information. Personally, I also like the fact that proximity marketing for that brand ends when you leave the store or certainly shortly thereafter.

What about you…proximity marketing, yea or nay?

Innovation isn’t always pretty…

August 24, 2013

“The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle; reinvent. Build a tangled bank.” ~ Steven Johnson

A word to big brands: Growth requires vision for what might be…

August 23, 2013

A couple years back, Joseph Jaffe wrote:

“My message to brands is very simple: Don’t be turned off by a startup’s lack of reach. In fact, this should turn you on! You’re dealing with the most fertile real estate, untouched, and unspoiled by the masses (even your competitors). You have the incredible opportunity to help them achieve their path to reach with your brand dollars, talent, resources, and media. You have the unique chance to join forces with them at the earliest possible stage to co-create and own that big idea.”

This message is even more compelling today. It is hard to know what the next Pinterest might be, or how it will be best commercialized. All too often, big brands want big impacts, and look to established and tried and true methodologies and platforms. But this short term leverage is the old thinking. Big brands still need a place to explore market potential, and to be positioned to explore and understand emerging trends. By the time the “next big thing” really becomes the next big thing, it is often too late, or at least too late to fully leverage the benefit to your brand.

The key is in tapping small communication opportunities that may turn into large communication opportunities at some point. There will be dry holes, and this small game activity may be viewed as a distraction, but this is also the only real way to catch the early tail of a rising media star.

It All Starts With the Customer

September 24, 2012

“Innovation for innovation’s sake may

keep you in the news, but if it’s not

grounded in customer needs, it won’t

provide lasting success. The most

innovative companies have a deep

understanding of their customers’

needs and behaviors.”

This a quote that appeared in the Innovation section of the  most recent issue of Chain Store Age . I find this quote interesting in the sense that retailers now need to be concerned about a type of hubris that technology companies have had to guard against for years; namely doing things that the firm thinks are cool, and assuming the market will agree.

The fact that retail companies are thinking heavily on innovation, and more specifically, unbridled, unsubstantiated innovation is clearly an indicator that we are all technology companies now….