Category: Tip

by Adrian :: 3.07.12

Don’t ignore the “Thank You Economy”

I gave up caffeine when I became a vegan a while back. Now days, I get a kick out of herbal tea! There’s a particular tea that really fills the coffee gap (for me) – Peppermint and Liquorice from Tea Pigs. I used to tweet about it with enthusiasm, spreading the Tea Pigs word.

 

To me, there’s nothing worse than paying a brand (or person) a compliment and not to have a response – perhaps a little “thank you for spreading the Tea Pigs word”. The above tweet was not the first compliment I paid Tea Pigs on Twitter – the one above just happens to be the last one (& I bookmarked it for this blog post after feeling the past frustration of never being thanked)

Tea Pigs on Twitter have never replied to any of my complimentary tweets so my excitement when this morning’s Tea Pigs delivery arrived never made it onto my Twitter stream.

Gary Vaynerchuck in his really engaging book “The Thank You Economy”  (certainly worth a read – at the very least Tea Pigs, your social media team should read it) convinces the reader that it’s time for brands to engage with their customers and proves why the social amplification is a power not worth ignoring.

Now, you’ll argue that I continue to buy Tea Pigs tea because of its quality and that therefore the brand hasn’t been damaged by their lack of engagement on Twitter. That may be true, but I’d like to offer up two arguments to try and convince brands out there to get out and have a conversation on Twitter with their customers. Stop using Twitter to broadcast message – that’s the old world of push marketing and it doesn’t work any more.

Argument 1: If Tea Pigs had engaged with me on Twitter in the past, I would continue spreading Tea Pigs joy in my social media circles. I already know a handful of my social media friends who discovered Tea Pigs and regularly order from them because of tweets like the one above. I no longer am a brand advocate because I feel they’re too arrogant to buy into the Thank You economy.

Argument 2: I would show a lot more loyalty and stickiness if Tea Pigs had engaged with me on Twitter but they haven’t. So when another tea provider comes along – and frankly I’m looking for one after being a little peeved with Tea Pigs lack of transparency about being owned by Tetley  – I’ll drop Tea Pigs without a second thought.

I am writing this blog post so I can refer the many friends and clients that don’t ‘get’ Twitter to a little cast study -so many won’t engage in conversation. If you’re reading this Tea Pigs – please – it’s too late to make a fuss and no, I don’t want a freebie thank you!

Perhaps this is my last Tea Pigs order? Anyone know a comparable Peppermint and Liquorice tea from a truly Independent Tea Provider?

UPDATE: When I tweeted this post I deliberately avoided mentioning  @Tea Pigs in the tweet. It was impressive that Hannah from Tea Pigs did comment on the post later in the day so brownie points for their media monitoring! Within minutes of my tweet I had recommendations from my followers – First recommendation was @lahlootea and then a few including @foodsafariuk recommended Pukka teas. Hats off to both Lahloo and Pukka for engaging with me on Twitter almost immediately. Not only are they truly independent but appear to have a lovely herbal tea range. I shall be ordering soon. Then Helen Tarver ( @presentqueen ) commented on the post below and added Bellevue to the mix.

And then, drumroll, as if by magic, Pukka launched their Peppermint and Licorice blend. I’ve just placed an order. Thanks everyone – now do you see the value of using Social Media to engage properly?

by Adrian :: 30.12.11

The Open Graph

I think business is going to have to have a Facebook Open Graph strategy next year. Even if we’re ignoring it because it’s too freaky on the privacy side, they’re going to have to at least consider it. – Robert Scoble quoted here

 

 

I still stand by placing our bets on Facebook, its social graph and what you can achieve with group buying (f-commerce). Firstly, Facebook is still growing as a marketplace with over 800 million users. It accounts for a very hefty chunk of web traffic now owning 95% of social media networking time. The advent of the timeline has been endorsed by many including one of my favourite sages, JP Rangaswami in this very reasoned post.

I’m also pretty pleased with our decision to build our  Facebook/opengraph solutons on the force.com and Heroku platforms allowing us to build scalable, cost effective solutions for our clients and The First 65 products. You’ll see us release something rather smart next year for a very well respected Suffolk brand as well as use this technology to power a few of our own products like 65 Winks.

If you haven’t considered Facebook in your 2012 strategy, you either need a very good reason or simply put (and I am sorry to say it):  you’re foolish!

by Adrian :: 2.05.11

Place your bets on (Sales)force.com

It took a trip out to San Francisco last December for me to confirm my belief that Salesforce.com was opening up the next round of opportunity for business large and small with their Force.com platform.

It is true to say they started with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at the heart of their business in the early noughties and it’s also true to say they’ve perfected and cornered this market. And in doing so they’ve created the Force.com platform that allows over 92,300 customers to operate their business on the same platform: not just the sales process but any functional area – all the way from front-  to back-office. Because the platform is a pay on demand platform it offers robust scalability from the day you sign up irrespective of the size of the business.

I’ve been watching things develop withe Force.com over a few years and paid extra attention when they opened the platform up to non-proprietary development tools like Java and Ruby on Rails. This made practical sense allowing the business world to tap into the existing development skills-base without having to be constrained to their proprietary tool base called Apex.

A decade ago, CRM earned a bad reputation when Gartner reported that 50% to 70% of CRM software installations failed. The acronym CRM is tainted, I’ be the first to admit that but I’d like you to argue with me that you don’t need a system that puts your customer right in the heart of your organisation – call it what you want. There is no business without a customer.

Most of the damage done to the reputation of CRM was a result of huge-budgeted implementations of Siebel or the like – monolithic, expensive, inflexible requiring massive investment in hardware, software and implementation. Salesforce.com has changed all this and Gartner awarded them the Magic Quadrant leader. Have a look at Salesforce.com’s UK customers success stories.

Since the advent of Facebook and the emergence of f-Commerce, CRM has become even more important and the ability to interact with your existing and potential customers online  (and specifically in Facebook) is increasingly important. Whether it’s just a conversation or whether that conversation turns into a recommendation or even a sale you will surely want it to happen on the same technology platform: a platform that allows you to be develop quickly and reliably; a platform that allows you to have that conversation and transaction on any device – mobile or otherwise.

The Cluetrain Manifesto is now over a decade old but their predictions hold even more true today. Markets are about conversations (take the old Bazaars) and technology is restoring those old values. Salesforce.com isn’t just about CRM, it’s about the future of building your business out of those Cluetrain.com conversations using a trusted, robust and scalable platform available to all regardless of your business size. Doesn’t that sound empowering and compelling?

 

 

 

by Adrian :: 3.04.11

The Big Bang of F-Commerce

Notice the website address?

It’s a matter of time—within the next five or so years—before more business will be done on Facebook than Amazon Sumeet Jain, Principal, CMEA Capital

Take a look at the snap I took in the London underground. You’d expect it to be Gillette.co.uk – but no, it’s facebook.com/GilletteUK.

At the time of writing let’s set the scene: if Facebook were a country it would be the third largest on earth!

Facebook is becoming the world’s largest marketplace. Take a look at Digital Tomorrow Today’s piece on 10 Facebook Facts, UK brands cannot ignore.

Facebook now accounts for 1 in 6 page views in the UK, that’s twice the number of page views received by Google.

As Facebook camps at the offices of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) waiting for their banking license, we’ll soon see the ability to cash-out of Facebook credits. As soon as we can do this please hold onto your hats: we’re about to experience the “Big Bang of F-Commerce“. Facebook credits could become the official currency of the online economy.

Each step closer to Facebook’s FSA license is another nail in Paypal’s coffin. In an imminent massacre, Facebook has enough users to obliterate Paypal and other Merchants creating a new economy – the Facebook economy. It’s not just about Facebook scooping up the existing economy it’s more about the new economy it creates. Facebook will empower small business. It has never been viable for low value items to be sold online because the online transaction costs are too high and that’s ignoring the investment required to create an engaging e-commerce site and then there’s the challenge of driving traffic to the site: never an easy proposition.

So here comes Facebook bringing the transaction costs down to basis points. Without investment, Facebook will allow us to create an online store at the touch of a button in the world’s largest marketplace and drive viewers to our site through the good old fashioned power of “Word of Mouth”.

And it’s not just about transacting online – a future Facebook payment system would most likely allow for purchases both online and at the point of sale. Using Facebook Credits, an individual could one day walk into a retailer and use their NFC-enabled mobile phone to purchase goods. Facebook could combine payments, loyalty, discounts and viral marketing all delivered via a mobile phone.

For further reading why not pay eConsultancy a visit?

In three to five years, 10 percent to 15 percent of total consumer spending in developed countries may go through sites such as Facebook Mike Fauscette, Analyst, IDC Consulting

Anyone who still believes in 2010 that Facebook isn’t going directly drive a massive commerce opportunity for merchants and retailers alike on that platform will find themselves this time next year in 2011 wishing for their own Christmas miracleKaren Webster, President, pymnts.com.

 

There are many things you could be doing to ready your business for this opportunity. Please get in touch to chat through a few ideas.

by Adrian :: 18.03.11

You can teach yourself anything with Lynda.com

I wanted to share with you the most amazing online learning library. Using my subscription with Lynda.com, I’ve just taught myself a basic skill in Final Cut Express– a video editing suite. I happen to think video editing is a bit of a life skill in this day and age but I’ve had several false starts with trying to teach myself – it’s always a matter of trying to find an entry point. Lynda.com sorted that out for me.

There really isn’t a better resource on the web for teaching yourself anything whether it be a software package-  a development language – do take a look for yourself.

So I sat through Lynda.com’s Final Cut Express Course – took me less than 3 hours and ran it on a second monitor next to the project I was working on. So from Zero to the below in 3 hours (and a lot of fiddling I admit) – I also admit that my first editing project has some rough edges but it’s a great start (in my most humble opinion)

Anybody can do anything now – and to think the membership is an all-you-can-eat learning membership of $25 per month – no contract committment.- how many self-learn books lie on my shelves unopened?

by Adrian :: 4.12.10

Why account in the Cloud?

Again drawing on experience, let me tell you why in 2010 running a finance function in a small business is less complex, costly and gives you a competitive edge.

In the days before the cloud

No two ways about it, but, in 2004, once we’d delivered on quality: my Digital Agency’s competitive edge was sadly reduced to price. Design and Development skills were slowly becoming commoditised by the technology platforms and freelance and outsource markets. We had to cut cost wherever we could as our clients demanded price reduction. We had a highly skilled team in Sofia, Bulgaria and not only did the developers cost far less than in the UK but their skill and qualification was deeper. (they’d all qualified at Sofia University mostly with degrees in mathematics and computer science)

Setting up the finance function

As the business grew, personally, I needed to move away from the finance stuff (my time was more valuable in the sales function as by that stage we had 10 hungry mouths to feed in London and 30 in Bulgaria) Since we already had an existing business in Sofia, it was as a no brainer to have our finance function relocated there. Again, there was no shortage of skilled accountants in Sofia, and like-for-like I hired a Bulgarian controller for a fifth of what I’d ended up paying in London and kept a desk free in London for a badly needed account manager.

Sounded practical and achievable, but..

This all sounded like a credible plan but this decision cost me a fortune because, at the time, the technology was a barrier not an enabler. Like any UK business we were forced to settle for Sage, a server-based accounting package. To cut a long story short, I ended up throwing £25k at the software and hardware and another £10k at a consultant who had to come and set it all up so that we could have more than one use in more than one geography. Sadly, I gave up because it took more than a year to get going and I couldn’t afford to be without a growing finance function. Regrettably, it ended in me having to make our BG controller redundant.

Would it be different in 2010?

Oh yes! The Cloud would have enabled me to make my plan work quickly and cost-effectively. A flexible web-based accounting package didn’t exist in those dark ages. Today I could turn to one of the three leading Cloud Based Accounting package providers in the UK: Kashflow, Xero or Freeagent. I wouldn’t have had to invest in consultants, expensive accounting packages and servers that needed continual maintenance and upgrade. Even before wanting to move the finance function to Sofia I remember having to go into the office to work on Sage because I couldn’t access the data with any reliability even though I had stumped up an additional license for my laptop or home computer.

AoB runs its finances in the cloud and while I’m writing this article I’ve just had an email in from a client asking for a copy of an invoice. I logged into the system from my Peet’s Coffee shop in San Francisco and it was in his inbox instantaneously I could just have easily done it on my iPhone if I’d been out an about. If you’re a client of mine, you’ll be used to me raising fee notes on my iPhone that we both agree on when I’m sitting in front of you.

The Cloud is more flexible, scalable and less monolithic and costly

I also wanted to point out that a Sage server license for line 50 which most small businesses still get flogged (most probably recommended by their Accountants)- with all its inflexibility and sluggishness costs a small business annually circa eight times as much compared to a Cloud computing solution. And that’s not where it ends – Sage’s bolt on support, payroll and other solutions are far more expensive than the equivalent offering from the Cloud providers.

AoB has just put a plan together…

for a client to help them move their finance function to the Cloud. We’ve shaved substantial budget and shortened their billing and collection cycle which has, in the first 3 months, paid for our fees. This saving excludes all the administrator’s time we’ve freed-up from paper pushing allowing her to do things that add value to the business making her job far more fulfilling.

by Adrian :: 2.12.10

On social advocacy and colic.

Let’s introduce a bit of a buzz-word that we probably already understand: Social Advocacy. In this post, I’m also aiming to demystify Social Media Marketing.

Social advocacy refers to the power of Word of Mouth (WOM). Many studies are telling us what we already know: we’re far more likely to engage with a product or service that a friend or a friend-of-a-friend recommends. Our family, friends and their friends form part of our social network.

What is social media?

Social media is a set of online tools that help us track & extend our social network and communicate in it.

You’ll want to embrace social media as its a toolset allowing you to amplify the effects of social advocacy.

Let’s help explain this with a little example. Pretend, if you can bear it,  that the internet hasn’t yet been invented.

A Colic Remedy

Imagine, I’m having a drink with a group of friends and we’re talking about all sorts of things. Work, play, kids, politics; how we’re spending and saving our money: We’re being social. I’ve never met Kitty before but she came along as a friend of a colleague. I’m exhausted being a victim to a series of sleepless nights: the little one’s suffering from colic. Kitty and I were chatting about our kids when I let slip an outrageous yawn. In the form of an apology I dragged the dreaded colic into the conversation. Kitty then tells me about this wonderful product called Infacol– administer it before a feed and it works a treat. On the way home, I pick up a bottle of Infacol (not gin) and that night my wife and I enjoyed an uninterrupted nights sleep. Feeling like a new man on the way to work the following morning, I recognise the Infacol brand on the tube advert that had probably been staring at me for the preceding 6 months. That Saturday our NCT group gets together and by the end of our eulogising about Infacol there were another 5 babies and 10 parents getting a great night’s sleep!

So just to recap: Infacol had captured 6 new clients- not on the back of their expensive old fashioned tube advert but on the back of social advocacy. Kitty had somehow been made aware of Infocal but I’m willing to bet it wasn’t a result of traditional advertising either and good old fashioned social advocacy (in the absence of the internet) extrapolated one happy client into 6

Bring back the internet

You can have the internet back now. How many readers of this post are now aware of Infacol? – they may not do anything immediately with this information but it’ll bubble up next time someone, in their social network, has colic issues. Equally so, over time as the Search engines index this site there’s a good chance someone who searches for “Colic Remedy” may just stumble on this little social advocacy case study. (please comment below if you do!)

Social networking tools

I am going to explain why you should consider using tools such as Twitter & Facebook. Remember, a social networking tool helps you communicate with and amplify your reach within that social network.

Had twitter been around in 2005 when our first born was keeping us awake at night I may have tweeted something like

Can’t keep my eyes open, little one kept us awake all night burping. #colicsux

This tweet would have multiple benefits. Firstly, people would understand why I was generally grumpy. The tweet would probably resonate with a few parents in a similar postion and I may get a response :a little bit of sympathy makes me feel better as I no longer feel alone. With a bit of luck, maybe I get some advice out of my Twitter social network. By using twitter I’ve done nothing different from telling Kitty at drinks that I was exhausted. All Twitter has done is its amplified my social network reac and that is powerful stuff! Let’s imagine that a NCT co-ordinator saw my tweet and decided to Retweet it (RT) to all her followers (her social network) – which was made up of 3,500 new parents. I would have been swamped by sympathy tweets and all sorts of advice – perhaps there’s a better solution than Infacol?!

Hopefully you’ll see the benefits of being on Twitter personally but what about your brand or business? I think it makes even more sense for an owner manager to be on Twitter because an entrepreneur’s business is so central to their lives. You need to create awareness of who you are, what you’re interested in and overtime your audience will understand what your business does and if they support you they’re likely to support you and spread the word. Kitty didn’t come to drinks and just talk about Cloud Computing – we started there but,to me, she ended up being the greatest sleep therapist. I’ve recently bought the most beautiful hand-knitted quilt from her (a business she’s just started) and I told all my friends about her fabulous product. I did this on Twitter and on Facebook by writing on the Wall of her business’ Facebook page. A friend of mine “liked” my comment and now all *her friends* (most of whom neither know Kitty nor I) are also aware of what great presents these handmade quilts will make.

Incidentally, Kitty has always been on Twitter in a big way, personally- but she now also has a Twitter account for her business. I don’t follow that account because her quilt tweets are slightly not my thing (although they interest the crafty types) but I enjoy hearing the odd tweet from her personal twitter account about what she’s up to (actually I’m far more interested in how Cloud Computing has revolutionised her business and how she, too, is kept on her toes by her little ones!) I guess the point I’m making here is these tools only work if you don’t depart from the offline social networking model we depended on before the internet. Don’t think you can walk into a room of people and dominate the conversation about how they’re really losing out because they haven’t purchased one of your quilts.

Awareness of your product or service only needs to be sown in a network of a few people for its awareness to grow exponentially. Think of ways to sow it and make sure you use the correct tools to amplify the WOM effect. And now you’re an expert on Social Advocacy, Social Media and Social Media Marketing. Questions?