Tag Archives: Strategy

How Many Web Sites Should One Company Have? Three Thoughts

Situation: A company has two businesses in different locations serving different sets of customers in two separate markets. The CEO is evaluating whether it makes more sense to have one umbrella web site with pages for each of the two businesses, or to create two complete web sites with different URLs. How many web sites should a small business have, and why?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The first question is whether you call both businesses the same or different names. Many small companies have separate businesses at different sites, and just differentiate the businesses through division names. Moreover, because you use the same company name for both businesses, you want to make it easy for customers to find your web sites. This argues for at least a single splash page, listed under your current company URL.
  • There are many corporations with diverse, unrelated businesses. Generally, these corporations don’t have any problem having a general web site, with separate links to the individual division web sites where customers and partners can drill down to detail specific to each division. The advantage to this strategy is that by having one corporate site, the larger entity strengthens its own market presence.
  • Given that the advice of the group is to have a single splash page how do you construct it?
    • You want to prominently feature your company name on the splash page, but not to include much detail. Maybe just an overall positioning message that expresses your core values or a distinctive visual that shows what you do.
    • On the splash page, create two links with distinctive pictures and names that enable your customer to easily go to the side of your business that interests them.

How Do You Increase the Strategic Focus of a Board? Four Guidelines

Situation: A company has a board which is uncomfortable with strategic issues. Faced with a strategic decision, they gravitate quickly to tactical issues. What can you do to increase the Board’s strategic focus?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Change the focus of your Board meetings.
    • Change the agenda of Board meetings. Start with a review of the Strategic Plan and progress toward meeting the objectives of the Plan. Over time, input to the Plan grows as Board members become more comfortable with the strategic issues addressed in the Plan.
  • Develop a Board Charter and annual objectives for the Board as a whole.
    • If you have an individual on the Board who models or nearly models the behavior that you wish to see in the full Board, ask this individual chair a Board subcommittee to work on the Charter. Devote time at Board meeting to discussion of the subcommittee’s recommendations.
    • Develop annual objectives for the Board, including both global objectives and specifically how you want individual members to contribute. Outline your most important expectations of the Board, what you need from them, and ask them to develop objectives to meet these needs and expectations.
  • Start to proactively educate your Board on how they can be most helpful to the company.
    • Gather benchmarking data from similar companies. Educate the Board on best Board practices.
    • Look at the best performing companies in your industry – preferably organizations that do not compete directly with you – and ask to attend their Board meetings as a guest. You may want to take one of your own Board members along. Look for practices that will augment your meetings.
  • Augment the Board with individuals who will help to steer it toward the strategic focus.
    • As you begin to bring the right talent to the Board, recommend the creation of Board subcommittees to work on key strategic areas. At meetings, after the Strategic Plan update, the Subcommittees can formally present their updates to the Board for discussion and consideration. Choice of subcommittee chairs is important to success.

Key Words: Board, Strategy, Tactics, Agenda, Charter, Objectives, Accountability, Best Practices

How Do You Simplify Access to Knowledge? Five Factors

Interview with John Kogan, CEO, Proformative

Situation: An organization that provides an online network for senior financial executives has an immense amount of content on its web portal. To improve the user experience of their target audience, they want to simplify access to this knowledge. How do you simplify access to knowledge?

Advice from John Kogan:

  • We have a rich portal with an immense amount of content potentially valuable to senior corporate finance[K1]  executives. We have many ways to access this content – perhaps too many. Our objective is to get the highest quality answers in front of the user with the least effort on their part. Google has done a very good job of pulling the best content to the top given a million possibilities to each query. If we can do this, we become the Google of finance and accounting!
  • Most people know what they want when they come to a site. We have started by creating a clean user experience to allow them that good “line of sight” to what they want.
  • Our objective is to help the user identify the right content with the smallest number of queries. From the user perspective, exposing the wrong content is a waste of time. We want to show them high quality, compelling content which directly addresses their need.
  • To develop quality content, you must have an open mind. It’s not about what we want to say, but understanding the user’s needs and addressing these. You have to be guided by the data to tell you what’s happening on the site and what the user wants to see, and then provide them relevant information.
  • Achieving this means that we must find people who are smarter than us in these areas and gain their input. In the end, your company is no better than the ideas that you can either dream up or gather from others. We constantly seek fresh perspectives from investors, advisors, users and potential users.
  • Finally, you must take action on the data you gather. Too many companies suffer from information paralysis. The solution is Vision plus Will plus Doing it!

You can contact John Kogan at info@proformative.com

Category: Strategy, Technology

Key Words: Strategy, Technology, Content, Portal, Access, Simplify, Knowledge, Google, User, Experience, Triage, Sticky, Relevant, Ideas, Execute

What are Your Plans for 2011 Bonuses? Seven Thoughts

Situation: A company has historically given Christmas bonuses at the rate of 10-20% of salary in a good year. The CEO is concerned that employees may stay until their bonus is received, and then leave for another job. What are your plans for 2011 bonuses?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • First, what is your objective in granting bonuses? Which among the following are you trying to achieve?
    • Showing appreciation.
    • Acknowledgement of effort.
    • Effort above and beyond the norm.
    • Once you determine your goal, design a structure that will effect this goal.
  • What practices are typical for your industry – your competitors, vendors and clients?
    • Background research on industry practices provides a basis for your own practice. You can then evaluate whether varying from industry practice can give you an advantage.
  • Company performance should be a factor in determining bonus payment. So should performance against individual employee goals and objectives.
  • How much discretion should be given to managers for setting bonuses for their direct reports?
    • Talk to your managers and get their input on how they would handle bonus evaluation.
    • A number of companies give managers a pool guideline, and have them produce a spreadsheet of recommended bonus distribution for executive review and approval.
    • Individuals should not decide their own bonuses. Bonuses for all employees/managers should be decided by their direct supervisors.
  • Should the CEO be concerned if an employee takes their bonus and then leaves?
    • If an employee has earned their bonus, then you are granting them an earned reward. Their departure likely has much less to do with whether or not they receive a bonus than other factors.
    • Human resource research consistently demonstrates that compensation is at the bottom of the ladder of reasons that workers remain or leave – particularly workers who exercise critical thinking and judgment in their jobs.

Key Words: Strategy, Team, Bonus, Annual, Christmas, Incentive, Objective, Industry, Reward, Performance, Measurement, Discretionary

How Do You Evaluate Strategic Options? Three Suggestions

Situation: A company has developed and shipped equipment that puts it into a new market. They can continue to pursue this direction or make a significant shift that will open up a larger opportunity. What are the most important considerations to this decision?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There are a number of points that you need to clarify before making this decision:
    • What is the magnitude of difference between the two opportunities?
    • How much of a shift in technology is required to make the jump to the larger segment?
    • How much of the expertise to make this shift do you have in-house, and how much must you bring in, acquire or develop through partnerships?
    • What is your most likely exit strategy and how will each opportunity impact it?
  • Are you being realistic in your ability to meet development timelines?
    • If you don’t have deep expertise in the area that you want to develop, the answer is most likely yes. If you do you can often beat your initial estimates.
    • If the shift includes both there is risk that you will underestimate the time required to develop both the prototype and to turn the prototype into production quality technology.
  • If your ultimate objective is to sell the company, be aware that selling any company can be tricky, and you may not be able to sell the company for the value that you need to support yourself after the sale.
    • Study other companies in your geography and market, and determine both the price that they received for their companies and how they positioned their companies for sale.
    • As an alternative to selling, consider hiring a general manager to run the company. This can free you to concentrate on your passion and also increase the value of the company if you decide to sell at a future date.

Key Words: Strategy, Technology, Equipment, Market, Decision, Opportunity, Expertise, Timeline, Exit, Value, Sale, Positioning, Manager

Why Do You Need Uberinfluencers? Four Factors

Interview with Skip Brand, CEO, Martini Media Network

Situation: Thanks to the rise of social media, the 10-20 million individuals who were the influencers with the most purchasing power have increased to 70 million. Within the influencer group, there is a sub group deemed “uberinfluencers” who have the most influence. How do marketers reach the uberinfluencers and why are they so important?

Advice from Skip Brand:

  • Uberinfluencers increasingly spend more time online, are twice as likely to make a purchase, and spend three times as much per acquisition when they do purchase. Also, they always share new product experiences with friends and family via different social media (Facebook, Twitter, Blog’s, etc). For the first time, consumers control a brand’s reputation and are able to set the brand’s tone and image. This is why marketers need to focus more dollars to get in front of this audience.
    • Uberinfluencers spend more time online than the general US population. They are brand savvy, digital savvy and socially networked.
    • They have diverse and specific interests and leverage the Internet extensively to connect with their passion areas. Niche sites appeal to this audience because of the specificity and existence of community. If you better understand where these people spend their time at work and play –you are better positioned to leverage their influence.
  • The company that wants to reach and leverage these uberinfluencers needs to be scalable, exciting and relevant.
    • For this audience, small is beautiful and also scalable. Let’s use the example of golf, a passion for many uberinfluencers. Your site should feature the highest quality courses and equipment if you want to reach 50% or more of this target audience. It must be easy to navigate, provide enough information to make them feel comfortable about product selection, and have a social component to help them broadcast your message.
    • Uberinfluencers spend time on sites that are exciting, engaging and which have a single share of voice. This means one focused ad per page instead of multiple ads.
    • Particularly in a recessionary market the site must work diligently to maintain relevance by continually enhancing site content to provide a fresh experience with every visit.
    • Marketers should put uberinfluencers at the center of their media buy and strategy.
  • To attract and leverage this audience you must maintain a maniacal focus. Reach out to them using social networking tools, which find uberinfluencers where they work and play on the web. Let’s illustrate this with an example.
    • Let’s say that your uberinfluencer is a digital media executive. You will find them on social networking sites because they are living what they are doing. Put the right message in front of them. If they buy they will spend more, but it’s even better if they tell 10 friends about you.
  • Once you start figuring out the keys that attract uberinfluencers, they will start telling each other about you and news of your product will spread across the web, in turn maximizing your revenue!

You can contact Skip Brand at skip.brand@martini-corp.com

Key Words: Strategy, Sales, Marketing, Uberinfluencer, Social, Network, Media, Purchase, Opinion, Influence, Online, Work, Play, Hobby, Niche, Scalable, Exciting, Relevant, Focus, Viral

How Does Crowd Sourcing Impact Business Models?

Interview with Vikas Sharan, CEO, Regalix, Inc.

Situation: Online communities offer the opportunity to leverage crowd sourcing to both solve problems and create new capabilities. How can these communities be leveraged to expand business models?

Advice from Vikas Sharan:

  • With the simultaneous explosion of digital devices and online communities, the concept of crowd sourcing will only increase. The ability to tap into the crowd sourcing ecosystem will differentiate high performers from everyone else.
  • If you can think through a problem strategically, and build crowd sourcing capability to scale, you can leapfrog the competition and change the game.
  • Take the example of ComplianceOnline (CO) from MetricStream.

○    MetricStream started as a company with an enterprise compliance platform. Their vision was to build information and best practices across multiple areas of compliance and vertical industries.

○    Since compliance is a very large area and spans thousands of industries and topics, MetricStream started with building best practices in a couple of compliance topics. To further their vision, they partnered with Regalix to create CO.

○    At CO, MetricStream and Regalix have created an ecosystem of over 20-30,000 experts on different compliance topics. These experts contribute training and best practices on thousands of compliance topics. Without adopting a crowd sourcing model, it would have been very difficult for MetricStream to build expertise across such a diverse range of compliance topics.

  • Here is the sequence of events that helped to build CO.
  • CO secured a collaboration with top regulatory officials across a handful of topics. These individuals brought not only credibility, but an initial list of advisers, peers and regulatory contacts to seed the new ecosystem.
  • From this seed, the ecosystem rapidly grew to a large community which submitted white papers, best practices and training programs.
  • Using the model first developed with the initial topics, CO has expanded their efforts to thousands of compliance verticals, with 20-30,000 experts contributing information to these verticals.
  • There are thousands of federal, state and international compliance verticals to which this model can be applied.

You can contact Vikas Sharan at vsharan@regalixinc.com

Key Words: Strategy, Technology, Online Communities, Crowd Sourcing, Business Model, Platform, Compliance

How Do You Chase A Moving Ball? Three Fundamentals

Interview with Michelle Bonat, CEO and Founder, RumbaFish Technologies

Situation: Early stage companies focusing on social commerce and analytics face an unpredictable market. Nobody can accurately forecast market direction or even who the players will be in 2 to 3 years. What are best practices for chasing a moving ball?

Advice from Michelle Bonat:

  • In a rapidly evolving market it is critical to have laser-like focus on the needs of your customers. You must create value for them by understanding their needs, businesses and challenges. While technologies and markets change and evolve, human behavior is remarkably consistent over time. By focusing on rewards, sharing and customer motivations we better understand their needs. We see three fundamentals in working with customers.
  • First, focus on understanding needs versus wants. If Henry Ford had asked what customers wanted for better transportation they would have said “a faster horse.” They needed a faster way to get from Point A to Point B without getting rained on. We invent solutions that are incrementally better at addressing fundamental customer needs by leveraging technology and social commerce.
  • Second, work collaboratively with your customer. As we develop an understanding of needs versus wants, we develop an arm in arm relationship with customers and partner to evaluate solutions that work for them. We use short versus long release cycles with frequent checkpoints to assure that both sides are on the same page and that we understand the features that are most important to the customer. As a result, our customers become evangelists not only for the resulting product or service, but for us!
  • Third, go into any project with the customer’s success foremost in your mind. We focus not only on getting the solution right, but on assuring that the solution optimizes the customer’s primary objectives. That way we all share in the win.
  • The bottom line is that customers want to be treated as individuals and want their individual needs met. We honor this and make it central to our customer interactions. This way, no matter where the market goes, we will be a player.

You can contact Michelle Bonat at michelle@rumbafish.com

Key Words: Strategy, Leadership, Social, Media, Commerce, Analytics, Predictability, Unpredictability, Market, Direction, Player, Customer, Value, Needs, Wants, Behavior, Engage, Share, Understand, Technology, Social Commerce, Collaborative, Relationship, Success, Solution, Individual

How Do You Handle a Perfectionist in Your Company? Three Thoughts

Situation: A consulting company has an employee who is a perfectionist. They can bill clients for standard work to complete a project to client specifications; however, this employee wants to continue working unbillable time to perfect the work and considers this to be of research benefit to the company. The CEO wants to impress the individual that the company is a business, not a research organization, without discouraging the employee’s enthusiasm for the work. How have you handled perfectionists within your own organization?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If the employee possesses skills which are important to the company’s strategic direction it makes sense to work with the individual. One option is to focus this employee on future development rather than current projects.
  • An increasing number of companies allow employees in development positions 10% to 20% of their time to pursue pure research. Both product and software companies leverage employee enthusiasm to build their products or services. At the same time, they create guidelines to assure that the remaining 80% to 90% of these individuals’ time is devoted to current business.
  • Why not allow the employee one day per week to focus on research, but limit the focus on pure research to this one day – as well as any evenings and weekends that they want to devote to this on their own time? This way the individual is encouraged to pursue their ambitions, but within a framework that clearly states that we want 80% of your work week to be devoted to billable work.

Key Words: Perfectionist, Consulting, Billable, Research, Expertise, Enthusiasm, Strategy, Rules, Guidelines, Policy

How Do You Find and Focus on Your Promoters? Five Factors

Interview with Richard Owen, CEO, Satmetrix Systems

Situation: If you are not creating promoters of your product or service, you are inhibiting your own growth. Growth is challenging and if you don’t have positive word of mouth it becomes more expensive. How do you find and focus on your promoters?

Advice from Richard Owen:

  • Calculate and understand your “Net Promoter Score” – the percentage difference between “promoters” and detractors.” Promoters are those customers who would highly recommend your business, detractors have a negative perspective.
  • It is important to attend these two audiences – “detractors”, who create negative word of mouth, and “promoters” who create positive word of mouth. Detractors can be targeted for service recovery. At the same time, you must identify your promoters and find ways to get them to actively let others know about your business. Both negative and positive effects are being amplified today by social networks.
  • Understand what your business does that creates detractors and promoters. Gather and analyze root cause data to provide insights around the actions you and your team should take to change the balance in your favor.
  • Hold employees accountable by “stack ranking” the customer performance of each of your teams or employees. In part, this helps you to understand areas of strength and weakness and allows you to create individualized or group action and coaching plans. There is also a tendency for groups below the average to improve performance because they are being measured.
  • These are simple ideas, but making this work in practice can be a challenge. Setting up an effective system takes more leadership than leaders typically realize and is often counter to the short term realities of most companies. Success requires a long-term perspective and an external versus internal focus. And, of course, the right systems!
  • While the leadership of many mid-market companies are as sophisticated as that in large companies, mid-market companies lack the resources of large companies. A focus on action around promoters and detractors allows a company to get 90% of the value for 10% of the effort in customer experience management.

You can contact Richard Owen at richardo@satmetrix.com

Key Words:  Promoter, Growth, Word of Mouth, Positive, Negative, Cost, Data, Customer, Metric, Coach, SMB, Perspective, Effectiveness, Resources