Monday, 14 October 2013

5 Steps to Building a Business Case for Any Project

It's amazing just how many professionals struggle to articulate the vision of a proposed project. Not being able to project the passion, the objective or the reasons for a project can sometimes come down to simply not knowing where to start or just being lazy. Follow these 5 steps and insure you head in the right direction.

1. Establish clear and measurable project goals
Too many times, poorly defined business problems become a hindrance in progression. Simply putting pen to paper with a few objectives is always a step in the right direction. This can apply to a project, strategy, department or even a personal vision.

2. Align business and technology goals
This can sometimes be the difficult part, as this is where the breakdown in communication comes into play. Aligning business and technology goals may simply be, suggesting the use of existing infrastructure, budget or resources and highlighting the benefits of doing so. A business case doesn't always have to be about the release of more money. Just acting to a plan that takes into account the realistic expectations of stakeholders, is sometimes enough.

Communication can help share a vision or principle, which extends to both within the team and externally.

WARNING: Failing to do this step correctly can sometime create the perception of hidden agendas (An undisclosed plan, especially one with an ulterior motive [1]). Purposely leave this part out (sadly, not to uncommon) and that perception may simply be a keen observation.

3. Establish team roles and responsibilities
Defining team roles and aligning people and budget to a project's needs, not only eliminates any lack of clarity, but helps with buy-in and accountability. This also eliminates the ownership from the project manager to the team. That way people don't feel like the project manager is getting all the credit.

No doubt, we have all been part of teams where people are so thirsty for credit, they'll pick it from the easiest place, their subordinates. These are normally the same people with the hidden agendas. 

Following these steps though, will definitely help you avoid this and give more clarity to everything you do.

4. A milestone driven process with clearly defined deliverables
A common obstacle is the breakdown in the process. Be sure to not only implement, but iterate (and re-iterate when required), the milestones and deliverables. Done is better than perfect!

5. Manage risk proactively
Pointing out the risks in a business case and/or strategy ensures that you don't open yourself up to people taking the wind out of your sales and pointing them out for you. The only way to combat mistaken assumptions, and unanticipated risks, is to have a well-defined approach to them and respond to change effectively, recognising the inevitability upfront.

Support your beliefs and influence people
Along with building a strategy, creating a business case is one of the most important skills for any professional. All it means is that you have the ability to support your beliefs and influence people.


[1] - source:

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Do You Have The 10 Powers Of a Social Media Superhero?

As most of you already know, being good at social media isn’t about making sure you post to every network you dabble in. The timeliness of the response is essential, more so the ability or patience to hold off on the hard sell. In fact, here’s a quick rule for you to follow if you’re unsure on whether to post it or not. Can you actually picture the exact type of person the post will be of interest to? No? Well, stop spamming my feed and don’t post it!

Being a genuine ‘peoples person’ is all that’s required to be a social media superhero. Below are the 10 superpowers of the greatest social media marketers, above all though, be engaging, educational and entertaining.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

A Marketing Lesson From Birthing Classes

There's something about being entirely responsible for the life of a baby, that makes you do the job well...completely.

I recently attended a range of birthing classes. Other than these classes being completely frightening and teaching you how to best look after your baby, they teach you how to take care of another baby…your brand.

Ask the right questions
Something that all marketers and parents alike must learn to do, is ask the right questions. The parental class kicked off with the acronym B.R.A.I.N. This acronym can be applied to any campaign and/or new technology under consideration (as well as holding you in good stead, when your partner is in labour).

Once you have established the objective and budget, remember B.R.A.I.N!

B – Benefits: What are the benefits to the brand or department?
This is normally a snug fit around the objective(s), which should remain front of mind at all times.

R – Risks: What risks or potential disadvantages may be involved?
Risks can sometimes be downplayed due to lack of knowledge or understanding. If risks present themselves later in the piece, don’t be afraid to pull back and re-assess. Sometimes, being in digital marketing the only way to exercise agility is to – within reason – be ignorant and progress. As Mark Zuckerberg says, progress is better than perfection.

A – Alternatives: Are there any? This is a good time to revisit the objective.
We can all get caught up focusing on the new tool, but are we addressing the objective or are we reshaping it to cater for the tool?..

A classic example of reshaping the objective for the tool is when someone walks up to you and says, “I need an iPhone app”. This may be more about an app, than fulfilling an objective.

I – Impact: What's the impact or risk of not doing this or not following the trend?
Many jump on board just for the sake of it i.e. "I know social, I'm on every social media platform..." fleshing out the positive or negative impact, is a great way of establishing if you should actually proceed.

Sometimes, this point can be the most compelling, when putting together a business case. Impact, in many cases, acts as the ashes from where the phoenix a.k.a the objective is spawn.

N – Now: Does this need to be done now?
I’m a massive fan of being in the head space of 'move quickly and break things' and early adoption only makes sense if you're able to react quickly enough to reduce risk, learn and make amends.

Sometimes though, it is just an inefficient use of resources. If you know your customer and yourself, this should be straightforward.

Love your brand/campaign
I find it incredibly difficult as a marketer, to work on a brand without genuinely loving it. What keeps me checking the insights of an online campaign while I’m on a break, or checking the social feed while at home, or responding to a comment while out at dinner? Why do I take negative sentiment around a campaign or brand I'm working on, personally? Love, that's why.

Just like the love of a baby, it is not only pivotal, but healthy to love the campaign or brand that you're working on. Attend and nurture it as it requires and you will reap the rewards. This I feel, is the only way to do your job, well... completely.


Thursday, 11 July 2013

3 Simple Rules for Perfect Email Etiquette

So everyone thinks they have good email etiquette, but by jeez aren't there just too many emails flying around with no consideration given to etiquette!

So what exactly is email etiquette?

In its simplest form, email etiquette is basically how we conduct ourselves via email.

How to exercise good email etiquette

Exercising good email etiquette is actually pretty simple.

1. Be nice!
If you think you’re not going to be, write it up, save it and consider sending it in an hour or at a later date, when you have calmed down.

2. Add a greeting
Always use a greeting, Hi, Hello, Hey, etc. unless you intentionally intend on being rude in which case, simply state the person’s name. I hate it when people do that, sadly it's done too often and even worse, it’s these people who think they have good email etiquette.

Being succinct is just as important as being as detailed as required. Some people take this too far by leaving not only the greeting off, but the person’s name altogether or some start mid-sentence and you spend a few minutes trying to decode what's being said. Though there are times where this is OK, more often than not it isn’t, so don’t do it! On the other hand, people write unnecessarily long emails, which are a bore to read and are often skimmed as a result. This is normally a personality trait and after having worked closely with lawyers for many years, boy did these long emails exist.

3. Proof read it
Finally, read back your email before sending it and check spelling manually! You may for example want to say ‘your’ and you write ‘you’ and change the context completely and the spell check option doesn't always pick up on this so manually spell check it.

Match & Lead

Good email etiquette is a great way to build rapport and influence people in the work place and professional circles. If you want to lead someone in a particular direction or want the recipient(s) to see your point of view match their email etiquette in previous emails; if my psychology professor is right, they will subconsciously be more inclined to agree with you. This also works in conversations, which I love exercising. I have found, that as long as you match and lead within reason (without violating any of your ethics of course), you are always sure to be seen in a good light, in that person's eyes at least.


Further takeaways, which you may find of interest regarding good email etiquette:

  • Clearly identifying the topic in the subject line
  • Addressing recipients by name
  • Do not discussing sensitive or personal information
  • Do not sending unsolicited email to clients
  • Requesting people’s participation with courtesy
  • Do not using defamatory or threatening language

The CC field

If an email is intended as an "FYI", then the addressee should be listed in "CC". If the email has an action item request for the addressee, then they should be listed in "To" with the action items listed at the top of the email. The "BCC" function should be used sparingly, since it’s arguably unfair to the recipient who is not fully aware of who else is receiving the same email.

'Reply to all'

Take extra care when using the "Reply to All" function; it is a bad email etiquette to use this option indiscriminately, especially for messages of a sensitive nature or when in a group email. Also, if a number of people received the same email, be mindful that not everyone wants to know your response.

Declining an email meeting request

If you receive an invitation to attend a meeting, that you are required to attend yet cannot, you should consider sending a note through when declining or even propose a new time, or delegate someone to attend on your behalf. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Working on the Brand Vs in the Brand

Having now been in digital marketing for over 10 years, I've been asked many questions from graduates and people wanting to kick off their career in the digital industry; none more pressing or prominent then "Where should I work, on the agency side or the client side?"

What do you want?
In order to find your answer, you really do need to outline your career objectives, not the type of objectives you might put in a resumé, but your 'real' career objectives:
  • salary
  • experience
  • working for a desired brand
  • making a difference
  • shaping a brand's online presence
  • building a portfolio, etc.

Be under no illusions, if you want all of the above, you will have to build a solid foundation with one primary objective (albeit more of a 'must do'), work hard and work smart.

I've worked for both a digital agency for a few years, as well as within marketing teams on the client side, and I can positively tell you that you would be best served aiming to work for both, at some point.

Kate Perkins, Relationship Manager at LinkedIn says "Most people want to work client side, especially if they've already had experience working for an agency. It's rare for candidates who work client side, to want to switch to an agency."

Claire van Tonder (@clairevantonder), Senior Consultant - Digital, Marketing & Communications at etica search says "Within the Digital sphere, the current candidate market is showing a propensity to shift their career decisions to client side opportunities due to several factors such as corporates being viewed as more stable working environments; greater succession planning and more defined career paths; higher salary bands and benefits; and better work / life balance when compared to agency offerings.  That said, agencies are still viewed as providing highly innovative, dynamic and technologically advanced environments when compared to many corporations who are still playing catch up with respect to their digital platforms and go to market propositions."
Which side is more valued?
This depends on who you ask, my thoughts are that agencies give more value to people who have worked on the client side and clients give more value to people who have worked on the agency side. The grass is always greener apparently.

Kate Perkins, Relationship Manager at LinkedIn explained "If someone has agency experience as well as client side to me this is a massive value add as it enables them to have a full understanding of the whole process."

Claire van Tonder (@clairevantonder), Senior Consultant - Digital, Marketing & Communications at etica search says "This often comes down to the individual hiring manager and their self-formed perceptions and views attained through their own chosen career path and experiences, coupled with the knowledge of what is required from their organisational viewpoint.  Agency experience is certainly highly valued as the environment is recognised as dynamic, forward thinking, progressive and ‘ahead’ with agency talent gaining exposure to a variety of industry sectors through diverse client portfolios. That said, clients can be apprehensive when it comes to agency candidates attempting to make the transition to client side due to past experiences where the transition and integration from a stakeholder management and platform perspective has provided its challenges.  Largely due to agency individuals being used to working in smaller (and sometimes more decision environments) where complex, cross-functional organisational influence isn’t as paramount to execute with speed to market.  This in turn can cause misalignment and reflect a lack of business understanding in terms of process and channel fulfilment.  Agency candidates however who have previously successfully made the transition into corporates are very much in demand."
What you should do?
I recommend and incidentally what I did, is to begin with an agency, despite that the salary may not be great (on account of you being fresh to the industry) you end up working across a variety of companies, exposing you to various:
  • products & services
  • brands
  • clients
  • projects
  • tasks 
  • industries

If you simply go with the flow, the learning curve is so steep, it's fantastic if you enjoy the line of work. A word of warning though, it can sometimes be overwhelming, so be prepared to give a little blood, sweat & tears.

The connections you make in an agency are priceless, remember not to burn any bridges, these relationships will ‘shape the way you move’ as they say. Agencies experience a high turnover in staff, generally because the hard workers will either get poached, staff realise that they can be of more value on the client side or the lack of money has finally taken its toll.

After agency work, you’ll get an idea as to what sort of industry you want to work within, either way, it'll be great if you can match up to a company that is either on the rise or one that will allow your work to have the most impact.

You’ve now worked for both an agency and the client, what now?
Fast forwarding 2 or 3 years down the track, where you now have a couple years in an agency role under your belt and some experience on the client side; you’re now able to do 1 of 2 things, depending on your (now slightly different) career objectives:
  1. Create your own 'start-up' business with a like minded partner who shares your passion and enthusiasm
  2. Accept a healthy pay check from an agency and/or a brand who wants you to manage their online brand & presence.

The best transferable skills are?
The 2 most valued skills wherever you chose to work is the ability to produce a clear and concise strategy and the ability to digest and interpret stats. So, be sure to get as much experience doing those as much as possible, even though they’re not the most exciting tasks, they really are the most transferable!

Lastly, travel. Travelling the globe (if you're able) gives you a great view of how the world, business and people work. Never underestimate the value of being amongst diversity, various cultures, brands and varied consumer behaviours across countries.

find the area in which you have the most passion, question whether you want to make it a science, WORK HARD and the rest will take care of itself.

p.s. taking risks (while you can) is encouraged.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Online vs An In-store Experience

Guest Blogger: 
Styliana, Founder of White Vanilla Concepts

As a marketing manager and lifestyle blogger one of the things I enjoy, is thinking about consumer behaviour, upcoming young designers and their brand stories.  

It was no surprise, when I recently visited my hairdresser and the discussion quickly turned to business. "If you could get a haircut online, I'd be out of business." he said…how interesting. So, the conversation ended 40 minutes later, and my argument was that if you create a lasting customer experience, you won't lose any customers!

Online - the fad that won't go away
It's no secret that online shopping is trending, however shop front stores with a dynamic client experience will always have a place in retail. Every day I analyse, create and design brands for small businesses; what I have noticed in the past year is how consumers are attached to something more than just a cheap price tag and a seamless transaction.  Online has no doubt redefined our shopping experience; ABS Lifestyle (Social Trends Report) stated Australian online sales were estimated at $26.8 billion in 2010 and is predicted to increase to over $45 billion in 2015.

What I find great about the online experience with popular shopping sites such as eBay, Shopbop, ASOS, Gilt and Net-a-Porter, is that late at night as I am eating my sweet treat, there's something about just how many pages I can look though on the blouse section of ASOS - 23 pages is my personal best. 

Finding that cheap purchase isn't only cool, however it makes for a great work day when a parcel arrives at my desk.  ASOS does have an engaging website with added blogs, heavily reduced items, fashion pages, video catwalks etc. which keeps the user engaged, which is great.  

Retail shop front - here to stay
It's such a great feeling when you discover a new store and the customer service is defined by the friendliness, the décor, which has a story and just the feeling you get when they get it right, which engages you to make the purchase.  

There's no doubt, if you like shopping, you would definitely enjoy getting dressed up to go shopping and that's why shops such as Zimmerman, Fleur Wood, Alannah Hill, Sportsgirl, Provincial, Seed and Zara make the shopping experience truly a Saturday afternoon adventure! It's the type of place to take mum to choose a gift or share with friends because it is worth a visit. 

A lasting experience
The key thing to remember even when don't have a powerhouse brand is; connect with your customer by building a relationship, create as close to a unique experience as possible and of course, tell a story that suits the brand. 

Just because you're a bricks and mortar business, consider creating an interactive experience, one that fits in with your brand, things like: 
  • visual décor
  • add music to enhance the story 
  • allow customers to touch, play and experience the brand. 
  • a sweet treat to indulge in, and
  • a beautiful scent to remember

Marketing doesn't have to be too expensive or time consuming, but the key is to have a consistent story that creates a unique customer experience.

Guest Blogger:
Styliana, Founder of White Vanilla Concepts