Cash value of communication

Often times I meet people who question the value of a focused, operational communications strategy. The argument is that there are plenty of other more important jobs to get done before looking coherently at communications.

Allow me as a former communications professional to take a step back and look at the kind of value, great communication can unlock for a startup. I will do so over a couple of posts here, and today I will be looking at one of the really easy ones to measure:

Sales.

Normally, when we think of sales, we think it of it as an effort to get our offer in front of the right people in order for them to make a decision on whether they want to buy our solution or not. The more we work diligently with sales, the better we will be at getting it in front of the right people, the more hot leads will be created, the better conversation rates will be and – ultimately – the more we will sell.

Ok.

So what role does communications play in that? Let’s look at it from a structured operational perspective:

Let’s assume you have your OKRs in place. You know what your objectives for the upcoming quarter(s) are, and you have identified the measurable key results that will support you in understanding what kind of progress you’re making towards reaching those goals.

If we look at sales, the objective could be to launch a new product successfully, and a key result could easily be to get 200 new hot leads and book 50 first sales meetings.

Ok. Where does communication come into play here?

Easy.

When you look at the job of getting 200 new leads, you need to figure out where to find them but – more importantly – WHAT to tell them in order to get them interested, so they become a hot new lead, you can work with.

In order to know what to tell them, you need to have a clearly crafted value proposition and a wording of it that resonates with the intended target audience, so you can optimize your conversion.

That’s all about communication and getting the actual words right.

Furthermore, in order to be on the radar of your future customers, when you try to convert them into hot leads, you need to have created awareness and a presence about your startup, your brand and, most importantly, your product(s). And you need to have done so in a way that is available and convincing in a way that sits well with your future customers.

That’s all about communication, too.

Finally, when you have the sales meetings, you need to ensure that the people you meet get hooked enough to buy. They need to be convinced by those final killer arguments for why your product is the solution to their problem, and doing so in a scalable way requires not only a solid structure but also – again – the most effective words.

Surprise, that’s communication too.

All in all a focus on great end effective communications is a powerful an extremely valuable driver for driving sales. It’s not just a marketing job – and yes, marketing is communications too. And communications is not only about PR and looking good on SoMe.

So do yourself a favor and prioritize your communications efforts in your startup. Doing it right can – almost – be translated to money in the bank.

(Photo by Tadeu Jnr on Unsplash)

Bond. Jeff Bezos Bond

Amazon is reportedly looking to acquire MGM Studios for close to 9B USD.

That’s a lot of money to fork up just to get in with a shout at becoming the next James Bond. You have got to hand it to Jeff Bezos:

When he does something, he does it in style.

Neither shaken nor stirred.

Just solid.

Let’s get serious for a moment, ok?

Not only will Amazon get its hands on the James Bond-franchise. Despite my obvious affection for 007 that’s a minor detail. What’s important is that they will get access to a content powerhouse that will be an interesting competitor in the streaming wars being waged between Amazon Prime, Disney+ and that ‘old incombent’, Netflix among others.

The really interesting bit is just how important a part of the overall Amazon offering, streaming is becoming. To me at least it seems like it’s a key ingredient in keeping the Amazon Prime rundle interesting and value for money for consumers. It’s the icing on the cake. After you have eaten the cake, that is.

Taken into a larger context it seems rather bizarre by now that we have been discussing the value of content over the years as something that approached zero, when it’s becoming fairly obvious that great content is a key differentiator that makes the bundle turned rundle ever more evergreen and attractive to consumers.

People have never spent more money on content than they do today. They are just spending it with a set of very different providers and value propositions than they were a couple of decades ago.

Where does this leave the media players that used to skim all the profits?

Almost like a failed Bond villain.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

What’s a corporate CEO really worth?

Maybe this should have been posted on May 1. But nevertheless: At some point in the not too distant future, my personal feeling is that I think we need to have a discussion about CEO compensation in corporates and what good governance in relation to that really is.

Not because people shouldn’t be paid what they are worth, but because there is a discussion to be had about whether they are worth what they are paid. Fair and square.

But wait! Isn’t compensation for the CEO a matter for the board? Yes, it is. But judging from just a few examples maybe its time to just acknowledge that the boards might need some help in staying the best course.

Let me give you three examples:

One CEO proudly steps up and says that he has been spending quite a lot of time getting involved and trying to understand the digitalization efforts of the company, as it is important to the future of the company.

Ok?! You would think it was part of the job and not something extraordinary to be selectively proud about.

Another CEO claims that running a company as a CEO is like being in the old veteran cars in the Tivoli gardens; the tracks have already been laid out in front of you, and while you might think that you’re in the drivers seat, the car really runs itself, i.e. it is all handled by the organization.

Ok, so the reason you’re compensated 50x compared to regular employees is…?

Finally, a former CEO does an opinion piece about the need to reduce the gap of inequality between older and younger generations. Not only does he present old arguments as new (and perhaps even his own). He also fails to offer one single example of what he and others like him are willing to personally sacrifice in order to reduce the gap and prevent future potential social unrest.

A bit ‘meh’, right?

As mentioned I am all for paying people what they are worth. But I am also keen on discussion if people at the very top are worth what they are paid. Especially as compensation packages skyrocket year after year while ordinary wage increases for regular employees can just about keep up with inflation.

Add to that that there is also a matter of simply securing credit where credit is due; if the CEO thinks (1) he has to make an effort to understand what’s going on in the company, he’s running, while (2) acknowledging that essentially the company runs itself anyway and (3) thus procrastinating writing opinion pieces with banal truths that are already out there, then maybe – just maybe – we should start realigning where we give credit.

And award compensation accordingly.

Furthermore, we need to be more willing to dissect CEO compensation packages and be able to understand and explain them. The less CEOs and boards are willing to explain them and the rationale behind, the more suspect it will risk end up looking to ordinary people.

NB: Just for good measure: I am neither a communist, marxist or socialist. I just believe in fairness basic on data and logic. I fully support CEOs who really are worth every cent of their compensation

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Doing your homework

What does it mean for a business, a startup or you to ‘do your homework’?

Does it mean being out there, staying curious about the problem you’re looking to solve trying to figure out what potential avenues towards solving it might be.

Does it mean diving into existing research to be able to say and tell others that you know what is already out there, and that is what you’re building from?

I am not really sure, although I do think the latter resembles more of an exam, where – let’s face it – the only objective is to pass in more or less flying colors and then move on.

The problem with homework is much the same as with communication: The effectiveness and value of it often rests not with the creator but the receiver.

Thus, is the receiver has a misconception of what doing your homework really is, you run the risk of putting in the wrong sort of work for the job while still being able to claim that you have essentially done nothing wrong.

See the problem? Or paradox, even.

The sense of having done your homework needs to rest deeply within you. You need to have a feel for what you need to know, what you need to challenge and the questions you need to ask to get the answers you need.

When you have that, you can think of yourself as having done the homework. But not before.

Homework is an extension of determination. If you’re determined to get something done, succeed with a pitch or with a business or anything else you put your mind towards, you will make damn sure you do your homework. And it will be yours to define and own. Also the results.

Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Your idea is not about you

One of the hardest things to do when you’re trying out an idea for a new venture is to separate your own feelings from the data.

After all, you probably came up with the idea because you thought it was great – perhaps even the greatest since sliced bread. And now you’re bringing it doubt and jeopardy by subjecting it to some sort of validation in the actual real world.

Frightening.

But fear not. Because chances are that not everything is wasted.

Your idea might still be great. But the present application of it is not the optimal one. Wouldn’t it then be rather nice to get that insight through data, so you can change the application and move towards the iteration that gives both you and your future customers most ‘bang for the buck’?

Of course it would.

But still; the idea of finding out that your initial idea wasn’t the optimal solution for your customers can hurt and sting. Just make sure you realize that that’s ok; it is all part of the plan.

After all it is about the application of the idea – not you as a person.

If you think it’s too much to deal with, and – more importantly – you’re in danger of closing your eyes to the data and just venture on with what you originally had in mind, consider getting some sort of outside help or perspective. Someone with a clean slate and a fresh pair of eyes, who can help put it to you more gently – but nonetheless put it to you.

It might prove to be one of the best investments, you can make.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Understand the root cause

Sometimes you can be so blinded by a specific solution to a problem that you completely forget what the root cause of the problem was.

When people are facing challenges of some sort, they seldom jump straight to very specific solutions to the problem.

Instead they dwell at the problem for a while – short or longer depending on problem, person and context – and then they start looking for A solution.

Now, the ‘A’ here is important. Because it implies that most times there are more than one potential solution to any given problem, someone might have. And every possible solution is an opportunity for you to be relevant.

It may very well be that you don’t have the most fancy solution. That your technology is not the most unique. That your solution is not the cheapest.

But does it ultimately matter if you’re the one of the options who have understood the root problem best? Are best at showing empathy? Best at using that empathy to lead people in the direction of your particular solution, when the search for a solution kicks off?

Maybe? Maybe not?

The point here is not to be too fixated and even fall in love with a particular solution. Chances are that before you’re able to get that fabled solution out in the market something will happen that makes it less relevant, non-happening or it just gets overtaken by someone else.

Someone who just understood the root problem better.

The above is not to say that you shouldn’t be focused and bold on bringing new solutions to market that can change how big problems get solved for real people. Of course you should.

But it is to say that you should never forget to make sure you understand the root cause of the problem, and by doing that keep your options for viable solutions open and pursue them as you see fit.

Doing that will greatly increase your odds of succeeding and – most importantly – drastically reduce the risk of running into a dead end.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The cue from Disney+

Disney+ has gotten a really strong foothold in my household, since it launched in September last year.

Where Netflix is just a plethora of content with hits and misses, the basic premise for firing up the Disney+ app is that when you do so you’re immediately immersed into a content universe, where the production value is just super high.

It rarely disappoints. The experience is key.

There is a lesson here for the rest of us;

Going forward I am not sure the winning argument will be the abundance of choice, the lazy-ness of ‘The Long Tail’.

Rather I think it will be about the immersiveness of the experience. That we feel well taken care off. That someone has our backs and goes the extra mile to make sure that we get the best of the best.

Storytelling will play a big part of this. Storytelling that can – if you look at it with strict content lenses – move into franchises that can then again be expanded and added onto almost endlessly for the foreseeable future.

Strong, open ended narratives, where we feel at ease and at home.

I think part of what will also be driving this is a need to go more slow with some things. The rapid pace of change has been killing us for a long time, but the pandemic has shown us that a great fallback option to pick ourselves up and find our feet is just going slow for a while.

Just. Going. Slow.

Immersive experiences with strong open ended narratives will help us sit back, take a break, feel at ease and give us the sense that we’re not just pawns in somebody else’s chess game but actually in control of the game ourselves.

Businesses that can operate natively in this space and cater to that need for a greater experience will prosper well.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

When love becomes fatal

One of the things we’re constantly looking for, when we’re talking to potential co-founders, is the ability to fall in love with the problem, we’re looking to solve. Either straight off the bat – much preferred but rare – or as something to grow easily into.

But is love of the problem always that great? Or does it need to be balanced out in some way?

The questions are valid insofar as one of the key contributing factors to startup failure remains building something nobody wants. And doing precisely that is what you’re very much in risk of, when you have fallen in love with the problem.

Why?

Because you want to solve it so bad that you jump for your first idea, give it your all, get it released and then…nothing.

When you have fallen in love with the problem, the hardest part is to remain true to a good and thorough discovery process.

You need to always think that even if you think you have already figured everything out, you know essentially nothing. And the path to that knowledge runs through lots of hypothesis, experiments and iterations while working into your offering what you learn along the way.

While it is easy to say, it is super hard to do in real life. I know; I struggle daily. But nonetheless I still try to be fully aware that the best way to ultimately help solve the problem, you have fallen in love with is to do it the right way.

And not fall of a cliff due to pure love and passion.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)