Category: Best Practice Stories

Ralf HallerRalf Haller October 10, 2009

Online shift: print industry to face same fate as music industry?

Recently I have been hearing in various places that print news were recovering, triggering comments of relief (from the newspapers) that predictions that everything was heading online were obviously not correct. I had a smile on my face when I read that, and it reminded me of a short-term assignment I had more than ten years ago with Bertelsmannn BMG in Hong Kong, where I had to plan for a data center for their AsiaPac countries. BMG was already thinking then about distributing music over the Internet and for that purpose went into the Internet access business. They formed a joint venture with – at that time market leader – AOL and even built their own country-wide access networks in Germany, as well as buying providers in other countries. Of course they did not realize that the Internet is a shared medium and it therefore did not make too much sense to buy it like a print or CD manufacturing plant.  Back to Hong Kong: as the data center did not seem to make economic sense at the time I suggested to them that I help with setting up an online music sales operation testing the waters in the AsiaPac region first (at that time dial-up was still to be found everywhere). Despite their investment into the AOL joint venture and into whole country IP networks (in Hong Kong we had the option to buy Hong Kong SuperNet, the city’s first and largest ISP) they looked quite puzzled about my offering and had one question only: how do we protect ourselves from illegal pirate downloads and distributions? My response was that there are technical methods even if not all can be protected, but most importantly we cannot sit and wait until it happens anyway. So still they turned the idea down and I moved on as well…

By now we all know what happened: a fruit company from Cupertino sells more than 50% of all music online and is taking the profits. Not only Bertelsmann BMG but all the other music labels lost the race to a company that had no idea about the music label business and its distribution at all.

So while the music industry shift online is done and one company dominates it, I am convinced we will see the same in the print media. And it looks like it might be the same fruit company eying for it. Read I. Cringley’s latest article on this, providing more background info. Interesting to read that he had the exact same experience in the print publication industry (in 1994 already) that I had in the music industry. History repeats itself, it seems, telling us that if you wait too long someone else will come and take that opportunity.

Ralf HallerRalf Haller October 6, 2009

Product marketing in tough economic times

While there are some signs of recovery, it seems a slow moving process and many companies are still having a hard time planning their budgets for longer than just a few months ahead. Also the question comes up what to do in marketing. Will people even be open to what you do? Or should you save that money entirely?

Tools that I feel will still work are:

  • video casts of products, your company; insightful interviews of your customers (needs someone doing the interviews who understands your business otherwise will be worthless small talk or high-level surface scratching); and something that you can try out as well are animated presentations with spoken text. This is easier to do as you don’t need video interview skills.
  • virtual events: as VMWare and others have shown, you can increase the audience by 3-5x with a virtual event site that gives every participating company their own space. When travel costs are being cut, that seems the way to still have people engaged even if they might not physically attend the event
  • interactive sites, if you are able to hook your target group with interesting discussions on hot subjects in your product market this should draw attention; and if you manage to get many to even leave comments, you have achieved the best one can expect from a product marketing tool. These social community sites require very careful and skilled planning, though. Also cultural aspects inside and outside your company need to be taken into account. You cannot just buy a community software tool and set it all up in a week. While technically possible, it will definitely not fly. Still, many software vendors try to make you believe a community is just another simple collaboration tool like chatting or project collaboration. But it is simply not so!
  • fun sells: it requires a bit of courage to use fun elements such as cartoons but, if you do, it will draw attention. It’s important that the fun is linked with what you do and not simply a general cartoon or joke
  • webinars save people the time and expense of attending a seminar but, as with e-newsletters, I feel though there are many webinars offered, maybe too many? The beauty is nevertheless that you need only one participant and it is still worth doing as also on your side the cost is minimal. So I would try them still. Maybe you get some initial prospects. Be aware though that you need to do a personal invitation as well, which means more than sending out a general e-mail to your e-mail list!
  • banner ads: if you want to make them effective then you need to spend a good amount of money making them very big and displaying them on highly trafficked sites where you expect your target group to go. A small banner ad next to half a dozen others will not be worth the money you have spent.

Tools that seem to have lost its magic:

  • e-newsletters, I get much less than a few years ago when everyone sent out a newsletter and really expected that people would read them. I think they don’t unless you have something super interesting to say. Also if you do it it needs to be done very well incl. the design. The standard e-newsletters are not good enough. There are better ways now too such as RSS or community sites to do the same or even better.
  • e-mailings, I think with RSS e-mailing campaigns have lost their raison d’aitre. Still there are many out who still spam the inboxes of their target groups. More annoying than effective I would think unless, again, it is a personal email but that is hard to do.

Update: and a more generic slide on Marketing 3.0 from Phil Kotler.

Ralf HallerRalf Haller September 18, 2009

Apple’s tech marketing event secrets

This video here was also posted on Techcrunch yesterday. While it is intended to be funny, I think it contains a bit of truth. Question now is if this is done totally on purpose as sort of unconscious brainwashing of everyone listening to this or if the Apple folks simply don’t know any other adjectives than:

great    easy    awesome   incredible    amazing

Or, and that is certainly a good part of it too, they are highly passionate and excited about their own work, which is one of the best sales and marketing attributes you can have.

YouTube Preview Image

Ralf HallerRalf Haller May 11, 2009

Only Win-Win relationships work – long-term

Why are win-win relationships between colleagues, customers/suppliers and partners, so important for long term successful business? At the end it is impossible to succeed with politics and out-smarting others only and once this comes up a win-loose relationship turns into a loose-loose one. You can’t fake sincerity, you can’t fake authenticity, and you can’t fake caring. So better start doing this if you don’t want to end up in a loose-loose situation at some point.

Ralf HallerRalf Haller May 1, 2009

The 3C Social Media Essentials

We are preparing a webinar on Social Media and its applications in B2B for ICT companies right now. It is a webinar on invitation only but feel free to drop us an e-mail. While studying tons of material that is available out there we grouped the essentials needed for social media networks into three categories and, being marketers, coined the term “3C Social Media Essentials” to maybe better remember it.

Ralf HallerRalf Haller April 21, 2009

Book review: “Outliers” from Malcom Gladwell

Malcom Gladwell’s third book is another must-read. While his first two books “Tipping Point” and “Blink” described each an interesting phenomena his new book “Outliers” is full of great observations that make reading it an exciting experience.

No doubt he is a sharp observer, outstanding storyteller and btw also very funny public speaker as you can witness in his contribution to the TED event year in 2004:

Malcolm Gladwell: What we can learn from spaghetti sauce

Now what is Outliers about, Malcom?

In this book I’m interested in people who are outliers—in men and women who, for one reason or another, are so accomplished and so extraordinary and so outside of ordinary experience that they are as puzzling to the rest of us as a cold day in August.

You can find stories on the success of e.g. Bill Gates who in public always says that he is a college dropout who worked his way up himself, but once you read the story you will see that he had like all the other “outliers” strong support from home, was able to collect a skill practicing it for 10,000+ hours, and then lastly had been very lucky to be at the right place at exactly the right time. Then very had work of course is still needed to make it. This is somehow not surprising but to back it up and compare with many other success stories is a great observation and educating as well as entertaining read.

In part 2 of the book Malcom looks at cultural phenomena and how they have a strong impact on people’s lives and work. E.g. how do communication and hierarchical cultures in S. Korea lead to 17 times higher airplane crash rates (something that has been fixed now fortunately). Or why do the Chinese with their experience in cultivating rice paddies have better mathematical skills compared with Western cultures? This book is fun to read and provides some good practical education as well.

Ralf HallerRalf Haller April 19, 2009

Business cultures: How different are Swiss, Chinese and Americans?

At Extendance we pride ourselves on having lived and worked in many different cultures: USA, Europe (Germany, UK, France, Switzerland, Finland), Asia (Hong Kong, PR China, Japan) and Australia.

It is obvious that cultural differences between countries can have a big impact on the success of business relations. My colleague Adrian is an expert in human sciences and what I am writing here is trivial to him but although I have had these different cultural work experiences I am still surprised to date how pronounced these can be even between countries in Europe. E.g. would you have known that Belgium and Denmark are entirely different in terms of their uncertainty avoidance thinking? Belgium is, in a list of 53 countries, the 5th highest, right after Greece, Portugal, Guatemala and Uruguay, while Denmark is ranked 51st, with only Jamaica and Singapore ranked lower. Uncertainty avoidance means that these countries are most reliant on rules and plans and will most likely stick to procedure regardless of circumstances.

Now I came across an iPhone app that helps you with comparing more than 100 countries with each other in terms of their cultural differences. CultureGPS Light is free and CultureGPS Professional costs a steep (for iPhone apps) 20EUR. I think it is worth the money, though, if you have to do with lots of different nationalities in your daily business. The iPhone app is based on Geert Hofsted’s surveys and its theory called Cultural Dimensions. The below quote from him sounds a bit too negative for my taste. I think the way I will use this iPhone app is in preparing meetings or business trips to be warned of possible differences and be more sensitive upfront. I just used it yesterday to figure out the possible source of some disagreements with someone from Norway and think I found it. In this case I did it afterwards. Would have been better to do it beforehand though. Lesson learned. Also I am of course aware that the world and cultures are too complex to describe them with 5 dimensions only and what you only get from this app is some average results that one should still use with caution. In addition what I figured is that it is also often lots fun…

Prof. Geert Hofstede, Emeritus Professor, Maastricht University, AN Velp, Netherlands
” Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.”
Prof. Geert Hofstede, Emeritus Professor, Maastricht University.

Ralf HallerRalf Haller March 23, 2009

CRM tools to integrate social media intelligence

2009 will be the year where more and more businesses take a serious look at how they can make use of the intelligence found in social media platforms. Now, the leading online CRM software, is also looking at Twitter, and has included it into their Service Cloud offering, after also doing this for Facebook. Missing from the list so far are LinkedIn and XING, but as these professional contact lists will include more features to network (e.g.  what you are working on) this will change, I think.