It’s a (sometimes forgotten) truism of business that no company can cut its way to growth. As the economy continues to slowly recover from the great recession, smart leaders, having pared back spending during the lean times, are looking at how to invest for growth. Entrepreneurs are forming new businesses at an increasing pace, hoping to take advantage of new opportunities in the recovering economy. Workers across the spectrum are a bit less fearful and a bit more optimistic.
But the business environment has changed significantly in just the past six years since the start of the downturn. For example, no one was talking about the social employee as recently as late 2006, but according to Google Trends, search interest in the term has quadrupled in the past five years.
So investment in growth will return, but it will be different. How can companies tap the social exposure potential of their workforces? What beliefs do managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs need to discard–and what new beliefs do they need to embrace? How has the purchase cycle changed, and what are the expectations of today’s buyers? How can small companies use new ideas to compete more effectively against larger competitors?
Find the answers to these questions and many others here in 19 of the most noteworthy guides to leadership, motivation, business strategy, and branding of the past year.
7 Ways Management Can Boost Employee Productivity by westXdesign
Renee Gaylor explains seven steps leaders can take to increase employee engagement and productivity, such as ensuring “senior leadership models behavior that makes the rank-and-file proud to be part of the team. Nothing demoralizes employees more quickly than seeing senior leaders act in a way they don’t respect, and few things energize employees more than a senior team they admire. Leaders are always being watched and judged; employees have keen eyes.”
Paid to Post? What the Social Workforce Means for All of Us by iMedia Connection
Writing that “Savvy brands like Dell, Oracle, Intel and Accenture think the future of marketing is on social media and their best advocates are their own employees,” Greg Shove demonstrates why this strategy can be incredibly powerful, but also discusses the challenges involved. In the end, he concludes that to be successful in developing social employees, companies will need to “focus on producing cultures that employees want to advocate for. In terms of long-term sales growth, marketing success and talent retention, that will matter far more than the fine details of each advocacy program.”
What Does it Take to Lead a Social Business? by NewRayCom
Ray Hiltz identifies five characteristics required of R.A.R.E. (responsible, accountable, relevant, ethical) leadership, and notes “these are also the traits of a successful social business.” Leadership and social business are both grounded in developing relationships, and doing so effectively requires a long-term vision at odds with ever-shortening attention spans.
Motivation and Inspiration Guides
9 Mind Myths to Ditch for 2014 Success by Rebel Brown
The wise and delightful Rebel Brown steps “into the truth and beyond our limiting beliefs” here, debunking nine myths about our minds which she says limit our potential. Among the myths skewered are “we’re all limited by this crazy economy,” “failure is to be avoided at all costs,” and “change is hard” (“Humans are instinctively wired to avoid anything that is new and different. Our unconscious mind views it as a threat…[however] We can act to consciously remove that threat of change [by focusing] on the opportunity in the change, not the problem that caused it”).
How to Give Remarkable Presentations: Lessons from the World Domination Summit by Dr. Michelle Mazur
Michelle Mazur shares lessons learned from speakers at the World Domination Summit (yes, apparently, that is a thing), including “Train to speak like an athlete trains to win the race” from Danielle LaPorte, on the importance of speaking frequently, and contrasting the gap between what is and what could be, from Nancy Duarte: “The best speakers – Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs and Eva Peron – construct a gap between what is currently and what could be in the future. Think of Steve Jobs comparing the world without an iPhone versus a world with the iPhone (can you remember the world before Smart Phones?).”
Jeff Haden reveals nine characteristics that help define and create success, from approaches to time management and hiring to how to deal with failure and “go the extra mile.” A great reminder for consultants: “Only do what you want to do and you might build an okay business. Be willing to do what customers want you to do and you can build a successful business. Be willing to do even more and you can build a remarkable business.”
Following up on the post above, Jeff Haden here turns the topic from the beliefs of successful people to their actions; things that most if not all successful people do, such as setting audacious goals, selling, and avoiding the crowds: “Remarkably successful people habitually do what other people won’t do. They go where others won’t go because there’s a lot less competition and a much greater chance for success.”
Business Strategy Guides
Small Talk, Big Results by strategy+business
Keith Ferrazzi introduces ideas from The Necessity of Strangers by Alan Gregerman, demonstrating how vital “small talk” is: “anthropologically, we are hardwired to be ready to fight or flee from someone not of our tribe—a state of mind that obviously has a very negative effect on our ability to innovate together. Small talk quiets that reptilian response of our brain.” The book excerpt details a simple exercise that can be used within organizations to increase success by creating a “culture of conversation.”
How Women Decide by Harvard Business Review
Pointing out that “Today women occupy about half of all managerial and professional positions in the United States, including 37% of management jobs and 60% of accounting and auditing roles…They also make up 41% of employees with authority to make purchasing decisions,” Cathy Benko and Bill Pelster present research on how the differing physical structures of the male and female brains lead to different decision-making styles, and how these distinctions need to be accounted for when selling or presenting ideas.
5 reasons I hate big data by iMedia Connection
Chris Marriott brilliantly skewers the hype behind big data (and advises executives what to focus on instead), writing that it’s an old idea with a new name; that it makes something easy sound complex; and that it’s “like teenagers and sex:
a. Everybody’s talking about it.
b. Everybody thinks everyone else is doing it.
c. Most of those who claim to be doing it aren’t doing it.
d. Those who are doing it aren’t doing it very well.”
8 Real-World Stories Of Why Startups Fail by ReadWrite
Scott Gerber shares the stories of eight “(now) successful founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share why a prior start-up didn’t make it – and what they’re doing differently knowing what they know now.” Among the lessons: manage cash flow (“Numbers are not only the oxygen of a business, they are the vital signs as well”), match your timing to the state of the market, and be careful about choosing employees (“hire people who are sincere and trustworthy”).
Marketing and Brand Strategy Guides
Fire the funnel — 5 stages of the real buyer’s journey by Chief Marketing Technologist Blog
Contending that “The funnel model of marketing and sales doesn’t reflect reality very well” (and we know this), Scott Brinker suggests an alternative five-stage model that is less exclusionary and more positive, recognizes that today’s “lost” prospects may become tomorrow’s new opportunities, and acknowledges the importance of continuing to market and sell to existing customers and convert them into brand advocates.
Jeff Pundyk rants (intelligently) about how, far too often, “thought leadership” is anything but; rather, it’s ego-building, internally focused, disorganized, and doesn’t address reader or market needs. Instead, he advises marketers to “find creative ways to tap into publishers’ audiences…venture beyond the walls of your own Web site. It will force you to up your content game: to think hard about your audience…(and) to start listening and collaborating.”
J-P DeClerck makes the case that marketers should shift their focus from channels, tactics, and campaigns, to addressing what customers really want: “we shouldn’t optimize for media, channels or tactics in the first place. We optimize for the customer experience.” Customers don’t care how a company organizes its campaigns or silos; they care about consistency and the company meeting its brand promise.
How Underdogs Can Market Effectively by MarketingProfs (free registration required)
Abhay Padgaonkar outlines three strategies small companies can use to win against larger competitors, starting with aiming “for your competitor’s Achille’s heel.” That can come in the form of scope (starting out by serving a neglected segment, which is how Southwest Airlines got its initial foothold in the market); service; or scale (targeting segments that don’t fit with investments larger competitors have made).
Big marketing opportunities for under $10K by iMedia Connection
Greg Kihlström details four “ways to connect your audience with your brand” that won’t break the bank, such as creating new content, experimenting with new channels, or giving something back: “Help an organization in need. There’s no downside to this one…(for example) let your customers choose which organization they’d like you to donate the money to by allowing them to vote for their favorite nonprofit every time they submit a photo that includes your product.”
Katie Burke outlines half-a-dozen expert “tactics and strategies you can employ within a workday to help attract, convert, engage, and delight more prospects, leads, and customers.” For example, on video marketing, from Kevin Daum: ““You don’t need cats and babies to make business videos that work…By aligning on a goal, a target audience, and a core story, your business can benefit significantly from using video to foster growth.”
The end of digital and social media by iMedia Connection
Terms like “digital media” and “social media” will soon be redundant, according to the brilliant Rebecca Lieb, as all media are increasingly both digital and social. So, Rebecca asks, “How do you cut through the clutter of media, messaging, and a ridiculously busy social life spanning all channels, digital and otherwise? There are six traits that matter. Employing as many as possible — in concert — will greatly enhance a brand’s ability to be noticed in a relevant and meaningful way.”
The Seven Pitfalls of a Modern-Day Brand by MarketingProfs
Despite the unprecedented reach that social media provides, “Brand Awareness is hard to come by,” writes Matthew Turner. He identifies seven pitfalls of brand-building (such as lack of voice, too much “sell,” and being easy to forget) and how to avoid them: build a “brand story that delves deep into your brand and discovers what it’s all about…A brand story allows you to create something of worth, and most important, something that matters to you: It’s built on your terms.”