Tactics Without Strategy

A couple months ago I asked if your organization was acting like a circus.  Now I want to tell you why it’s not so funny.

Let’s warm up with the words of one famous 8pm Warrior, Sun Tzu, and his best selling book The Art of War:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Why is it that you can have success following a strategy without tactics, but not tactics without strategy?

People like knowing there is an intelligent master plan behind everything.

It keeps them comfortable, it keeps them focused, it builds trust, and it’s never been more important than now.  With the arrival of social media and the expectation of transparent organizations, you can’t hide it so well when you don’t have a strategy.

(Side note:  Hiring talented people and getting out of their way is not a real strategy)

You might have talented people and great tactics, but if your team is not coordinating on decision-making, marketing, and communications, it looks like no one is at the wheel.

Ultimately, it leads to failure.

No one likes to work for, buy from, or partner with a leaderless organization.  It just doesn’t feel safe.

My advice?

No matter how painful or time consuming it might be, it is time to get the whole team together, come up with your master plan, and stick to it unless you all shift together.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

__________________________

Like this article?  Subscribe to “Thoughts from an 8pm Warrior” via email

Social Comatose? Time for Sleeping Leaders to Awake!

(This post is the 2nd in a five part series about participation in the world of Social Media)

Any leader who hasn’t embraced the social web by now must be near retirement or in a coma.

Either that, or they’re in China.

I don’t have a problem with 90 year old retirees ignoring Social Media.  However, the rest of us will have to learn to live in a world that gets its news and information from the internet and the millions of blogs, tweets, updates, and posts that are shared each day.  They are the mail, magazines, and conferences of a new age.

The rise of Social Media cannot be ignored.

Last year I volunteered to form the social media program for a large healthcare association. The goal was to engage the membership, improve communication, spark collaboration, and let non-members know what they were missing.

As part of the plan we began discussing upcoming conferences, sharing pictures, and sharing ideas and best practices.  All good things.

However, there is always someone who doesn’t get it.

The CFO of a large healthcare system informed me that he was irritated about this change.  His entire group of employees (thousands of people) was not able to access the association’s information on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter, but then he eagerly defended his policy of blocking all social media sites.  He didn’t want his employees wasting time.

He didn’t get it.

In reality, what he must have not wanted was informed employees, cutting edge information, reduced consulting costs, and free advertising or recruiting.  He was too afraid of letting go.

It looks like he’s in good company.

According to the the annual PwC CEO survey, only 57% of  CEOs indicate they will not “significantly change” their strategies to meet new realities of social media usage by their customers.  Even more disturbing, 10% of marketing leaders (the most educated on this topic) still indicate that social media is not important to their company.

They’re sleeping and won’t see the iceberg ahead!

Of the four types of participation on the social web, acting like you’re in a coma is the only one that I believe is wrong.

Here’s why:

So much information is available on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin to help organizations be quicker, smarter, and faster.  Ignoring this information amounts to leadership malpractice.  Using healthcare as an example, just look at these Social Media tools that are available for:

No matter what industry you work in, there are similar resources.  If you know someone who is asleep at the wheel of a department, division, or organization, it’s time to wake them up.

The world has changed.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

______________

Subscribe to “Thoughts from an 8pm Warrior” via email

The 4 C’s in Social Media Participation

There are only four ways of participating on the social web. You can choose to be:

Some people are Comotose, and will be shocked when they wake up to see what the world has become. Unfortunately, they may also be unemployed, uneducated, and behind the curve.

Consumers spend most of their time reading, watching, and consuming the materials that are made by the Creators and shared by the Curators. All three work together and are necessary.

Most have more than one role.

As part of my own development (and those I work with), I’m going to begin a series about each of these participation methods and how they fit together.  My first article will be a call for action to those in a coma.

It’s time to wake up!

Stay tuned!

Aaron@Biebert

______________

Subscribe to “Thoughts from an 8pm Warrior” via email

3 Examples of MS Tags (not QR Codes) in Marketing

After my last article (3 Reasons to Use MS Tags) I got to hear from a lot of naysayers in the QR Code industry that had made up their mind already.  They didn’t care much for my post.

Others were supportive and felt like they found a leapfrog technology over QR Codes. I’m glad I could help.  This sort of healthy discourse is why I started the 8pm Warrior blog.

Since this has been a very hot topic lately (almost a thousand views the last couple days), I wanted to do a follow up post sharing a couple pieces that I’ve had designed using MS Tags.  One of my fellow 8pm Warriors (Mary Fitzgerald) asked to see ways that my team has used MS Tags before.

Here are some examples:

First, grab the MS Tag reader for your smart phone at http://gettag.mobi (you should test it to see how it works).

The MS Tag size is nice for business cards.  We were able to go slightly below the 0.75 inch size that is recommended.  That helped us keep the type of design we wanted when designing a card on clear plastic.

As you can see (below), it didn’t have much room for a massive 1×1 inch QR Code.  With the use of an MS Tag, we could have our cake and eat it too.

In the Clear Medical Network poster below, we started off using QR Codes.  However, many people thought they were bar codes and that we were selling the posters.

Since they are free for college guidance counselors, that was obviously a problem. Our fix? Use a colorful and fun MS Tag.  (See below)

Again, here we used an MS Tag to bring this fun Insider Show video series to life with a colorful tag.  Nothing says fun like lively colors.

It was nice that the free online MS Tag creator made the tag and the instruction box. Obviously most 8pm Warriors don’t have a lot of time, so this is a nice feature.  Since just about anyone can make one, it also leads to lower design costs.  Simple, colorful, fun.  (See below)

After looking at some real world examples, check out the MS Tag showcase site to see what other great organizations have been using them.

The good news is that the 2D tag industry is still in its infancy, and you can choose whichever method you want.  Don’t always listen to everything you hear.  I was told that many designers hate Microsoft, so they will always oppose MS Tags over QR Codes.

Try both (QR Codes and MS Tags) for yourself to see what you like.

Have a great night

Aaron@Biebert

3 Reasons to use MS Tags (not QR Codes)

“QR Codes are so 2010!”

That’s what I tried explaining to Jimmy Fallon tonight when he used a giant QR (Quick Response) Code in Stephen Colbert’s spoof of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” song.

It’s time to advance.

In the era of $49 iPhones, smart phone usage is skyrocketing and leaders are trying to connect clients to their digital presence through traditional offline marketing materials.  In the past, QR Codes were the way.

(Not familiar with QR Codes?  Check out the black & white image to the right.)

If you’ve never used QR Codes before, don’t worry.  As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason to use them in a marketing campaign ever again (they are going the way of the VHS tape, floppy disk, or land line phone).

It is time to start using MS (Microsoft) Tags in any offline marketing you are doing that asks customers to call a number, take your contact information, or go to a website.  Why not make it easy for your customers to call you, connect with you, or find your site without typing anything?

Here’s why MS Tags are better than QR Codes:

1) MS Tags can be 44% smaller.

When designing beautiful and effective marketing pieces, space is valuable.  MS Tags offers us a smaller option.

Here is the minimum dimensions for each:

  • MS Tag (color):  0.75 inch
  • MS Tag (b&w):  0.875 inch
  • QR Code:  1 inch

Note:  QR Codes get bigger as you add more information to them (longer message, number, or URL)

2) MS Tags offer flexibility.

QR Codes are permanently linked to whatever is programed into the code.  MS Tags can be switched to whatever message, website, phone number, or vCard (electronic business card) you want, whenever you want.   By using an MS Tag, you don’t have to switch the tag you use on your business card, marketing flyer, etc. every time you switch messages or strategies.

It makes sense in a fast paced world.

3)  MS Tags build in tracking.

Every time someone scans your MS tag, it is tracked and made available to you in a report.  QR Codes do not offer any sort of tracking ability.  This is a huge advantage, since metrics should be the basis for all marketing decisions.  ROI is key and MS Tags can help adjust your strategy on the fly.

In addition to the above three reasons, there are other advantages such as faster scanning, more supported languages (6),  location based GPS campaign customization, and tag design customization (you can design the tag to look more like a picture).  I personally have used QR Codes & MS Tags in marketing campaigns and from personal experience I can confidently recommend the MS Tag to my fellow 8pm Warriors.

If you’re curious how they work, grab your smart phone and try scanning the two pictures on the upper right or check out “3 Examples of MS Tags in Marketing“.  Let me know what you think.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

______________

Subscribe to “Thoughts from an 8pm Warrior” via email

Don’t be Cheap, Offer Value (A Lesson from McDonald’s)

Sometimes leaders go too far when trying to increase sales or cut costs.  Here is one example:

To reduce caloric intake (and my weight), I only drink water when eating fast food.  I simply request a cup for ice water and then fill it up at the soda fountain.  Just like clockwork.

Until today.

I went to a McDonald’s with my wife and kids so they could eat and play on the PlayPlace with their cousins.  Not only did this particular McDonald’s refuse to give (or sell) me a cup for water, but they don’t even have a water option on their soda fountain for my own bottle.

What a foolish way to increase soft drink sales and cut costs!

Instead of our group discussing the great salads, tasty coffee, giant playground, and healthy side items in the kids’ happy meals, we were focused on why the heck they don’t offer water or two cent cups.  One of the mothers ended up using the bathroom faucet. I drank nothing.

I doubt that was McDonald’s corporate plan.

Just check out the #McDonalds hashtag on Twitter, and you’ll see that my experience is not unique.  At a glance, I saw that one restaurant doesn’t offer free refills on soft drinks.  Another didn’t feel like doing Shamrock Shakes this year.

This McDonald’s didn’t offer water.

Be careful when cutting costs that you don’t cut customers too.   The world is too connected.  Cups are too cheap.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

______________

Subscribe to “Thoughts from an 8pm Warrior” via email

In Defense of a 2-Year-Old Secretariat

While reading Warren Buffett’s letter to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders last week, I came across something very interesting.

Apparently, Warren Buffett just hired 39-year-old Todd Combs as part of his succession plan.  Some are up in arms, saying he “lacks experience” and is too green.  Since Todd and I share the same generation, I was intrigued by the following explanation by the “Oracle of Omaha” himself:

“Our goal was to find a 2-year-old Secretariat, not a 10-year-old Seabiscuit.”
– Warren Buffett

I want to be clear that I have absolutely no problem with experienced people.  In fact, I’m on the lookout for an experienced mentor myself.  I believe that experience may bring additional maturity, strength, and other positive traits to a person.

However, in a time when our world is changing faster than ever before, I want to caution people who focus on “experience” rather than talent and learning ability.

Just look at the last 10 years, as Google went mainstream and some of the most popular marketing tools in the world wove themselves into the fabric our lives:

  • Wikipedia (2001)
  • Linkedin (2003)
  • Facebook (2004)
  • YouTube (2005)
  • Twitter (2006)
  • iPhone (2007)
  • Groupon (2007)
  • Foursquare (2009)

The Attention Age has begun!

With New Media entering the stage, business leaders must deal with 24 hour news cycles and the collective attention span of a world constantly seeking out the next big thing.

Personally, I’m enjoying it.

I’m embracing it.  I’m learning it.  I’m living it.

Whether you’re a “10-year-old Seabiscuit” or a “2-year-old Secretariat”, one thing is for certain:

Experience isn’t as important as it used to be.

We’re all students in these new and exciting times, and the leaders who are best with creativity, learning, and vision will win big.

Todd, I’ll be cheering you on.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

______________

Subscribe to “Thoughts from an 8pm Warrior” via email

Is Your Company a Circus?

It’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow and I took her and my two kids to the Circus this evening.  At several points there were so many great acts going on at one time, it was tough deciding what to watch.

When I mentioned this to my wife, she kindly informed me that this was typical and dated back to early circus styles.  It’s no wonder most traditional circus companies have gone out of business while modern and focused shows like Cirque du Soleil continue to grow in popularity.  It’s about telling a great story.  One chapter at a time.

Is your company a circus?

I don’t mean this in a bad way.  The performers in the arena were absolutely phenomenal and I was very impressed.  It’s just that sometimes they had 12 people all doing their own tricks at the same time, periodically making a frustrating experience rather than one cohesive program.

Sound like your company?

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of my time in marketing leadership and branding, and while studying several companies I’ve found that the Shriner’s Circus isn’t the only one in town.  It seems to be a challenge for many 8pm Warriors that have several great stories to tell, multiple positive events happening, and so many good ideas.  Instead of synergy, we get quite the opposite.  We get a corporate circus.

Let me know if this sounds familiar:

  • Jane is sending out a mass email over here.
  • John is posting a different corporate Facebook announcement there.
  • Sue is blogging about something completely different than Jane and John on the corporate blog.

They’re all good things on their own, but from an outsider’s perspective it’s hard to focus on one story.  It’s like telling three stories at one time.

It’s a Circus.

This is something to think about if you’re in leadership trying to reach customers who only have so much time and attention to give you.

Weave it all together. Have one voice.  Tell a great story!

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert