Book – Make It Stick

Make-it-Stick.pngThis very enjoyable book gave me a different perspective than its primary purpose.

As I was educated in the former Soviet Union, study techniques were taught early, and the educational system was based on frequent concept tests.  Mnemonic rules were also known, but not used as much, as concepts rather than memorization was a base of education.  Math was considered easy and foreign languages were considered hard (can you imagine just sitting and memorizing words rather than learning a concept and applying it…?)  :-)   Re-reading text multiple times was not recommended and highlighting in a book was strictly prohibited.

What I did not realize,  is that I was lucky to go through that system (admittedly, kicking and screaming as a child), which allowed me to take a rational approach to learning later. However, I was very surprised when my colleagues seem to struggle more.

Once I hired a very curious person, who needed to learn one of the company’s systems.  I assumed that after reading the manual, this person would come up with a few little test projects to practice the knowledge in different aspects of the system.  It did not happen..  The person was waiting for a task to be assigned.

Now I understand why.  I gave the practice tasks and the person achieved mastery of the system very fast, but why I needed to give the practice tasks was a mystery to me…  Wouldn’t it be more fun to work on little tests of your own choice?  This person just did not know how.  I need to remember that and structure presentation of educational materials in the most reasonable form.

Another interesting concept: frequent switching between different jobs involved in the integrated process helps employees understand the entire process.  As we might assume that employees would try to understand “the large picture” intuitively, this type of training needs to be built into the overall function of the organization.

Excellent book!  It gave me more appreciation of little bothersome tests I disliked as a child decades ago😉

BMA – Content Strategy For B-to-B Web Site Transformation

Excellent event!  Though web content and content marketing seem to be a cozy and familiar topic, the presentation was packed with new perspectives and explanation of familiar concepts.

pic.pngInteresting: Sirius Decisions observe a tendency to re-silo within marketing organizations (due to technical complexity) after some time of integration efforts.  

Marketing content lives in different “places.”  Some organizations try to do “too much” – have content for each persona for each stage of the sales cycle.

Sometimes web sites is a place of “asset chaos – no cohesive understanding of what content assets are on the site, how they are performing, and how they are supporting audiences and objectives.”

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Web content strategy is part of your content in general and it is completely dependent on other aspects of the business – embrace the dependency!

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Audience prioritization: one company had literally 5,000 independent web sites to address virtually the same audience (IT), because business stakeholders could not agree.

Messaging framework: sometimes, getting the web site right is the forcing function to create messaging framework, as it does not exist.

Content: “Smaller amount better”  – how much content do you need?  Probably less than you have today.

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Note – the impactful content asset types are considered in different stages of the sales cycle – sales presentation is the most impactful, but is is used at a very specific time.

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Two best slides separating formats and channels, what is often confused in the industry.

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Targeting: tricky to do, and even trickier to do with too many personas. “Where is the most important place to start?”

Interesting: when companies do technology audit, they are more likely not to add, but to remove technologies.

Excellent presentation!

Book – The Coaching Habit

Coaching-Habit.pngVery useful book!  The author suggests that we rush into an advice too quickly, don’t have enough time for what, ultimately, is more effective – coaching.  Luckily, there is a coaching method that is reasonably fast and simple (though not easy), and this method is based on asking questions rather than giving answers.  Considering that giving answers is a…  habit; we can form a different habit of asking questions.

Another interesting concept is a difference between coaching for performance and coaching for development.

The book recommends several questions to ask as part of the coaching approach:

  • What’s on your mind?

The question can lead to issues around Projects, People, or Patterns (habitual behaviors of the person who is answering the question).

  • And what else?

This question allows to deepen the understanding of the problem and avoid a temptation to immediately give advice.

  • What’s the real challenge here for you?

This question brings focus to the situation that might be moving to a very general conversation.

  • But what do you really want?

A person might not be able to answer immediately; the question allows to understand “a need behind a want.”

  • What do you want from me?

The question allows understanding the issue better before jumping into the advice. Might use “Out of curiosity…”,   “Just so I know…”, “To help me understand better…”

  • If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?

This is “strategic question,” as a decision to devote resources to one initiative need to also reduce resources to other initiatives.

  • What was most useful for you?

A “learning question” – allows reflecting and finding the most useful information from the conversation.

I think at least some of the questions can be used for project conversations as successfully.  No matter the improvement objective, a good question will help understand the situation and perspective of the other person better… and avoid jumping into “advice mode.”

More interesting materials at Coaching Habits Videos

BMA – Marketing Technology

Interesting event – though the topic was centered on marketing technology, the conversation ultimately started and ended with “people and process.”  :-)

The tools will fail without right skills and process

Technology roadmap starts with defining capabilities for the future; what capabilities are important for your business?

Excellent way to find a collection of capabilities is to look at the categories of martech chart.

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Company needs to define what capabilities it wants to achieve and what approach it plans to take: “Best of breed?” “Platform?”

There are a few platforms that probably have technology for any capabilities combination. If the company already using a particular platform, it is wise to check if needed capability is available as part of the platform before purchasing and integrating another tool.

Implementation is just the beginning

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Interesting: companies often setup an “Eloqua shop” in a low-cost location, from another side, advantages of maintaining high level of expertise in-house are also gaining recognition. Typically, company’s employees want leading-edge skills.  However, alignment and executive support are critical.

Don’t underestimate the cost of change

The most difficult is to decide which capabilities are important for the company.  The discussion should be not “should we bring this vendor today…?” but “do we want to develop this capability…?”

Book – The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

book.pngVery thought-provoking book, which is trying to understand future based on current technological (and societal) changes.

One of the profound statements is that we, humans, will be endless newbies of our technology – everything is outdated before it can be mastered.

I was wondering, is it frustrating or liberating?  From one side, we will never have a chance to truly master our tools, from another side, the most important what we  will need to master is the definition of outcome.  The objective is not a superb PPT, but a communication of an idea; not using every feature of a new phone, but finding a way how the new device can make life (work? play?) better.  How?  It will change with every upgrade…

  1. Becoming: Moving from fixed products to always upgrading services and subscriptions
  2. Cognifying: Making everything much smarter using cheap powerful AI that we get from the cloud
  3. Flowing: Depending on unstoppable streams in real-time for everything
  4. Screening: Turning all surfaces into screens
  5. Accessing: Shifting society from one where we own assets, to one where instead we will have access to services at all times.
  6. Sharing: Collaboration at mass-scale. Kelly writes, “On my imaginary Sharing Meter Index we are still at 2 out of 10.”
  7. Filtering: Harnessing intense personalization in order to anticipate our desires
  8. Remixing: Unbundling existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombine in all possible ways
  9. Interacting: Immersing ourselves inside our computers to maximize their engagement
  10. Tracking: Employing total surveillance for the benefit of citizens and consumers
  11. Questioning: Promoting good questions are far more valuable than good answers
  12. Beginning: Constructing a planetary system connecting all humans and machines into a global matrix

Conveniently from Wikipedia

One of interesting concepts is “cognifying.”  The author compares the process with adding electricity to existing tools and processes years before.  Adding AI to known tasks to make them more effective and efficient will propel many future startups to business success.

“You will be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots.”

This point makes complete sense.  However..  humanity still has not figured out how to work well with fellow humans🙂

Interesting example – Baxter Robot.  This robot is created to work well with humans and to be trained rather than programmed.  Baxter is more understandable for humans, and designed to sense humans in its surrounding and not to harm them. Baxter is not as a high-precision performer as specialized industrial robots, but it is relatively inexpensive and very flexible.   Would Baxter be our future colleague in decades to come?  For some people it is already a reality.🙂

BMA – Innovation Day @ Adobe

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“Vision without execution is hallucination”

Adobe realized that many profitable inventions came from determined employees who persisted despite management.

innovator.pngThe biggest mistake a company can make is not poorly executing a new product idea, but executing a wrong product idea.  How to assure that more product ideas are right?  Invest into an innovation process within the company; create a program to generate innovators, rather than innovations.

Kickbox program:

  • does not attempt to change the organization
  • teaches the organization how to use initiative
  • explains that “you may not get fired” while pursuing innovation🙂

The approach assumes that established organizations most likely won’t support innovation.  As a result; a specific approach to “corporate innovation” need to be designed.

Adobe VP of Creativity was not initially successful in encouraging innovation, then, he received a recommendation to think about company’s innovation system as a product (as he was very successful in creating and bringing successful products to the market).  Interesting, this approach is very consistent with “thinking in new boxes” concept.

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Kickbox program:

  • The program starts with 2-day workshop, which everybody in the organization can attend.  The company is looking for outliers, and expects 1 hit product for 1000 kickboxes.
  • The red kickbox includes instruction on innovation process and prepaid $1,000 credit card.  The money planned to be used to test the idea with the potential customers before even telling management about the idea.
  • Why not give employees 10% time, etc. to pursue innovation?   The main objective of the program is to teach employees how to innovate, how to navigate corporate environment and how to “sell” the idea to management and recruit coworkers to help on initial stages of the project.
  • There are no reviews or follow up: “…people are bold and crazy when we are not looking…”  This program is highest rated employee training program.
  • Next step is a blue box, given by a real manager in the organization who is willing to fund the next level of testing.

Adobe open-sourced the program, which is now translated into many different languages.

Ah – I wish this program was available 15 years ago…  As most of my career was built “under the table” in a variety of large organizations.  I understand the benefit of learning how to sell projects to coworkers and management very well😉

Content Marketing

Content marketing approach can switch from “thinly veiled sales materials” that are highly branded to lightly branded materials.  It requires a change of thinking like a marketer to thinking like a publisher (thinking how to give people something worth subscribing to).

Speaker recommended a spectacular keynote by Andrew Davis.

If you are a marketer who is doubting the benefit of a newsletter (and its lead generating capability), you will love ideas and arguments in the presentation!

Andrew gives three recommendations for content marketers:

  • discover your niche
  • exploit content holes
  • make an appointment with your audience

Andrew also emphasizes the difference between “branded content” and “content brand.”

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Six Flags – VR Rollercoaster

 

Six Flags was the first company to use VR in parks.  The additional equipment slowed the lines to the rides (insignificantly) and additional cleaning service needed to be added (as head sets are cleaned after each use.

Interesting: it is possible to try Samsung VR sets in Samsung stores without purchasing.  As the technology is new, Six Flags rides help popularizing the experience and technology.

negroni.pngCompari – success with an approach not used in the industry

Compari, an established brand of alcoholic beverage wanted to expand its customer base.  As an organization had limited marketing budgets, marketers used charitable donations as an approach to increase brand awareness.

Compari is a part of a drink popular among bartenders, which allows creativity in the process of creation of the drink – Negroni. The company sponsors “Negroni week,” during which time bartenders can select a charity of their choice, and Compari will donate portion of proceeds from Compari sales into that charity.  As bartenders are very involved in the community, they are free to select the charity dear to their customers’ hearts and promote Negroni week in their bar.

Charitable approach has been used successfully by other brands (shoes – Toms, and eyeglasses – Warby Parker), but have not been tried in the alcoholic beverages industry before Compari’s campaign.

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Adobe Content marketing fact:

Individuals consuming evergreen content generated by company’s subject matter experts are 178% more likely to convert.  

Also, employee’s using social media seem to be more effective in promoting company’s content than the company itself.

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Wow…

BMA – Becoming a Better B2B Brand

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“if you are not a brand, you are a commodity.”  Interesting – most of the top valued b-to-b brands in Forbes 2016 list are technology companies.  Top three brands overall, consumer brands, are also technology companies.  Could it be that brand make the most difference in technology?  From another side, Apple is a technology that might qualify for fashion😉

Interesting – discussion during the event generally suggested that for a startup the product is a brand until probably $100 million in revenue.  Small organizations can take more risk around their brand and experiment.

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Fantastic example of b-to-b brand promotion – a very niche product, precision driving technology for large tracks. is promoted by a fascinating video.

Even more interesting, the explanation how the promotion was made is as fascinating as the promotion itself🙂  The “complete story” or a commercial for a b-to-b product…  has over a million views!

I am also lucky to work for a company that aligns its futuristic brand… with the future itself in a very interesting way, by partnership with the latest Star Trek Movie.

Who knew b-to-b marketing can be so much fun🙂