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Archive of ‘Management’ category

Above The Line: How to create a company culture that engages employees, delights customers and delivers results

The people and culture in a company have a significant influence on its overall performance.  A company that wants an above the line culture needs to first know where they are today and recognize that culture is more than a buzzword.  It is something that impacts the employees and bottom line performance of the company.

Culture is defined by values and beliefs and should align with the business’s objectives.  A culture that forms on its own is necessarily beneficially to the business’s bottom line, which is why the creation of it must be intentional.  Unfortunately, many companies accept the party line of ‘that’s the way we do things’ without bothering to ask the why behind the way things are done.  It isn’t until employees understand the why that they are willing to give 100%.  This helps them understand what they are working towards and allows them to define their role in it.

Values have a direct impact on a person’s performance.  When values are defined and match those of the company, everyone is focused on the same goals. The added benefit is that employees can work together better to reach these goals.

Companies cannot just claim to have a certain type of culture. They need to make sure their culture delivers on what the brand promises. Only then will leaders be in a good position to reach business goals. They can also evaluate whether their culture is moving them in the right direction.

An above the line culture is easy to spot.  These are the companies where people want to work and likely receive a significant number of applications for every opening. Employees enjoy working with customers; believe in what they do, and are inspired to perform at their best.  They have camaraderie and work in a team environment.  When change is needed to stay in alignment with strategy, it is likely to happen quickly because employees are empowered by the company’s leaders.

Below the line cultures are the ones where there’s a revolving door.  Employees are stressed out and unproductive.  They are burned out and look to take more than give which results in high levels of absenteeism and brand erosion. So for those organizations below the line, the question is how can they shift towards moving above the line?


Does the Product Manager = Product Owner When Adopting Agile?

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Being a product manager in software companies has never been easy. If anything, every veteran product manager I know (yours truly included) describes their career as a love-hate relationship at best. The advent of Agile software development and the introduction of the product owner role caused even more headaches for a lot of Product Managers. Why?

Typically, one of two things happens when the development team goes Agile:

1.  The product managers are asked to fill the product owner role.

2.  The product owner roles is created in the development team and product management still exists outside the development team.

Just going from anecdotal evidence, it seems that #1 is much more common than #2. Both are problematic though. In the first case, the development team expects the product manager (PM) to suddenly fulfill the product owner (PO) role as described in their Scrum training while the rest of the business expects the PM to continue working with them just as before – you wind up with one foot in Agile and one foot in your “traditional” role and your overall workload increases significantly.

In the second case, the PM may be a dotted-line manager for the POs. I worked in one such environment, and it worked fairly well.  In fact, we wound up organically arranging ourselves in a relationship that some Scrum folks had already thought about. I’m talking about a PO team where there are multiple POs who report to a chief product owner (CPO) who ensures consistency in strategy, vision, and execution among the POs working on the same product or product line. I won’t bother rehashing someone else’s work here – you can just Google “chief product owner” to learn more.


Customer Loyalty: Determining Flight Risk

After two years of class in B-school, one thing you learn is how much Academia likes to use 2×2 models (or similar models). Most of the time, these models are more of a way to give a simple representation to help with retention of a complicated or abstract concept, but sometimes they are actually helpful.

One I was recently shown looks at the idea of Customer Loyalty. While customer loyalty is one of the most studied and discussed topics, in day-to-day business we often neglect it. Most agree that customer retention is critical to business survival (and prosperity), but then we turn around and spend more time and investment in generating new leads and potential customers. To a fault, we tend to lump the world into past customers and people have not purchased. We take our past customers for granted and expect their business to just continue. Look at the cable industry for one. Anyone who has ever had cable will tell you that the industry rewards new customers and does whatever they can to hold their current customers hostage. But yet, while we scream and yell about this tactic, we too neglect our current customers in favor of winning new business. We devote entire departments and budgets to new businesses, but do we do the same for our current customers?

With that said, my challenge to you (the reader) is to take another look at your current customers? Who are the truly loyal? Who are you holding hostage? Who is about to escape?

Flight Risk of Your Customers

This post is not intended to make you better at customer retention. The goal here is to get you to reevaluate how you look at your customers to determine who is really loyal and what relationship you need to cultivate.

Below is a two-by-two model that I think presents an interestingly simple way to look at why and how some customers are loyal. It uses Customer Behavior and Attitude to get a deeper understanding of their Loyalty.


Loyals (blue): These are the simplest to understand. These people are your evangelists. They are extremely loyal in both their behavior and their attitude. They act as referrers and offer testimonials. You goal is to push more and more people into this box, but the question to ask yourself is, ‘How many of your customers really fall into this box?

Non-Loyals (yellow): These people are not disloyal. All people are loyal. They just aren’t loyal to you, hence the name non-loyal. They do not buy from you, so their loyalty behavior is low. They do not speak highly of you or refer others because their loyalties lie in other places. Your goal here should be to understand why these people don’t choose you? ‘Do your products not align with their needs? Does your core competency not align with what they want? Or are you neglecting a part of the market?’

Spurious Loyals (green): These are your highest flight risk. They are loyal in their behavior (repeatedly buy), but their attitude towards you is  low. An extreme example of this is your cable provider. You renew your contract, but if there was a better option you could easily be lured away. Another example of this might be a fast food restaurant close to your office or home. ‘Do you go there as often as you do because you are loyal? Or do you go because of proximity/convenience?‘ The question to ask yourself is, ‘Is your customer doing business with you because they want to, or are they doing it begrudgingly?‘ The goal here is to understand why their attitude towards you is low because if a competitor identifies that first, you will quickly lose these customers that you probably currently count on. My guess is, you probably have a much larger percentage of your portfolio in this box then you think.

Latent Loyals (pink): These people have a very positive attitude towards you, but their behavior does not match. A prime example of this would be your luxury goods. There are people in this world who are extremely loyal to Porsche though they have never owned one. People believe in your product, but do they buy it? Price is not the only factor here though. They might believe your product is high-quality and great for others, but have a misalignment with their own particular needs. Understanding why these people have a positive attitude can help you better understand some of your issues with your other loyalty boxes, but the question you must ask yourself is, ‘Why are these people not buying? Do I really understand their needs?

So where do your customers lie?

What percentage of your past customers make up these different boxes?

What are you doing to understand their behavior?

What are you doing to understand their attitude?

The Good and Bad of Being a Social Media Manager

You mean you just get to sit on the Internet and look for cool stuff to tweet about?

Well, sort of. For anyone who has ever managed a social media page, I think you’ll agree this is only half-true. A lot of my job does revolve around “finding cool stuff to tweet about,” but I wouldn’t describe it as “sitting on the Internet.” Content management is hard work. Proving your business is worth a client’s time and money is hard work. And keeping from getting distracted while on Facebook or Twitter is hard work.

Many people, in my opinion, have a misperception of what it really is like to manage a brand’s social media. I have worked for a social media marketing agency for a year now, and I’ve learned it’s nothing like a personal account. When you have your own account, followers matter, but the end result is ego stroking. With the clients I manage, the end result is continued business. The stakes are a little higher.

Also, no one performs analytics on their own account, has set times of the day in which to post, or performs contests. A brand’s social media account is much more intense than anything else.

In the past year, this has been my experience with social media.

The good: (more…)

The 2013 CMO Survey Results

Yesterday at the Triangle AMA Luncheon Christine Moorman, the T. Austin Finch Professor, Sr. of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, presented the findings of The CMO Survey. The survey itself was completed in February 2013, and had more than 450 responses from top marketing executives. There were several focus areas of the survey which included:

  • Marketplace
  • Growth
  • Spending
  • Performance
  • Social media
  • Jobs
  • Organization
  • Leadership
  • Analytics

During the luncheon, Chris provided some trends, challenges and original viewpoints about where marketing is headed. Here is a quick recap of some interesting insights from Chris: (more…)

Swimming Naked

Being Unprepared in a Tough Market Can Catch You with Your Pants Down

Warren Buffett once said, “You don’t know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.” So picture this:  Everyone’s having a good time swimming at the beach. They’re all up to their necks in water and only their heads are exposed. Suddenly, the tide starts going out and exposes everybody down to their knees. No one is exempt. The tide affects everyone. If you just happen to be skinny dipping, then you’re exposed. No help. No exceptions. No mercy. You are stuck. Of course you can go into deeper waters, but that’ll just increase your risk of drowning because now you’re that much further from the shore and safety. This is not a good situation to be in. Did you plan well? Of course not. Do you have a lot of options? Of course not. Are you in trouble? Of course you are.

Now substitute the water with your business, industry and marketplace. And substitute the tide with market conditions. Market conditions could be the economy, the price of gas, our nation’s war, the housing market, competitive pressures, international situations and more. When these conditions hit, they take no prisoners. There’s no mercy. Everyone gets affected. Just look at the affect the recent housing market had on all sorts of businesses. It did not just affect the real estate industry and housing contractors, but it had a ripple affect on dozens, if not hundreds, of other businesses that fed off of the housing industry. (more…)

Web Seminar Recap: Product Theory

Real-World Innovation and Creativity Enablement

Innovation and creativity are business bingo words for sure. Even though they conjure up visions of verbose, empty-suite executives clamoring on and on, they are still critical. At the end of the day, your business grows by entering new markets, adding new products and reacting to changes that impact your products or customers. All which are empowered and amplified by innovation and creativity.

A product portfolio is like a well. The deeper you have to go to find interested customers, the more expensive it gets, and the more work you have to put in to getting business. So if you can find new products or quickly locate new customers, you continue to get the “richness” of margin and easy customers from the beginning stages of the well. (more…)

Web Seminar Recap: The Changing Role of Push vs. Pull Marketing

Some of us are familiar with the terms “Push” and “Pull” to describe the roles of various marketing practices. Even if you’re not, the fact is that if you’re involved in marketing you probably use both every day. For those who are familiar with them, you probably know they aren’t mutually exclusive, and that it’s important to use both in conjunction for your company’s marketing activities.

However, what you may not know is that in recent years the roles of Push and Pull – and the balance between them – have been undergoing a fundamental shift. This shift has far-reaching implications for those who are responsible for marketing. You may have observed a few of them already: (more…)

Measuring Customer Profitability

How does a business measure the profitability of their customers? It’s not easy. You can look at what they just bought and compare the revenue from that sale to what your cost was to make that sale, resulting in your profit. Or you could consider what long term value that customer will have with you and compare that revenue with the costs associated with keeping them as a client. Or you could simply guess (although I must advise against this method). However you do it, it’s important for a business to understand how profitable their customers are, and plan their sales and marketing efforts around that critical customer information. After all, you do need to generate a healthy ROI for your business to survive and thrive, and every customer is not worth keeping.

Color My World

A very simple way to track profitability is to color code each client. Whether your client list is managed by using a spreadsheet (Yuck! The thought!), or by using a CRM product (highly advisable), you can assign a color code to each client’s profitability level, or even just a letter or number code. By doing so, you can select out those that are most profitable and prioritize your marketing and sales activities and resources around their needs. The lower the profitability index (color, letter, number) the fewer resources, energy, time, money, etc. should you spend on that client. By managing your spending more wisely it will allow you to provide your valued customers with what they need while giving you a better return on your investments. (more…)

Web Seminar Recap: Social Media Policies

Why You Need One and How to Write It

In this day and age of digital media, the liability of the actions of just one employee can reach well beyond their cubicle. Whether you have five employees or 5,000, you need a social media policy.

On Wednesday, January 23rd social media consultant, Shelli Dallacqua presented the free web seminar Social Media Policies: Why You Need One and How to Write One.  In this one-hour presentation Shelli discussed the basic aspects of a social media policy and how to protect your organization.  Specifically, she covered how to put your policy in place, how to make sure your employees have read and signed a policy and what to keep on file, and how to enforce implementation of a social media policy to its full degree.

You can listen to a complete recording of this presentation at Select “View Event Recordings” in the top right corner.  You can also download the slides from this presentation by visiting our Web Seminar Archives.

Looking for more information on social media plans and policies? Check out our 3-day Social Media Boot Camp. Learn about social media ethics and how they apply to your business, legal issues surrounding social media, why your customer service department should be up to speed with your social media policy, how to create a social media policy, and get numerous examples of big brand social media policies and why they work.