From my NETT blog:
What are the most important factors to consider when you’re communicating ideas to people? How do you get your message across successfully?
From my days as a journalist writing for newspapers and magazines through to my current work presenting digital marketing messages or lecturing to students, a few common themes have emerged in terms of what works consistently.
Actually, I exaggerate – there is really just one fundamental rule in successful communication: make your concept relevant to your target audience.
This is expressed as a couple of acronyms:
• WIFFM – what’s in it for me?
• WSIC – why should I care?
If you can understand what matters to your audience and work out how to relate your message to their concerns, you’ll get your point across.
This principle isn’t limited to written, visual or verbal communication messages: it extends to the communication of ideas, and can include the dissemination of those ideas through a variety of media.
Take music, for example. My favourite band of all time is the Doors, led by the late great Jim Morrison. The Doors tapped into the Zeitgeist of the 1960s with music that protested against traditional mores.
Their sometimes dark messages about love, fitting in and pushing back against parental barriers struck a chord with young Baby Boomers who were just starting to flex their muscles and question the structures of the world that they were inheriting.
From my NETT blog:
Despite working with new technology every day (or maybe because of it!), I like to collect old wares, and my idea of a good weekend includes some time spent trawling through antique and vintage shops.
A recent acquisition was a set of books on ‘modern business’ produced by the Alexander Hamilton Institute back in the 1950s. I was, of course, drawn to the volume on marketing. On leafing through it, I was surprised by how relevant much of the information still was, after nearly 60 years and several seismic shifts in marketing and selling.
Here are a few snippets from the book (with my annotations):
“Marketing concerns itself with all those business activities which begin in the producer’s shipping room and continue until the goods finally come to rest in the hands of the ultimate user.” (This is a timeless reminder as many people equate marketing with just the advertising and promotional aspects of the process. This broad spectrum definition is today even broader as digital and social media marketing extend the process past the delivery of goods and into an ongoing lifetime relationship with customers.)
“The satisfying of human wants depends to no small degree upon the personal and subjective wants and desires of individual consumers.” (This is increasingly relevant as we have moved from the age of mass marketing, which was gearing up when that book was written, to today’s trend toward mass customisation.)
“The basic law of marketing is the ‘law of convention and revolt’. A new mode of life may be created or established, but it will last only until a new style is introduced, often by quick substitution.” (When that was written they were talking about seasonal changes in fashion; now a style can go in and out with days. It’s not strictly a business marketing example, but how long did the planking craze take over public consciousness – was it a couple of weeks, or even less?)
I was interviewed recently on the latest developments in digital pharma marketing. Here’s an excerpt of the story from the HotHouse blog:
The rise of digital in all its forms – Internet, mobile, social media, online video – has fuelled the shift from selling and marketing products to selling and marketing services, as consumers have replaced manufacturers at the centre of the marketing universe.
Everything from product development to promotion to post-purchase evaluation is today built around understanding and meeting customer needs.”
This is abundantly apparent in an area like healthcare. From a product-focused sector based solely on convincing doctors to prescribe medications based on scientific evidence (and a few educational dinners), drugmakers are building portfolios of services aimed at patients and doctors around their brands, helping healthcare professionals tackle issues like patient compliance and health education as direct promotion takes a back seat.
I discussed the implications of these trends with healthcare digital strategist (and HotHouse content producer) Ray Welling in this month’sHotHouse podcast. And while the growth of online generally as a medium and a marketing tool has been impressive, the numbers for healthcare are truly staggering.
From my NETT blog:
I’ve written in this blog previously about the extra demands on your business time created by new technology. One of the biggest pressures is the pressure to publish.
Rebecca Lieb, former chief editor of ClickZ and head of information merchant Econsultancy in the US, said to me in an interview, “Brands are not just businesses; they’re now media companies.” As a result, she said, all businesses now have to think like an editor.
That means you need to stop viewing your marketing with a campaign mindset (with a beginning, middle and end) and adopt a long-term perpetual strategy.
Constantly changing content is a necessary feature of this approach. Your online presence – your website, your social media activities, etc. – is now, to use one of my favourite phrases, “the beast that must be fed”.
I make part of my living out of helping large organisations “feed the beast”, while some companies hire their own in-house team of writers and editors to produce search-friendly content for their various online outlets. But most small businesses don’t have a big budget (or any budget at all, in some cases) available to feed this hungry mouth. What can you do?
You need to work smart and plan how you will feed the beast effectively and efficiently. Thinking like an editor, you will want to develop an annual editorial calendar for creating new content for your site, as well as publishing regular features and “sticky stuff”, quirky things that keep people coming back to your site.
So what types of interesting content can a small business produce without breaking the bank? Here are a few examples..
You can be the best at something, but if people don’t know about it, that fact won’t get you anywhere.
The federal election brought home for me the importance of positioning and promotion when you’re marketing your business. The shambolic campaign and aftermath showed that you can be running the only western economy to emerge unscathed from the global financial crisis, which should be enough to get you elected a saint, but if you can’t sell your accomplishments – and you let your competitors dictate the agenda – you will be severely spanked.
Policy waffling, backstabbing and leaks didn’t help, but history tells us that Australians give a neophyte government a second chance, even if it’s made mistakes. For the government to have so many runs on the board, the election should have been a walkover. To my mind, Labor’s biggest problems were a lack of firm positioning and an inability to sell itself to its customer base – uh, I mean the electorate.
These principles also apply to running a small business. It’s not enough to be the best-in-class for service, delivery, reliability, range or innovation; if your customers and potential customers don’t know it, you won’t survive.
The first step in this process is positioning. You need to work out what you’re best at; what your salient attribute or point of difference is, and why it’s meaningful to your customers. It’s only worth focusing on a defining attribute if:
That last point leads into the importance of promotion.
You need to be able to use both modern and traditional communication tools to let your customer base know exactly what your points of difference are, and this starts with making it easy for your customers to find you on the internet.
In a past life, I worked for the 2000 Sydney Olympics writing speeches for the CEO of the Paralympic Games. Most of the speeches I wrote back then revolved around the same theme: interdependence.
The CEO would often explain to audiences that when you’re a child, you’re dependent upon your parents for all your needs. As you grow up, you learn to take control of your own life and become independent.
Most people believe independence is the end game. However, as the CEO would point out, independence is only a step along the journey of interdependence. Working with other people and developing relationships of mutual co-operation is a higher form of psychological and social development, she would say.
This philosophy was an eye-opener to me at the time. It’s what the idea of community is all about – people working together to enrich their lives and accomplish more than they each could on their own.
Despite this epiphany, when I started my small business several years later, I forgot what she’d taught me. While I engaged contractors to perform some of the work, I focused on doing as much as possible myself – client liaison, project management, invoicing, marketing and sales, even bookkeeping.
This bit of brilliance comes from Ministry’s Northwoods region (yes, we have a Northwoods region – how cool is that?). The supervisor of our desktop support team has three simple goals for every project his team works on:
I wish I would have come up with that. Simple, memorable, powerful.
I used to think about the day when I fixed everything so we would stop IT outages. Of course that is silly. Like other healthcare organizations we are adding applications to the portfolio every year as new solutions address previously under automated areas. Most of these are not core parts of the IT architecture, but they are supplemental such as documentation systems for clinical departments (e.g., rehab) and contract modeling systems.
With the increase in the number of applications in the portfolio comes complexity. In addition our infrastructure is becoming much more complicated including a more sophisticated network; changing virtualization technologies; and complex storage.
So, our IT Operations philosophy is to perform a Root Cause Analysis on every critical service interruption. Our Root Cause Analysis asks three things:
The second two questions are important. Even if the cause of the service interruption is as simple fix, sooner or later stuff is going to hit the fan. We want our IT folks to see that it has when it does and already be communicating to our customers how we are fixing the problem before they call us.
Dr. Michael Koriwchak writing for the Wired EMR Practice blog:
“And our EMR use, our quality of patient care and our practice efficiency is for the most part no better. In some ways it is worse. As a result of MU”
I can see how that can happen. It is important that we hear the skeptical and the inspiring. The post is worth the read and the author’s candor is important.
Somewhere along the way the word consulting in our field changed. Today consulting is about finding available freelancers on a just in time basis. The “consultant” is nothing more than a recruiter with a billing back office. Some consultants claim they screen the candidates, but there is no way that can be done effectively given the turnaround time to place people.
Furthermore, the consulting firms take very little accountability for the consultants they place. But, how can they when their experience is so varied and there is no standard for good service?
When I hire a consultant, part of what I am looking for is a well defined way of doing various types of work. I want the consulting group reviewing each engagement and revising their approach to work based on the lessons learned from each engagement. If I am going to hire a project manager, I want that person trained in the firm’s project management approach. If I hire someone to assist with a selection, I want that firm to have a clear written means to conduct IT selections. I don’t want someone that might have participated in one of these activities a while back and will try to mimic one the way a child mimics an adult.
Of course that means a large investment in people that develop these methodologies and take the time to train permanent staff. That seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird. Nobody has staff, they have home-based employee people working the phones looking for talent to place.
Update: In re-reading this post I recognize that it is too general. There are a lot of consulting groups that bring intellectual capital to the table. When I am introduced to a new consulting group the first thing I do is categorize them as a traditional firm with an investment in their staff, or a recruiter of free agents with no connection to the people they place.
Update 2: Too frequently someone claiming to represent a consulting firm, is really with a staff augmentation firm. There is a big difference between the two and I wish the staff augmentation firms understood this.
A couple of years ago we separated our “technology division” into two groups: IT Engineering and IT Operations. The dividing line between the two is the production environment. Any new technology is architected by our Engineering group before it goes into production. Once something is in production it belongs to IT Operations and it cannot be touched without going through the change management process.
Here is an example of the IT Engineering group doing a good job:
All IT organizations are seeing a mounting desire for employees to use their own devices (especially iPads) in the workplace. When I recognized that this demand would be huge, I began advocating to connect Android and iOS devices to our Exchange Server via AtciveSync I went to the Engineering team, who is charged with evaluating new technologies before they go into production.
To their credit they said that the vanilla approach to device connectivity would not meet our security expectations. They told me that the only way we could safely manage employee owned devices would be through a device management system that would sandbox the organization’s data, protecting it from security flaws, malware and poor user security practices. They also told me that this would only cover the Exchange connectivity use case and that any other use cases would require further analysis (and perhaps additional expense).
I was disheartened to learn about the added cost, but I would much rather surface that with our executives so we can make a fully informed decision rather than spring a surprise expense on them later.
Radiology IT is a more challenging area than other helathcare IT systems. The Radiologists (and cardiologists) rightly want to be very involved in the selection of the systems that they interact with. Many of them sit in front of these computer systems all day and something as nuanced as the placement of a button can have a great impact on their productivity and overall satisfaction. In this regard, trying to select a mutually acceptable Radiology IT system is much like standardization of orthopedic implants or surgical sutures.