Weekly links 27 June – Optimisation, Greece and Startup Disruption

Why do people use social media This weeks wrap of some of the best digital and business articles, case studies and content.

First up a look at every businesses’ favourite topic at the moment: digital optimisation. What’s the one essential thing to any optimisation experiment? A hypothesis, of course – an optimisation activity without one is DoA.

How testing everything improved the retail business, Blue Dot and if your business is digital or omni-channel here’s a mobile optimisation case study for to get through too.

With Optimisation being such a focus for so many companies and many stakeholder groups wanting to be involved how do you prioritise experiments without hurting feelings and upsetting internal politics? Here’s a great optimisation prioritisation guide.

And on to broader business and economic topics…

Why Start-ups are more successful than ever at disrupting established business.

By 2025 which will be the most crowded cities in the world? Interesting if you consider this will also be indicative of the world’s biggest market opportunities.

If you want to see a company that’s gone through huge change, take a look at Apple – in just 8 years they’ve gone from $7b in Q1 2007 to $74b IN Q1 2015. Take a look at this amazing Apple revenue infographic, and a view of quarterly earnings between 2011 – 2015.

Greek Debt visualised – Who Greece owes, how much and the current trajectory to pay it off between 2015 and – wait for it – 2054.

This week in Digital and business. 20 June.

Innovation strategyA consolidation of some of the best articles, thinking and studies I’ve seen in the last few weeks.

Why your business needs an innovation strategy. HBR.

The growth of the global mobile internet economy. BCG.

And another one from BCG on the value of digital embedding in to the retail experience.

Lots of people say ‘if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room’ – easy to say, challenging to lead, a nice piece from HBR on how to lead people smarter than you.

Google have launched a new Creative Hub, with a stand-out piece on creating video ads people won’t want to skip.

‘Best practise’ marketing comes down to a single thing: Getting an outsized response and return on people doing what you want them to do in a way they embrace. Bought a million eyeballs with media? Great – how will your business turn it in to another million for free?’ Three ads which stand-out in relatively low-engagement industries:

Product launch, new train line (turn on english subtitles)

– An Ad that asks you to embrace the whole experience, focusing on Ice.

University graduate. This ad was so powerful it was pulled from Japanese television by Tokyo Gas, because of complaints the scenario portrayed was was too real, cut too close to the bone.

CÉSAR HIDALG, assistant professor of the MIT media lab, talks with the team from The Economist about how knowledge helps global economies and enhances their capacity to grow.

Amidst Twitter’s ongoing struggles – with declining active users, problematic revenues and losing ground on the stockmarket, it now appears bots have taken over twitter – the human voice getting lost amongst the automated messaging of machine’s.

Is the reality you think you see really the reality that exists? Great TED talk by Donald Hoffman.

If you’re going to measure things, measure the right things

A quick note today to say that if you’re going to measure things, measure the right things.

A guru in this field, Avinash Kaushik has addressed the challenges of measurement and tracking the things that matter many times (Social measurement, Digital marketing) but it bears repeated discussion because all too often we see people continuing to measure the wrong things and build passionate arguments and make million dollar decisions because of them.

One example from the Digital world (Search and Social) I see repeated several times a year in articles, commentary and at the conferences I go to is that Facebook has more user time than Google. The stats vary but it boils down to the journo/author/speaker cooing and ahhing about the amount of time people spend on a particular platform like it matters.

It doesn’t, and here’s why:

 The very purpose of Google and Facebook is fundamentally different. People go to Google to get somewhere else. It’s utilitarian and outcome oriented and you go with a purpose. People don’t ask Google to give them the recipe for a great pumpkin soup, they’re asking to be pointed to the provider of the best pumpkin soup recipe.

Facebook is entirely different, you go because you want to see what your friends and family are doing or to share something of your own. That’s it. That’s the purpose. The purpose is to stay, not leave. If someone is thumbing open the Facebook App without desperately wanting to share something then they don’t really have a purpose other than casual intent to find out if anything interesting happening. People casually thumb through the feed of what their friends are doing and occasionally an ad will be in-between that content.

As an example, if you saw a stat which said people spend 100 hours a month watching television vs 3 hours a month watching at the cinema, would it make you take notice? Does it say which one is more effective? Of course not. But why? In the same way that Google and Facebook are both huge digital companies with global audience usage, television and cinema are both screens and they’re both showing entertainment. Isn’t it the same thing?

Digital Measurement, Time spent on Facebook vs Google

Of course it’s not, we all know it isn’t. A TV can be on in the background 8-13 hours a day while people work, write, sleep, read, text, do chores around the house – but in a cinema you’re a captive audience and you’re there for a specific purpose to watch that specific thing at that time for that outcome. Which is more valuable? Who knows, but they’re not the same thing and using ‘time spent’ as an arbiter of value is pointless.

It’s often an uneven comparison. When authors say ‘Google’ or ‘Facebook’ they can often mean a single, or selectively chosen, platform(s) not all the platforms or products of both companies. When an author means Facebook are they talking about Facebook.com, Facebook’s Apps, Instagram or WhatsApp together or separately? And when it comes to Google do they mean just Search, or Search + YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Drive etc, or Search and all those websites + Google Play, Android, Hangouts, Chrome and the Chrome store? A lot of commentators don’t clarify, or if they do, are very selective about which properties they measure for both businesses.

Today’s note isn’t intended to argue that one platform, Google or Facebook, is better or worse for users, or advertisers or getting traction for your social enterprise, NFP or business. It’s merely to highlight that it’s not the amount of time people spend that matters, it’s the tasks they undertake during that time. When making a marketing decision base decisions on finding the right audience, doing the things that matter to them and you and if you put yourself out there and you matter to them then that’s when you’ll find success.

Now, let’s talk about bounce rates…

What’s your 15 second story?

At some point you’re going to bump in to someone you want to impress at work. It might be in the elevator, getting a coffee, or across a table while you’re both waiting for a meeting to commence. You’re not sure if you should say something and then they look over to you and ask ‘so how’s it going?’

If anyone with a ‘C’ or ‘GM’ in their title asks ‘how’s it going?’ they’re not asking you about your cat, or weekend, or recent holiday, they’re being polite and filling a few seconds and this is your chance to tell them something great that’s happening that they’re unlikely to know about.

A great 15 second story should cover off five key things:

1. Never assume they know what you’re talking about. A detailed answer full of technical terms, or assuming they know about your project in detail, is not helpful. You won’t have time to explain all the details or bring them up to speed on the history of the project so that your reply will make sense. Wrap your answer up to a high level view they’ll care about.

2. Make sure you include your boss or your team in your reply.We’ve‘ and ‘we‘ sounds a lot better than ‘I‘. The C-level exec wants to know the department is sound. Every team has a few particularly bright sparks, but the C-level exec wants to know that while there’s progress and innovation there’s harmony too. They also want reassurance your boss is across what’s happening – that you’re not running off and being a lone-wolf . You never know what they might share and with whom, which brings us to a crucial point,

3. Don’t say anything which can’t be backed up. It’s flattering you have a few seconds of this exec’s time but don’t make things up. Avoid the temptation to ‘creatively expand’ the truth or build something up beyond its true value. Maybe you’ve had a win recently stream-lining a process or are taking new things to market but making big statements such as ‘we’re going to change the whole company with this!’ or ‘it’s going to change the whole industry’ are, in a C-level’s mind, either bullshit or something they should have been across well before this 15 second chat – neither of which make your boss or you look great.

4. You never have problems, you have opportunities. The C-level exec has enough problems to solve for each day, this 15 second discussion is not the time to bring up another one. They’re already managing profitability, market share and shareholder challenges, there are proper channels for dealing with smaller HR issues, or that ‘it’s cold today’ or that you need more funding for Project XYZ (everyone always needs more funding, now is not the time to tell them you need more too). Real problems should be escalated properly.

5. They can’t solve anything for you right now. This is just a 15 second discussion, they’re not asking ‘how’s it going?’ so they can try and solve your biggest problem, they’re not writing down your answer and going to make it their top priority to solve for you. They want a good news story so be accurate in your reply and give them some.

So what should a great 15 seconds story sound like? Just one example is below.

Q: “Hey Jim, how’s it going?”

A: “Hey Sam, it’s going really well thanks. The team and I are just about to launch a great campaign, it’s tested well, we have a great baseline plan and we’re going to be trying some new things in market too. We’re very positive. How’re you?”

It’s a great reply because the C-level exec now knows: 1. Things are great and the team is working collaboratively towards a goal and you’re a part of it. 2. You haven’t given them percentages or baffled them with numbers (big or small)  3. What’s about to be in market – representing the whole company – has been mitigated for risk and done well (C-levels love a more sure bet) and, 4. The company is being innovative but off a good baseline that will get the company the majority of the way there anyway.

Ground-hog day

Every year a new school-year starts and the evening news will splash pictures of twins or triplets skipping to school on their first day. Every year global politics will lurch one way or the other creating a bit of upheaval for a while. And every year when the school-year ends some incredibly smart teenagers will be in the news having deservingly Ace’d the exams talking about how they’re finding it hard to choose between a double degree in something fantastic.

Every year fundamentally the same things happen. And that probably sounds depressing to some but it shouldn’t, because it’s actually a wonderful opportunity.

Take a look around your business and as well as focusing on insights for next month and the next quarter begin focusing on foresight for next year. Get your team organised and start accurately logging not just the quarterly sales and trends, but what you and the market actually did so the business can reference it next year.

Did a competitor come out with an industry moving campaign this quarter? Did your company release a new product that did well? Was there new regulation which materially affected how customers bought? Log it all and make it accessible to a broad group of people.

You may not even be at the same business next year but that doesn’t matter. Imagine walking in to your next job and all this was already done, the year ahead would be so much easier. You and your team would have more freedom to focus on more important things because you’d be able to see the previous year or two of the entire industry at a helicopter-view level immediately. Opportunities would be obvious, it’d just be left to you to leverage them.

Nobody is coming to help.

Nobody is coming to help. It’s a stark and confronting reality that almost immediately invites a fight or flight response and in business we see it every day.

Whether you’re trying to resolve a bad customer experience that shouldn’t have happened or if you’re tackling structural change to your industry, or whether you’re simply trying to pull your business out of disappointing quarterly returns, the reality is in that moment no one else is coming. There’s no second team just like yours squirrelled away in another room, there’s no one else already working on the problem, there is just you and a handful of others to solve this.

The only time someone else will come is when you’re gone and by then it’s too late to do anything because it’s not your problem anymore.

The realisation that it’s up to you and your team, or you and a cross-section of colleagues all focused on a single task above all else can be an incredibly empowering, uplifting and educational experience.

If you succeed it’s because of your collective works. If you fail but tried everything you could then at least you’ve learnt a lot and your effort will show. But if you fail because you spent too much time trying to mitigate risk from lack of action,  and in doing so don’t put enough actions in to the market, then you’ll have learnt little and achieved less.

So no matter your challenge, be it with your boss, your customers, or your whole business realise this: no one is coming, it’s up to you to make the difference.

So go make it.

What are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for? What’s your company waiting for? The right time? The right seasonality? The right market conditions? For that competitor to stop doing so well?

Apple didn’t wait for the market to mature to launch the iPod or the iPhone, Microsoft didn’t wait for the right time to launch the PC, Facebook didn’t wait for the social networking market to be firmly established to launch their product so people would understand what they were all about. Being the driver often means heavy lifting, but it also means it becomes yours to own and educate and create advocates from.

Stop waiting. Start doing. Create your seasonal uplift, be the driver of new demand, you be the thing that stops your competitor doing so well.

If you’re waiting for someone else to come along and stop your competitor doing so well, don’t worry, they will, but it won’t be your company that enjoys the majority of the spoils.

If there’s a flat period of seasonal demand each year – create your own spike. Then that period will become known as your period. Now you’ll have competitors chasing you.