Social Media: Running businesses as used to be

April 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

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It was not long ago that businesses and people had good relationships. Before the industrial times and before productions went massive, our great-grandparents used to buy their food, clothes and most of the things they needed from small and independent stores in their neighborhoods. It was a small and non-connected world back then where people and business owners had relationships. Relationship made business happen.

Then the economy of industrial goods came, products became massive, cheaper and our parents had more money to buy more stuff. Conglomerates raised and the small shops started to closed or been acquire by bigger ones. We changed relationships for cheap and convenience. We now just need to go to a big store to buy around 99% of all of our needs, from groceries to furnitures. Few stores, many cheap purchases.

Interesting though, we are living once a gain new changing times. Or are we? Fact is that technology and the whole economy around the internet has changed things. Revolution? Or back to the basics? It seems that life indeed moves in circles and we are now returning to a point that used to be normal. Many companies wonders about this “creating relationship” with customers as it if was something new. Social Media, as we are experiencing it now, is just helping the world to become again a smaller place. A place where relationships are once again the most important value, as they always were.

We don’t necessary need to leave the “cheap” or “convenience” we had. Technology enables to mix both. But people and companies have to change behaviors and be able to smoothly go back to the roots.

Additionally and even more fascinate is how technology enables us now to connect with the small players still around. Despite de industrialization of goods, there are still many amazing people working hard to sustain small and independent businesses. They make great handcraft, food and other goods. They were used to be limited to sell to just in a defined local area. Many of them grew by sacrificing their artisan philosophy and relationships, others just perished. But some few survived doing the same products under the same philosophy. Because the idea of creating authentic products wasn’t a promising business, it didn’t encourage others to follow, specially after seeing how consumers kept on shifting to massive goods.

Change is happening though and small and independent artisan, producers and business can now connect to a broader audience thanks to technology and interact with all of them thanks to what we now fancy call “social media”. Consequently, the trend for the number of these type of business to grow is imminent. Other passionate producers will see there is again business opportunities to create and to establish relationships with consumers just as my grandparents where used to. Hence more and more will start new businesses.

Besides caring for organic, ecological and sustainable food, foodieSquare is pursuing this trend: creating relationships between food lovers and passionate food producers, hence support current and new artisan food producers to growth their businesses and connect them with food lovers all over Europe. The time is just right. The change is here and we are going finally back to the roots where relationships are once again the most important asset for companies!

There is no half-pregnancy! Is there half-entrepreneur?

April 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Half pregnant? Half Entrepreneur?

Half pregnant? Half Entrepreneur?

Like with pregnancy you are either pregnant or not pregnant! There is not such thing as half pregnancy. So, is there half Entrepreneur?

Well, there is the so-called part-time entrepreneur, which is a mix between being and not being an entrepreneur. It means still having a job, reducing the risk but on the flip side, having a small business (profitable or not) to take care of. A hobby?

Well, of course it is not all black and white and it depends on many factors: the type of business, the risk willing to take, age and other family constraints, etc. Last friday, Alberto Torron (Twitter:@atorron), Telefonica employee and co-founder of todotaladros.com came to talk to us in class as part of the #ietechstartup session with @edans

Alberto sells around 4 tools per day with an average sale of 250€. This makes it enough to have a good a profitable business after one year of operations while also having a normal job at Telefonica. But I would be worried if I was Alberto. He just proved to a group of high trained MBA entrepreneurs that there is a promising market for tools in Spain. It just take the courage of two full time entrepreneurs to develop a business plan in some weeks, think big, get some funding and start executing to become the herramientas.com of Spain, or better, http://www.tools.com for Europe! This does not mean that Alberto will be out of business, I guess he has some key elements like customers satisfaction, that makes him successful despite been a small player. But Alberto has the risk of not been the tool site of choice by the general consumer, who is already saturated with so many brands and tech startups.

Again, it depends on the situation. But not going full entrepreneurship has its price and the risk is as high as going for it. It takes the same effort to raise 100k as 1 million. So why think small? Yes, I am latin and I think to understand how latins think towards risk due the economic environment we have been surrounded, but if we never think big, we will never get big. After all, failing big means learning also big.

I personally think to be on the right age and time to think big, this is why I have decided to co-found foodieSquare, an online European marketplace for food lovers. Yes, we could have started under a part-time entrepreneurship approach, but because this may be my last time to start thinking big, (age, family constraints and perhaps all those reasons why Alberto has gone part-time) I therefore have decided to aim for big and become full time entrepreneur despite by MBA loan and family (second kid on the way)!

Every day of our life that goes by, risk increases. However you see it. So, if risk is only getting bigger, then you have to start NOW! As I said: My wife is for the second time pregnant. Not half pregnant. So, for me, after some years of being just an employee, the time has come to fulfill my dream and become an entrepreneur, not half entrepreneur.

Marketing 2.0 (long read!)

February 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

 

My first contact with Marketing was almost 4 years ago when I joined the Corporate Supply Chain Management at Siemens and was responsible for the global procurement strategy for marketing spend. My first mistake towards the word “marketing” was my association with “advertising”, which I consider not a challenging-enough task and was the reason why I rather studied engineering in the first place. Very soon I discover how wrong I was. I missed completely the fundamentals of marketing like understanding the market, creating a customer value proposition and developing a marketing strategy and plan. Advertising was just a minor part of the implementation part, in better words of marketing guru Seth Godin, “Marketing has to come before the product, not after”.

4 years later and some MBA classes afterwards, I think to know what Marketing really is. Or do I? Well, I better do, cause I am now co-founder of foodieSquare (an online marketplace that connect food lovers or “foodies” with unique and authentic european artisan producers) where I am leading the marketing silo. For this reason I desperately had to become a marketing expert in weeks and very soon I was able to identify that there was this old traditional Marketing or Marketing 1.0 (which I just couldn’t identify my self with) and there was the future of marketing, the new marketing or as I call it Marketing 2.0.

You should know more about me to understand why I I was asked to co-found foodieSquare to become the head of “new marketing”! My passion in life is technology and I do feel to understand it like no other by experiencing the impact of technology in my personal life. I just like to feel the way the new technology impacts me first, hence I try as much technologies as I can. This enables me to understand the effects of technology on consumer behavior and the consequences of new technologies on business and society in general. I am very grateful to had Enrique Dans as professor of Information Systems at IE Business School. I realize that I am not crazy to have this passion about technology and understood why I was the few of my class to see that things had changed. In my view, there is nothing greater than to see such big technological changes occur in such a short time and it fascinates me to think about all the new business opportunities around it! But there is a catch: You have to be willing to change yourself in order to lead change. Now, I can see more clearly how technology has become the main driver for marketing and how things have changed for marketers.

I liked to call this new marketing “Marketing 2.0” and there are some few people in the web that also use this concept even though it is not institutionalized yet. This is why it is important to describe it a little bit better. Lets start with what is not. Marketing 2.0 is not digital or online marketing (Please avoid the mistake I did when I thought marketing was advertising!). Yes, it’s true, the new marketing was triggered mainly by the creation of the internet and all the new technologies that had evolved since then (i.e. Social media). Things have changed, marketing is different now and technology has allowed us to pick and choose what messages we want to get and when we want to get them. No wonder why Internet is outpacing TV for time spend and this is because now more and more people are connected to the internet, and most recently, to social networks like Facebook. “We are going to see this huge shift where a lot of industries and products are just going to be remade to be social” (Mark Zuckerberg during an interview with 60 minutes, see minute 10:40”). And this is already happening. An HBR article from this december issue states that social technologies are helping—if not forcing—brands to form new kinds of relationships with customers. Other study says that Facebook is been used by 81% of Y-Gen users daily and there are studies that say that 63% use social media to engage with brands and more than 50% say that Facebook, blogs and brand videos affect their opinions about products.

So, if you are a traditional marketer, you are in a big trouble cause you are not going to reach your customers as you used to do. For me, the new marketing is about understanding how consumer behavior is shifting and hence, how the marketing approach has to change. We now know that marketing is not advertising, so Marketing 2.0 is not about creating online campaigns, digital banners or viral videos (Something being viral is not, in itself, viral marketing) either. Marketing 2.0 is more about adapting new ways of interacting with consumers that will result on a shift in the marketing process, culture, strategy and plan! It is now all about engaging communities by collecting more and better data and using it efficiently to add value to the community. Hence, the fundamentals of Marketing are still there (Creating Value, Capturing Value and Sustaining Value) but the way we now segment and target the market and how we do positioning has changed drastically. You cannot longer market to the anonymous masses, because they’re not anonymous and they’re not masses!

Not been part of the “Marketing 1.0” world has been a clear advantage for me, cause I am not biased. Patrick Spenner mentions for example that the problem of traditional brand-management models aren’t up to the current task is because they are designed for an outdated organization structure and depend on people with the wrong skill sets.  If I had to describe Marketing 1.0 in a short sentence I would summarize it as the one way communication channel build by companies, not communities.

Challenges of Marketing 2.0

After some few weeks working for foodieSquare I have quickly realized all the challenges I am and will be facing as head of “new marketing” and will affect my marketing plan. But also established small and big companies are facing these! After some some research, here is what I think are the biggest challenges to face in this “new marketing” era:

Creating good content: you have to have something worth to talk about to your community that brings value. It doesn’t help to advertise your company in forums or send promotional emails. Probably they will be ended in the spam email folder or you will be removed from forums. Because only relevant and useful content will be shared by user of your community, focus in content is the prio 1 in the Marketing 2.0 world.

Bringing value to the community: Creating content that is valuable for the community is crucial and hard to do. You just don’t create a community but rather you participate in one. Hence, the first thing to do is to understand your community. You also have to understand the actual communication landscape in order to select the right tools to interact with your community. This can be for example: blogs, twitts, emails, advertising (online, offline), Facebook App, Interactive Ads, Semantic web, Tablet and Mobile Applications, etc.

Understanding customer behaviors: With so many changes going so fast, how customer behaviors change is the first thing you want to watch. In order to understand these changes, it is important that you, as an individual, are also willing to change. Kevin Colleran, Global Account Lead at Facebook and also considered Facebook’s employee #2 after Mark Zuckerberg, suggested during a digital natives debate to try to live a day in your customers’ new media mix:   “For example, if your target customer spends five hours a day on Facebook; sends 120 text messages and half a dozen tweets a day from a smartphone and posts photos, videos, and blogs around the clock; “checks in” regularly using Foursquare at favorite retail locations to become “mayor”; relies on a plethora of mobile apps like Google Maps to get from one place to another, RedLaser to check prices on SKUs at Kroger or Best Buy, and Fashism to crowd-source advice from others while shopping; goes online at RueLaLa and GILT for flash sales just when the boutiques open; and subscribes to Groupon or LivingSocial for alerts on local deals, there’s a good chance you might want to know what it’s like to live a life like that.” “There’s an equally good chance that knowing what it’s like to live your customers’ media might change the way you use marketing and media to reach, influence, and interact with your customers. It might even change what you do radically.”

Shifting the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ). David Edelman in his last HBR article comes to the point by defining the new consumer decision journey: consider, evaluate, buy, enjoy, advocate and bond. He mentions how for marketers, the old way of doing business is unsustainable and that why they need to realign their marketing strategy and budget with where consumers are actually spending their time.

 

Aligning the internal organization: It is a common mistake to think that technology has only revolutionized how companies and consumers interact and fail to recognize the internal organization implications for companies. As described by Patrick Spenner, in “Why you need a New-Media Ringmaster” traditional organization have several department in contact with the customer like customer support, corporate affairs, marketing, etc. In the current hyper connected world the chances of missing what customers really wants is high under such organization structures. Roland Smart, a Marketing 2.0 consultant, says it even clearer. “Marketing 2.0 is about opening your company to the community but also about opening windows between your organizational silos so they can talk to each other and share resources”. The latest article from the McKinsey Quarterly regarding Web 2.0 and networked enterprises also confirms, based on empirical analysis, the importance of pushing toward fully networked enterprises. They suggest companies to integrate Web 2.0 technologies into employees day-to-day activities, to break down the barriers of organizational change and finally and most important use technology to connect customers, business partners and employees! Clear winners are fully networked (internal & external) enterprises. The empirical evidence suggest a strong correlation between this companies and a greater market share.

Develop (or hire) the 2.0 skills: Reorganizing wont help much if the wrong people are designed the wrong marketing strategies and plans. Marketing 2.0 require people not only with digital savvyness but also those who can following skills mentioned by Patrick Spenser: integrative thinking, lean collaboration skills and high speed! Furthermore, it is crucial to develop a total new function within companies brought up to the media by Scott Brinker, marketing technologist blogger and President and CTO of ION Interactive. The new role is called the Chief Marketing Technologist (see slides from Scott here), a marketer who is also a technologist and act as a hybrid between Marketing, IT and reports directly to the Chief Marketing Officer. His/her mission is to “help the CMO translate strategy into technology (and vice versa), Choreograph data and technology across the marketing organization and fuse technology into the DNA of marketing practices, people and culture. Brinkers says, “Marketing most champion its own technology”.

So, for startups like the one I am founding it is clear that the role of marketing can only be found with the new marketing principles. At foodieSquare, acting as a Chief Marketing Officer and Technologist, my tasks will be to understand the implication of current and future technologies in the community and interact with them in the most efficient way in order to deliver a consistent message that is credible that will enable to build trust and loyalty with an emotional engaged community. For establishes enterprises the things to do are clear: reorganize, develop 2.0 skills, hire a CMT and make marketing own the technology, enable interaction within employees in order to better interact with customers. It is crucial also to focus on content and on delivering value to the community, gather as much data as possible and identify the right tools to use with you customers. Finally, get all this information and experience learned and put them in you marketing strategy and plan!

 

Scott Brinker predict that in the next 5 years we will see an explosion of marketing technology. I guess he is right when he says that Marketing must control its technological destiny! At foodieSquare, I will make sure we will!

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