My blog is a selfie

I listened with interest to the most recent episode of Mark Schaefer and Tom Webster’s Marketing Companion Podcast (an excellent addition to your lineup if you listen to marketing podcasts) in a discussion about authorship and who we write for. A commercial, corporate blog doubtlessly has done its homework and designed personas for who the corporation writes for. I know we do this on the work blog I co-write for SHIFT Communications. This isn’t a corporate blog, though.

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But who is this blog written for? The short answer: me. I write down things here that I want to remember, write down little words and phrases that I want to save for the purposes of recalling later. I write ideas down that I eventually want to incorporate into talks and presentations. Yes, I could do this in Evernote (and that’s where many blog posts start) but you can’t Google your Evernote notebook. I can Google my site for the vague hint of an idea I wrote down a few years ago and find it more easily.

I blog here daily not for search traffic, not for a keyword list I need to hit, but because it keeps me sharp. My writing skills don’t rust. Blogging is like a mental workout every day. Can I come up with something new? Can I synthesize data into something coherent? Can I figure out what an announcement from a respected company or person means for me as a marketer? If you want to blog successfully for a long period of time, you have to write for yourself first and foremost.

I see selfies on Facebook of friends post-workout every day. This blog is my mental workout selfie, but the difference is that hopefully, you get a little stronger, too.


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The top business-killing habit: silos

If there’s been one overarching theme I’ve heard in dozens of discussions with people the past few months at various conferences, it’s this: so many businesses have put various marketing components in silos that never communicate. Marketing runs email, but public relations runs social media, and the website is handled by IT. The ad agency doesn’t talk to any of them. The result? Brand shear, as the experience a customer gets on different media properties varies wildly. No one’s talking. No one’s collaborating.

Do you want to drastically improve your marketing performance and ROI? Make sure that the team handling execution of marketing programs is sitting as close to the team handling social media and the team handling the website, if they’re not the same people. Make sure that IT, marketing, advertising, and PR all sit down for lunch or beers or coffee twice a month or even weekly, so that everyone’s on the same page and knows what’s going on in other parts of the organization. Give equal billing to each media channel, because different audience members will prefer different methods of hearing from you.

Want to get the most juice for the squeeze? Share data liberally inside your organization. Marketing should have access to web analytics (I’m astonished how many don’t!). Sales should have access to marketing data. Customer service should have access to the sales CRM so that they know what experiences the customer has had already. Put everyone on as few systems as possible, discourage fiefdoms of data, and you’ll win far more than you’ll lose.

The alternative? Incongruous communications that confuse the customer and deter the prospect from doing business with you. Avoid this by putting collaboration and communication as a top organizational priority!


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Understanding Key Performance Indicators

SpeedometerOne of the most difficult things to understand in strategy is the key performance indicator. Lots of people have a fuzzy idea about what performance is, so it’s not a terrible surprise to realize they can’t measure it, either. Let’s take a short trip down memory lane; please recall diagnostic versus objective metrics. Goals are objective metrics. They answer the question of whether you’re there yet in the road trip of life.

If goals are the answer to “are we there yet?”, then key performance indicators are your top diagnostic measures, the most important answers to the question of “how is the trip going?”.

Previously, I discussed shatterpoints, or points in any system that are so critical that if they broke, the system would stop. These are your key performance indicators – parts of the system that have an outsized influence on the system as a whole. In the example of a road trip, there are many different things you can measure, but relatively few that will make or break your trip. If your speed drops to zero, the road trip is effectively over. If the fuel gauge drops to zero, the road trip is effectively over. If the kids run out of movies to watch in the back seat and the new movies meter drops to zero, the trip will still be fine, albeit with more complaints.

Ask yourself this when developing and understanding key performance indicators: if the number you’re measuring dropped to zero, how impacted would your business be? For example, if the number of web site visitors dropped to zero, would your business be out of business? For some companies like Amazon, the answer is an unqualified yes. For other companies like the local plumbing store, the answer is no. They might feel the impact if they’re web savvy, but it won’t immediately be game over. For most companies, if the number of customers dropped to zero, it would immediately be game over.

Each department in a business will have its own key performance indicators as well. If a department has a goal, then the key performance indicators are the critical factors that contribute to that goal. The simplest way to distill a given department’s key performance indicators is to think of them as a self-contained business unit, a miniature company within a company. If, for example, you’re an inbound marketing shop, then qualified leads are your product, and web site traffic might well be a key performance indicator for manufacturing that product, even if it isn’t a key performance indicator for the company as a whole.

The most dangerous trap a company can fall into with regard to key performance indicators is to have non-impactful KPIs, to believe something is critical when in fact it’s not critical, or worse, to believe something is non-critical when in fact the life of the company depends on it. You must take the time and devote the effort to identifying what’s really important to you and your company, or else you’ll measure the wrong things and then watch as your company’s performance tanks.

Remember, at the end of the day, key performance indicators are the ones that, if they drop to zero, you’re going out of business. Keep that in mind to help clear the air of confusion and distraction and you’ll distill out the essentials of your company, business, or organization.


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