European Business Reads: Digital Transformation, Leadership and Digital Ecosystem.

The new „European Business Reads“ is out. Check out this week’s selection of the most interesting articles about digital transformation in Europe, digital leaders, and startup ecosystem in Sweden.

Is Europe ready to lead the next digital transformation?

In August 2017 Responsible Business published this article, stating at the very beginning the following: „Europe should have all the ingredients for a smooth transition towards the connected age – So why is it currently lagging behind China and the US in the digital revolution?” Discussing the latest 5G technologies in conjunction with IoT, this article talks about technology beyond making our lives more convenient. It highlights the importance of its potential to address important human, economic, and environmental needs; the reasons why Europe has seemingly fallen behind in the 5G race, and the potential actions to achieve full digital transformation. Read the full article here, share in the comments what do you think.

Digital Leaders in Business 2018 – Study

Bringing you the Digital Leaders 2018 Study from BearingPoint. Their document assesses the digital maturity of 64 leading Swiss companies, 221 leading Nordic brands, 64 leading Finnish brands, 80 leading Swedish companies, 70 leading Norwegian companies, and 50 UAE companies. They summarized their findings across six digital maturity dimensions: digital marketing, digital product experience, e-commerce, e-CRM, mobile and social media. Click here and start browsing each of the sections.

Why Does Sweden Have So Many Start-Ups?

Sweden excels in promoting the formation of ambitious new businesses, on a level that’s unexpected for a country of roughly 10 million citizens. Global companies like Spotify, Klarna (the online-payment firm), and King (the gaming company) were all founded in Sweden. Read the full story here and find out what has been Sweden doing right.

 

Photo: skeeze on Pixabay

European Business Reads: Digital Diversity, Global Hotbed, and AI Pact

This is the latest in a series of weekly curated posts across the web, highlighting the news from growing European business and digital marketing environment. Dive deep into SEO and content marketing diversity, along with the expansion and growth of AI/VR/AR in the European Union, and the UK.

The State of SEO and Content Marketing in Europe

Back in 2016, Inbound came up with this, still relevant, presentation: The State of SEO and Content Marketing in Europe. On 60 slides they presented differences, similarities and specifics. Also, they interviewed 15 industry experts, each from different European country, who shared their views on SEO, content marketing, and digital marketing. To quote: ‘Europe stands for diversity for SEO and content marketing alike.’ Check it out on slideshare.

U.K. – a Global Hotbed for VR and AR.

The U.K. is becoming a global hotbed for VR and AR. It’s a fairly extensive read, filled with various links to explore, which will give you a sense of the scale of VR/AR ecosystem. From interactive maps, to researches, and examples on how different companies build their business in the industry, everything indicates, the U.K. is currently the largest market for VR/AR in Europe. Read the full text here.

EU Artificial Intelligence Pact

“The scale of investments, the scale of developments, is something that goes beyond the possibilities that one member-state alone has.” – Georgios Petropoulos. This sentence pretty well sums up the main idea behind the pact signed by twenty-four EU countries in bid to compete with US and China. They all pledged to form a “European approach”, and several ministers emphasized that the EU should agree on ethical standards on AI that could give European companies an advantage over competitors. Read the full story here.

 

Photo: Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

European Business Reads: Digital Potential and Content Marketing

This is the first in a series of weekly curated posts across the web, highlighting the news from growing European business and digital marketing environment. Check out this selection of the most interesting articles about content marketing and content strategy in Europe.

Digital Europe: Realizing the continent’s potential

McKinsey Global Institute Report states that Europe is operating below its digital potential even though the continent has key digital strengths that it can exploit for economic gains. Take a closer look at the digital transition and at the degree to which digitization drives sectors and firms. Read the whole story here

How effective is Content Marketing – The results of survey in Europe

Smart Insights and HubSpot teamed up for the third consecutive year to to gather the opinions of professional content marketers about the key trends affecting the industry and the big challenges they face in their roles. Download the free report and get access to 10 key questions you should be asking to review your approach to content marketing.

Europe’s successful paid content strategies report

Latest report from The Media Briefing on Europe’s Successful Paid Content Strategies brings insight and advice from European publishers. 15 case studies, featuring interviews with The Economist, Schibsted, Le Monde. Download this free report here

 

Photo: Drew Graham on Unsplash

When Is the Right Time to Hand Over an Online Community?

According to Feverbee, an estimated 95% of online branded communities will fail within the first 12 months. Gartner’s outlook on private online communities is a bit rosier; only 70% will fail.

What can you do to ensure your online community makes it past the 12-month mark? Don’t hand over too early.

Let’s talk about moving on

One of the most common reasons cited by Feverbee and Gartner on why communities struggled to make it past 12 months was due to a main facilitator or owner moving on.

At the end of 2014, I left my position as Head of Marketing at Paper.li to set out on my own working with other startups on digital strategy and audience development.

Because I had joined Paper.li just after they launched my hand over wasn’t a two-week ‘here you go’. It involved a long process of decoupling startup operations that fed out of one hand in order to handover to multiple teammates across marketing, social media, customer care and community. The process began six months before my departure.

What? Six months to handover? Why so long?

There are numerous reasons, but these three sum it up best for me:

  1. People are the priority when it comes to business. As a community builder, my first priority is the well-being of the community.
  2. Startups run lean with limited time and budget. I wore many hats. The impact of my departure would be felt more intensely by team members if planning and preparation weren’t properly taken into account.
  3. Going cold turkey is tough. A long lead time allowed me to handover, empower and mentor while at the same time weaning myself away from heavy online usage. Seriously, community addiction is not to be underestimated!

In June of 2014, I gave my six-month notice and worked together to handover across customer care, community building, and marketing, except for one community — the #BizHeroes community.

At the time, our team agreed it was still too early to hand over the community. For the past 10 months, I have remained in a role that I have absolutely cherished: the co-host, development director, and community manager of the #BizHeroes community.

So when is the right time to hand over? For me, right around 18 months

January 2015 marked the 88th edition of #BizHeroes chat. It also marked my handover as host and community director to my #BizHeroes co-host, and partner in fun, Magda.

It is always hard to imagine the path you will forge together as a community. When the chat launched in February 2014, there were no expectations except to shine the spotlight on a lot of great people who are worth getting to know and to have some fun.

Since the launch of BizHeroes, the community has always been ‘all sizzle, no-fizzle’. You, the community, have achieved something that 95% of brand communities don’t– success! #BizHeroes falls into the 5% club of online branded communities that make it past the 12-month mark (already, six months ago).

Make change when the going is good!

In a post on Buffer, Kevan Lee talks about why Buffer’s successful blog is pivoting. Kevan says something to the tune of ‘the time for change is when everything is running well”.

There are no real reasons or hard numbers behind handing over now, except that things are going well and that is always a good time to change.

 

Next time you participate in a community activity, please take a minute to think about the team you are a part of how you are making a difference to the people around you. The #BizHeroes community has certainly made a big difference in my life and as community partipants, I know you are making a difference for others, too.

T.E.A.M — Together Everyone Achieves Miracles

This article first appeared in the Paper.li blog.

 

Put People Before Product And Everybody Wins

For the past 20 years, I’ve worked with product companies on how to better connect with the people who matter most. “Connect” meaning to help, sell, understand or win hearts with “people” meaning customers like you and me.

When teams ask about how to create value for customers, some of the best “what not to do” examples come from my experience working in sales at a ski store when I was 17.

True story

This job was my first job, and although I didn’t know it then, this would be the job that taught me just about everything I needed to know for the future.

First day, first fail

On the first day, of my first job, I was asked to help a customer get geared up with some ski clothing. Practical is what she asked for, luxurious is what I gave her.

Jackets with furry hoods, glamorous one-piece ski suits, gorgeous part cashmere pullover sweaters and soft lamb fur lined after-ski boots. I was drooling!

I remember looking at my first customer thinking “she looks so pleased” when she spun around with this funny look on her face and said “You are kidding, right? A fur hooded jacket and a one-piece suit? This is about as practical as wearing a prom dress to kick a field goal. I’ve got a 4-month-old baby in my arms and a burp rag on my shoulder. I asked for something practical.”

Me (thinking): Ugh, Wait. What? Did she really just say that? I don’t see burp rags… oh wait. The fog is clearing… in fact, there is a burp rag. And a four-month-old baby, too. Oooooh. But, omg, did she really need to be so blunt and rude? It’s my first day.

I began to apologize and she said something like: “A friend recommended this store as ‘the best‘ on the peninsula. Honestly, I have no idea why. You are as useful as a car with no wheels.”

Ugh. And with that, she took her baby, her baby bags, her baby buggy and everything else ‘baby’ in my line of vision, and walked out the door.

Within a matter of minutes, the sale was blown and my ego deflated. Worse was that for me was that she called the friend who recommended our store, who was a friend of the owner, who in return called the owner, who then called me over to the ski area and ask what happened

I trudged over to the boot fitting bench and told him what happened. He pulled a pen from the drawer, grabbed an old packing slip, noted six things on the back of it and told me to read them aloud. As I did, he explained what each meant.

Here’s what he shared:

1. We service skis, not people. We service skis in our ski shop, but we care for people. How we care for people is what keeps them coming back.

2. Sales = people skills. We know that 95% of the time someone walks in, they are here because they have an interest or intent to purchase, that is why they get out of the car and walk in our store. (The other 5% need directions or just want to say hi.)

To make a sale means you’ve earned trust. To earn trust, a customer needs to get to know you.

Your greatest sales skill is your ability to connect with people. Listen, ask questions, and then modify and deliver the knowledge you have based on what you have learned from them.

3. Be nice. Not every customer will be a customer for life. They may just be passing by, or need a quick pick-up item, and that’s okay. A smile and professional service go a long way.

It’s the smallest gestures in daily life are the ones that people take home to share at the dinner table.

4. Be selective. Have a smile and helpful attitude to everyone that comes into the store, but know which customers are the right customers to invest longer time and knowledge in.

5. Don’t sell, story-tell. The majority of people who will walk through our doors will be interested in how a product can help them, not about the side-cut of a ski or the technical specs. Don’t bore them with product details unless they ask for it.

Use the combination of your knowledge and skills to find the best fit for your customer. And if you can do that with a splash of passion, even better.

6. Don’t be afraid to say No. There may be a time when we can’t meet the price of our competitor or we don’t have the right equipment for them. If we don’t have a product or a price point that fits, recommend them to a store that does.

People will remember you as much for the product they didn’t purchase, as the one they did.

Back to the future

Fast forward 30 years and Larry’s words are still relevant today as they were in 1983. Everything has changed since then, and yet nothing has changed at all. The rules of doing good business still take front and center.

Put people before product and everybody wins.

What are your favorite value stories for connecting (or not!) with the people who matter most to you? I’d love to hear them.

Why Your Business Needs a Community

Today, a vast part of brand awareness and business success points directly to online communities and consumer advocates shaping brands, driving growth and increasing revenue. But if brand advocates and online communities are assets that can bring value to a business over the lifetime of the company, then why are so few brands today investing in the resources needed to build them and help them flourish?

Loyal community members are known to purchase more, foster deep brand affiliations and advocate more strongly for a brand than non community members.

The sense in committing to community

I learned my first lesson in the value of brand communities when I was 17. I was working part-time after school and on weekends at our local ski shop, B&D Sports & Ski Hut in Redwood City, California. I was a cashier-sales-rental department “associate” and I couldn’t have been more excited about it.

B&D was a family-owned business. We were a Ski Magazine and Ski Industry Authorized Dealer (which made us extra special, and me even more proud) and we were known for our  ‘customer first’ approach, outstanding choice of skis, boots and outerwear, and “all help, no hype” service.  The owners, Larry, and his wife Jean, strongly believed that returning customers were the future of our business, and, that customers were people and not walking wallets or cash cows.

So while there was the need to sell our goods to keep our jobs, there was also a firm “sell for the future, not the day” and a “no milking the customer” policy in place. It didn’t matter if customers were just coming in to chat or making the mega-purchase, every customer was treated equally.

Our goal was to create Faberge Organics Shampoo word of mouth marketing, where customers would tell a friend about our personal touch to business, and the friends would tell two others –and so on, and so on and so on. And it worked. We had a loyal and growing customer base that would return yearly to purchase new products, get their skis tuned and purchase those last minute “must have” items.

Our staff was a fun-loving bunch of ski, board and surf enthusiasts (in the summer months) who got a thrill out of telling, not selling. Our job was to make sure our customers got the right stuff so they could make magic on the mountain.

There was “no tech talk” to customers unless they were begging for it (and some actually did). If that meant forgoing a sale to a valued customer because we didn’t have what was right for them, we did, and that was okay because they’d remember us for not selling them something they couldn’t use. And remember us they did! Our customers were so loyal that they’d even stop by during the week on their way home from work to share their ski adventures with the crew.

The store turned enough of a profit to pay the bills and keep a staff of 15 to 20 employed in the winter, but there wasn’t a whole lot left over. Newspaper ads (and billboards!) were all the rage, but they were expensive and there wasn’t a budget to invest. Although the idea of hundreds of new customers traipsing through the door was attractive, growing our current clientele through word of mouth,  and building the best and most loyal community of customers we could with what we had, was our focus. We weren’t worried. We had what we needed: one of the most knowledgeable teams around, excellent merchandise, snacks at the register, cold beers in the fridge, parking lot BBQs, and our secret weapon: weekend bus trips for families.

Yes, for those who could handle the 3am Saturday mornings, parents and kids could join one of “Kelly & Brett’s Amazing Tahoe Bus Trips; a 4am depart for a fun filled day to a different a different resort in Lake Tahoe. The trip came complete with a four-hour bus ride each way, music, movies, half-price ski rentals, morning donuts, after ski snacks and a discounted ski ticket.

We didn’t make a dime off of the trip. The price of the seat price covered the bus and the tickets, and this was the highlight of the winter for a lot of kids and adults who otherwise might not have been able to get to the mountains as often as they wanted. It was a staff highlight as well.  Life was good, winters were white, our customers were happy and sales were strong. It couldn’t get any better. And then, it got worse.

One fine summer day, a chain of ski stores called Any Mountain opened their doors a half mile down the road. Their purchasing power was multiplied times the number of locations they owned and they were able to offer pre-season discounts all season long. The talk of the town was all about “the store who must not be named” (also known as “the discount devil”, “the price popper” and “that store down the road”) — Any Mountain.

We were scared.  And probably more accurate than that, we were sad. The writing seemed to be on the wall. The Discount Devil down the road was most likely going to put us out of business. The fun would be over and we’d have to either find “real jobs”, (i.e: in an office) or apply at “That Store” for a job. And no way was any one of us ever going to work there.

So, we prepared ourselves for dismal sales and for our customers to flee. We figured the ones who complained most about our high prices, but for some reason continued to purchase, were already out the door. We made plans to cut back on staff and purchasing for the following season. But once the season started rolling, something interesting happened.

Yes, our sales dipped, but they didn’t dive. Yes, we needed to scale back on staff, but not by that much. Yes, our customers checked out the competition and even purchased skis and clothing there. But by the end of the year, most of them came back. Our sales were down, but for the most part, our most loyal customers stayed with us. And even better, they continued to bring friends with them, who also became loyal customers even though they knew they could get better prices down the road.

Our sales were down, but we weren’t out of the game. They could have bought elsewhere, but our most loyal customers stayed with us, and they even brought their friends. The personal touch trumped deep pocket discounts.

If we had invested our time and money in acquisition tactics or participated in deep discounting to compete on price, our customers probably would not have returned. If that is the only way you can differentiate yourself, and brand yourself, then what unique selling proposition do you have to offer?

Fast forward to 2015, and community proves to be one of the most valuable assets to a company. The tools and ways we do business have changed, but the principles haven’t. So why are so few brands investing resources in online communities?

Drop me a line below and let’s chat. I’d love to hear your thoughts.