The Industrial Internet, Accelerator in a Box and Retail Disruption on #DisrupTV

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Each week, Vala Afshar and R “Ray” Wang host a web series DisrupTV. It’s a 30 minute deep dive into the world of digital transformation featuring the people and organizations that are leading that change.

This week’s episode featured GE’s Chief Digital Officer, Ganesh Bell, Constellation Research Principal Analyst, Guy Courtin and myself.

Setting a cracking pace, GE have become the poster child for the world of digital transformation, coining the term “industrial internet”, establishing startups in Silicon Valley and setting a vision to be a top 10 software company by 2020. In the episode, Ganesh talks about the challenges of transformation – of moving from an industrial company to a digital company and what it takes. It’s well worth watching the replay to learn more about the tangible impact of digital transformation that GE is making not just within their business but well beyond it.

Joining Ray and Vala, about 25 minutes in, I shared some insight into the world of enterprise innovation in Australia:

Guy Courtin joined around 45 minutes in and brought amazing insight into the changing world of retail. From showrooming to the internet of things, he covered a vast terrain of disruption and opportunity, suggesting that bricks and mortar stores still have plenty of advantages over their digital only counterparts, and explaining that to be truly transformative, we need to stop thinking about “e” commerce and connect the dots around the customer’s commercial experience.

While the show ran for just over an hour, it’s jam packed with insight and energy. And DisrupTV is fast becoming an authoritative, must watch series for all those who are serious about the business of disruption and transformation in business. Check out recordings of past episodes here. And watch this week’s episode replay from Blab below.

Marketers as Innovators – Join the DisrupTV Live Stream

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This weekend – at 5am Australian daylight time – I will be joining the hosts of DisrupTV, R “Ray” Wang and Valar Afshar to talk marketing-led innovation, and provide a snapshot of the Australian innovation landscape. This weekly web series is streamed live on Blab.im and is focused on leadership, innovation and disruption in the enterprise and brings together A-list guests, the latest enterprise news, hot startups, insight from influencers, and much more. And when I say “A-list guests”, I’m not talking about celebrities. I’m talking about business and technology leaders who are changing the way that we do, think about and create value in business.

The show has featured:

The discussion with Alex Osterwalder is eye opening and full of insight for those seeking to change the way businesses organise themselves, create value and operate in the world. It’s well worth tuning in (embedded below).

This week’s interview features GE’s Chief Digital Officer, Ganesh Bell. He leads digital innovation and transformation, and is responsible for the digital solutions business and digital engagement to drive business growth. I will be discussing the nature of corporate innovation, how a market-product fit wins over a product-market fit in the enterprise, and will touch on some of the initiatives arising from the Australian Government’s #IdeasBoom. We’ll also be joined in the “Influencer’s Corner” by Guy Courtin, VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research.

Be sure to tune in at 11 a.m. PT/ 2 p.m. ET and remember to tweet your questions using the #DisrupTV hashtag.

For Many B2B Marketers, It’s Time to Set the Foundations

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For all the how-to guides, blog posts on best practices, tips and tricks, there is a simple reality to modern marketing that we often overlook. In our rush to use the technology, spend our budget and brief our agencies, we forget that good marketing is established on firm foundations.

A recent study by B2B International found that the top business challenges relate to growth:

  • 62% of marketers are focusing on growth
  • 59% of marketers are driving / needing innovation.

But in the area of out performing the competition, there are two significant weaknesses:

  • Sophisticated segmentation
  • Unique selling proposition.

In the research, on 43% of respondents indicated that they were using a sophisticated approach to segmentation. This means that almost 60% are leaving the door open to their competitors who double down on segmentation, audience analysis and journey mapping.

Furthermore, B2B marketers are rating their USP as a weak 6.3 out of 10.

Yet on the surface, all these things are under the immediate control of the B2B marketer.  Growth and innovation have tactical and strategic elements and can be tackled through short and medium term activities (yes, this is where those blog posts and tips and tricks can come in handy). Segmentation and analytics is a burgeoning field, and while skilled practitioners may be hard to find, they do exist. And there are great sources of training, conferences and even courses available in convenient online formats.

Messaging and the strengthening of your value proposition can be hard work – but again – there are agencies who can help, freelancers and brilliant techniques that can help you land on a compelling and differentiated messaging architecture.

But the data in this report makes me wonder whether we are looking at the right things. Are we valuing the right things. And are we looking for answers everywhere that we should not? I am convinced that the best marketing investment we can make is in our own skills. And that we should seek out a deep appreciation and understanding of the foundations of modern marketing, get back to basics and make our customers delightfully happy.

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When the View from the Penthouse is not What’s Expected

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It’s not everyday that I notice the tweets from Penthouse Australia in my Twitter feed. But after the marketing industry’s Mumbrella website published this article, it seemed to send the publisher’s Twitter feed viral.

While I only really read the Penthouse tweet stream for the 140 characters, it seems, someone is having way more fun with the brand and its reputation than usual.

penthouseThere is obvious frustration in every tweet, but this serves as a serious lesson for all brands – and not just those using social media in an official or even unofficial capacity. The clear point is that businesses and brands can now be held to account for their actions (or inactions). Sure, taking over an official Twitter account can cause some embarrassment and maybe even brand damage. But there are so many options available for George Costanza would call “the airing of grievances”. It’s no longer a question of whether your brand’s dirty linen will be aired in public. It’s a matter of when.

And with that in mind, business owners, directors and boards should consider updating their mindset, digital practices, approaches and security protocols. Or better yet, understand that we now live in an age of radical transparency, and that “ethical business practices” are the basis of our new social license to operate.

I’m expecting this to be the new case study on brand and crisis management for 2016 marketing conferences. But the question remains – what would you do if your brand was brandjacked?

The Price of Marketing is Innovation

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Marketing teams everywhere are experiencing a profound disruption. It’s a change in thinking, planning, analytics and platforms unlike anything that we have experienced previously. And while the changes happening to us as marketers are unsettling, far more troubling are the changes happening around us as marketers, business people and consumers. We are living on the pinhead of a transition that is sweeping all before us and swallowing the past as it goes.

Living in a platform age has changed the dynamics of our lives. What was personal has become professional and what was “work” has become, well, less clear. Less defined. After all, we can now “work” from home, from a coworking space or shared office. Even a cafe around the corner from your home can serve you VPN access with a steaming hot cappuccino. We are an always-on, digitally connected, wifi enabled workforce that can transform from knowledge worker to connected consumer faster than Snapchat can forget that selfie you posted to your network of faux friends and friendly foes.

And the platforms have come a long way, taking advantage of four transformative technologies – social, mobile, analytics and cloud. The SMAC model. For years, technology companies have known about the power of platforms – using SMAC to create competitive advantage and commercialising the value across networks. Startups have known this too – though often without clear and incisive strategy. They’re too busy moving quickly across the platforms to harness their potential for scale.

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But this is changing. All businesses are changing.

These days, any business can become a technology business. What was once my consulting business – Disruptor’s Handbook – has become a technology business. We are deeply technology enabled – from CRM to lead and opportunity nurturing, communications management, planning, collaboration and execution right through to business analytics and financial management. The intellectual property that we have created has been downloaded thousands of times and is being put to use in 25 different countries including the UK, China, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, India and Mongolia.

This can only happen because we have embraced the SMAC model. We have apps in the cloud, integrated using pieces of string, chewing gum and a raft of zapier zaps, API calls and pre-made plugins. It means we rely on a dozen services rather than a single suite, but it holds together and works almost flawlessly. Until it doesn’t. But it provides a scale that would otherwise be difficult to achieve without a significant technology budget.

And if we can do it, you can too.

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Swallowing the past

Just when you start to feel comfortable with your technology choices, the rubber bands and sticky-tape that you use to hold it all together, the worst possible thing happens. Well not exactly the worst, but modern marketing’s closest equivalent. A new technology is released. Or an upgrade or a patch. And this new thing is so bright and shiny, you feel like Cory Hart in a film clip straight from the heart of the 1980s. You can’t help but to download it. Sign up. Trial. Share it with friends and colleagues.

And this one new thing makes you question all that has gone before it. Imagine Facebook before it bought Instagram. Or Google before it bought Urchin. These companies are moving so fast, transforming their user experience and brand promise so quickly that we hardly remember what life was like before the change occurred. These platforms are swallowing the past moment by venture-funded moment.

But where do we start? In the marketing technology field alone, Scott Brinker estimates that we are dealing with over 2000 technology choices across almost 50 category areas. In each of those categories we face a dazzling array of choices, capabilities and technologies. So much so, that we often elect to do nothing. As marketers we are suffering from one of our own invented marketing conditions – decision paralysis. We refuse to take a step forward out of a fear of being wrong-footed.

Yes, the future is bright and it is long, yet we are living a constant present.

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Marketing technology – it’s not a footstep but a journey

Traditionally, marketers have always had their eye on the customer. But in the rush to transform their approaches, update their skills and stay ahead of the competition (all while still delivering ROI), many of us have been blinded by the technology light. The problem is that this is not a light. It’s a train and it’s heading in our direction. Marketing technology has put us on a set of rails that are almost impossible to escape from.

But there is a way.

Rather than following in the digital footprints laid out in front of us, we must consciously choose an alternative – the customer journey.

When we start with our customers and their journey it changes the game for us. Rather than generating campaigns, leads and opportunities, we are seeking to understand our customers’ needs, expectations and path to purchase. It’s less about how we sell and more about how they buy. And when we understand this, we can then select the technologies that help us deliver that experience.

How do we do this?

Clearly it requires new thinking and new skills.

Agile marketing and the new world order

In many agencies, agile marketing has been the order of the day for sometime. Building on the old “traffic management” model popularised in publishing houses, digital agencies have been adopting agile methods and approaches to deliver their marketing solutions for years. But in this world of constant change – with a need to swim upstream to where the new sources of business value lie, client side marketers are having to adapt their own ways of working. Out are the old metrics and in are the new. Same with skills. Creative. And technology. Many of our marketing platforms have already been superseded – yesterday’s cutting edge marketing cloud is already burning like acid rain.

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Our increasingly complex world is expecting increasingly complex solutions. We can’t just work in broadcast or print. It needs to be omni-channel. Mobile. We need the best of social and the power of analytics. We need predictive modelling and on-demand forecasting. There are so many new acronyms that we need a new urban dictionary just to keep up. I have been exploring these topics on the Firebrand Talent blog – seeking to match the changing landscape a framework for marketing renewal.

In fact, I am finding my work in innovation is meeting my work in marketing. They complement and reinforce each other. And in the best instances they catalyse and accelerate each other’s effectiveness.

These days the modern marketer has no choice but to create a new world order. Gone are the certainty of ratings and public statistics. Gone are the guaranteed budgets and elastic ROI figures. In are hard numbers, data analytics and real time bidding. It’s like working with an armful of tactics while building strategy on the fly. We can do it, but we do need to ask – is it best for the business and best for the customer? Is it brand-wise?

The time has come to shift not only our thinking but our practice. It’s time that we recognise that customers are not going to buy something just because we interrupted their continuously connected life with the right offer in the right place at the right time. We need accept that we need to build new products for new conditions, not just create new campaigns to spruce up a tired offering. It’s time we stopped talking about “agile” and started “being” agile. We need a marketing system for the disruption that we are all living.

But what is it going to cost? I hear you say.

It’s not a cost. Modern marketing is an investment. And innovation is the price of getting a seat at the customer’s table.

Bringing the Glitz to B2B Marketing #b2bmktg16

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B2B marketing is often seen as the nerdy, slightly less glamorous cousin of B2C marketing. And sure, there are fewer celebrity endorsements and precious little in the way of mainstream news and media coverage. We often struggle to even get a write up in Mumbrella, unless something goes wrong.

But a quick search on LinkedIn reveals that there are at least 65,000 B2B marketers working in Australia. They cover a wide range of functions, from social selling to demand and lead generation through to content strategy and marketing, marketing automation, customer experience and analytics. Those working in B2B marketing know it is a constantly changing field – with exacting business and stakeholder demands, expectations of strict ROI, exploding content and channel opportunities and and ever shifting technology opportunities, risks and costs.

No wonder B2B marketing is a challenge.

But for many of us, it is a challenge that drives us.

Come to the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum

Despite the fact that we work in teams, B2B marketing can be a lonely profession. It doesn’t get the focus and attention that other marketing disciplines receive, marketers are time poor and under pressure, and there are competitive issues that we struggle to be able to talk about openly.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to meet other B2B marketers? Share stories? Learn from the experiences and case studies of others?

Well, here is your chance.

I am chairing the first B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC this May. We have put together a brilliant agenda, sourced world class speakers locally and internationally and are crafting a conference experience that will both inspire you and your teams and provide you with practical insight you can bring back to the office.

Book in now. And let’s bring shine some light onto the brilliance of B2B marketing.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Creating New Business Patterns for Social Impact

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I have always believed that a sense of purpose would drive change, no matter whether that change was behavioural, economic or cultural. And as such, my work in marketing has always been driven by an interest in psychology, behaviour and action. The reality is, is that I am curiously interested in people and what makes them tick – not in the things that they tell you when prompted, but in the millions of tiny actions that create our personalities. For example, I love the way that vegans wear leather, or doctors smoke cigarettes. I adore the inconsistencies that defeat algorithms and confound logic.

But I also love the way that these apparent inconsistencies can also create opportunities.

Over the last couple of years, businesses have started to pay closer attention to millennials – that generation born between 1982 and 2004. And while the span is open to debate, it is clear that this generation have a substantially different mindset from those that came before. I notice this in the work that I do with youth entrepreneurship organisation, Vibewire – where I am regularly confronted by behaviours, actions and expectations that, on the surface, appear completely alien. And I notice it in my work with corporations and clients, and in the research I do for various public speaking events. But as this generation begins to reach into management and executive ranks of government and business, it is something that we are all having to come to grips with.

Deloitte’s Millennial Survey is a recent example of the research which serves to reinforce what we have long suspected – that a sense of values and purpose is at the core of the millennial mindset. Thus far we have seen this play out in the consumer landscape, with a significant reduction in leading indicators of personal consumption – consider:

  • The fall in the number of driving licenses issued and the downstream impact on car sales
  • The rise in preference for public transport and the increasing pressure on inner city housing
  • The interest in entrepreneurship opportunities and skills and the downstream disinterest in professional careers and career paths.

The Deloitte report indicated that while millennials are “pro-business”, they are also particularly interested in business’ potential to “do good”:

Millennials continue to express positive views of business, and their opinions regarding businesses’ motivations and ethics showed stark improvement in this survey. However, much skepticism remains, driven by the majority-held belief that businesses have no ambition beyond profit. Almost nine in 10 (87 percent) believe that “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.”

 

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However, while there is an alignment of values between business and millennials, there is a substantial gap in the alignment of purpose. The report concludes: “Millennials would prioritize the sense of purpose around people rather than growth or profit maximization”.

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This, of course, suggests unsettling economic, cultural and social futures while the mis-match is sorted out. But as in most things, the most negative impacts will be felt by those businesses that respond too late or fail to plan strategically.

How to plan ahead for generational change

Whether your business has felt the winds of generational change or not, make no mistake, it is coming. From 2015, the Baby Boomer generations began retiring from the global workforce, taking their years of experience and expertise and substantial spending power with them. This trend will accelerate in the coming years. And as those experienced business leaders trade suits and ties for no ties and sun-filled beaches, enterprises from downtown Chicago to dusky Beijing will be restocked with ambitious, values focused millennials seeking to make their mark on the world. And this shift will force substantial change to what has been “business as usual”, with values and purpose taking centre stage.

Anecdotally, we are already seeing this play out. Financial services organisations are softening their positioning and message to the market. Utilities and resources companies are speaking of values, and professional services firms proclaim purpose and social impact. It’s out with conspicuous consumption and in with the sharing economy.

But this is just the beginning. Real change must be embedded deep in the hearts and souls of these organisations. It must be lived in the brand experience. And the “old ways” – the “business as usual” approaches must be re-made for this changing age.

Innovating for social impact

Often when we talk of innovation, we focus on something new or novel that is introduced to the public. It could be technology or an experience. It could combine the two. But we will begin to find that our efforts at innovation trip and stumble as they reach the market if we fail to take into account the changing nature of our buyer’s values and purpose. It won’t be good enough to put “lipstick on a pig” and serve it up on a bed of kale. We will need to begin the challenging task of creating shared value outcomes that don’t just serve our markets, stakeholders and management. We will need to address social impact too.

Over the last year or so, I have been working to create powerful business innovation frameworks that help entrepreneurs bring their products and services to market faster. My very first of these was an adaptation of the Lean Canvas used by startups for the purposes of social impact. I called it the Shared Value Canvas. Recently I have turned my attention to workshop and facilitation formats that use the same lean and agile methods employed by the world’s most innovative companies, tweaked to incorporate a social impact or social innovation outcome.

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In the coming days, I expect to release a comprehensive handbook that guides facilitators and teams through a Five Day Social Sprint. Designed for not-for-profits and for-purpose organisations, it’s a deep dive into the tools and techniques that rapidly move from idea to product within a week’s worth of effort. It has been inspired by the Google Ventures, five day sprint process – but revised and refocused for social impact.

And while I hope it finds favour with charities and not-for-profit organisations around the world, I also hope it inspires more traditional businesses to find tangible ways to bring purpose and values to life within their organisations, one innovation at a time.

Opportunities for Agencies: Innovation Can Be Learned

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One of the most interesting and useful podcasts that I listen to is Drew McLellan’s Build a Better Agency podcast. Each week, Drew serves up fascinating and tangible tips, tricks and proven approaches to help agency owners grow their business. It’s a great combination of tactics and strategy, capability building and new ideas.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to talk to Drew about the ways that agency owners can re-think their businesses and client relationships. With so many of the traditional agency offerings like design, SEO and even copywriting now commoditised and available through crowd-aggregation platforms, many agencies are being challenged to innovate or die. It seems that digital disruption is reaching into even the most creative of disciplines.

Or is it.

I have always seen the great strengths of the agency model working where a trusted relationship is able to be nurtured over a number of years. In these instances, agencies are able to take on more and more strategic work, shifting from a transactional supplier role into something more substantial. A partner. Or advisor. It is in these roles where agency owners have the greatest of opportunities – to recast the relationship again, bringing their teams’ creative problem solving talents into the value equation.

One of the ways of doing this is through the use of the tools and techniques popularised by high tech startups, like the lean canvas. This “business model on a page” approach quickly moves a client discussion to a higher level. It frames a new style of conversation that agency owners can lead.

And the great thing is, you can try it on your own agency first. In the podcast I share some tips for getting started. And remember – innovation isn’t something you are born with. It can be learned.

Hack the Hacker: Using Analytics to Respond to Cyber Security Threats

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When your computer network, PC or laptop is compromised you know you are in for a world of pain. Not only do you face significant down time, there are additional problems:

  • Identity theft – have stored passwords been harvested and shared via dark nets like 4chan?
  • Credit card fraud – have your credit card details been sold in a bulk lot online?
  • Business data – have you exposed your company or employer to reputational and other damage?
  • Digital reputation – has the breach caused Google to take your site or platform down?

The problem is the scale of the challenge. In 2014 there were:

  • Over 42 million cyber attacks worldwide
  • Representing a 50% increase year-on-year

The thing is, 100% – that is, all – cyber attacks used valid credentials. Which means you need to be thinking proactively about your cyber security. It’s too late once the attack has started.

This infographic from Sumologic sets out facts and figures that will make your eyes water. But what is clear is that cyber security is no longer just the responsibility of the CIO. It’s now an important part of your brand.

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Does Your Personal Brand Make You Look Like an Idiot?

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I can remember advertising for new employees a few years back and being overwhelmed by the number of resumes that would be delivered. We had one job opening and there would be hundreds of applications. It was daunting and depressing. Somewhere in that massive pile of paper was my next team member. I just didn’t know where.

The profiles that stood out from the crowd were few and far between. If I asked for a cover letter I expected a cover letter. If I asked for examples of your work, then I expected to see them. Most of all, I expected that you would do your homework on my company. The vast majority of profiles simply did not cover the fundamentals.

These days it is both easier and harder to find good recruits. Sure LinkedIn makes it easy to discover great people – but for every amazing person out there, there’s a plethora of self-entitled, self-aggrandising idiots that you’d be crazy to employ. Or would you.

Here’s a trick.

Call up your LinkedIn profile.

Read it out aloud.

Now have a friend read it to you like they are standing on a stage, “living the moment”.

If you don’t burst out laughing, you’re on the money.