#Digitalks: Digital Disruption – how to thrive through change

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Each quarter, Firebrand host a lunch time seminar for the Sydney marketing community. This quarter, hosted by Adobe, I presented on the topic of digital disruption – and how marketers and innovators can apply the principles of the lean startup to transform their businesses.

We covered the three things you’ll need to pay attention to in order to build your business:

  • Marketing innovation: How to think and act like a marketing-led startup to innovate your way to profitability
  • Metrics: The key metrics that give you insight, focus, and control
  • Momentum: How focused action yields data and drives outcomes

You can:

 

Disrupting Banking? It happened in a snap

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When we think of banking, as consumers we rarely think of the complex mechanisms behind the scenes. We just think of our financial institutions as very large, powerful brands – rather than individual businesses that focus on deposits, investments, mortgages and loans, payments and clearing, risk management and insurance, broking etc. But the reality is far more complicated.

Even within one area – like payments and clearing for example – there are several different dedicated systems. From cash to cheques, direct entry and EFTPOS to BPAY and credit cards and beyond, these systems ensure that our economy ticks over day-in, day-out. And while the banking system – especially in Australia – is highly regulated, we have seen a great deal of disruptive activity taking place over the last couple of years. Innovators like eBay and its flagship PayPal have had their eye on the lucrative payments prize for some time. And with the iPhone 6, Apple is moving into the space with its Pay product.

And now, Snapchat – the massive online messaging service that turned down Facebook’s $3 billion acquisition offer – has stepped into the contest, partnering with payments innovator, Square, allowing Snapchat members to pay another member by sending a message with a dollar amount (eg $19.50). Called Snapcash it takes online payments to a whole new level, bypassing banks altogether.

Currently only open to Snapchatters in the USA, it requires that the member have a debit card and be over 18 years of age.

It’s an audacious move. And one that is bound to be rolled out to other countries in the near term.

But more than that – its a warning to all slow-acting executives – especially in countries like Australia where the pace of digital transformation has been abysmally slow. A recent report by Frost and Sullivan calls out Australian executives as some of the most digitally complacent in the world, leaving plenty of opportunity for smaller, more nimble innovators to sweep up market share faster than you can say Bankcard.

Looking more closely at the financial services sector, however, I see a much graver issue. Take a look at the launch announcement. Look at how it was amplified. Look at the production and messaging. And then think about who it targets and where their financial allegiances lie.

If the Boards of Australian banks are not rethinking their strategies, then the problem runs far deeper – and change will come faster than we (or they) could possibly imagine. In fact, it could happen in a snap.

Disrupting Work: 2015 is here. Are you ready?

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Some years ago, while working at SAP, I was involved in a global workforce enablement program. Our challenge was to look ahead to 2015 (yes, we are now almost there), model the future demand for software, services and skills and put in place programs that would ensure there were enough skilled and experienced SAP practitioners available to deliver to the expected demands of our customers.

What we realised was that learning could no longer be seen as a single event. It was not good enough to rely on a stream of barely qualified candidates streaming out of universities. To achieve sustainable, professional outcomes for customers we needed to encourage life long learning and professional employee development. Moreover, we needed to be flexible enough in our thinking and education delivery to create competencies which were not yet in demand. So this meant innovation in education delivery – so we designed our programs with formal courses and partnerships with universities, put in pace informal mentoring and collaborative systems and ensured that self-directed learning was available as broadly as possible.

Some of the areas of expertise we focused on included Analytics, Cloud and Mobility, and social media.

In a recently released study, Oxford Economics, sponsored by SAP, reveals that this challenge continues. Looking ahead again, out towards 2018, there are skill predictions including:

  • Analytics – a current skill gap of 21% will grow by 131% over the next three years
  • Cloud – currently experiencing a 15% gap, this will almost double to 30% by 2018
  • Mobile – the skill gap is expected to grow from 16% to 27%
  • Social media – already at 24%, this is expected to reach 38% in three years time.

How is your company preparing your workforce for the future?

We are already facing a skills shortfall. And as the Baby Boomer generation continues to move into retirement, we will face not just a skills challenge but an experience crisis. How well is your company prepared for this challenge? How will you thrive through change?

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The Amazing Case of the Disappearing Technology

BranFerren

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Technology is stuff that doesn’t work yet.

— Bran Ferren

Bran Ferren’s words echo across the wifi to us like a premonition. The former President of R&D at Walt Disney Imagineering’s deep understanding of the way people use and engage with technology is only starting to play out in the devices that we so readily take for granted. The fact that we can call a piece of technology, a “device” at all shows how far we have come; after all, a device is something personal, knowable, intimate. And it was only twenty-odd years ago that carrying a “mobile phone” could put your back out. Personal technology is shrinking at a considerable rate.

Big Machines, Small Data

For decades, technology has driven business innovation, resulting in the rise of professional services firms, technology companies and most recently, software platforms. Until the early 90s, we designed systems around single business functions – like purchasing or order management. While this was a huge improvement on previous systems, it entrenched departmental silos and required duplication of work – put simply, the same information had to be entered into completely separate systems. Occasionally, the IT teams were able to integrate systems – connecting some pieces of data together, but this also required governance, standards and compliance – which added cost and complexity to already complex systems.

At the centre of this data frontier were the CIOs – vital drivers of innovation and productivity in almost every business. And held tightly in their grasp was information.

We realised that the faster we could crunch business information, the faster we could make decisions. Accordingly we built electronic supply chains, implemented ERP systems and automated what we could. We brought disparate systems together with a single package providing a reliable flow of data from one department to another. We had massive computers pumping relatively small amounts of data through relatively small, connected pipes. In some cases, remote controllers would be hooked up to servers via dial-up connections – and these ran multinational businesses!

The focus for all this innovation was the “back office” – far away from the prying eyes of the customer.

The Rise of the Front of House

While ERP innovation was driving efficiencies within the hardened arteries of businesses, the sales and marketing folks were still working from the same trusty rolodex and dog-eared business cards they had used since the Great Depression. But Tom Siebel had other ideas. His company was to do to customer relationships what SAP had done to finance and enterprise resource planning. The vision was – as it remains today – a single view of the customer. Like many grand visions, the reality remains tantalisingly out of reach.

But this focus on customer facing business functions, brought sales and marketing into the connected enterprise. Customer billing systems, processing, pipeline and opportunity management and a range of other functions were all digitised – and the field of business re-engineering flourished. Consultants had learned through the ERP years that return on investment lies in business users actually using these systems – and that meant customisation, training and change management. In large enterprises, this task was enormous – but was largely contained by the limits of the business. The focus was on engineering the business not extending beyond the safety of the firewall.

After all, even the top of the range, slimline laptops were clunky, heavy and slow in performance. And the business systems were ugly, hard to use and the data networks were notoriously unreliable. It appeared that innovation was always going to stop at the dizzy limit of a thin blue ethernet chord. And everything from the design of the software and hardware through to the challenges of remote access served to remind us that we were always operating out of our comfort zones – that we were dealing with technology that could both help and hinder us.

Outside-In Innovation and the Crowd

While most businesses were licking their wounds after the dotcom bomb, a new generation of tech entrepreneurs flew below the radar to create a whole new way of connecting the dots around businesses. These emerging social networks skipped the B2B market and launched direct to consumers, corralling vast swathes of the population into tightly bunched, loosely connected groups.

Similar to the way that dolphins collaborate to feast on an abundance of school fish, fast moving digital platforms like Google, Facebook and Yahoo skirted around our flanks and drove us together. Overwhelmed by the speed but excited by the possibilities, we willingly handed over our privacy, location and even identity in order to join with others who were “just like me”.

These platforms, working at warp speed, innovated at the speed of customer experience. They were unencumbered by years of process, archaic business systems and entrenched ways of working. They pushed out new features to the delight or disgust of their members, changed as necessary and moved on.

Sensing a fickleness in the consumer landscape, these fast growing startup enterprises blitzed past the “sense-and-respond” mantra proffered by management consultants the world over and created “lean” businesses that responded to changing conditions through automation, strategic outsourcing and peer-oriented customer service. The suggestions of the crowd – the paying customer – drove changes in business models, product features and even business strategy.

And all this outside-in innovation was happening from the comfort of our homes, with the convenience of technology we could hold in our hands.

The Internet of Things Gives Way to the Internet of Me

The real revolution in all this is three-fold:

  1. Consumers have built their own ecosystems around the experience that they want to create and curate for themselves
  2. “Technology” is disappearing from our lives, shrinking to a size that can be incorporated into our daily fashions
  3. Data is proliferating and permeating devices, systems and everywhere in-between

At the moment we are seeing the Internet of Things gaining traction in our homes, workplaces and public spaces. Connected by low bandwidth protocols like bluetooth, devices like Withings weight scales function like an analogue machine, displaying your weight – but add an additional dimension powered by the web and big data. Not only is your weight captured, your profile is queried in real time, and your height details are returned. Then your BMI is displayed while your latest reading is transmitted back to the cloud.

In some retail stores, sensors like iBeacons track your movement and signal your identity based on the apps running on your phone. Store assistants are proactively updated on your current status, interests and so on, and are ready to more readily assist you. Sound creepy? It’s already happening.

This is no longer the internet of things, but the internet of me. We are creating personal versions of the same kind of ERP networks that were developed in the 90s – linking our payment systems (banks) to our supply chains (shops) through sensors, apps, profiles and devices that we carry or wear at all times. And all of this is happening largely out of our view. It’s invisible. And once it becomes invisible it becomes “the way of life”.

No Left v Right Brain – And Other Mythconceptions

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I love this infographic on various urban myths that permeate our modern existence. By author, David McCandless, it visualises some of the most Googled myths and misconceptions – with larger bubbles indicating that it is a common search term. Some of my personal favourites include:

  • That you SHOULD wake sleepwalkers
  • That bats are NOT blind
  • There is no solid division between the LEFT and RIGHT hemispheres of the brain.

What surprises you?

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Who Needs Another Day in Password Land?

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I have a sneaking suspicion that the most successful call to action in the world is Forgot Password?. That small link that sits below a password field is my friend. After all, I have passwords for every blog, social media site, news sites, business sites, bank, retailer and online tool or cloud provider that I use. The use of passwords is, in itself, a personal big data challenge that I have yet to solve.

I have a password manager on my phone, some of which is current. Some outdated, and some automated. I have a list which I keep which is slightly unreliable – mostly because I fail to manage it scrupulously. I have randomly scrawled password scattered through notebooks I can no longer find. There is encryption for the cloud (which also requires some kind of key) and there is even fingerprint identification that works with iPhone 5 (which is actually pretty convenient – even if slightly scary in terms of identity management/theft/security/tracking).

So I was interested to check out the new password manager from There’s Only 1 U. Actually, it was the video that tipped me over. Produced with a great sense of self-deprecation, it captures the frustration that many of us feel when it comes to password management and online security. To be honest, it’s a scene too long, but it did the trick.

Is it useful? I’ll let you know after some hands on use.

First indications are positive

Like most password managers, there’s some pain up-front to set up your sites and accesses, but the long term gain is what is on offer.

The UI and step-by-step setup is relatively straight forward, though very wordy. I was able to easily use the phone’s camera to scan my face and setup the security. There is something reassuring about scanning your own face as a secondary form of authentication. And so far, I have not been able to trick the scanner by using a photo.

There is a good selection of websites, apps etc that can be easily and quickly configured for access. And it’s relatively easy to add your own custom sites using the same process. Of course, you can still use Touch ID or you can use the facial recognition engine.

But the question is traction. Will I use it again? Will I uninstall? Will I just forget about it? Ask me again in a week. In the meantime, register for the app here or get more information about it here on their website.

Brewing Disruption: Percolate’s Future of Retail

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When it first launched, Noah Brier’s Percolate was a daily filter of quality social media content delivered directly to your inbox. But there was a deeper, darker and stronger agenda lurking beneath the surface of the Percolate news – a marketing platform that seeks to become the system of record for marketing. Now boasting clients as diverse as GE, Unilever, Converse and Pandora, Percolate have begun to amass a big data warehouse that can yield up-to-date information across a range of industry categories.

In their Future of Retail report, the Percolate team have curated 50 charts that signal the changes that have occurred and that are projected into the near future. Broken into six sections – macro trends, industries, eCommerce deep dive, consumer behaviour, path to purchase and offline strikes back – there is plenty to think on for the traditional, hybrid and digital retailer alike.

You can register to download the report for free – but there are few charts that caught my attention and are worth a closer look.

Percolate-6 Price and Coupon Search Leads In-Store Phone Use:  Perhaps there is no great surprise here, but this research lends weight to anecdotal evidence and data analysis that suggests smartphone use in-store can play an important role in closing a sale.With 31% of respondents indicating that they use their phones for comparison shopping in-store, it’s clear that there is an opportunity to use technology to influence a sale with an almost immediate impact.Question for retailers: Have you invested in “right time” technologies that allow you to target, reach and engage shoppers who are in-location and ready to buy?
Percolate-1 eCommerce Growth Driven by Mobile: We’ve been saying this for a while, but it’s clear that transacting via smartphones is becoming commonplace. And when we read this chart in conjunction with the one above, the message for retail laggards is equally clear – disruption has arrived.This disruption has been made possible because of the gulf between customer expectation and the retailer’s ability to deliver.Question for retailers: What do your competitors look like? How do they approach eCommerce?
Percolate-5 Social Traffic Conversion Rates are Growing: For years it has been accepted that social media is more about brand building than about sales. But the data reveals some growth here. And as with anything digital, those experimenting and learning from their efforts now, will reap the benefits further down the track.Question for retailers: What are you learning from your social media eCommerce / conversion initiatives?
Percolate-4 Consumers Will Pay More for Sustainability: In all countries/regions, there has been a significant year-on-year rise in the percentage of consumers who will pay a premium for sustainable products and services. This puts social responsibility on the brand agenda precisely at a time where sustainability is under pressure from the political classes.Moreover, it has never been easier for consumers to determine the scale of a brand’s commitment to social responsibility.Question for retailers: Have you gone beyond “greenwashing” to make a true commitment to sustainability? How does this play out in other aspects of your business beyond the product?

You can download the full Future of Retail report and charts on the Percolate website.

Six Principles to Build a Great Content Brand

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All brands should start to act like publishers.
— Every consultant

No doubt you’ll have heard that brands need to start to act like publishers. And I am as guilty as the next person/consultant of using this concept – but I do so advisedly. You see, many moons ago, I worked in publishing. And now I don’t. In fact, many people have started their careers in some form of publishing and have either been forcibly ejected from the industry through some form of disruptive change, or they exited strategically to reinvent themselves.

But the plain fact is that publishing is in decline.

However, knowledge of publishing has never been more necessary.

Good publishers have known forever that their best asset is their audience – and that strong writing, creative and content is what attracts that audience. Many businesses, from startups to enterprises, think that “content marketing” is simply a function of production – that you just need to feed the various channels so that you can cover all your needs. But this is 20th Century thinking. It’s broadcast masquerading as social media.

To be heard in a noisy, always-connected world, you need to be relevant. And that requires some rethinking around your content strategy.

Luckily, the folks from Velocity Partners have done the hard work of distilling this challenge into six key principles:

  1. Be the buyer (ie know your customer)
  2. Be authoritative (ie know what you are talking about)
  3. Be strategic (ie connect the dots for your customers)
  4. Be prolific (ie produce regular, reliable, quality content)
  5. Be passionate (ie have a point of view)
  6. Be tough on yourself (ie make an effort to produce good work)

In addition I would add a final point to this – buddy-up. Most of us are not geared towards producing enough content – let alone producing enough QUALITY content. This means partnering. It’s worth experimenting and collaborating to find a team that is right for you. After all, you’re building a great content brand, right, not just factory farming content?

Fresh Ideas-Woolworths launches innovation program for startups

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One of the greatest challenges any startup faces is distribution. How do you get your new product or service into the hot little hands of your customers? How do you do it quickly and with a high conversion rate? Gone are the days when you could drop your new app into the Apple App Store and start seeing download traction.

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in July 2014, it was revealed that there are now over 1.2 million apps on the iOS App Store (Google Play, by comparison, is estimated to hold around 1.2 million apps on their store). This literally means that the chance of someone stumbling upon your prized and well-loved app is way less than one in a million – and when you add in algorithms, rankings, reputation and efforts to game the process, the average app developer is at a distinct disadvantage.

Rather than placing all your bets as a startup founder on “going viral” and creating the “next Facebook”, many are turning to some form of collaboration with corporates. And just as the startups turn to corporates, so too do the corporates turn to the startups.

Over the last few months there has been increasing interest in curating engagement with the startup community – not just sponsorship of events which is a light touch, but more substantial programs. While these may start out as “hackathons” where teams of developers come together over a weekend to collaborate on often random projects, when successful, the programs evolve into more substantial efforts. Firms like PwC host Open Innovation events that bring together entrepreneurs, small business owners, clients and researchers to solve challenging problems; NRMA and Slingshot recently launched their JumpStart program; and Telstra has progressed even further, establishing their Muru-D accelerator which has just accepted its second intake.

In an unexpected – but welcome move – Woolworths too are stepping into this space. It is still unclear what the benefits would be for a participating startup – the Wstart program website explains:

This is an opportunity to be heard by key Woolworths executives and discuss your business idea that could drive new thinking within Woolworths. We provide a collaborative environment to learn, share and network with others.

The format of the first event is Speed Dating where you can showcase your idea, collaborate with like-minded individuals, network, and receive mentoring from industry experts.

But the Wstart website is sparse – and to be honest – collaborative environments are popping up faster than I can blink. Or write. And while mentoring is great, access to potential customers, users and communities are far more important for startups.

After the speed dating event there is the opportunity to continue discussions with Woolworths.

If you are interested in participating, you need to submit your startup idea for consideration by 17 November 2014. You can do this on the Wstart website.

 

Holidays Ahead: All aboard the content marketing express

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At the beginning of the year, Oracle Eloqua released a State of Content Marketing Survey Report that revealed the trends that were impacting content marketing and approaches that would be taken through 2014. And now, as we are closing in on what is possibly the most explosive time of year for content marketing (yes, I mean the Christmas/Holiday period), I thought it worth running a fine toothed comb across the findings to consider what has changed and what hasn’t. In doing so, we may find a worthwhile insight to drive our holiday content marketing efforts.

Some of the things to consider in your own content marketing include:

  • Grow your own content: With 93% of respondents creating their own content in-house, 2014 was set to be a strong year for client-side marketers. However, just a little over half are regularly creating content for sales enablement. This leads to a disconnect between marketing and sales which can cause internal challenges and misalignment between business and marketing objectives. Lesson: Work with external agencies to expand content creation capabilities
  • Tool-up to measure effectiveness: Almost 50% of respondents expected to successfully align content with the buyer’s journey by mid-2014. However, only 22% have an effective measurement strategy, and 23% don’t have the tools they need for measurement. This further exacerbates the disconnect between marketing and sales. Lesson: There are increasingly powerful measurement tools available. Now is the time to invest, evaluate and refine your measurement approach ahead of the holiday period
  • Feed your marketing automation machine with quality content: Just like data, you get out what you put into content marketing. It’s not just a matter of “pumping out” content – the challenge for marketers is creating a centre of gravity which attracts customers, leads and opportunities to engage. This is done with quality content, and with 24% of marketers indicating they struggle to engage their audiences, it’s clear there is work to be done here. Lesson: The dream of one-to-one conversations at scale is only possible with a deep understanding of your customer’s journey, marketing automation that has been tuned to that path, and quality content that nurtures leads and moves your audiences from anonymity visitors to known customers. 

Most marketers will have clear plans for the next two months, but it’s worth pausing and asking the question “Are we doing the right things and doing things right?”. In this digital age, strategy, execution and measurement are no longer time consuming – and marketers must learn to iterate their marketing at the speed of their customers’ lives. Find people who can help you experiment and climb aboard the content marketing express.

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