How to ensure more productive meetings in 2012

Lots of companies and marketing and sales teams are busy pulling together their master plans for the coming year. Often this means lots of onsite and offsite meetings. Meetings get a bad rap in business because people use them to avoid work, avoid decisions and to look busy.

In the spirit of starting the new year with a bang and doing things differently (better even) in your workplace, try giving some thought to the meetings you host and participate in.

As a host:

1. What decisions can be made without the need for a meeting? Email, file sharing, web and video conference can all be used to bring ideas to life with micro teams managing different project elements.

2. How can you manage expectation, secure the best input and minimise conflict – all in the shortest time? By being prepared. Expansive agendas and pre-reading usually assist this, but how many meeting hosts actually take the time to do this thoughtfully with the end goal in mind?

3. How critical is it that all the people involved need to be there in the room? Consider who makes decisions, who influences them and who is a ‘nice to have’. (Every person in one of your meetings for one hour is costing you two hours of productivity).

4. What tactics can you employ to keep the meeting short and on point? Think about employing pre-reading and preparation, detailed agendas, firm timekeeping, different venues, removal of chairs, tables, laptops and screens, removal of snacks, drinks, burst brainstorms and action focused takeaways.

5. What is needed after the meeting to ensure that decisions made are actioned? As the host you need to decide, and if necessary obtain buy-in from meeting participants to support you. At the very least, they should be kept up-to-date as a courtesy.

As a participant:

6. Can you be bold in fielding meeting requests and demand more from the host? Reduce the amount of time lost to meetings by being a little stricter with your time, for example by stringently focusing on the positive/negative impact on project delivery?

7. Can you add value? Establish quickly if it is a meeting you can add value to. There is no point attending to ‘hear it first hand’. That’s dead time.

8. Do you understand what is expected of you? If not, ask. If the host can’t tell you, politely decline. If you don’t have time to prepare, politely decline.

9. What is your involvement after the meeting? If you don’t get a definitive picture on this before you commit, the chances are you’ll have a whole load of work to do afterwards.

10. What’s in it for you long term? What are you going to get out of being involved?

Summary:

Sure, face-to-face contact is critical but in 2012, more than any other recent year, time is money. How are you going to ensure you keep projects moving forward, keep teams engaged and keep clients and customers happy without spending too  much time in unproductive meetings? Share your ideas below.

2012 resolutions and commitments

Seth Godin explained yesterday the importance of commitment. To me, making a commitment and making a resolution are different – commitments are long term, new year’s resolutions by their nature are short-lived and likely to fail.

And Marc and Angel Hack Life offered great advice on ways to achieve better balance, productivity and all round well being in 2012.

What do you want to achieve in 2012? Do you shoot small (realistic, in the niche) or reach for the skies? Whatever your resolution, it needs commitment, otherwise it is an empty self promise destined for failure.

For what it’s worth and to give me something to check back on through 2012, here are mine.

1. Create a blog (and wider online brand) for The Marketing Assassin that adds value to the people that come across it and come to rely on it. Facebook page? Linkedin group? YouTube channel? Slideshare page? Downloadable free and paid  content? Yup, all in time.

2. Write 150 blog posts here in 2012 (that’s 3 a week). All, more provocative and hopefully more useful than the 330 which have gone before. (Helpfully, WordPress has just kindly sent me some killer statistics on what my readers like!)

3. Publish a book. Expect it by the middle of the year. The topic and platform you’ll have to wait for. There will be deal for subscribers, contributors and fans.

4. Build profile as an authority on digital and integrated B2B marketing at conferences and seminars throughout 2012.

5. Secure additional blog and column writing opportunities on digital and integrated B2B marketing.

I hope you join me for the ride. And I hope you can share the ride with people who you are in turn riding with!

Let’s make it a year to remember.

Links worth a click #16

Some informed reading to kickstart your week. Better late than never!

First up, a beginners guide to setting goals in Google Analytics.

If you’re in the client service game, getting to know your client is critical to long term business success. Here are ten useful tips.

Are you working with your social media super influencers?

If like me you’re writing a blog, here are some tips  on building a blog that might be bought for big money in the future. 

Is Google+ credible competition for Facebook? The numbers speak for themselves.

Finally, 17 great examples of content visualisation in action (that’s infographics to the layman).

Is honesty always the best policy?

Depending on your point of view, Top Gear host and Sunday Times bestselling author Jeremy Clarkson is either speaking honestly or offensively striking at your fundamental beliefs.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HJP0WXyeaA&w=640&h=360]

 

What he did achieve this week was to put discussion of the public sector strikes over pension reform right at the heart of the news agenda – and as the first question on the BBC’s Question Time. Though he was claiming to extol ‘balance’, he rather hinted at his distaste for the strikes, at a time when everyone in the economy is being forced to make sacrifices. In that moment, he was being honest, and because people didn’t like it, his contract with the BBC is now apparently at risk.

Apply this thought process to business. Does it pay to be honest? In an extreme case for not, Gerald Ratner derided his own jewellery only for the company to go to the wall.

Interestingly, Seth Godin wrote a seminal text a decade or more ago called All Marketers are Liars which amongst other things laid the foundations for value-based story telling in marketing rather than seductive feature laiden selling. Who are the modern proponents of this approach and what can we learn?

Name some brands that are held in high regard for being honest. Innocent? Virgin? Dove? Apple? Zappos? Why?

And name some that perhaps aren’t. British Gas? BT? Sky? United Utilities? Comet? Again why?

The point I’m trying to make is that I think there is a place for honesty in marketing. Not enough companies strip themselves bare and deliver it. Too much talk about total integrated streamlined efficient solutions. Too much broadcast, too little engagement.

Honesty has to be sincere, genuine and prevalent through all levels of the business, embodied in all employees, and present at every customer touchpoint. Brands that spend thousands (even millions) of pounds convincing customers how great they are, only to deliver late, install incorrectly and then take days to put things right (Comet this very week), can’t claim reliability and service as a virtue.

So, is your business writing cheques that your people and processes can’t deliver on? What can you change to better reflect your strengths and customer value?

B2B social media case study: BASF chemicals

Whilst conducting some research into social media uptake in the speciality chemical sector, I happened across a great slide deck that outlines how chemicals giant BASF goes about it.

With a dedicated social media manager and senior management buy-in, this is about as socially emersed as B2B marketing gets.

Slides of particular relevance to me include

[Slide 4] The statistics that support why they engage on social media

[Slide 11] How different tools and platforms like content, dialogue, news flow and aggregation are used separately and together

[Slide 14] How it is all brought together as a social newsroom (FirstDirect also doing this)

[Slide 17] How to use call to actions on Facebook


Sometimes we have to see how the big boys do it, in order to take the best from it. We may not all have the resource to bring to bear, but the attraction of social media for the smaller B2B firm is that, like most digital marketing, it doesn’t take a lot to stand out from the crowd in your sector.

Play to your strengths, identify your niche and above all, add value to the people of most interest to you.

NB: Note to RSS/email subscribers, a Slideshare is embedded which may need a trip to the blog to view in full.

Links worth a click #15

A week with some great online content, tips and tricks.

PowerPoint as content: PowerPoint gets a hard press, in and out of meetings. But, used correctly, it can be turned into social media gold. Have a quick read of this blog post and see what ideas it sparks for you and your customers.

Business blogging: Here’s a piece for those amongst you managing or considering blogs, a list of ten great things to include in your thinking.

Some useful advice next on designing paid search (pay per click) campaigns that deliver.

Apparently, it’s no longer six degrees of separation when it comes to human relationships. According to Facebook, its 800m users give you access to anyone in the world (if they are on Facebook) in only 4 hops.

Using video? You should be. And it should be optimised. Here are some tips on how to optimise online video, with a natural focus on YouTube.

More next week. Happy Thanksgiving, Black Friday shopping weekend!

Business blogging – my post for Smart Insights

My latest effort for the influential UK digital marketing blog, Smart Insights went live today. In it, I offer a dozen ways to kickstart your blog writing – which should help ensure you never run out of things to blog about ever again.

The highlights include:-

1. Solve an industry problem.

2. Use data to make your point.

3. Comment on breaking news.

4. Be provocative.

5. Provide a resource list.

6. Focus on keywords.

7.  Use existing material.

8. Report the news.

9. Write a round up.

10. Write up an event.

11. Write up a case study

12. Offer guest posts.

For more detail please visit the blog post and also click on my name to read my previous B2B marketing related posts on social media for business, email marketing, using video in B2B and two posts on Facebook, one on how to use Facebook for business and one with lots of relevant Facebook business case studies showing best practice.

From destination social to dispersed social

A great little deck from Patricia and Steve at The Social Practice in London looking at ten trends in social media – or more acutely how social media is evolving from a destination to being everywhere.

As mainstream ubiquity gives rise to mobile commerce, sharing, liking, scoring and polling on the move, social businesses push the boundaries.

Baffled? Don’t be. The slides lay it all out. One thing is for sure. The soothsayers who predict the demise of social media as marketing return on investment folly haven’t got a clue.

 


In b2b marketing, the only way is content

Amy put her shirt on the only way being Essex and lost

It’s amazing just how few B2B companies really understand the significance of inbound, content marketing. Culturally, it seems absurd to not only give away your best ideas and approaches for free but also potentially to your competition too.

Yet smart B2B marketers appreciate that there is no other way. If you want to be seen as an expert, an authority, someone to be trusted, it goes without saying that spamming everyone with interruption based advertising and direct mail is no longer going to achieve those goals.

The web is awash with advice and best practice on how to stimulate engagement. Engagement is the buzzword, the future of all relationships in the next generation. Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are very different businesses, operating different models but with the same engagement strategy at their core. Engaging audiences at a time when attention span is at an all-time low partly because of technological advancement is a challenge with a lucrative prize.

But isn’t engagement actually the result of a process that looks to disseminate (transmit) useful information to target audiences (touch) which over time encourages them to believe you can help (trust) before then taking the obvious, and critical, step of taking an action which will lead to a single, or preferably multiple, purchase (transaction)?

It is now possible to map how everything you do from a content perspective delivers against tangible outcome-based measures whilst supporting your mission of being the go-to provider.

So, if you’re not going to transmit, touch, build trust and encourage transaction, what are you going to do?