The importance of market research for businesses starting out or moving up, including small businesses is down to the fact that the data that research provides, is at the heart of much of what you decide to do with your brand. How you pitch your offering, your messaging, how you articulate your purpose, the methods you use to project certain perceptions, these all depend on knowing our market and the prospects who people it.
Setting off on a brand development adventure to ascertain your positioning without market research is analogous to setting off on travels through the Sahara Desert without a compass. You might try it but you really should not.
You might understand the importance of developing a brand and also for having a brand strategy to steer your business through choppy waters but it is equally important to know that it is complex and in-depth work that should have a basis in facts and numbers and not just supposition and wishful thinking. Empirical evidence is not only good for confidence but it actually gives the power for great decision making.
What is Market Research?
Market research is a tool, a knowledge base, a marketing, planning and brand development stock in trade that enriches the process of brand definition and sharpens the resulting brand’s effectiveness and the desirability and efficacy of the offerings your business provides. You find and collect information, insights and patterns that expose the potential desires and unmet needs of customers as well as their attitudes and habits. If you remember that businesses like Google and Facebook trade in data about you and me, then you must realise the value of data like that.
Regular market research helps your business grow and continue to grow. It helps your business take stock of shifts and changes in the market place and identify trends and threats in the operating environment. It’s a real risk not to do it because it helps you continue to understand and refine your knowledge about your target market and improve your ability to speak their ‘language’. It means that you can pinpoint problems and possible opportunities and uncover competitors operating in gaps you were not aware of.
What should be the scope and objectives of your market research?
Market Research is famously divided into primary and secondary research types.
Clarity on what it is you want to know about the market at the stage of the business life cycle you are inhabiting determines this, as well as the type and mix of techniques you might employ.
Primary market research focuses on collecting unique data about a business and target customers to use to enhance your offerings and relies on getting as close to the customer or prospective customer feedback or behavioural data from their interactions and transactions with you, like how effective sales is, how effective your sales channels are etc.
Secondary market research is conducted at a remove from the customer and their direct behaviours, feedback and reports, being derived from readily available and compiled from a range of sources.
With primary research, you focus on data and metrics for:
You focus on the following with secondary research:
Published company reports data
Industry and sector-specific data
Government data and sector reports
Third-party surveys and studies
News and social media reports, reviews and the general themes shared in forums etc.
Things to Remember
It’s important to ascertain when you start a market research process what data is required, why and by whom, whether similar research has been performed, especially recently and try to mine it or adapt it to your requirements. This may mean that you do not need to carry out your own primary research but if it does, it is instructive to define how and who with. A hypothesis or general idea about the broad nature of the target market is also needed.
10 Reasons You Must Have Market Research
Start your business or relaunch it on a stronger footing
Compete with established competitors who are confident and slick because they’ve got market research insights you don’t
To differentiate and diversity
Learn about the customers you want, the customers you’ve got and the potential customers you’re missing – extend your line or offerings
Know and undermine your competitors by identifying opportunities in performance, pricing and promotion
Make informed decisions
Test new offerings and markets
To speak to your prospects in a language they understand and build brand love and loyalty now and forevermore, Amen.
Bridge the Knowledge Gap with Market Research
Businesses that engage in regular market research grow faster and are more successful than competitors who do not. This is why market research is not just for new businesses and is especially precious for small businesses and professional services businesses that face intense competition. When it comes to defining a customer experience that can give you an upper hand in retained USPs, market research is critical for the data needed to design it,
How a Software Engineering Mindset Could Break the Spiral of Failure
Software engineering cultures have created many of the solutions and applications without which our lives as we know it, just wouldn’t be possible, just wouldn’t work. So it’s easy to see that the outcomes and impacts of software engineering can and do change the world.
From Netflix, Google to Facebook to Microsoft and Apple, we are surrounded by the brilliance that software engineering can engender for the world. They give the lie to prevalent software engineering personality tropes too. Software engineers come in all shapes and sizes but speaking as someone who is natively a software engineer and who manages teams of them, the one trait they all share is overriding respect for striving and for solving.
Yet we hear of IT programme after IT change program that fails deplorably, irredeemably.
I am very fortunate at this point in my career to be working in an excellent team of leaders who demonstrate just this mindset, with those leading us having a clear-eyed understanding of what compromises must never be attempted while fostering, even insisting on innovation. But I have at times worked in somewhat different environments and since COVID, the number of ex-colleagues in a vast array of other sectors who are reporting a scale of problems that my prior experiences have made me very able to sympathise with and my musings about them have led me to write this article.
The normal structure of a program is that the engineering team is a team or teams within a larger program management construct that adhere to a discipline with a set of rules and structures within their internal teams while other rules obtain externally.
The Agile movement aims to bridge that divide and does to an extent ameliorate some of the most important issues – specialist to generalist functionality, working at purely unitary levels, poor communication, delivery focus and iteratively built small linked component – but it’s simply not enough as we see in the sheer number of rather large and impactful failing projects.
Software Engineering Mindset is only for Software Engineers – or is it?
One of the reasons, I think, we see problems often is that there is a perception and it is certainly the practice, that an engineering mindset is only borne by software engineers. In fact, it would make sense if all the people involved in delivering a project were aware of and adopted a software engineering mindset especially when critical decisions need to be made. Now, even when we can get project managers and business analysts and other non-engineers on the team to adopt a software engineering mindset, those responsible for governance – sponsors and executives who naturally focus on constraints like budget and time over arguably value and expediency rather than engineering tenets that will deliver an almost guaranteed result, also require a software engineering mindset when it comes to developing solutions.
As Chinenye Ikwuemesi lyrically describes (I want to be the software engineer in that article if I am not, don’t you – even if you’re not even a software engineer!) in her article, software engineers seek to solve problems with precision, elegance and style – it’s got to be fit to solve the problem. There are rules for engineering but problems do not respect rules – their very unpredictability is why the rules and discipline of engineering matter so much. We can harness the wind and bend steel and change the direction of a seemingly unstoppable force given enough motivation and resources to engineer a solution. The one casualty of this might be time. But when it comes to real-life projects you can run the risk of being pennywise with time – gain a few seconds on the project to lose days, months and years in business as usual. Save $0.5m a half here and there only to spend $10m there on gaps the engineering might have plugged.
There is a constant tension between the engineer’s need to take the time required to actually do the work and solve, and the executives need to shave off time and money where they think it’s possible and justifiable. There is an uneasy tension between what engineers may believe is justifiable and what sponsors believe is. In my role, I feel this tension keenly. The manager that I have to be, understands the pressing constraints while the engineer in me is resigned to the fact that certain things and processes will take as long as it takes, even while casting about for new approaches and considering other possibilities and running these equations in parallel in the back of my mind.
Equivalents of Real Engineering Compromises in the Real World
It’s a queer thing. Nobody as far as I know, and I do hope this is the case, asks surgeons to close up patients before the operation is complete to save time or to leave implements in the patient to save having to dispose of them or having to wash and sterilise them.
Nobody asks pilots to do whatever is necessary to reduce the length of a flight if the plane is only capable of doing a certain speed and the rules of time and space will not bend to his ready pilot’s charm, however much money it might save.
Even on the erstwhile Concord flights, the calculations do not change – the plane’s capability might. So what do they do? They do what is safe and what is sustainable. They work around the fact that reaching a destination requires a sometimes undesirably long, arduous and expensive journey, and accept asymmetries. Getting passengers off halfway through the flight to trudge through the Sahara desert to save on fuel is not an answer to any conceivable question. Yet this is analogous to what is sometimes required of engineering teams.
A Software Engineering Mindset and Sustainability
Again, what is sustainable? What is the realistic timeframe to find a solution, build it and implement it? In recent years, bridges built in substandard ways to save money have just…. given up and caved in beneath cars and on top of the unwitting people below leading to lost lives; rail tracks built with substandard materials or practices have buckled and created disasters.
Problem-solving is in its way, precise, as long as you understand the problem. You put this here and that there and pull that down over there and it’s a kite or a plane.
If you take a Jenga mindset when a software engineering mindset is called for, it all falls down.
Yet people seem content to make and accept these compromises in the interest of saving time and money.
The ‘CEO Horizon’ Factor
Look, in some places, a CEO or an executive comes in for a few years – he has to make his mark in about 5 years and is judged on these same efficiencies highlighted above, that give birth to monsters of inefficiency through multipliers in several aspects of the business. But it might never be that CEO’s problem. Another CEO will have to ‘transform’ their way out of it but is likely to fall into the same pitfalls. And the wheel turns, and over and over again, we make unsustainable software, decisions and workplaces.
The Scourge of ‘What might have been’
The true horror lies in the fact that the time and money being saved is a pittance compared to what might have been saved and what might be achieved if the solution is allowed to be fully realised. Somebody has to mind the pennies, sure, and people’s productivity can be improved with goals, leadership and some chivvying but sometimes, we chip away at the wrong things.
Software Engineers tend to have a simple guiding purpose to find the innards of the actual problem – the root cause if you will then worry at it till it reveals the kernel at the heart of the seed that grew that root; then they need to figure out how to grow a better tree. All engineers have the same drive in whatever field you find them, It’s how we are built. Doing this over and over leads to mastery and given autonomy, good engineers will rebuild this world for the better. In the meantime, they can certainly build the solution your organisation needs given these enablers.
What is a Software Engineering Mindset
The software engineering mindset is purely about the willingness and motivation to solve problems, to be interested in all the pieces of the puzzle, how they fit together and the parts you can’t see or understand yet.
It is about awareness, knowledge and interest in a range of tools and technology to survey the full spectrum of available possibilities to plug gaps, and attempts to find applications that can prise open an enigma when nothing else has worked.
It’s about a mind that can roam outside of the confines of the problem to find an application from another context that may be applicable. It speaks to truly caring for the impact of what you create or fail to, and dedication.
It’s about daring, it’s about creation, it’s about solving.
A software engineering mindset refers to knowing how your best solution for a component will work, fit and integrate with the rest and understanding that if at any of these levels it fails, it is suboptimal or ensuring you have some options to address those failures.
A software engineering mindset is obsessed with the overall architecture and takes a global view of problem-solving in the context of the solution. It knows and understands areas directly outside of its own sphere and control, understands the dependencies and risks that arise when you pull a component out of the whole.
A software engineering mindset never loses sight of the problem we are trying to solve as-a-team, and never stops burning to find a real solution. A software engineering mindset is not just for engineers. Finally, a software engineering mindset recognises that we are in the capability business – we deliver power and capability to make the things that were defined as necessary, desirable and high priority, happen. It’s a great example of systems thinking.
This mindset is unlikely to produce a specialist ‘MichaelAngelo’ type of engineer who while they may build a single large product of immense brilliance over a long space of time is unlikely to work on a project team.
Themes of the Software Engineering Mindset
Good cultures if they worship anything, worship excellence in what is created not the creator. The latter creates cults which as we have seen can get toxic very quickly. Good cultures strive for excellence; great cultures get the freedom to attain it and do not hog the credit.
Good cultures know the best engineers and programmers are creative and honest, they value innovation and do not stifle it with bureaucracy; great cultures foster and mobilise the innovatory muscles with great leadership and vision. Leaders with the power to do so should be focused on getting their engineers everything they need to succeed instead of removing pillars of stability or force them to compromise on big important parts of the solution. Actions and risks should be mapped to the specific part and power of the solution that is affected. This means a non-engineer leader can appreciate the impacts of varying a sprint or backlog schedules and the like.
See the Whole Picture
Ultimately, in a delivery team no matter how large or small or how they are structured, all sub-teams have the same goals, and it’s important to reinforce this through communication, a team ethos and building a culture that is based on adopting a software engineering mindset across the board and implementing processes and structures that support and strengthen this at every level. If the focus remains on identifying with great clarity and then keeping the focus on the exact dimensions of the problem, even while everybody is working on separate parts of it, the chances of success are far greater.
The Purpose and Importance of Having a Brand Strategy
There are so many reasons why you need a brand strategy, whether you are a start-up or an established business recognising the importance of a long term plan to establish a strong brand presence in your business landscape.
By developing brand strategy, a business defines and puts in place a plan for creating, building a brand to be wholly resonant with the capacity to connect and engage the business’ the emotions and needs of the target audience, through discovering and harnessing its purpose, formulating and underpinning a certain perception in their minds, linked to the business’ tangible and intrinsic qualities as perceived in the products, services or both and its delivery and discover a path to defining, delineating and owning a position in the mind of their target audience. The promises and personality evinced through these elements are also indispensable anchors to the brand that the work of defining brand strategy for your business seeks to realise and establish.
The purpose therefore of defining a brand strategy is to encode the plans and processes to enable the business to be differentiated and successfully compete, grow and be sustainable over time. It should drive how the business operates, how it sounds and presents, enable clarity of its purpose in its practices.
Bridging the Strategy-Operations gap
A well-defined brand strategy provides a powerful basis for building the brand and it takes work and it takes time. It requires range and control. It is important when solving short term problems, like undertaking a business or technology transformation, that the long-term goals and drivers of the brand strategy are not lost, squandered or ignored.
As with all strategic vehicles, the brand strategy may sit uneasily with the tactics driven activities the business will undertake within marketing, IT and operationally focused improvements that require project management and analysis, leading frequently to a phenomenon I call ‘ solving in siloes’ which has the tragic net effect of eroding the brand’s strategic imperatives.
This especially important when the brand is seeking growth or has acquired what will amount to sub-brands that may need to be subsumed under a Masterbrand if the risks of cannibalisation can be mitigated.
What Brand Strategy is Not and the Pivotal Role of Research
Brand strategy is NOT your branding collateral- getting your logo and slogan together does not cover it. Brand strategy and the work that it is based upon should ideally lead your branding or rebranding efforts because it should be based on research, on data, on feedback from the kind of people you hope to influence to like and buy into your brand. First, you must get into their minds and let your strategy be driven and dictated by them.
Once this research has been undertaken and a greater understanding of the customer are obtained, the brand’s story and primary message can be crafted upon which your marketing campaigns can be based.
Defining strategy helps to discover who your customers are, help to define what your business goals are and what your brand’s purpose should be. Knowing these makes your messaging far more compelling because you are speaking exactly what they want to hear directly to the very people who need to hear it. It’s powerful.
Interestingly enough, the brand strategy also can and should define your business culture and employee experience.
Brand strategy helps determine the sentiment you should aim for when defining the brand experience to ensure that it is end to end, that the components that build and assure it and shored up, reflected and echoed across all parts of the business, for the purpose to remain authentic and borne out. This makes it so important that in any initiative of note within the organisation, the brand strategic objectives of the business are always kept in focus.
Brand Strategy as Story
Aspirational branding, strong branding effective branding all have this one thing in common. They depend on and are built around the story and take time, research, data to flesh out the inputs to the components of that story. The story needs to move people. It needs to inspire them and give them a belief system around which their entire experience with your company revolves.
Your story is the big idea that encapsulates your purpose, promise and perception, and from which your messages, personality and marketing campaigns are derived. The story your strategy makes must make and strengthen the connective tissue between your brand’s messaging that elicits the emotions and beliefs in your customers that you want.
The purpose of branding ultimately is recognisability and recall-ability both of which depend on some factors that denote remarkability – characteristics that do not rise off just a 2-dimensional flat logo anchored to no big ideas and no great story.
What? What does Digital Transformation mean for my business?
Digital Transformation (or digitrans) could mean the turning point for your business capability and even brand transformation, depending on the challenges you are facing and your strategic vision. There is no doubt it could help to mobilise your business vision more completely and rapidly.
Your business is the sum total of your business model, your operations and functions, your people and processes, your communication channels and your customer experience, the latter of which is growing in importance because customers can give a report and running commentary of their experience of your brand experiences through several digital and social touchpoints. This is why adopting digital transformation has brand transformation potential.
Digitrans is essentially about finding and utilising new or additional ways to get your value proposition to your customer, get more of their disposable income out of their pockets, ideally beyond the sums or percentages allocated for that commodity or service.
How can you get more out of the same products using new delivery channels while minimising the complexity of final handoffs responsibility and finally reducing the risk of a break with brand values, process and quality assurance? These are some core questions digital transformation can help you to answer from companies recognised as the right people to help you do just that.
Ideally, these processes should get you economies of scale and efficiencies but they may not always do so and that should be acceptable because transformation should deliver business over and above the volume that may otherwise have been realised through understanding the customer and we do this through data.
While you may be thinking about the large transformation pieces, your digital journey should start with a solid online presence that seeks to exploit new technologies in a way that delights your customers – think experiences – like opportunities to utilise Augmented or Virtual Reality (AR/VR) on or through your websites – websites that are powerful and go beyond the informational and are part of your long term digital strategy. Yes, there must be a focus on excellent aesthetics and it must incorporate your sharp and scintillating branding, but it should go beyond branding to function and fitness for uncovering and delivering the needs of the customer.
Operational, Capability and Culture Paradigm Shifts
Digitalisation encompasses a shift from native desktop apps and infrastructure accessed, hosted and delivered through the cloud, with the associated training that would be required. The cloud base opens up opportunities that would not have existed prior. Digitalisation also opens up a whole new mining world for your data – analytics has truly come into its own with insights and instructive aspects and decision-making rendered easier by the capability to shore up, shape and interpret data, with the right tools, of which there is a proliferation. A structured review based on requirements and proof of concepts should be employed to help make the decisions and improve competitive positioning.
The allure of AI and IoT is increasingly validated by the fact that they no longer present the epic investment profiles they did just a few years ago, and so they are more accessible. Corporate culture paradigm shifts are under review in many areas, not least for rendering viable innovation ecosystems and this should take into account the mind-set elasticity required for transformation as a whole. Legacy systems present a challenge but integration or replacement through new software development from people who really know what they are doing and who create ‘fit’ software, can help to bridge the literal gap that exists between what obtained in the past and the future your business deserves.
Mobile working, file sharing and collaboration tools that enhance co-operation also allow timely, productive and efficient and transparent processes to reduce duplication and increase access to colleagues and stakeholders, Taken together, these processes represent a massive change in the ways of working and all promise increase in productivity.
Why? Reasons to undertake Digital Transformation
Established companies are undertaking business transformation programmes increasingly, and these should incorporate strategies for digital transformation and the business cases should be not be considered complete unless and until digitrans is embedded through all change deliverables and target operating models.
You get on-tap, direct, true to touch access to your consumers and the ability to reach and influence them through several touch-points, so the CX Remodel that your company should undertake as part of its transformation begins with digitrans.
Risk IT response systems are an important business capability, as is reviewing improvements and implementation of redundancy to promote robustness of systems. The adoption of cloud computing, is a primary dependency for digital transformation, as is enhanced security due to operating through the cloud and improved controls in operational protocols.
The biggest ‘why’ of course, loops back to your brand. Everything that gives your business power, life and increases business capability and ease of accessibility for your customers and supplier improves your brand indisputably.
How? Considerations for implementing digital
The ‘how’ of digital transformation is mostly rooted in technologies which enable and create these new channels and the access and capability to make things happen. Digitrans will not answer the long term wisdom of any strategies adopted but will reflect those strategy decisions in terms of what is prioritised; it cannot prove or authenticate the direction of the business. That is a brand purpose query but it would certainly help you find new ways to deliver the value you currently provide and help you find and assess new and suitable opportunities for brand transformation.
External pressure and internal exhortations to adopt digitrans are valid but it must be borne in mind that an exercise of this kind, should form an integral part of transformation strategies as a whole and focus on the embedded business capability to change and adopt new ways of working and associated tools because current technologies and tools will be eclipsed all too soon by even newer tools and technology. Therefore the primary purpose and objective of transformation and in particular the digital transformation facet must be to enhance and increase the ability to adapt to, implement and promulgate change. This is increasingly true in the marketing function too, which has seen for example, Heinz bypass the traditional middleman supermarkets and go direct to customers (D2C). The behavioural implications of how brands are using technology and digital transformation have been accelerated by COVID19.
The quest for digital transformation will not be a one-off project. It is the implementation of a mindset and systems, procedures and outward-looking position and adaptive processes that will mean that an organisation that wants to be and remain competitive will take on an attitude of constant learning, change readiness and business capability, imbibing and extracting relevant value from ongoing technical change to solutionise both old and pre-existing challenges as well as new challenges.
As such it is complex to put in that listening and responsive business capability but it should be connected to every part of your organisation. This process will overhaul your operations status quo to digital operations and all readiness will be in the context of digital.
Sounds disruptive? Business can only disrupt outwardly after it has disrupted internally – the brand transformation process typically goes from the inside out. It sounds complex because it is and has the potential to be painful like all transformation initiatives are, but the reason to do it is the same as for all transformation initiatives – because you either change or you atrophy, slowly and ungracefully. You slowly lose the capability to compete on the same trends because your competitors and contenders with digitrans in their DNA, who are by virtue of being new perhaps leaner, more agile and naturally more responsive to change, will increasingly challenge your very right and ability to exist.
What’s wrong with right now?
Ultimately, the race is on and technology moves at dizzying speeds. The urgency to adopt the most operationally powerful has never been greater. But it has to be right, you need to know what you want out of it, which means you must have clarity on just what is possible and available, dependent on constraints. The data doesn’t lie – the implementation of digitrans at scale has been sketchy so it makes sense to plan, phase and map each piece to a strategic initiative against a realistic timeline that works for your people as well as for your bottom line.
Considering their unique challenges, it’s undeniable that the B2B websites of small to medium size businesses are a powerful brand asset and there are 10 powerful functions of a high-performance website that make it so, meaning that building a fully fit for purpose B2B websites require thought and technique, from structure to SEO, covered below. At a time when struggling businesses are being advised to aim for resilience and survivability, with more new businesses are compelled to start and existing businesses are compelled to look for new ways to find clients and grow, it’s never been more important to consider what makes a high performance website as driver of survivability.
Building a high-performance website is very much akin to building a high-velocity brand or high impact branding. We know how to those too, Business websites need to be high-performance websites, whether they are transactional or purely informational, if high performance is defined as being found by your target market, having content which engages, educates and delights them and allows them to easily connect with you.
1) Prospecting – First Function of a High-Performance Website – The Searchlight Effect
The first function of a high-performance website is that of prospecting – defining, identifying and knowing who your customers are. Knowing them allows you to call them by name or at least call their problems by name, through your high performing website using your content, which will target them and their needs and allow them to find you. If your targeting is sufficiently tight, your website will help you appeal to your target but ideally repel non-ideal customers and not attract them at all. This reduces your bounce rate.
2) Perception – Becoming a Contender
It starts with perception. As soon as they land on your page, they should feel that your website gives them a view of the capacity of the people who own it to help them solve an immediate problem and that they can trust the advice on your blog. Dependent on where they are on the funnel, they may just need an answer to a preliminary question but if they feel the answer is there, they’ll stick around to see it. And they’ll come back. The perception expands to accommodate some trust in your business’s ability and then it is easy to begin building a position in their minds and later, a relationship if you make the right moves or offer them an opportunity to do so. This is especially important for B2B websites for small and medium size businesses as they build their profile.
3) Positioning – Positioned to Provide Value
High Performance Websites are highly effective, partly because they a positioning tool with regard to whom your customers are, where they are today with regard to how they are feeling as well as where they are in a purchasing funnel. Are they looking to understand more about the problem area, are they looking for solutions, are they ready to buy or do they just need valuable information? They are looking for categories of information depending on where they are and your job is to be an answer to your prospective buyers’ problems, if not at a granular level, initially, then at a broad level. Your main site pages must provide this breadth and the depth should come in your blogs, for when they are in the frame of mind to delve, which they are unlikely to be right at the start of the purchasing journey.
4) Pitching – the Platform to Present Solutions
For B2B websites of small to medium size businesses, your high performance website has great potential as a pitching tool for what you can provide to address that prospect’s need and a way to inform them on what they should want and expect as auxiliaries to that need. It’s your sales ladder and you need to ensure they easily navigate it, upward through the stages of conversion until they are ready to hire.
You should be able to convince them you have everything they need – what they have thought of and what they have not, what their business needs and what they should want to meet to meet that need.
5) Pupillage – The Privilege to Educate
When people are on a search to resolve their pain, they want, they need to learn. Your opportunity is to take advantage of their state of being willing to be a student and their willingness to learn. Teach them. Tell them with all the passion for what you do. Educational content is key at this stage and the goal is to connect, engage, nurture and foster. Show and tell is the name of the game, not sell!
6) Performance – The Need for Speed and Security
Your website has got to look good and inspire confidence, but more importantly it has to load fast and load images faster. It absolutely has to be secure and this requires a lot of resources to implement and ongoing resources to assure and maintain, in order not to lose authority and risk reputation damage. Security is a brand risk issue that the B2B websites of small to medium size businesses working to build their brand image should be careful not to fall into.
Ensuring that there are internal links that expose the structure and topics in your website to your prospective clients and also external links that give an opportunity for further reading and enrichment, help websites to be performant in search engines because they expect you not just to provide supplementary links to your own content but also to that of others.
There are many tools out there that can give some assistance, for example, Yoast has a free tool that can help guide you through the linking process; based on other content on your website, it will suggest pages and articles you can link to. quite well and intuitively. Build links naturally through your content as relevant.
Responsive sites optimised for mobile devices need to be a core consideration for performance as many people now reach for their phones to research a problem, and connect through their phones and tablets and must not be overlooked.
7) Content – The Seventh Function of High Performance Website – Educate to Influence
Your Prospective customers need different types of content at different points in their journey which is why a broad array of media can help your business and solutions resonate with your audience, from your ever-important blogs to ebooks, white papers and videos. Your website’s educational content can be everything from your blog (more on that below) to videos, guides, ebooks, whitepapers, case studies and more. Having a wide range of information and material mediums can help you connect with a broader audience.
Blogs are critical for high-performance websites as they drive lead generation and you or somebody in your business will need to regularly write valuable content for the consumption of your customers, whose needs you are positioning yourself to be the best to meet. Long-form blogs are valuable but ensure your blogs at least exceed 500 words to be effective.
Well written and researched copy is important for valuable content and it should give clarity and also provide opportunities to reach out for more help and questions. It should aid understanding and build the prospective clients’ confidence, in your business and also in their readiness to take the next steps to address their needs. This is addressed further below.
8) Connection – The Eighth Function of a High-Performance Website – Touchpoint for Conversion
Lead Generation and SEO
Your website should help to generate leads and it should not be difficult to find by people looking for your services so that prospects can connect to you. You probably know that SEO is the holy grail for this but it starts with websites that are structured and code that is SEO ready so that you can get the relevant traffic. Relevant traffic is key otherwise you get a high bounce rate. Keywords are king but their courtiers are content, within which you should embed the keywords that your prospects are searching for. There are many tools out there that can give some assistance, for example, Yoast has a free tool that can help guide you through the SEO and linking process quite well and intuitively. Build links naturally through your content and seed keywords as you would speak naturally to a person, and do not to try and ‘force’ the algorithms. Your website could be penalised for that.
It’s clear your content is a huge driver of connection and you must endeavour to include a call to action so readers connect with you and you can then follow up with more valuable content or ideally start conversations, either through their responses to your newsletter or answers to their question. Whatever action you think is most likely, should inform what call to action you use. From a connection perspective, social sharing buttons and a ‘subscribe’ button are critical in helping you reach a greater audience.
Calls to Action
CTAs (calls to action), offering a free audit or even short consultation for example, and subscription prompts are all useful devices for both your business and for the prospective client to take the first step in making a connection, so provide them on your website and in your blogs. Many people at this stage are comfortable with providing some key personal data in order to receive valuable content in return.
Value is a very important driving principle with regard to making and maintaining connections. The educational phase of the purchase funnel is so important for both your prospective clients – it helps them fully understand the dimensions of their problem and what to look for in solutions – and for your business – it helps you establish authority and gain trust. Just don’t ask for lots of data, as the time taken in keying it in, or even the anticipation of that can lead to the abandonment of the page.
9) Communication – The Ninth Function of a High Performance Website – The Crux of Perception
Communication on your website should be succinct and as informative as possible without an excess of jargon. The homepage should clarify what your business does and why you are the best delivery partner for this prospective customer – your remarkable difference or unique attributes for their specific circumstances, and hence why they should choose you should be clear.
If you walk into a crowded room and shout, looking in no particular direction, ‘I love ya, baby,’ if you do indeed love someone in that room, they’re going to miss you, and everyone else might ignore you. It needs to be clear you are for them and they are for you. Clarity of client, of the offer, of the messaging is an important objective as is what differentiates your business. If you do not know clearly what this is and how to arrive at it, this is a key part of defining a winning brand strategy.
10) Exceptional Copy – The Tenth Function of a High-Performance Website – Fit for Every Phase
Great copy helps you sell but if you remember that your prospects might only be in a state of pupillage, it should be helping you sell more understanding, inspiring confidence to take the next steps, whether that is to get help or try it themselves and later in the sales funnel, it should help you leverage the perception and positioning you have gained in the prospect’s mind. It should be inspiring and to avoid jargon, longer explanations may be necessary but it’s important to avoid overlong sentences and confusing text.
It’s clear to see exactly why a high performance website is so important and the factors that contribute to its power, and even though it can seem a lengthy and in-depth process to deliver the benefits, it is a worthwhile project for a company seeking competitive advantage, which post-COVID, is everyone, and is definitely something you should consider investing in.
How Iconify Can Help You and Your Company
A high performance B2B website is a necessity and we can help your business create a proactive digital and web strategy, architect the right structure and flow to drive engagement and connection online, and design an attractive and innovative website while keeping secure and delivering excellent content that will help drive both brand and business strategy and build brand equity. should be one of your firm’s greatest assets
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‘What is brand purpose’, is a popular query so here’s a look at how to define your brand purpose, why brand purpose is important and how yours can be a purpose-driven brand for our times. The short answer is that brand purpose is pivotal and a purpose driven brand stands the greatest chance of going the distance.
Defining Brand Purpose
‘Because I need a job’ said exactly nobody whoever got a great gig, in response to the question ‘Why?’ Why do you want THIS job? Why us? Why you?’ In the same vein, there is a big WHY at the heart of your business and if there isn’t, if you hope to go the distance, there should be. While your local corner shops may not have purpose emblazoned on the shop door, their purpose is pretty clear and their position and importance in your life as part of it, doesn’t require much explanation. But they will always be local and serve a specific segment plus their principals may be largely fungible because your entire relationship relies on a need they serve and anybody could run it as long as they were not impossibly unpleasant.
When you are competing across locales and geographies and a range of offerings with a competitive market place though, the dynamics are different, Then, there has to be something beyond the mere features, the totally transactional. There is a ‘Why?’ for every connection, engagement, interaction and also for sustaining these as long as there are other choices. The more choices there are, the more differentiation and the greater the need for a compelling answer to why brand purpose is important.
What is Brand Purpose?
Brand purpose is the reason why your business exists beyond the profit imperative, what it hopes to achieve in the life of their consumers and in the world, and how that ‘why’ powers how you do business. When your business gets big and important enough, CSR factors will kick in but without your purpose, you will navigate those waters only superficially, possibly artificially, never authentically copying the fads and trends of what others do.
What is brand purpose to you? What does it mean to your business? What does it mean for your people? Brand purpose will dictate a roadmap for how you work with and treat your employees and your customers. When these things fall out of alignment, the problems will come but then they will also be easy to diagnose.
Let’s look at your individual purpose. It got you out of bed to build or grow your business. Purpose is a driver – people can be galvanised by purpose and this applies as much to your employees as to your customers, so while we discuss differentiation for competition, the competition is not just for sales, it’s also for recruitment of the right people into the lifeblood of your business.
Sinek, an authority on purpose, believes that people need to see more than just the transactional elements in the things we do in life, especially the things we have to do, than just the need to do it.
Brand Purpose Definition
So, how to define brand purpose, taking together all the concepts above, especially with regards to creating an emotive element for connection between the business and its consumers? The following is our definition:
Brand purpose is the essence of the single driving idea, principle, reason, that links you to your customers on a level that transcends the transactional and rational, going beyond mere benefits and creates an emotional connection which depends on and relies on the positive, differentiated impact your business hopes and exists to make to your consumers and society at large. Brand purpose delineates ‘who; your brand is in the world and what it stands for, what it dreams and why. Lofty, no? Yes, and necessarily so.
A look at the brand purpose of some of the world’s most recognisable brands.
It’s instructive to take a look at a few of the purposes stated by what are arguably purpose driven brands.
– Promoting sustainability and community – Innocent
– Our ultimate purpose is to inspire and develop children to think creatively, reason systematically and release their potential to shape their own future – experiencing the endless human possibility – Lego – this one gets me every time!
– To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google – I think most can agree Google is rocking its purpose all day long!
What brand purpose is not!
Having addressed the ‘what is brand purpose question’, it’s just as useful to look at what is not brand purpose. They are related to brand purpose and it does inform them but brand purpose is not your mission statement, your vision, your business strategy or any of the other important and more tangible things businesses are used to having to think about and document.
Per Sinek and other scholars on the subject, Purpose correlates to the Why, the What is your business operations and the How is how you get the job done.
We envision the relationship in a similar vein, with the Purpose the resounding and never silent Why, while Mission is the child of the What, the original What being your business and your mission to grow it (your brand promise is based on mission and your values), with the Vision bringing up the rear on Where that mission might take you, the big hairy ambition of your business being encapsulated in Vision. Guiding principles and values are the foundation of your How, in terms of your corporate attitude and behaviours, and help to define the culture of your business, and boy does culture matter! Your purpose is stillborn without it. Specific actions to reach the destination of the mission and vision, are of course encapsulated in Strategy.
When it comes to how to define your brand purpose, there is a place and a purpose for all of the above.
Sinek, an authority on purpose, believes that people need to see more than just the transcactional elements in the things we do in life, especially the things we have to do, than just the need to do it.
Copyright Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek’s golden circle simple and clearly shows that purpose while at the heart doesn’t refer to the how and the what but I like to think that the the ‘why’, the purpose, emanates outward, shaping and informing the what and the how.
Why Brand Purpose is important
Why a purpose driven brand? Well, you say, this didn’t seem to matter before so much, why is brand purpose so important? The biggest, strongest and longest standing brands ALL have well defined brand purpose. If with all their hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spend see the importance of it, it must be important indeed. It’s increasingly important as consumers today are quite different from consumers even 20 years ago. They are compelled quite differently in some ways than people seem to use to be. They are looking for, they need an added dimension. People are genuinely interested in the beliefs, ethics and practices of businessesConsumers are no longer just looking for value in the products, they are looking for values in the purveyor too. This is never more true than where they feel they have many choices. This is why brand purpose is important. It sets up uniqueness, differentiation and in its wake, loyalty and love.
How to Define your Purpose Driven Brand
We are none of us machines and there is no cast iron process that answers how to define brand purpose. The Why is a great question once it is installed as our Purpose but when it comes to defining the purpose in the first place, then all of the other Ws are just as important – what, who, how, when, where, when.
What’s the problem you help solve or relieve? Why are you best placed to solve it? How could you be better placed to solve it? What’s the joy/gain/help you bring? What is your remarkable difference? Why is it remarkable?
What do you as a business, as a brand believe in? Why? What do you stand for? What will you never stand for, and this is just as important? Who do you as a brand make or deliver your offering for? Why them? Why those offerings? How do you do it, and why? Why do you love it? How could you love it more? How could they love you more? Why? Is it all aspirational? If it’s not, what’s limiting it?
Are you satisfied your products are seen beyond features and as benefits? If not, which pivots might get you there? Where is the satisfaction? Where does dissatisfaction rankle?
Write it all down – in a granular way and workshop it with your teams. Themes will start to emerge. A picture will start to form and if it’s one that resonates you are on the home straight. If it does not feel or sound right, keep going until it’s recognisable, relatable and resonant.
It may be that your purpose is already evident in some of the things you do and some of the ways and it needs to be elaborated on. It may be unclear or muddled but the beginnings of it are undeniable. Grasp and embrace that and begin to build it, then live and work by that why visibly and with clarity and honesty.
Then it’s time to go to church, so to speak.
Research for Purpose Clarity, Positioning and People
You’ve workshopped it, you’ve brainstormed it, now it’s time to underpin it, assure it and prove it. Yes, in order to fully define your brand purpose, it’s time for research!
What is the purpose of competitors in your field and even of others in the same value chain? How does your purpose stack up in terms of uniqueness? How can you be sure that your purpose will attract the people you want to do business with? Will the purpose show your uniqueness?
Get the answers, rework until you get to the right answers and then power everything with the clear view of your purpose, from your positioning to your people.
How to be a Purpose Driven Brand in Practice
Create a Brand Strategy
Once the purpose is locked down, it is the time to share this widely in the organisation through seminars and training. Then create yourbrand strategy. This will bring your purpose alive in the business and keep you honest!.
Match strategies and actions to values and principles.
Live your brand purpose and values in your operations and process, especially with regard to how you treat and nurture your people.
When it comes to business change or a new marketing campaign, always have recourse back to your purpose. Always consider how you protect your brand. Always consider how you support your people to support the campaign or the transformation. Be aligned to your brand strategy because that should always depend on your purpose and is built on it. Walk your talk and leave no room for hypocrisy – if there are gaps in your capability or diversity and inclusion that belie your purpose, well, they will let down your brand. Fix that!
Have a Brand Risk Management Framework
For adverse events, blind spots, reputational damage and crisis, have a robust and test plan for crisis communications and risk mitigations for whenever the brand deviates from its stated purpose in a way that is likely to go public and have a negative impact if it does. What might bring these types of adverse events about? How can they be avoided? How can they be resolved?
Focus on your people and the Employee Experience
Get the right people in your organisation, people who fit with your values and can believe and work for your purpose. Value them and interact with them in positive ways aligned to your values. Honestly assess gaps in your current organisation that mean there are operational or procedural risks that will undermine your purpose and business objectives and remedy those. Attract the right people and keep them to reduce the risks of negative reports and rumours. Understand the opportunities for improving the employee experience within the business.
Focus on your Customers and the Customer Experience (CX)
How much fun is it, how easy is it to interact with your organisation currently? How accessible and available are you? Is it sufficient for your customers? Is it acceptable? Will they leave you given the chance because it is such a faff to get someone to talk to? If switching costs aren’t high, are they disgruntled and likely to speak negatively about you or ask others not to adopt your service? Honestly assess areas where you are not delighting the customer and consider how and when these can be improved through technology, digital or business transformation. Then find interesting ways to engage and entertain customers through the digital opportunities available.
Find out the things and activities that your customers are interested in and get involved in it but only if you care about it, or somebody in your organisation with the emotional intelligent and social nous cares about and can champion it, rally a team to sustain it, and will not get bored spearheading it, and will not be a liability. Do good visibly and consistently.
Strive for Excellence
Keep an eye on your competitors and how they are changing or improving their delivery or fulfilment processes and consider how this changes the options for your customers so that you can make the moves required not only to maintain your customers but increase opportunities to gain more business and acclaim.
Protect the brand during Business and IT Transformation
Change and business transformation is increasingly necessary for all businesses. Ensure that your brand and impacts to it brought about by new projects are not dealt with as an afterthought. They must be front of mind.
Synergies from digital marketing and brand strategy are obvious because while brand comes from the heart and love and purpose drives brand strategy, digital marketing and communications as well as digital transformation tools and trends uplift business capability to collaborate, produce and share information with clients, customers and suppliers. Used well, loyalty and advocacy grow to sustain brand impact through the customer experience digital methods allow us to harness and deploy through pursuing brand strategy objectives.
A resonant and strong brand cannot be built in a vacuum or in a void of values. We tell our clients that brand strategy fundamentally starts with deciding, defining and clearly articulating what the brand promise, personality and proposition are, and claiming a tenable, even an unassailable position. But it does not end there, and even in that initial discovery phase, how what has been decided in terms of brand principles and purpose will be communicated and to whom, needs to be considered closely. Increasingly, consideration of ‘how’, the link between and symbiosis between digital marketing and brand strategy becomes more apparent.
The magic is in ensuring and insisting that these principles and promises are translated to practices, manifested in business processes and enshrined and embodied in your people. Having an emotional connection with your brand, investing your business with lifeblood conceived in clarity, and imbued with purpose allows you to transmit and communicate all of those emotions to your tribe and be in accord with them.
Who Hearts ♥ your Brand
The key to all of this lies is in the building of the perception you want to project to the people you can best serve.
Having found your tribe, how can you project the perception that yours is a story they (your clients/customers/tribe) can be a part of, that you are not peddling a commodity, you are filling a gap in their lives?
How do you keep on top of and keep meeting existing and emerging needs in their lives and psyches and how can you fully deliver on benefits they want and cannot be without?
Like all perceptions, once in place, they will need to be reinforced.
The ‘how’ of course lies in the combined capacities of digital marketing and brand strategy and the opportunities they afford to, take a position, forge a message and communicate them to your tribe and empower your staff.
The Customer Experience and Engagement journey is so integral to Brand Strategy and also to how you can drive your business processes or business transformation in alignment to the brand strategy — it gives you a map to connect your customer’s journey to how your business can interact with your customers and what you can say at each stage, and also provides pointers as to how best and where best to incept and continue these conversations.
Digital marketing is the right vehicle for that, and it’s the vehicle that will not turn into a pumpkin at midnight because your message is kept fresh and current across a multitude of channels. This is how you can compete with the big guys too, because imaginatively parlayed and presented messages can play better and for far longer, and digital marketing allows you to pivot and pare, refine and repair.
Ready to talk Brand or Digital?
Layer by Layer
All big truths and chunky lessons, but fundamental to grasp, is the role of digital marketing in constructing the layers of your brand — from purpose to image to the story – buttressed over time on every channel where you meet your tribe, to disseminating the messages that move the narrative on and deepen engagement.
Brand values are a precursor to brand identity and together they create your brand image. Digital Marketing’s primary goal as it relates to brand strategy, is the projection and perpetuation of perception and the bolstering of the perceptual mindsets of the persona composites that constitute your brand tribes.
Whether it’s your first foray into strategy and brand management or you are embarking on a refresh, opportunities abound. For the former, these opportunities are in creating and claiming and conquering a position. In the second, it’s a change process, with considerations for internal brand engagement, technology alignment to optimal business processes that can also be defined.
In either case, measurement is crucial because this is what allows for review and improvement. Mining this information provides direction and digital capabilities, as well as the myriad opportunities described above, provide untold advantages in this regard.
The power of a brand comes from the heart, and we must discover emotional levers to connect the brand to its tribe, but if Love and purpose drive the strategy and impact, digital marketing drives the brand and to an increasing extent today, the loyalty and advocacy that sustains it. It provides the tools and reach and capability to disseminate the messages and engage with the right people, enabling as it does, a ready finger on the pulse and ebbs and flows of the initiatives you are making and of the people your brand impacts.
Define a Change Management Strategy – Describing and Documenting the change desired
It’s sometimes much clearer to understand that change is necessary than it is to actually define it, and these 10 critical steps will help you define a change management strategy, to get to that point, and beyond. It is necessary to understand a few fundamentals, describe them and discuss widely to get a consensus, without which the change will never get off the ground. A business case for the change must be created to put the change in terms that show where the problem lies, why the change is required and why there not just a favourable but compelling business case. The objective of following these 10 steps is to get to a point where this business case can be signed off and the change is accepted as not just necessary but committed to as part of your defining your change management strategy.
1) Define, delineate and agree on the business case for the change that you believe is needed. Your business case must clearly state the drivers of the change.
In order to this, we must arrive at clarity as to what it is that needs to change or that would be changing if the business case were to be signed off. To do this, clarity needs to exist as to what the current state is, what the gaps are in the status quo and the impact of those gaps. It should be possible to answer why these create disadvantages, pain and constraints plus explain what opportunities are to be gained from their remediation.
2) Terms of Reference
In defining these problems, gaps and deficits there should be a common understanding of what the problem is, its dimensions in terms of impact, risk and opportunity cost. There should be clarity amongst all those who are affected by it, what the problem statement is and the terms in which this is stated should be recognised and agreed to by all relevant parties.
For this to be as useful as it can, it must fulsomely explain why the change is sought and why the business needs to change in this way. A good change manager can help you position the answers to this questions in terms of benefits for the impacted classes of stakeholders and help to adequately communicate what the change will mean for people’s day to day job, which will be a primary concern, and if not communicated properly, can lead to a high level of resistance to change. People tend to resist change and so a big part of the 10 steps to define a change management strategy ensures this message is considered fully from the outset to facilitate the right conversations and get participation from everyone.
3) Target Operating Model Ambition
The third step of the 10 steps to defining your change management strategy is one of the most challenging. It’s easier to say what you don’t want but is it enough to say you want something that does not do what your current state does? It’s obviously not. The definition is driven by what you need to be able to do and how and defines the target operating model.
Almost as much as a problem statement needs to have a common language of expression, the future desired statement should have a common language of hope and ambition. This requires detailed discussion, clarity and documentation on what success would be, from the outset, tracking changes and deviations from it minutely, as well as the reason for the variation. This will change often as the project advances but as the way clears, so the solution clarifies. As the solution clarifies, it should be easier to know and express what successful change would look like.
The dimensions of change will tend to describe metrics most people will recognise as project parameters but only a few can be defined at the outset because the others, like budget, necessarily depend on the other dimensions of change, and then, of course, the scope, which will be discussed further below.
Business Change = The objectives derived from the problem statement and desired state statements.
The business change objectives may lead to clarity on the technology, IT and tools + architecture and other technical changes that are needed to support the business change
Technology Architecture Model Change
Physical Change objectives
Human Change – attitudes, processes, operations, relationships, layers, functional lines of business, roles and responsibilities, communications and handoffs
Human change objectives and the change strategy
Behaviours to be modified, in which areas and why, and what it will mean for functional architecture, lines of business, leadership, process designs and roles and responsibilities. Attitudinal changes require a clear core strategy to achieve these changes, especially if restructuring is involved, because as discussed in this blog, people resist change, and quite understandably so.
Organisational Change – Business Model, supplier, stakeholder, communication channels
At the early stages it is possible that pragmatically time and budget objectives may be set provisionally but without clarity and agreement and cost estimates on the agreed objectives, it is certainly very difficult to define the other dimensions of change but they will need to be at some point.
Quality Objectives defined by agreed KPIs.
Key Performance Metrics (KPIs) will be established to measure these objectives, which must be tracked and monitored with issues raised when any of these falls short.
Required or Desired
As the 10 steps to defining your change management strategy progress, it is necessary to ask frequently and repeatedly as the changes are whether the change is required, i.e. absolutely necessary, pivotal and a is a priority or desired – strong reasons to have it but is not a deal-breaker. Change requirements, when built should be annotated in this respect and should keep this assignment as the high-level changes are decomposed. This question considers the implications and risks of not changing from both the business and human change perspectives.
As the change is being defined, and the operating model ambitions are conceived, it is necessary to understand if and where there is a need for behavioural, attitudinal and capability change with relation to the current state. These gaps must be clearly identified and described under the human/people change element of defining the change. If you would like some help with defining a change management strategy at pace, get in contact.
4) Scope of Change
With clarity on the objectives, it may be time to prioritise them and create an outline of what needs to change. Even in large scale transformations, some things do not stay the same, not least for continuity but also because sometimes it is judged more pragmatic to maintain the status quo if it can continue to function in the to-be state. This will be the scope of change.
It will need to be defined against the following elements:
System and Technical Architecture
Organisational Change Design and Functional Operational and People
Once there is clarity on all the objectives, and they are prioritised, It’s now possible to flesh out the dependencies and conflicts from the objectives. This refers to trying to understand and visualise the order of works, critical to workstreams and phasing and prioritising the works within phases too.
6) Risks and Assumptions
These latter conflicts, as well as the dependencies, will drive the initial risks and assumptions of the change program and it is very important to be as detailed as possible as these stages and also extremely diligent in capturing them.
7) Pre- Business Case sign off Time Estimates and Initial Resourcing Estimates
The estimates worked out prior to the business case being signed off and the plan encountering the enemy – reality – can be subject to wild levels of change and adjustment. The time and cost metrics can be extremely unstable at this phase of the process. It makes sense to get professional help to get these and set a reasonable and realistic degree of tolerance. The more teams and specialities are required, and the more complex and in depth the transformation, the greater the order of magnitude by which the time and cost may increase.
8) Implementation Team Plan and Methodology Considerations
It is absolutely necessary to consider which change models might be employed. The more human/people change objectives and organisation transformation objectives, the more important it will be to not only have a clear methodology view for planning, implementation and delivery from a project perspective but also from a change perspectives. Two very effective and popular change methodologies are:
PM methodologies are Prince 2 and PMI models. Delivery Methodologies vary but Agile methodologies are extremely effective, although waterfall models have remained popular.
9) Sponsor and Governance Model Proposals
Change sponsors are crucial and large scale transformations are likely to have several sponsors. If the business case is signed off, the program will require stringent governance by people who will be accountable for the program and will appoint the program manager or project manager to have responsibility for delivering the project.
10) Business Case Sign Off
If you have gotten to this stage without help, it is now time to decide the ‘who’ on the implementation side – will you use inhouse resources or partner with a coach or Program management/ implementation partners?
Now is the time to decide the best way to proceed and who will help to realise the vision of the change that was enshrined in the business case, right at the start. On the basis of the above, it can then be decided if there is the risk appetite, budget and bandwidth in the organisation to undertake this change.
If the business case has been produced for defining a change management strategy, then it will be a very well-articulated case for the change that explains all that needs to be changed, the drivers and the reasons why the change is required and there is a common language describing both the problem and the required solution, along with the KPIs. It is very important that the sponsors are identified with the impact of the change on them and their role in bringing forth the change is.
If the sign off is received, it will be time to validate the estimates and create formal change artefacts to get things moving.
Successfully Leading Organisation Change Management
Successfully leading organisational change management is about vision and blending strategic brand imperatives with business objectives and benefits realisation. In order to improve performance competitive positioning and benefit from technological advancements with the potential to transform the business opportunities, behaviours, capabilities and innovation attitudes and enablement in the organisation that is to be changed.
Leading organisational transformation as an entrepreneur, CEO/COO or Director must focus on finding a team of external partners who can take the vision and run with it so that the transformation answers a customer-focused, brand-aligned, people-centred objectives, that would be in line with technology and the best fit for the organisational purpose and business’ short to long term objectives.
Challenges of Leading Organisational Change
There are many risks and challenges in starting, running and embedding change as in house project. Leading organisational change management does require many moving parts. A few challenges are listed below.
– Sadly, sometimes, even leaders with vision and the drive to bring the requisite change to bear on the business’s fortunes lack methodology, structure and the systems thinking required to implement change successfully.
– It’s often very difficult to run transformation programmes within the organisation itself with no independent and outside teams to bring industry best practice and ideas to what is a hefty problem, in an area potentially fraught with conflict and plenty of opportunities to fail.
– The truth is that the risk appetite necessary to lead organisational change management programmes to help achieve the business’s urgent objectives is quite tough to gain consensus for. It’s also a challenge to maintain motivation over the time it actually takes to implement the requisite change.
– Leading organisational change is dependent on the ability to re-envision several different parts of the organisation in parallel and the business change and planning skills to bring those changes to fruition. Every manager, dependent on their operational discipline, will hold vastly different views on the content, process and structure of an effective change strategy to lead organisational change.
– A common problem is recognising that managing change is fundamentally different from just managing a project and requires knowledge of and mastery of a range of skills specifically around managing people change, team dynamics; while risk management is built-in, it does not always extend to readiness and embedding new process practices and roles and responsibilities.
– HR might focus on compensation and perhaps training but not necessarily what it takes to make staff feel empowered to lead innovations and part of the transformation which regards to what will make their jobs easier, faster and more effective, especially in the absence of knowledge of industry trends or best practice. Heads of operations and finance may argue the toss about adjusting financial metrics versus new productivity tools with little consideration of what these might mean for the overall operating models.
It’s clear to see that leading organisational change would be fraught with difficulty for the leaders of business because too many different levels of vision planning, strategy, implementation and processes for measurement need to be considered. This is why it makes sense to get help in translating and implementing the vision while the leader remains the final arbiter and guardian of that vision.
Change Partners can help lead organisational change management
External partners can help to realise clarity and determine the art of the possible with the objectives and requirements while identifying logical sequences and synergies that can be found, and address and remediate the problems outlined above.
Somebody needs to sustain the love and purpose of the organisation and use that to galvanise things when the going gets tough and snarled up during he transformation and the conflict in priorities threaten to halt things, with the chaos caused by the conflicting priorities of different leaders who want what is best for their department, functions and line of business. Only the leader can sustain a holistic across-the-board view of how things need to fit and work together for the sake of the business, its customers and its investors, all at the same time.
If as a leader, you have a strong, bold view of what the transformation should be and do, systemically and sustainably, its necessary that this remains intact and things are not allowed to descend into chaos. To achieve this, a story needs to be told, consistently, constantly, indefatigably and clearly. The CEO or directors leading organisational change have to be the storyteller, They need to keep that story going to get the transformation done and most importantly to know when the goal has been achieved or be able to tell when there are gaps in the planned implementation and its impact o lack thereof.
The job of the leader of the transformation within an organisation is to empower people to go away and make that story real and breathe, keep the faith and focus to realise the transformative benefits envisaged at the start.
You, leader, recognise the necessity of transformative action, systemic change and reinventing the business, its people and its processes. Translating these into a business transformation strategy and plan and portfolio of changes is a job a separate team should do under your direction. The world’s largest organisations recognise this and there is a need for small to medium size businesses not already in this mindset to adopt it. Make it a priority to find delivery and implementation partners who understand and have experience of all the areas that need to be juggled and that can provide a clear and shared framework and methodology for running a transformation programme and who will deliver a roadmap that clearly shows the activities, roles and responsibilities that should be represented in parallel and consecutive sequences to achieve the transformation desired by an ambitious company.
Business Transformation Strategy and Process that Deliver
You’re an entrepreneur, the CEO or Director in a company whose success defines yours but the writing’s on the wall and you need an effective business transformation strategy and process that will deliver all the benefits and objectives your business would thrive with. Business Transformation may be overdue because technology is no longer fit for purpose and business processes are holding together with sellotape. You need to make some changes – small or wholesale – but it needs to be soon and you need as close to a guarantee as you can get that the business transformation will be successful.
With the number of failed transformation projects that one hears about, a certain amount of wariness is warranted, especially as these reports seem to involve from some of the biggest names in the business. To decide how to develop an effective business transformation strategy and process, start with the below.
What is Business Transformation and why would any Businesses and the People who Lead Them Need to Undertake a Business Transformation?
Business transformation, which is that it is the process of making changes to the business operations and processes of the business in order to achieve common business objectives that may boil down to efficiencies and improvements.
Changes in regulatory, operational, market/marketing and even political environments trigger business transformation. Businesses generally undertake transformations to alleviate or eliminate organisational pain or to make transitional gains, improvements or revolutions in the business process, the technological landscape and create competitive advantage through capability, insights or the ability to harness and deploy these in the company.
Successful Business Transformation
What makes a successful business transformation process and implementation. Successful business Transformation is procedural magic that can be applied to a failing business/business unit/function. It is magic when business transformation strategy is based on a true and clear demonstration and understanding of the root causes of what is going wrong, why and where the business or people are not delivering on investments or meeting expectations. It is magic when it is planned and structured within a robust change management methodology. It is powerful when people and their requirements are not treated as an afterthought as part of that process.
It’s magic when the brand is not forgotten and the strategies for the brand are revamped or what is existing if still relevant is intertwined into the business transformation strategy? It’s magic when a focus and objective of the transformation is explicitly to improve or at least preserve a customer experience that is demonstrably effective and excellence – relying on the brand imperatives here can help to make this happen.
It can seem to work like magic indeed if the work is done with honesty and traceability with regards to the drivers of the transformation, grasping the root causes and addressing them with vision, all tools and technology and that can be adopted with the resources available.
An effective business transformation strategy ensures and tracks that objectives should be based on root cause analyses of existing risks, issues, failures and gaps in capability or in the market. Business Strategy founded on and focused on business and objectives and that keeps those objectives top of mind and must be traceable to gaps, opportunities, pain risks and issues.
Transformations fail when they become political, back covering exercises that are unmoored from the principles, issues and people that matter for the organisation. Knowing your business transformation purpose, understanding the process and identifying the triggers and elements are the key to successfully delivering the transformation that meets business objectives.
The Role of Change, Remaining Dynamic and Relevant
Change is constant and in the current business environment, seems to come at an ever-faster pace and greater magnitudes. An effective business transformation strategy can help create the capability to absorb these changes and thrive. Building in capability for and adaptability to coming change is a legitimate reason for transformation, to allow rapid assimilation of new ideas and paradigms and ability to allow extend or extensibility of organisation to incorporate, deploy or take advantage of change as it comes. It’s critical to be able to change, to adopt change and have the resilience to adapt as change unfolds, however it can create anxiety, analysis paralysis and inertia so it makes sense to remember that businesses that stay successful are the ones that resist the inertia and understand the change they need to make. Many leaders do know this but the next steps are not as clear.
Business Transformation as a concept and in practice addresses the change, change management, design and implementation and deployment of processes as well as people necessary to change the functions, operations, people, technology, systems, software and operating models of either the entire company or a line of business or business unit within an organisation that renders it more responsive, efficient and measurably improved and able to make the gains required in its environment. The business transformation strategy and the business transformation process are both dependent on the size, scope and scale of the change needed and its drivers.
Change Management is central to the attainment of transformation, and technology change tends to be a core and enabling part of any transformation. Having an effective business transformation strategy is a crucial driver of success.
If you want to launch a new brand, change your brand, change your products, services or positioning, or recover from reputational damage – all of these are strong triggers for transformation, to help your business be more competitive and try to capture more of the market.
It’s very common to have to rethink how the organisation delivers its products and services to the market and how effectively communication, collaboration ad conflict resolution are addressed within a system and does away with bottlenecks, blockers, risks and issues. Businesses Process Reengineering, Business Architecture Re-Design, Target Operating Model Change, Business Process Design and Customer Experience Remodel are all areas that transformation will address and its wide-ranging nature makes Delivery Management and Implementation Management key to success. Change Management processes are graduated into sub-projects addressing separate business functions, systems and people and integration elements.
Several separate or overlapping stages of the following, planned and executed in logical phases through implementation and delivery including validation constitute the components of transformation, which would tend to happen over a significant period of time.
Review of areas of pain, points of failure, opportunities for improvement or integration of capabilities or consolidation of functions and roles, within the business and technology
Restructuring of functions and operations
Portfolio reorganisation and business architecture change
Technology and platforms transformation with systems and software development, integrations and migrations of data and roles
Operating Models review, development and standardisation plus logical and systems integrations and readiness constructs for people, (geo) locations, roles and responsibilities – validations and embedding.
Business Architecture – who does what, why and when and decision structure and hierarchies
People change – attitudinal., competencies, management of resistance to change, restructuring, training and knowledge transfer, roles and responsibilities and hand offs and provision of clarity plus training on technology platforms that enable the role and facilitate all functions ad handoffs.
The Change Management Process
Transformation must be accomplished within a change management context – there are several accepted and effective models, notable amongst them are Kotters 8 Step Model or Lewin’s Freeze Models, (affectionately named by moi, Kotters Step Change and Lewin’s Ice Model). They aren’t perfect and need adaptation and experience but change models are necessary for achieving change because organisations are dynamic and are run by people. They help manage people’s attitude and resistance to change. It will not help you get sensitive, sincere and empathetic people on board to help manage this process, but knowledge of the process shows how you how important it is to bring people on board who can build consensus, who can manage with emotional intelligence and have personal integrity, character and flexibility in their nature.
Change Management exercises that are successful are run by people who can ensure that employees at every level understand the impetus for change, can work to influence stakeholders and work out trade-offs that may need to be made intra departmentally or for people whose roles are changing or being demised.
Roles in Change Management and Business Transformation – A rough guide
Running a business transformation process is extremely complex and needs great people, structure, governance and clarity of objectives, priorities and decision hierarchies and responsibilities.
Portfolio, Programme and project managers who are qualified to create business cases, and formulate multi-level plans for benefits realisations, effort, duration and budget information, establish with sponsors and stakeholder the immutable objectives of the transformation and schedule for delivering it. They direct the creation of system architecture and business architecture documents and project initiation documentation that can drive the graduated change processes that need to occur and attendant artefacts.
Systems, business and data analysts to review the As-Is position and plot the full To- Be journey cognizant of breaks, dependencies and track and report on emergent risks and issues, with a range of considerations, from the user experiences to customer experience in mind on a full end to end basis.
Developers, Technical Architects, Systems Designers, Testers and DevOps teams will drive the creation and manifestation of the technological landscape vision and capability
Business Architecture and Organisational Design Teams would review the As-Is business processes and ways of working to identify areas for improvement and what needs to change as well who would direct and support the functions
Implementation and Change Delivery to schedule, plan, resource and organise the implementation phases and work with technical and operational readiness teams to test, validate and iterate changes at all levels.
Operating Model Change and Operational Readiness Teams work with change delivery to plan and deploy phases and embedding with feedback loops and incident management for capturing operational risks, issues, failures to return to the development or execution process and re-deploy under control and relevant methodologies.
Project Teams ad PMO to determine the drivers for the change and primary areas of engagement and establish decision-makers in these spheres, track and manage the processes overall and track and measure benefits realisation and ensure that new competencies are exercised and new ways of working, technology ad processes are adopted with offline and emergency structures in place.
Executive Committee, Programme Board and the Steering Committee plus Design Authority and Sponsors lead the governance to maintain clarity, direction and momentum on the transformation across a plethora of issues, considerations and decisions and ensure the right interventions are made by the right people in a timely manner. They help to ensure the business transformation strategy stays on track to deliver stated benefits, part of which may require, in consultation with experts in other teams, consideration of emerging technologies that would further the case of the transformation. From digital transformation opportunities, within the organisation and outside it, e.g. cloud computing and migration from legacy systems to Big Data and Machine Learning and DevOps and putting a technology team in place who know and understand the business inside out with business champions and representatives who are in the process every step of the way to share insights on how the new tech might work in situ and if this creates any new requirements for end-user computing or opportunities for removing those.
Transformation Strategy Link to Brand and Customer Experience
Strong and excellent business transformation strategy is differentiated by a focus on the brand purpose and promise and Customer Experience. The two go hand in hand and a focus on one creates opportunities for promoting and improving the other. Having been party to transformations run by other organisations, I can say that this almost never features in any transformations. The customer experience just isn’t on the radar. This is because the transformation strategy wholly ignores brand purpose and strategy. At the heart of brand strategy, is what the business should mean in attachment terms to the target audience, therefore remembering this, and aligning to brand imperatives creates a stronger chance of delivering a successful transformation that can deliver better CX and operations that will ultimately serve the brand better. An effective business transformation strategy will serve every aspect of your business.
Culture and Brand Standards are usually the roles and competencies missing, guardians of brand standards, purpose and overall organisational mission that drives culture and innovation.