A Message to the New CEO

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From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, executive turnover has become pervasive across the business world. Companies that were once unshakeable, from Microsoft to BlackBerry, are seeking new leadership and dedicated stakeholders to guide them through a business climate that is almost unrecognizable from just a few years ago.

Around the world, companies and governments alike are experiencing the dawn of a new era. Today’s leaders don’t just have an opportunity, but rather have a strategic imperative to drive step change. Mobile, social, and cloud computing have transformed customer expectations, and the time is now to lead our organizations into this new era which is all about the customer.

As CEO of a young startup that works alongside numerous Fortune 500 organizations, I’ve had the opportunity to see how a variety of different companies are embracing innovation, and thriving as a result.

Here are my top three strategic recommendations for leaders to execute today in order to stay relevant and competitive in the social media era:

1. Get Social

The world has truly become social and mobile. The new CEO needs to understand how social media has transformed nearly every aspect of business, from customer service to marketing to sales.

Customer service was the first area to be most affected by the social media revolution because companies quickly realized they couldn’t just ignore customer complaints (and praise) published on social networks. Next, marketing jumped into the fray with corporate pages promoting the brand. Recruiters too, who have always understood the power of person-to-person referrals, have embraced social technologies to find the right fit at their organizations.

Finally, sales could be the business area most dramatically affected by social. If you know what your customers and fans are most passionate about, then you can sell them the products they actually want and give them the support they need when they need it. A decade ago, that would have sounded like fantasy, but today that’s simply the power of social media.

2. Disrupt Yourself

Technology innovations are transforming how everyday people go about their lives and it’s changing how businesses work. At the same time, there’s an unprecedented pace and breadth of disruption taking place even in industries traditionally not touched by technology. Companies tapping into the new collaboration economy, like Airbnb and Uber, are turning upside down the hospitality and transportation industries, respectively. Google and Tesla have spurred car companies the world over to rethink their plans. And Amazon Prime and eBay have given every company in the retail industry very real competition in the form of next-day deliveries.

No industry is immune anymore: if you don’t disrupt yourself, then your competitors will.

3. Prepare Your Organization to Adapt

It’s critical that the new CEO be a strong leader adept at dealing with change because, going forward, constant and unrelenting change is the “new normal.” There are three ways to do this.

First, hire smart, creative people and incentivize innovation. This is an essential first step because it lays the groundwork for how your organization responds to obstacles at the ground level. Next, create the right culture. Encourage all those smart people you hired to take risks and experiment. Some of those risks will end positively and some of those experiments might not. That’s okay, because you can celebrate failures as learning opportunities and a chance to collect meaningful data so you don’t repeat those mistakes. Finally, accelerate your company’s cadence. Facebook’s mantra of “move fast and break things” may not work for all companies and services, but the spirit of acting quickly certainly applies.

Clearly, the battles will be unique and challenging for leaders across companies of different sizes and different industries, but today’s disruptive climate presents an incredible opportunity for the CEO to take the reins and steer ahead of the competition.

A Social-Media Marketing Primer Even Your Mom Can Handle

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Digital touch points are going to be a central part of almost any brand’s media plan. It’s important to understand how to navigate the digital world, particularly social media.
The problem is that keeping up with technology is a full-time job in and of itself. So don’t even try, just focus on the marketing part. Digital marketing is a small-business owner’s best friend, so while it’s hard to stay on the tech curve, you can still keep abreast of how to use digital marketing vehicles to your advantage.

 

In many cases, social media has become the brand experience where customers truly expect to connect. Because there are so many outlets available, don’t try to do it all at once. Start with the big sites first, see if they make sense for your brand, and then expand from there.

Get friendly on Facebook. With over a billion profiles it’s hard to neglect thinking about how to create a brand presence there. This is where friends, family, and your biggest “fans” come to listen to what you have to brag about. There is a cap to how many friends you can amass, so consider creating a public page that is limitless. Facebook is all about loyalty, so use it as a place to post pictures, give updates, promote new initiatives, or simply interact with your biggest fans. It’s one of the best outlets if you want to keep up with your most loyal customers with regular information they will be interested in. That is, of course, if your regular customers use Facebook, which is a simple question you should ask yourself before you begin any social media program.

Show your business savvy on LinkedIn. You will want to create a professional profile on LinkedIn to connect with all the people you’ve professionally come into contact with over the years. You can network with each other, share professional advice, and even recruit new talent. LinkedIn is all about work and working your network of colleagues.

Speak up on Twitter. Twitter is the place where you can exhibit thought-leadership in your field with others who share similar interests, whether you know them or not. It’s about having a voice in what you do, and paying attention to others who you admire. You can learn a lot about how to advance in your field of choice via Twitter.

Engage viewers on YouTube. For me, YouTube is all about pop culture. I use it to keep up with what’s going on in entertainment, which happens to be important in my line of work. If video content is something that works in your field, then consider starting a YouTube channel to create content for your customers. You can then feature this video content in your other marketing as well.

Give Customers a place to be on Foursquare. Foursquare is location-based, allowing users to “check in” to share their whereabouts or to collect special offers from local businesses. If your business relies on traffic to thrive, then Foursquare could be a good vehicle to build it.

Look pretty on Pinterest. Many brands are now just wrapping their heads around how to use Pinterest. If your customers are visually oriented and if your business can be captured in images, then consider using Pinterest to represent what your brand is all about. You can also learn a lot about your customers by viewing their Pinterest boards as well.

This is just a sampling of the bigger social media sites, and there are certainly others without a doubt. I recommend that you start with these, and then move on to others as you expand your social media presence. It’s important to use a few wisely and consistently, rather than racking up profiles that you don’t really leverage with your customers.

Also remember that any of these sites can be an effective tool to learn about what motivates your customers and about what your competitors are doing to connect with them. All of them provide “free” market research 24/7, because they are where your customers are living their lives and sharing what moves them. Learn from them!

By Jim Joseph, Author of The Experience Effect (AMACOM, 2010) and The Experience Effect for Small Business (Happy About, 2012)