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Man Bites Dog Blog by Fiona Buckley - 4M ago

You can’t go a day without seeing a story about data. Whether it’s a company misusing data, legislation about data, or how much your personal data is worth, these little chunks of information are big news and big business.

You’ve also probably heard that ‘data is the new oil’, and there’s certainly a lot of money to be made from it. But there’s more to it than that. Like oil, when it’s processed properly data can produce a whole range of innovative new products.

But when it comes to improving business performance, data tends to be used in pretty traditional ways. Most new products use data to offer more efficient or comprehensive ways of analysing something easily quantifiable like financial performance, workplace productivity or industry growth.

Better ways of measuring these things are important, but companies have already been recording them for decades – or even centuries. What if it was possible to measure something completely different?

What’s most exciting right now is using data to understand the human aspects of a company. Businesses are getting more switched on to how important culture is to a company’s success, and there is growing evidence that good culture increases profits, but because it’s so difficult to benchmark company and market wide, it’s often neglected.

Big players in the tech industry led the way on prioritizing amazing company culture, and Google’s free meals, flexible working and on-site massages certainly don’t seem to have done their profits any harm. This has definitely put culture on the agenda for businesses big and small, but executives often need to know the exact impact something has on the bottom line to invest in it.

One of our new clients at Man Bites Dog is using data to crack the culture conundrum. Although some other companies are trying to figure what makes a good or bad culture, Temporall are really one to watch – they’re using machine learning to actually work out the value of different organisational cultures.

Why will people care? Because we’ve never been able to measure the abstract parts of organisations before, culture often gets a reputation for being “fluffy” and is often put in the HR category of something that needs to be improved companywide. But this isn’t a nice-to-have. On top of affecting overall profits, culture is important for attracting and retaining employees, developing new products and services and with top talent in short supply this could become a crucial factor in winning the best staff.

This could be the start of a new data revolution, and Temporall are a key player in measuring things that matter to employees and boards. Companies could be ranked by culture, transforming what they are judged on and why they succeed. I’ve no doubt that over time it will be become a recognised KPI for management. Ethics would become competitive and the labour market will evolve accordingly. If data is the new oil, this could be the invention of plastic – but without clogging up the seas. I say we embrace the culture shock.

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The smart connected home is almost a reality, as I discovered on a recent visit to Unruly’s connected home experience. From augmented reality shopping options for home furnishings at the touch of a button, voice activated shopbots giving food and wine pairings, cocktail recipes, to state of the art heart, health, and sleep monitors, air quality assessments, and everything in between, there’s no denying the extraordinary capabilities of our future homes.

Whether you think gadgets or robots catering to your every need would be delightful or lead to dystopia (I’m a Black Mirror fan!), they are set to revolutionise how we live, shop and even think. At the Unruly experience we talked a lot about how tech advancement will affect the way people shop, cook, sleep and relax in their homes. But that’s not all it’s going to change. How will it influence what we buy, which products we discover and why we stay loyal to brands? And what space will this leave for B2B marketers?

The brand bypass bogeyman

In B2B, we need to start planning what our role will be in this smart connected world. One crucial consideration will be how to avoid brand bypass. As consumers choose more and more of their purchases via intelligent systems, this could drastically change – and limit – the products and experiences they are exposed to.

Think about shouting at your Alexa tucked away in the corner of your kitchen whenever you need more milk, a new hair dryer, or a bottle of wine. Gradually, it will change its suggestions based on your previous purchases, perhaps suggesting the same electronics brand as your hair straighteners, or a selection of bottles made from your favourite grape.

This can create an echo-chamber where consumers stick to the same products because they aren’t exposed to others. But it’s not just consumer choice that could dictate this – business partnerships will influence results listings, nudging customers towards their own hard-won commercial partners.

Your personal cyber-shopper

Customers often don’t know which brand they want, or even which are available. But if they don’t specify when buying through smart devices, an algorithm will pick instead. Not having to decide which particular item to buy will sometimes be good for the consumer, and sometimes won’t be – they might end up paying a premium or missing the product that best fits their needs.

But it definitely won’t be good for individual companies trying to grow their market share in a crowded marketplace. Popular or promoted brands will scoop up extra sales, while newcomers could struggle to even get noticed, let alone added to your basket. B2C businesses will need smart strategies from B2B marketers to survive.

If the home is only a few years away from the ultimate new shopping mall, as B2B marketers how can we make sure our clients’ products are at the front of the shelves?

Striking high-profile partnerships and deals will be crucial to push your client’s products up the search results, and so will marketing outside the home, which will need to be effective enough to cement brand identity into the search, then buying, decision.

The B2B Smart Home Opportunity

It’s not just B2C facing these new challenges in making their products stand out – the B2B community are far from immune. Key purchasers are acting more and more like consumers when buying business-related services, and they want their experience with your brand to be as slick and sophisticated as the products they buy in their personal life.

What’s more, as working from home becomes more and more common and the technology often more advanced at home than at work, the experience of buying business and personal products will converge.

The key to making sure you stand head and shoulders above the crowd is taking ownership of an issue that differentiates you. Wrap your brand around the issue or problem you solve and build an ecosystem of partnerships and communities which makes sure your brand stays visible and clearly defined.

For B2B companies who can adapt, the smart home provides an incredible opportunity to promote their services and snap up new business. After all, it won’t be too long before your clients are buying your products by talking to their hallway mirror…

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In the current climate, export is no longer a domain solely for large corporate businesses. With the advent of digital, tech and the internet – coupled with the agility and innovation smaller firms bring to their sectors – medium sized businesses, MSBs, are now exporters by nature.

UK MSBs also face an unprecedented opportunity in international trade planning with Brexit on the horizon. So with all the unknowns ahead, what can MSBs do to capitalise on the opportunity and use it to their advantage, while the rest of their markets become unsettled?

Risk aversion is the biggest blocker to growth

The perception persists among MSB owners and shareholders, that using export as a lever for business growth is a high risk strategy. Either from an international regulatory perspective or the potential for tariff change – both waters further muddied by Brexit – MSBs are risk averse due to the fear of financial loss or business disruption.

The overwhelming nature of the scale of opportunity can leave many new-to-export MSBs unsure where to start, but a first mover strategy in export expansion however could be sound for many UK businesses. With the perception of risk often higher than the reality of risk – exporters need to move from a mindset of entrenchment to one of broader horizons.

Numerous sources of support exist for MSBs to sensibly navigate the perceived risks of export; be that in finding the right local partner or properly assessing local employment and investment laws. If that right connection is made, the entry into the world of global trade is all the easier.

Moving with rapid global change is essential

Emerging markets the world over are opening up to international trade as the third industrial revolution takes hold. From South East Asia to Africa, there is trade potential across sectors with nimble and globally-focussed partners.

The opportunity ahead is staggering, but the uncertainty of Brexit is overshadowing what could be the biggest trade mobiliser in a generation. Whilst for some politicians Brexit is to be perceived as a great drive to reignite the buccaneering nature of British businesses, the potential to lose full access to our largest export market is enough to deepen conservative attitudes to trade in many MSBs.

The new, agile MSB, will be able to adapt to changing markets and will plan for variation in key target markets over time. Unencumbered by the large bureaucracies of multinationals, MSBs will be able to react to new challenges and and opportunities in international markets with certainty.

Planning for post-Brexit success

The key to this is simple;

  • Be risk aware, not risk averse
  • Plan but expect the unexpected
  • Prepare a strategy with a stop contingency
  • Seek out guidance – help is out there! From regulation to risk, from market-entry to export credit, there are numerous partners who can support MSB export goals.

With the right support and the right adaptive contingency planning, MSBs can embrace the world of exports. The real risk for businesses is risk aversion – losing out to competitors who enter a market before you can be an unrecoverable position. In the context of Brexit, MSBs can’t afford to do nothing.

The biggest challenge could be convincing them of that. Our award-winning thought leadership and strategic marketing services has connected law firms with their prospects for 15 years, creating lasting, valuable partnerships. Get in touch with our International Trade team at trade@manbitesdog.com, and find out how we can help.

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Welcome to Man Bites Dog’s monthly trade blog. Our international trade thought leadership team helps organisations capture their share of the global trade opportunity. Working with clients in sectors from professional and financial services to technology and logistics, we develop visionary thought leadership, world-leading new data sets and digital client engagement tools to help position clients’ expertise and generate demand for their services. Our regular articles will provide perspectives on a key issue in global trade.

At the time of writing, waves of violence and detentions have flared in Harare after the country’s first post-Mugabe elections, with the Movement for Democratic Change’s (MDC) Nelson Chamisa and the interim ZANU-PF President Emmerson Mnangagwa vying for leadership of the southern African country once famed as ‘The breadbasket of Africa’. Mnangagwa was victorious but only narrowly avoided a run-off with Chamisa, amidst claims of vote rigging from the MDC. It appears that substantial political tensions will remain, but will the election process prove enough for Zimbabwe to continue its journey back to the world of international trade and investment?

Since the end of the Mugabe-era last year, the interim Mnangagwa Government was working to rebuild Zimbabwe’s status in international trade and investment, particularly with regard to the once-famed agricultural sector, welcoming a number of international trade delegations. Before 2000, agricultural exports were responsible for as much as 15% of GDP and and 33% of export earnings; 70% of Zimbabweans’ earnings are dependent on the sector (World Bank). The Government has been proactively supporting the sector through the Command Agriculture and Command Livestock programmes, both largely funded with private sector partners. Command Agriculture, in essence an import substitution programme, has been controversial particularly with regards to timely repayments by beneficiaries.

Whilst individual programmes may prove problematic, it is at least encouraging that the Government, over the latter years of Mugabe-rule and the interim Mnangagwa presidency has proactively sought to support the development of sustainable agricultural industries after the crises of the 2000s. A recovering agriculture sector combined with a more welcoming business environment will be a vital in bringing Zimbabwean exports back to consumers and for attracting the international investment the market needs.

Zimbabwe is not just endowed with an environment that would support a vibrant agricultural sector but it is also rich in natural resources. The Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe has predicted that in 2018 the mining sector will grow by 10% with the sector expected to be worth £30bn by 2030. In March the Government signed a $4.2 billion deal for a new platinum mine and refinery, a substantial boon for the administration.

As would be expected, particularly since the departure of Mugabe, much has been made of Zimbabwe’s potential in the press; throughout Mnangagwa’s interim presidency he declared the country ‘open for business’. However, the country needs to continue reforming to attract greater international investment and improve its situation with its international creditors. Positively, the complex indigenisation law, which proved such a barrier for international companies, was amended earlier this year with only the diamond and platinum sectors now requiring 51% local ownership. Even within these sectors there is some discretionary flexibility permitted. Whilst some sectors are officially reserved for local businesses the amendment also permits exemptions under special circumstances. The racial overtones of the original law have also been removed. This marks a substantial change in the law, which will operate in a vastly different way to the protectionist focus of the original.

Over recent months, it would seem that Zimbabwe has finally grasped the nettle and put economic development and engagement with the international community at the heart of policy making. However, the recent elections appear to be testing Zimbabwe’s nascent democratic structures to their limit. Whatever the coming months bring, the new administration will have to work hard to maintain momentum to ensure that Zimbabwe is genuinely open for business.

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Man Bites Dog recently joined the Financial Services Forum, and have taken advantage of our membership by attending a series of fascinating events and seminars focusing on the biggest issues facing the financial marketing community.

A recurring theme that continues to challenge financial services companies is brand differentiation. Because so many firms are trying to differentiate purely on services, experience, people, or the global footprint of the business when there is significant overlap with competitors – to their customers most financial services businesses look and sound the same.

Our own research has shown that 90% of B2B marketers believe their company needs to differentiate from competitors based on their thinking and ideas, as senior business audiences are only willing to trade their time for genuinely new insight. They want original ideas that really grab them, not me-too thinking. So how do you practically do that?

To develop a differentiating marketing strategy, these three key steps will ensure you stand apart from the competition, giving you the competitive edge to attract your prospects and win in your category.

Why do you exist?

This sounds like an existential question, but it’s a problem facing every financial services firm. As companies have become entrenched in their markets and have become protectionist rather than forward looking, they have lost sight of why their business came to be.

Amongst the complexity of processes and systems that developed over time to create a matrix of activity, businesses can lose sight of how they became successful in the first place.

Your first job in finding differentiation is understand why your business exists. This is unique – as every business formed for different reasons, in different markets, by and for different people – and if it’s unique, it’s not something anyone else can copy.

You need to find the fundamental values of your business and what it does truly differently that differentiates it. Don’t kid yourself – be honest – because there’s no fooling your customers.

Ask your customers

At the heart of your business and what makes it successful are your customers. There are individual reasons, both rational and emotional your customers chose you over your competitors, and you can use this insight to power your purpose and marketing strategy to help prospects understand who you are and why you’re a great choice.

The best way of find out what has made you a success is to ask your customers what they really think of you, and for you to get under the skin of who they are really so you can understand how to reach out to customers and prospects more effectively.

You need to know what their problems are, rather than what you want their problems to be. And by talking to the heart of the issues they face you can truly create an idea they can get behind.

Create insight based on segments of your customers so you can identify solutions that are bespoke to each group, and talk to them separately rather than assuming they are one homogenous group.

Focus on the value

Once you’ve understood your reason for being, and cross referenced that with customer segments based on real insight, you’ll be in pole position to understand where your natural fit is in your market.

Too many companies fall into the trap of wanting everyone to be their customer, and target so broadly that it no longer qualifies as targeting. So prioritise your target audiences based on their needs and create campaigns for each of them.

This doesn’t have to be limiting. A good, strategically sound campaign can cross continents, diverse business types, and companies with starkly different objectives, and still communicate real value in seemingly disparate groups.

There are fundamentals which tie all of your customers together, and by tailoring your messaging to different markets you will create true relevance for your target market from a single idea, focussing your marketing in a commercially effective way.

To find out more about how we generate award-winning ideas that sell, contact us today at hello@manbitesdog.com.

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We’re calling it. After decades of assumptions that B2B marketing is short for Boring 2 Boring, with feature and benefit led campaigns being the go-to approach, and with traditional, rational decision making the basis of communications campaigns – it’s clear that emotive marketing is not just in vogue – it’s a vital approach to ensuring buyer choice.

The end of noise in B2B

In some ways, it was the arrival of martech that changed everything. At first, it was simply a tool to push out your core messages and propositions more easily and to a more targeted audience. But what these platforms showed for the first time, and at scale, was that everyone was saying the same thing.

Companies got better at delivering email or social media programmes with better open rates or at improved cost efficiency, but as tech evolved and market entry into all markets became easier, the marketing landscape simply got noisier.

What this really exposes is that everyone has been thinking in the same way. That worked when there were a few key suppliers for any given service need, but now all verticals contain agile challenger brands, and large technology incumbents are now encroaching into all sectors from Legal services to Data, whoever wins hearts in an industry will win.

Business to Consumer and back to Business

The lines between what is a ’Business’ brand and a ‘Consumer’ brand have become blurred. Take Linkedin for instance. What is it for? You can use it for business development, sure, but if you don’t treat your influencers like individual people, they will not engage with you, and if you don’t use it to build your personal brand authentically, no one will listen.

An individual in a professional or personal context does not view your advances in a binary kind of way. You can’t expect that come 5:30, someone viewing an ad or content online will flip a switch into hometime-mode. And even if they do, they’ll remember where they were and how they were feeling when they return to a professional environment.

That isn’t actually as confusing as it sounds. In reality, all it means is an individual will have a single view of you and your brand. They’ll form one perspective, and carry it everywhere with them, whether eating their lunch with colleagues, or reading an article on the train home – they’ll form a single overall opinion. And people are good at forming opinions – whether you think they’re right or wrong – about your company.

Making decisions emotively in B2B

Considering someone’s perspective is a mish-mash of the contexts they know you in, pieced together by their various experiences and interactions, you need to carefully manage the marriage of these viewpoints. So how do you unify these historically opposed, perspectives?

Emotive approaches have long been a feature of B2C marketing campaigning – appealing to someone based on how you want them to feel about something. Aspirational. Fun. Exciting. And the opposite. Conservative. Fearful. Practical.

This is a wholly new prospect for B2B brands. It’s not in the nature of a business law firm to contact their clients to redesign their customer data collection frameworks ‘before it’s too late.’ Nor is it common for tech companies to look beyond the product benefits their sales teams demand their collateral focuses on, to talk about the peace of mind a cloud solution can bring to system security. But why not? Their consumer arms do.

Be Brave. Inspire. Stand Out.

It’s not counter intuitive. Your customers are making a professional decision to buy your services, but the success of it will affect their personal careers. A failure in buyer choice could cause significant personal reputation issues, or worse.

But that should be used to show why your services stand out and are exciting, and that you can deliver for them because that’s just what you do. They need to inspire their customers so their campaigns are a success – what better way to do that than to show how exciting, ground-breaking, and thought-leading your company is to work with?

The human brain is reactive, not proactive. It makes decisions based on previous experience not because it is too dumb, but because every situation it finds itself in is infinitely complicated. So it makes decisions, and assesses it post-cognitively. If it waited until it was in full possession of the facts, it would never make a decision because its environment is constantly in flux. So you act on instinct first.

Ever booked a last-minute holiday and wondered if the hotel facilities will be out of order when you arrive, or whether it will be too far from the beach? Ever bought an automation tool and wondered whether your team will have the training they need, and if it will return the ROI you told your CEO it would? Are these different cognitive processes, or the same?

Creating true buyer appeal

You have to focus on marketing strategies that are going to make you stand out and get your leads and sales into the pipeline. You won’t do this by saying the same things everyone else is. You need to do two things;

  1. Define who you are and why you do what you do. Discover your corporate purpose by going back to the start and understanding why you came to exist and why your customers chose you in the first place. Take a long hard look in the mirror – even if your competitors choose to look in that same mirror, they’re different companies, so they won’t see the same thing.
  2. Find a way of communicating your purpose in a way your competitors won’t. Stand out from your competitors by appealing to the hearts of your customers and prospects. They need your help, and by being brave you will lose the risk of being lost in the noise your competitors are making.

Marketing people the world over have been spending the past decade tailoring and optimising complicated digital techniques without a good campaign idea that talks to their customers in a way they really care about. By gaining personal interest, they will invest emotionally in your brand. That’s harder to forget than features and benefits.

B2B marketers need to be brave. Businesses cannot isolate themselves from consumer judgement and evaluation. Their personas are converging, and whoever adapts first will win.

Contact us today and evolve your marketing strategy.

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A UK Government Minister has publicly criticised corporates that are threatening to pull out of Britain over Brexit, branding last week’s comments by Airbus “completely inappropriate.” In an unprecedented move, the public was urged to stop our ears and ignore the “siren voices” of multinational employers making public interventions in politics.

But are these siren voices an inappropriate distraction, or are business leaders sounding a valuable note of warning, a lighthouse steering us clear of the rocks?

The separation of business and politics has long been considered sacrosanct. While companies lobby to influence specific industry and legislative issues, at a macro policy level they generally aspire to be nonpartisan.

Political bias can alienate employees and customers alike, and in extreme cases it can affect the favourability of the regulatory environment and a company’s license to operate. What’s more, in our digital times an outspoken opinion can set an expectation that lasts a lifetime.

Against this context of political neutrality, we’ve seen the rise and rise of corporate values. These principles have become as entrenched as a corporate religion, a code which governs behaviour, culture and the norms by which companies operate.

Values generate followers, conveying competitive advantage in attracting customers and talent, with employees accepting lower salaries or fewer tangible benefits for an employer brand they identify with. But organisations that profit from their values will pay a high price if they fall short of their promises.

It’s no surprise that corporates have remained conspicuously nonpartisan for years, but when political ideologies are becoming increasingly polarised, the question is whether it’s possible (or even desirable) for companies to remain apolitical?

As political agendas move from shades of grey to harsh clashing colours, we are witnessing a shift towards ‘uncorporate communications’ where leaders are willing to speak out as representatives of their company to protect their brand’s core values and influence issues which have a direct impact on their business and their responsibilities to their employees and supply chain.

The gravity of Brexit may have been the first political issue to coax British business leaders off the fence in decades – and may set a new blueprint for corporate values and behaviour.

We’ve seen the rise of the digital resistance in the US as Tech CEOs have united to oppose immigration policy from the ‘travel ban’ to the separation of families at the Mexican border. Multinational companies have moved to defend not just the free movement of labour they need to operate, but the liberal democratic values their employees align with. This is a significant movement with global implications: business sirens are highlighting not only the issues that affect them directly, but taking a stance to make political change in the world.

We are now entering uncharted territory. In this polarised political environment, remaining in the neutral zone is almost impossible for companies that trade on their values as an intrinsic part of their operating model.

Leaders need to decide where their company stands on the most critical political issues, and identify the lines that cannot be crossed. The days of corporate neutrality may be numbered.

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I recently attended the techXLR8 event as part of London Tech Week, the biggest showcase by leading tech companies of technology and innovation in Europe. I was encouraged to see, that despite the economic Brexit angst, the tech scene is going from strength to strength in the UK, which is why it forms a crucial part of the future industrial economy.

Last year, UK venture capital investment exceeded Germany, France and Sweden combined. We have the third highest global investment in tech after the US and China, with £2.3bn being injected into the sector recently.

Confidence from corporates remains strong too, as Salesforce announced it would invest £1.9bn in the UK over the next five years, proving that that they believe in the thriving diverse talent we have to offer. And a few weeks ago London was once again ranked as the leading tech hub in Europe.

So it’s all good right, the market is buoyant. But what stood out for me?

Augmented Reality – Why now?

AR is talked about a lot, it feels like the shiny new toy, but it’s still misunderstood in terms of the value it can bring to companies in the future, especially in the B2B space. 

When listening to Blippar it became clear that AR cannot be considered as an extension of digital – it’s an entirely different medium and should be treated as such.

When applied intelligently, it has the power to transform the user experience in pretty much every market, from industrial manufacturing to retail and healthcare. Imagine the new and exciting partnerships you can foster as part of your AR strategy when looking to sell your service as part of the customer experience? AR could be described as the perfect storytelling tool but it will demand a new way of thinking.

In terms of B2B, marketers need to consider how and when this becomes part of the customer experience. Ultimately you’ll need to rethink how you launch the new product or service and how best to captivate your customer perhaps using geo-location-based services and new viewing experiences at conferences or events. The key message here, is to learn as much as you can about what the tech can offer, experiment and think ahead.

Transportation of the Future – Hyperloop

I’m always interested in the future of transportation as I work with global logistics company Agility. I listened to an impressive presentation from Virgin Hyperloop One and wished we could fast forward 20 years so the commute so cities become metro stops instead of far away destinations.

Hyperloops hold significant potential to become the first new mode of public transport in over 100 years, promising significantly shortened intercity travel times, lower costs, potentially transforming regions and decreased negative environmental impacts.

An example is a standard commute from London to Manchester which may take 2H 2M on a train and by road 4 hours. With Hyperloop it will take 26 minutes. It’s a similar story in Los Angeles, where Elon Musk’s perfectly named Boring Company is looking to create the infrastructure to ferry commuters between downtown L.A and LAX in just 10 minutes, down from one and a half hours during rush hour, and all for just $1.

However, what is the reality for business and the logistics industry?  The common belief is that moving containers and cargo – not people is where the first round of disruption will happen. I, for one will be looking forward to seeing how it pans out.

To learn more about our logistics expertise and how we can take your services to market, getting you heard by the companies that matter to you, contact us at hello@manbitesdog.com.

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Gender equality is having a moment. One hundred years after women were granted the vote, we have finally seen the statue of a woman, suffragist Millicent Fawcett, join the 11 men in Parliament Square. We have heard women speak out against sexual harassment with the #MeToo movement and we have tried to measure our inequality of worth and opportunity by reporting the Gender Pay Gap.

But this is not equality. One statue is not enough. There is a much bigger issue at play – which is the absence of women’s ideas and voices in society. It’s time we talked about The Gender SAY Gap.

The absence of female voices, ideas and insights is the elephant in every room: from the newsroom, where we write and feature in just a fraction of the news; to our underrepresentation in the boardroom and the editing room, where even Hollywood’s leading ladies lack parity of dialogue. What are we teaching our children about women’s right to speak?

Society has failed to acknowledge a quiet revolution. For the last decade women have outnumbered men in high status professions. We are disproportionately the experts in the room, so why aren’t we hearing from female authorities?

Humanity is facing existential challenges, from mitigating climate change and geopolitical conflict, to how we ensure AI delivers a brighter future, not a more unequal one. These are big questions that deserve big answers – which means we need to hear from a diversity of voices.

Bridging The Gender SAY Gap is not a luxury. Women’s invisibility and silence comes at great cost in terms of our own wasted potential and because we are depriving society of our valuable ideas – and the ideas of the next generation who can’t aspire to be what they can’t see and hear from us. And the consequence is that women are missing from public life. Eight out of ten British students can’t name a famous woman working in technology. Is that because we don’t exist, or because of The Gender SAY Gap?

The absence of women as thinkers and even more so, as speakers, for their organisations has to be called out and addressed. I know most of us aren’t glory seekers. We expect our work to speak for itself, but trust me – it won’t. There is great power in being associated with your own signature idea. To have a drum that’s yours and keep on beating it, that’s how we create change. If you believe in your idea, you are its best champion. Because sharing your ideas – making them travel – is as important than having the ideas in the first place.

We have a tremendous opportunity today to make a change in women’s visibility as thought leaders and speakers for their organisations. The supply of brilliant women is there: we are the experts in the room. The demand from companies, Government and media is there: organisations want your ideas and would be justifiably proud to have you represent them. Us elephants in the room are getting harder to ignore and if we want to make this year a milestone for gender equality not a just a moment, we need a surge of female voices to redress the balance.

The statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square holds a placard which reads: “Courage calls to courage everywhere” – the quote continues invisibly: “and its voice cannot be denied.” The world needs a diversity of ideas. I urge you to be seen and heard: stand up and have your say. And together, we can close The Gender SAY Gap.

The world needs a diversity of ideas – which means women and all diverse groups need to stand up and speak out. If you would like to find out more, benchmark your organisation’s Gender SAY Gap or take action to increase the diversity of your thought leaders and speakers, we’d love to hear from you. Be part of the movement: contact us at hello@manbitesdog.com, or watch the full speech at the House of Commons.

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Innovation is a term often misunderstood. Confused with simple adoption of the latest technology or creating something ‘new’, and often limited to product or service development.

But invention is less often than so the route to success. Most innovations fail through a lack of customer need, poorly scoped commercial impact, or even lack of interest or understanding from internal stakeholders.

Fundamentally, businesses exist for two reasons. The first is to solve a problem for its customers – without this, the business never would have got off the ground in the first place. Secondly, a business exists to solve new problems for its customers in the future – otherwise, the business will cease to have a purpose.

Is B2B marketing stuck in the mud?

As companies start to win in their markets and come to rely on income streams, it’s natural to protect that position.

But asking the question, “what do we need to do to remain in our current position today”, leads businesses into protection mode. As a result, established companies become entrenched in their systems, processes and cultures it can become difficult to innovate.

And while it’s important to serve your existing customers, the market is always changing. A strong market position makes it difficult to answer the question; “what do we need to do to remain relevant and profitable in the future”. Unless you’re looking to exit the market, it’s vital you find the answer to that question.

Paving the way for your businesses future

No market ever stayed the same. UPS started with two teenagers with bicycles hand delivering telegrams to people without telephones. To become the global logistics company it is today post-telegram, it must have embarked on an awful lot of innovation. And if two teenagers with a bicycle can do it, you can too.

The challenge for businesses, is how to change their systems, processes and cultures to maintain their current income streams, adapt, and find new ones without leaving their customers or market position behind.

Everyone likes to be the smartest kid in the room and own their space, but to remain the smartest kid in the room you need to do your homework. Your comfort zone is your worst enemy, and innovation is the crucial piece in the puzzle of your future competitive advantage.

So what really is innovation?

In a business context, innovation can broadly be defined as something new that improves the outlook for a company. It could be a new offering, like an online delivery system, a new process or partnership, such as outsourcing your mass printing requirements, or a new strategy which communicates your proposition to a different group of customers.

In that definition, there is one key word; improve. And to improve something you first need to understand improvement is gradual at every stage – from generating the ideas which will have a positive impact, to selecting them, implementing them, and then having them adopted, none of it will happen overnight. When you consider that, you come to understand improvement needs to be forward looking, because ‘now’ will be gone tomorrow.

And considering the realities of implementing innovations – stakeholder alignment, employee engagement, pulling together a strategic plan to get the whole of the business behind the innovation, suddenly innovation is scary, and encourages decision-makers to stand still when they need to stand out.

Steve Jobs once said; “innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower”. What’s important for businesses is they create and keep customers. You can’t do either without marketing and innovation. You need to get on the front foot – you can’t passively allow it to happen around you and expect to be profitable, and remain relevant in your market.

People and culture – the key to successful innovation

In all of this, there is one crucial piece; the resources needed to be innovative. Nothing ever innovated itself – only time and the right people will solve the creativity gap.

By adopting an innovative culture, you can create;

–       Acceptance of new ideas

–       Fast learning and change

–       Team cohesion

–       Real evidenced business impact

–       Promotion for those involved

–       Excitement and buzz around the innovation

This gives the team a sense of ownership and real purpose, so they take the reins with a mindset to strive to be better to create competitive advantage for your company.

And if everyone is working together, the positivity outweighs the sense of fear around getting things wrong. If everyone is focused on solving the same customer problem, everyone will be in a position to learn from the experience and improve the innovation until it works.

And in a time when marketers are increasingly asked to lead the way, success of innovations will come alongside proven marketing relevance and evidence of impact.

How do I create innovative strategies and go-to-market plans?

We’ve created a 5 step plan to help you create marketing strategies and campaigns that stand out and make your company famous.

  1. Hire a passionate team of great thinkers, and give them the time to fulfil their remit. Let them lead the way, and encourage fast movement. Accept that failure is only so if you let an initiative fail without learning from it.
  2. Understand your customers and the market situation, business processes and where your company derives its value. How do your services fit into this? Where is your competitive advantage, and what can you do that your competitors can’t – is this a strength to expand or a weakness to diversify from?
  3. Focus on the things that are really going to make a difference, and have multiple work-streams which allow time to think. Become a hub for new initiatives, not a one-trick pony.
  4. Build a solid and honest commercial business case aimed at all senior decision makers. Ensure it is aligned to your businesses objectives and show what it will improve, and how it will improve, with clear KPIs and data or evidence based expectations. Show the risk of doing nothing.
  5. Shift the narrative. Tell a compelling story that will transport your business from the knife-edge of the here-and-now to the blue skies of the future. Empower stakeholders to be a part of that journey.

Your business strategy needs to be a growth strategy based on innovation with marketing at the centre. Innovation is difficult for all businesses, but if you can hire the right team and make a real change, you can stand out from your competitors in a way that makes waves in your industry.

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