I had an encounter the other day on the London Tube.
A couple of people walked up to me and asked “Can we take a picture with you? We’ve been given an assignment to photograph ourselves with random strangers”
That got me thinking.
On the face of it, yes, we were random strangers to one another, but were we really? If I tracked these people down on social media and connected with them, there’s actually a good chance we’d turn out to have mutual friends, or at least mutual friends-of-friends.
How much of a random stranger is anyone these days?
The concept of six degrees of separation, popularised by the film of the same name, suggests that you can link any person in the world to any other person by six stages of friendship, family connection or some other kind of association. Even if the exact statistics don’t bear close examination, the principle holds good.
This was proposed in the pre-internet world, when opportunities for connection were far sparser than they are now.
Online social media has created a connected world like a complex tapestry covering the globe. The people sharing a traffic jam with you, or sitting in the same train carriage or plane, may all seem to be random strangers, but the chances are that you have online connections with a surprising number of them.
Social media is almost as old as the internet, starting in forms like small newsgroups, where people could discuss mutual interests. Since the early 2000s, it’s taken off to the extent that Facebook is now estimated to have over 1.18 billion active users.
LinkedIn is smaller, with around 400 million members, but it’s far more business oriented — not the place to see pictures of cute cats, but perfect to connect up with the global business community.
All the major social media platforms (and many of the minor ones) have their place in connecting to people who could be useful to you.
Facebook may be better if you’re trying to get the attention of the general public, and LinkedIn if you’re selling to business, but both have value for any business, along with others such as Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
On any of these platforms, you may have many contacts you’ve never met physically, but that’s only the start.
Once your contacts start sharing your content with their contacts, and perhaps some of those share with their contacts, you never know who your message might reach.
It may even reach some ‘random strangers’ you meet on the Tube.
And I mean this in every sense of the word.
We are living in a hyper connected world. We are always on the move and always connected to the internet, via our smartphones, laptops, tablets or more recently devices such as wearable and smart home technology.
The IoT is here (Internet of Things), and will only get more sophisticated as it continues to shape the society we live in. The increasing digital interconnection of people, devices and indeed – things – does not bear ignorance, especially in business. We are connected – anytime, anyplace.
Until recent years, we saw mobile as an option to consider as businesses, marketers and advertisers. It was something we never thought would take over the world as fast as it did. The age of mobile is here, and it’s no longer just an option – it’s a must.
Why do we need to think ‘mobile’?
I’ll list a few main points here in order to paint a bigger picture for us to realise where mobile fits in – now and in the future;
Since the dawn of the internet, we’ve been able to reach worldwide markets in a few clicks. And most of these markets are reachable by mobile today.
We need to be global, think global, and act local.
With the ever evolving traceability of our individual movements within our own geographical environments – we expect to be served relevant content that we can relate to.
Mobile makes acting local possible. Even if your business is not physically nowhere near the areas you wish to target and market to.
It’s imperative we filter our business strategies from high level global thinking down to local strategies and realise the opportunities within a specific culture, environment and geographical area. We need to create bespoke marketing strategies, and we need to keep mobile at the core of them.
You know those inspirational and motivational quotes, images and videos you see all over the internet and social media streams? Yes, the ones that most likely annoy the heck out of some of you, or sound so cheesy you’ve just vomited in your mouth a bit.
I realise these OTT (over the top) phrases may seem like the biggest ‘BS’ the world has produced, however they do stand for something. At least in the life of an entrepreneur, or someone, who wants to break barriers and create something new.
Let’s face it; life of an entrepreneur really is ‘a roller coaster’
If you are an entrepreneur, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
If you are thinking of becoming one, I hope you love amusement parks and the rather speedy rides they have to offer. Either way, you are definitely up for the ride of your life!
And I mean this in the best way possible.
As an entrepreneur, you will experience highs, you will experience lows. You are not always going to know what comes next. Nothing is predictable. Being an entrepreneur is certainly the most volatile way of life you could choose, however I promise you – you will never have a dull moment again.
Despite the excitement and fast pace in the life of an entrepreneur, we do sometimes need to calm down, reflect and re-charge our batteries. These are the moments, when a little bit of help from a friend or a third party, may come in handy. Yes, now I’m referring to the ‘inspirational and motivational’ stuff out there.
From time to time, a little kick up the arse won’t actually hurt.
We may draw it from various sources such as our own support networks, mentors, our partners, our colleagues or indeed the internet and it’s hundreds of guidance giving articles, e-books or simple ‘straight to the point’ quotes.
The beauty and the beast called Freedom
Perhaps all of us ultimately long for freedom in its various shapes and forms.
One way to achieve a certain kind of freedom is to embark on the road of an entrepreneur.
But it does come with a cost (like most things in life do).
Owning and running your own business means you have the freedom to decide your direction. You have the freedom to choose what kind of business future you will have; will you go for growth? Will you go for the lifestyle?
You have the freedom to decide if you get up in the morning (and make your business happen!) or if you let is crumble under pressure. You have the option to push yourself out of your comfort zone, or stay there (and probably fail). You are responsible, you are accountable. If you are ready to put the extra (long) mile in that most won’t, you are ready. One way I could describe it all is almost like a festival experience; you will feel on top of the world, you will be happy, you will be the boss of yourself… however at times, you will get muddy, you will get your hands dirty and you will take the cold shower now and then.
But I assure you, it’s worth the whole package.
As business owners, we all look for success, we all want a breakthrough and a long-term sustainability (at least until we want to sell and exit that is).
But that breakthrough won’t come without some knocking on doors, perhaps even banging on doors. Sometimes we need to build a door ourselves.
In order to achieve success, we need to work hard for it, we need to set goals and reach them systematically. It’s also important to realise that success cannot be achieved or ‘felt’ without some failures. How do you know what success is or feels like, if you’ve never failed at all? Take failures as learning opportunities and embrace them.
We are living in a world of constant streams of information. There’s the physical world, where we are constantly exposed to various messaging via billboards, outdoor advertisements, radio, TV and so on, and there’s the virtual world (internet) where we’re connected 24/7.
We are bombarded with messages from all directions, and this is where the challenge lies when looking at the scenario from a marketer’s point of view.
We should not make our consumers feel they are being bombarded
Long gone are the days when we used to ‘push’ marketing messages to the masses and they would accept it all without complaints. Long gone are the days when they would buy what we told them to buy. Times have changed.
As the world evolves, so do people. We find new ways of consuming products and services, we discover alternative ways of connecting with the companies and brands behind products and services – and in the midst of the much talked about digital revolution, we have become more demanding consumers than ever.
We need to bring more emotional intelligence and empathy to the strategies we utilise to deploy our marketing campaigns, in order to make them stand out and drive effective results and traction amongst our desired target market.
We need to invest more time and thought in thoroughly understanding our target audiences and our consumers. We need to get into the mind-set of our customers, and we need to provide solutions to their problems.
Currently the marketing industry is still focusing too much on ‘push’ marketing. Sure, the methods of targeting the correct audiences have got more sophisticated than they were at the start of the millennium; however we are still implementing tactics that are not in-line with the fast evolving savvy consumer.
As a digital marketing agency, or indeed as a marketer in an in-house team, we strive to drive relevant visitors to our or our client’s websites, social media pages and other properties that can be tagged and tracked online. We target and we re-target.
We need to take a step back. Do we truly know how our customers behave, what their wants and needs are, and indeed – are we the ones to fulfil those needs?
Let’s take a look at why we are doing what we are doing:
How we do this, is still not granular or good enough for the savvy consumer of today. We need to dive deeper. We need to know our consumer inside out (without being creepy) and we need to be there for them when they need our products or services.
We need to transform numbers and statistics within our reporting dashboards into people and pools of intentions. We need to understand that we are dealing with individual personalities, views, opinions, experiences and cultures.
Perhaps this sounds like an impossible and time-consuming task to do, however as the consumers and ways of practising business evolve, we as marketers need to find better, more powerful and efficient ways of delivering to this ‘me’ conscious, savvy consumer.
Now that we know we are here to serve (yes, serve) our customers in a more in-depth manner, we need to ensure we continue to know our customer profiles:
Execute a comprehensive market research piece on where your potential customers spend their time, which online platforms they use on a regular basis and what needs and wants they need fulfilled (by you).
Ensure the products and services you are selling, are actually enhancing and improving your customer’s life (whether professional or personal). It’s not just about selling a product or service anymore; it’s being part of the solution.
Rather than ranting and raving about how good and great your products and services are, try to attract the customer towards you, because you stand for something bigger than just a brand name. Define your values, mission and purpose.
Always keep your customers at the core of everything you do. Don’t go overboard with re-targeting, upselling or getting over-confident in thinking they will always come back to you. It’s a relationship that goes both ways. Just like a marriage, you need to work on your customer relationships – continuously, with empathy and emotion in mind.
Since being kids, we love hearing exciting stories don’t we? As youngsters, our lives are filled with fairy tales, cartoons, comics and kids movies. Nothing much seems to change after we enter into adulthood – we still love stories.
We continue to read books, novels and other publications. We go to theatre to enjoy a play; we consume movies at home and at the cinema. As emotional and visual beings, we love to be entertained. We love to feel, we love to experience and be part of an experience.
We love to belong to something.
Creating a sense of purpose
As companies and brands, our main aim is to entertain, establish an emotional connection with our specific target audience, and most of all – ensure our customers feel that they are a part of our brand story.
We exist for the benefit of our customers, we make their lives easier, provide solutions to their challenges – and overall make our customers feel happier in their daily lives. Meaningful connections last a long time. Sense of purpose makes us tick and stick.
How to build a great brand story?
In order to create an amazing brand story that will catch people’s attention and get them to listen in a highly crowded market place, it’s important that business owners dedicate proper time to plan and build a brand story.
It is imperative to realise what brand storytelling is about and what it’s not about. As mentioned previously, key concept to a great brand story is to make your customers part of it. Have them at the core of it if you can.
Let’s take a look at what brand storytelling is:
Let’s also take a look at what brand storytelling is not:
Unify your message across all channels
Once you have your brand story nailed; knowing what your company stands for, realising your long term vision and values – ensure that your message gets across to your target audience and customers in a unified manner.
Keep your message strong across your advertising and marketing campaigns, website copy, social media and other channels of communication.
Consistent brand story can give your company a powerful voice, regardless of your company size. Memorable, meaningful and integrated approach to brand storytelling will ensure you are enabling your customers to experience your company journey with you.
There’s nothing more enticing than being emotionally appealing.
As entrepreneurs, no matter how our journeys started, it’s crucially important that we are aware of our overall journey, what our future roadmap looks like in terms of achieving our dreams and goals in order for us to actually reach those dreams and goals without getting (too) stuck on the way there. We need to keep the bigger picture in mind at all times.
Driven by passion, backed by Financials
We all start our entrepreneurial journey because we are passionate about something. We are passionate about a hobby that may turn into a profession; we are passionate about solving a problem, which turns into a business. We are driven by passion.
However that passion will only take us so far. We need to ensure our passion can be turned into ROI (return on investment). No business can run without financial backing (not even charities) and no matter how much we may want to just ‘do what we love to do’, we need money to keep on doing it.
The first and most important aspect about running your business is financials. Your P&L sheet (profit and loss) in other words – what you spend vs what you bring in. We need to keep on top of the numbers at all times, every day, no matter how tedious it may sound. If we are not on the pulse with our financials – we cannot forecast, we cannot guarantee a sustainable business model and most of all, we cannot ensure we have a business the following day. Keep your finances at the core of your business.
Never forget the power of Marketing
In the midst of developing and growing your business, it’s very easy to forget the actual marketing of your precious idea. There’s already a multitude of other matters to focus on, such as financials, development, team matters – never mind daily admin tasks and paper work.
It’s no surprise that sometimes we forget to market ourselves, our brand and business – and this gets left on the back burner.
We need to however remind ourselves that marketing is indeed the back bone of our businesses, and not to be ignored. Marketing is something that can take us to the next level if done right. Marketing can make us market leaders.
So how to start planning your marketing strategy? Let’s take a look at a few elements to consider:
ensure you know where your target market can be reached and engaged with (online vs offline environments)
how are your marketing efforts maximised and optimised, what KPI’s (key performance indicators) are tied into the objectives of your marketing strategy and how can these be achieved and exceeded
there’s absolutely no point in investing budget in marketing unless you know where the money is going to, why and what the results are. And indeed, how further activities can be amended, enhanced and improved based on results. Once again, it’s all about effective ROI.
Operations are the heart and soul of your business
As an entrepreneur, you are driven by passion. However as soon as your business starts to grow it will demand operational organisation. You need to spare some though as to how your business is developed in the most effective way, what kind of methods will be used to get there, what processes, policies and growth strategies need to be in place and in implementation in order to make it all happen. Operations are the heart and soul of your growing business. And heart and soul is very closely connected to the already explored other imperative areas of the business such as financials and marketing.
Without sounding too religious, we need to think about these elements as the holy trinity: Financials, Marketing and Operations. Without these a business cannot survive and grow.
Ensure you find your perfectly balanced FIMO.