Does your social network know you?

Social Network Map

Social Network MapIt is amazing to look back how the world has changed in respect to how we connect with people and how we can become influencers in our network. I stated already back in 2007 in my first business book (“Become successful in the big World”) that anybody can become an influencer in a topic that he/she wants to master. When I was growing up, you could become an influencer mainly by participating in conferences or via traditional press. Today, anyone can demonstrate deep skills in any topic and become known globally. There are still some rules that I think one needs to consider when branding your skills. The first rule is that you need to make sure that you pick the segment where you want to be known for. I have seen too many cases where a person is “all over the map” and even I know a person by name, I really do not know what he/she represents. With focus, you can become world known as anything that you do and sometimes it takes years of practice. Think about a gymnast, a dancer, or anybody that is top in his/her domain. You have to practice your skills to become good in what you do. During my career as CEO of a software company in Finland, I recruited people to the team and I asked them if they wanted to become best in the world in what they do.  There are no reasons why somebody could not become best in the world regardless of where you live. We will see new innovative entrepreneurs everywhere and only time will tell who will become leader in the field.

Let’s discuss how I have tried to change my way of thinking when it comes to learning and my social network. The past couple of years, I have specifically paid attention on how to become more effective in my personal working habits. How do I sell, how do I connect people and how do I maintain all of these relationships? I have learned with time that it is your connection that matters as well as focus that you put in our daily work. You need to define how you want to be seen in the marketplace as people tend to “position” each one of us based on what they have seen in social media and other interaction. I am pretty sure that my network knows my passion for SaaS business, my continuous travel I have made during the past few years and it goes without saying, people know that I work with Microsoft and Microsoft ecosystem on daily basis. People might also know that I am a passionate learner and believe in continuous learning to keep myself valuable for my clients and the ecosystem. That is why it is so important to keep focus on whatever we do. You do not want to be everything to everybody as that will not do any good to anybody.  People might also know that I am passionate about my family and this is especially important to me as we live far away from our native country (Finland). We have established our lives here in the United States of America and we love every day of it. It is not to say that one needs to forget our roots, but I feel that US gave us a second opportunity to build something that is different and sometimes also challenging.

I must admit that I also evaluate people based on their digital footprint. If you are in sales roles and have 58 contacts in LinkedIn, that gives me a picture of your interest in using social  media as a vehicle to get your company known. The first thing people do when you mention a name is that they will check your LinkedIn profile to see who you know and what kind of recommendations you have. If you have 58 contacts and no digital footprint, I have no way to evaluate your impact and influence. I know there are many that do not believe in this, but unfortunately this is a similar discussion as whether the cloud will happen… it has already happened and if you are a software vendor and still only considering it, you will have younger and nimbler competitors that will start eating you up piece by piece. I had a discussion with an executive recruiter a couple of years ago and I asked him whether digital footprint mattered, and he said already then that a person that they are considering in sales and marketing executive roles will have a problem if digital footprint is non-existent.

Social networking brings in other factors that people do not always remember. You need to value your network as if it were an asset. You do not misuse your asset, you do not put your network in painful situations and you certainly do not spam your network with nonsense. As I have a pretty broad network, I get continuously requests to make introduction to senior level executives that are part of my network. My answer is typically that I will not make an introduction until I know the reason for the introduction as I know that my network knows that I respect them. If I do an introduction, my network also knows that it might be worthwhile to do something about it.

How are you building your future in respect to social networks and have you learned how to be effective in it? I am in the process of testing some interesting tools that use social networks as a resource. I think sales is also changing and each one of us has to evaluate whether we are up-to-date how we go about our daily lives.

photo by: ButchLebo

I was forced to study Facebook privacy settings and this is why

I got my shiny new yellow Nokia Lumia 920 that has really made mobility a pleasure again. I waited for a new device that I could comfortably replace my BlackBerry Bold (brand that I have been using the past 7-8  years) and Lumia 920 became it. I was mostly concerned about the missing keyboard and some of my friends said that I am a dinosaurs as keyboard is really a thing of last century… that is what they said… and they were right… there is really no need for a physical keyboard at least with Lumia 920.

Since the last two weeks, I have been taking beautiful pictures from Texas Christmas, some of them during the night with amazing results. Lumia 920 camera is really the first mobile camera where I do not have to carry my pocket digital camera.  Following picture was taking with my Lumia when Skip (Lowchen, little lion dog) was wondering what this white stuff is all about…

WP_20121225_007

Today, I really started to wonder that nobody made any comments on some of the pictures… (maybe this is Facebook addiction…) and then I realized something… All of the entries that I had made are defaulting to “Me Only”… so I have been taking pictures for myself, myself only… sweet…

I could not find any settings on my Lumia that would change it.. neither just by reading and browsing Facebook settings…. but as with everything in life.. somebody else must have had the same issue and I found this in a blog entry where somebody has found out what the issue was:

Facebook-Privacy issue-001

As the text above says, if you are a former BlackBerry user and have used the Facebook App for BlackBerry, you might have issues…. When I found my settings, this is how it looked like:

Facebook-Privacy issue-002

With the change, I want my friends to see what I am posting, so it looks like this now:

Facebook-Privacy issue-003

I still can’t believe that I missed this when I started using my new Nokia 920, but this is of course not the issue with my new phone, but with some legacy stuff and how Facebook has its privacy settings done. This also gave me an opportunity to really learn more how things are shared in Facebook so the same things does not happen to me what happened to Zuckerberg’s sister this week.

My personal post mortem of Microsoft Partner Worldwide Conference (WPC11) in Los Angeles 2011

This was my sixth Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) and probably the most useful and effective that I have experienced so far.  Be warned. This blog entry is pretty long, but it gave me an opportunity to reflect on the event and also reflect how my own behavior has changed during the past 6 WPCs that I have participated in.

WPC first weekend: Golf or Educational Sessions

The WPC usually starts on Sunday by a golf tournament or educational sessions. There are two different golf tournaments: Microsoft Invitational and IAMCP tournament. I participated this year in the former as I have done IAMCP many times before as part of my former leadership roles within IAMCP. The Microsoft invitational took place in the gorgeous Trump National Golf Course in Palos Verdes and I had the opportunity to both sponsor the event and also play with an amazing team consisting of one Microsoft executive and two gentlemen from a partner organization. The day was amazing, the weather collaborated with us and everybody was on a cheery mood. What a great start of the WPC week!

If you are participating in WPC first time, I would highly recommend you take some sessions on Sunday so you get some insights to Microsoft and its ecosystem.

Let me explain why I think this WPC was especially effective to me this year. I will start by framing the case so you can put it in historical perspective.

Historical background to my previous WPC events

My first WPC was in Minneapolis back in 2005 and I only had a few days to get ready to that event as I had mostly visited IBM PartnerWorld events for the past 10 years as leader of a business intelligence software vendor.  I did not have any exposure of what to expect in Minneapolis and I did not have any ideas what kind of behavioral patterns one would face during a WPC event. I do not think I was very effective during Minneapolis as everything was so new and I did not really know what to invest in from a time perspective. My recommendation is to learn from the ones that have experience and I have in fact done a few sessions with Microsoft subs to educate Microsoft partners that want to benefit from WPC.

Throughout the years I became more effective, even in Boston (2006) I did my homework before the conference and had some of idea what I could expect from the conference. The next WPC was held in Denver (2007) within the famous mile high environment and 2008 was time for the hot and steamy Houston Texas, my home state. I remember 2008 to be the first impactful WPC for my company TELLUS as that was the first time when Microsoft really also looked at us for working together on the field.

WPC 2009 was held in New Orleans and that year I was the Worldwide President for IAMCP and this meant that I was part of pre-planning team of WPC whereby the IAMCP leadership team visited the location. I was extremely happy that Microsoft put New Orleans on the map again even if people had fear about whether New Orleans was ready for WPC after the catastrophic hurricane Katharina that devastated New Orleans. I am glad Microsoft was bold and had courage to bring business back to New Orleans! I was honored to be one of the ambassadors that year to promote New Orleans as the place for WPC. The event (WPC09) was a huge success and Microsoft partners loved it gave New Orleans a chance to show that the town was back for conferences.

WPC returned to Washington D.C.  (2010) and I felt now that I had the experience and willpower to do what was needed to be done from a business perspective.  Lots of good things came from the conference that year. The Microsoft partner conference history for me has been an evolution and each year I have become more focused and targeted and this has brought new opportunities and also kept the overall experience very nice. Like in any business, focus and segmentation will bring success and that applies also to conferences such as Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.

Let me be clear, WPC is by far the  most important event in the year for my business as that is when our strategy gets aligned with the one from Microsoft and myself and my team will define the fall season (half year period) based on what we have heard during WPC keynotes. To be frank, we will already start the process pre-WPC as we have an idea where things are going based on the discussions with the Microsoft field teams. The actual WPC event gives us the confirmation that we are on the right track. I work with Microsoft field teams in different parts of the world and the final quarter of their financial year is not only trying to get good results for the ongoing fiscal year, but also to cement plans for the new upcoming fiscal year. One has to understand the business cycle to be able to align with it.

I have always emphasized in my educational sessions to Microsoft partners that one should divide conference execution into three steps: pre-conference, conference itself and then post-analysis. The pre-conference is where you will define your target partner group that you want to meet and you will approach them with a quality message, not with spamming. You will not have time to meet everybody of the 15k participants so you have to ensure that you selfishly select the ones that you want to meet. Once you have set your target, you connect with the target group by using WPC Connect tool to send a request for a meeting. Unfortunately, what you will find out before the conference is that people are not actively registering to the service which leaves you in the dark whether the meeting will take place or not. I had many that never responded and I also had no-shows. That is life and you just have to accept it. What I do not appreciate is the spamming from people that have not done any homework on what we do with the result of misuse of my time and efforts.

WPC is not just for partners, it is also a tremendous place to meet and greet Microsoft people who are there to figure out how to execute on the new financial year that starts first of July each year. If you did not know, 95 percent of Microsoft revenue comes from the partner ecosystem, whereby the importance of partners is huge and WPC is a good place to get the discussion/negotiation going.

The conference for me is about listening to keynotes and having meetings. If you participate WPC and party during the evenings, I would still highly recommend for you to get to the keynotes as that is where you can “smell and taste” from the key executives what is going to happen for the new fiscal year. Some people say that it can be read later from papers and blogs, but I think it is necessary to be there physically as it is the posture and the way things are said that makes a huge difference. This year, I did not have any time for anything else besides the meetings with Microsoft personnel and partners and based on my experience, I think this was also the most successful year for me as I was able to talk to most of the ones that I needed to. Some of the contacts did not have time to come to WPC Connect, so we agreed to meet at the session that they were driving and met after the session. And I am glad that I did as it also shows commitment from my side that I wanted to make an extra effort to accommodate the other person’s schedule.

If you are attending WPC for leisure, I would recommend you do it somewhere else as most of the participants are there for business. I already see some of the readers react negatively to this, but this is really where partner-to-partner connections take place and people want to create their business and pipeline for months to come. During the morning, you will listen to keynotes, during the day you will listen to sessions or have meetings with Microsoft and Microsoft partners and during the evening you party. Partying is in the DNA of WPC and you will have to live with it. I had probably 3 hours of sleep each night, made connections also in the party sessions. I admit that this year I did a couple of mistakes by selecting a venue that was not effective and impactful to us, but one can’t always look at the business but look at other factors as well.

My week started with an interesting panel discussion that was broadcasted live on the first WPC11 day (Monday) with the idea to discuss about the message from the keynote and what the cloud meant for partners. The panel was led by Kat Tillman from Microsoft and four panelists: Kelvin Kirby from Technology Associates International, R “Ray” Wang from Constellation Research (read his blog “A Software Insider’s Point of View”), Mary Jo Foley from ZDnet blog “All about Microsoft” and then myself representing Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and System Integrators (Sis) and cloud transformation. The session was also recorded besides being broadcasted live. You should also check out a pretty interesting site that includes lots of good information from Microsoft community at large.

On the third day (Wednesday) I participated in a social media panel where I had the opportunity to speak about why it is important to understand social media and how that can be used to brand your company specifically if you are a small-business owner. The room was packed with people and I think the discussion was also very interesting with good questions coming from the audience.

My WPC week ended on Friday when I delivered a guest speech for Microsoft Public Sector Educational partners (GEPS @WPC) about Cloud Business Modeling. This was a nice addition to the already successful week at WPC and very happy that I did it.

The week had its toll on me. The weekend after WPC I spent mostly in bed recouping and I think that was a smart move as the week after WPC I have followed up with every contact I made which is part of the post-conference activity. How many contacts have you followed up since WPC? My point here is that it is a tremendous opportunity to be “different” and connect and thank you for the meeting/session that you have had with a person during WPC. You can make an impression of professional courtesy and that can lead to anything going forward.

My sincere suggestion for any Microsoft partner that attends WPC is to divide the conference execution in three phases: pre-conference, conference itself and post-conference.

Let me know if you agree with my approach and if you have another one, I would love to hear from it.

Law #6 of Bessemer’s Top 10 Cloud Computing Laws and the Business Model Canvas –By definition, your sales prospects are online

I am now in the sixth law in Bessemer’s Top 10 Computing Laws with an emphasis in identifying the prospects that you are going to sell to. The old-fashioned way of selling software is changing in a fundamental way and this also reflects how you view software channels like I described in my previous blog entry and that reflects to Bessemer’s forth law (Law #4) of forgetting what you have learned of software channels. Let’s look at what this fourth law really means for SaaS companies.

Law #6: By definition, your sales prospects are online – Savvy online marketing is a core competence (sometimes the only one) of every successful Cloud business.

The reality in today’s world is that people are searching for products and services using search engines and making their buying decisions based on not only the information in the Internet, but also how other people are rating your product/service. Ten years ago when we were selling software for hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth, CIOs and decision makers of the buying process did not necessarily go to the Internet and search for your track record of delivery and other key factors that are part of the decision making. I remember vividly that some our clients called organizations such as IDC, Gartner and Forrester to ask about the quality of our product as the digital footprint of a typical software vendor was very minimal.

This trend towards lead generation using search engine optimization (SEO), viral marketing, search engine marketing (SEM), email marketing are things that B2B marketers have been using for a while and traditional software vendors are only now trying to figure out to leverage it. Bessemer refers to organizations such as IBM, SAP, Oracle and their traditional ways of sales and how smaller challengers have a better opportunity to achieve visibility when compared to the large players. There are lots of good books about how the marketing and PR is changing like David MeerMan Scott and his book The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly.

What is changing is also that your web-site is no longer about your great looking graphics, but more about the content and relevancy to your audience. What really matters is what you have to say on your web-site and what type of action the site gives for the prospects that have an interest in your solution. Does your site let the prospect to take action? Based on some studies, even some SaaS companies are failing to lead the prospect to take action or even have something to act upon. This is amazing to me and one wonders if these companies just do not have the DNA of a SaaS company and therefore rather just execute on the traditional enterprise software sales methods. These companies will not survive in the long run and need to get new people onboard that have the right type of mentality.

Even email marketing is in a flux and during the last couple of years, I have seen people getting upset with email blasts that are not relevant to them and this will result in recipients becoming angry at your brand. Some people just do not get it, especially if your email addresses are not based on opt-in policy. This morning I was cleaning my email box from a person that seems to be sending crap to me every second day about topics that I do not care about. What gives him the right to do it? I have never requested him to send me anything and neither have I opted in to any of his web-sites. I hope he reads this blog entry and maybe shifts his thinking about his email marketing strategy.

Is email marketing dead? Probably not, but it is changing as we speak. Email marketing companies such as Exact Target and Constant Contact are acquiring social media solution providers to enhance their solutions with social aspects. Exact Target has acquired CoTweet and Constant Contact acquired NutshellMail. I personally believe that this is not only necessary, but it has to happen as the traditional email marketing needs to evolve to something that benefits the recipient and  gives  readers the ability to opt-in in a way that they want to such as using Twitter “follow” functionality.

Sales in the SaaS world have to do with getting your brand known in the social media space. That is where you are most likely going to be finding your new leads and that is where you need to convince your leads that your company and your solution/brand is something that they need to be paying attention to. Also, due to the change in revenue model in the software world, SaaS companies can no longer afford expensive inside sales teams like I discussed in my blog entry about sales learning curve and also about the financials in my blog entry of the top 6 financial metrics  in the SaaS world that you have to be paying attention to.

Finally, the new way of marketing and creating awareness for your company gives you a tremendous opportunity even if you are a small player. Large companies just aren’t there yet with their social media strategies and if you are small and nimble, you can really make it big. Your SaaS sales have to be high from get-go, you have to generate leads and the old marketing methods are just too slow, so you might want to adjust to the new world of using social media.

Summary of our findings in respect to Business Model Canvas

Like in my previous blog entries in the Bessemer’s Top 10 Cloud Computing Laws, my objective is to relate this current law to Dr. Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas.

When reviewing the nine (9) building blocks in the Business Model Canvas, the most obvious impact that the new sales models in the SaaS world has to do with Key Resources (KR), Key Activities (KA), Cost Structure (CS) and Revenue Streams (RS) but also indirectly on Channels (C) and Customer Relationships (CR). Let me explain my logic behind this.

First of all, the company has to look at their own core competences and if the Key Activities (KA) and Key Resources (KR) do not reflect the new world of SaaS and DNA of SaaS (like I stated in my blog entry), the company will not be able to drive leads using the Internet as a vehicle. You can’t externalize social media to outsiders as each individual in the company have to be carrying the message in the cyberspace of the product. The old-fashioned way of “giving the authority to somebody else” is gone and these types of individuals will sooner or later realize that they are out-of-sync from the rest of the world. This might sound very radical, but it is already happening, you might want to look around that see if for yourself.

With the renewed approach to market using social media, it will have an immediate impact on Cost Structure (CS) as some of the more expensive traditional marketing methods such as having a booth at a conference, press, TV and other outbound activities are less appealing and effective for companies and inbound marketing is getting more relevant. It is not to say that SaaS marketing is free as can be seen in the financial results of companies such as Salesforce.com.

With effective sales and marketing online, the company will see an impact on Revenue Streams (RS) as expected, but the point is more about whether the company has really understood that SaaS sales has different impact on the annual financial results than in former world; a deal closed in February looks radically different from earnings perspective than a deal closed on November for the specific financial year. This is something that is hard to understand if you have only been in traditional software business.

When you are successful in driving leads, this will have an impact on your Channels (C) as well as they might expect you to be part of providing leads for them (if it supports your sales model). The Channel (C) will be different in the SaaS world and most probably you will be looking at organizations that provide domain-specific skills to the solution and these types of organizations might not have an interest in the recurring revenue that the solution generates, but more in providing consulting services.

Finally, the Customer Relationship (CR) is the key to your success and if your target segment is known not to be online users, then you have to take this into consideration as well.  However, I would argue that the new generation of users is also changing this landscape where you can’t really ignore any vertical/market from your online sales initiatives. It is just a matter of time when it will happen and you will have to be prepared to cater your Customer Relationship (CR) the way they expect you to do.

How do you really measure your influence in the cyberspace and do you know your Twitter influence?

We all like to think that the more we have blog entries, Twitter followers and activity in the Net, the better we are as influencers. This is not the case and in fact, the noise that you are creating might have a negative impact on your brand, your reputation and turn people away from you. I have run into people that have found automated scripts that automatically put their Twitter accounts to follow them with the wish that the other party would turn a favor. However, this type of activity will not lead to rational end results; you might have lots of followers that have nothing to do with you or your business. Is that really what you want? How can we make sense of all this and how can we rank people (influencers) in the cyberspace that tells us how important they are from an influencing perspective? There are tools that try to do this and new tools that are becoming better and better.

I recently run into an interesting company where the famous Scobleizer  did a videotaping recently. We have been doing Influencer Intelligence (with an influencer map as a result) for almost two years and the issue is that there are no standardized metrics to measure what type of influence one has in the cyberspace. There are measures and tools that use proprietary methods to measure for example blog authority (Technorati) and some other ranking engines that have their own way of doing things.   Other tools/sites such as PageRank, FeedBurner, Alexa are also have their own way of analyzing influence such as number of comments on a blog entry etc.

The recent success of Twitter has also caused a tremendous misconception among people with automated robots creating followers and this is complete nonsense in my mind. There are people that just push crap into the Twitter assuming that somebody is reading it, and I am afraid that they are missing the point completely. Analyzing Twitter traffic and impact is nothing new and there are many tools that have been developed such as Twitter Grader, Twinfluence, TwitterAnalyzer, Twitaholic, Twitalyzer, TweetLevel and now the new that I want to talk about today which is Klout which to me is pretty fascinating new service and you can learn more about it by checking out following YouTube presentation.

 The idea of this solution is to aim to create better metrics on how strong somebody is as an influencer in the cyberspace from Twitter perspective. Based on the experience we have of our influencer intelligence and mapping, these types of tools are crucial to achieve better results in rankings of influence.

I have been surprised how little people know about the importance of influencers and their impact on the communities, sub-communities and other multipliers such as forums and blogs. Some companies, specifically in the technology sector, are still driving with its outbound marketing initiatives, while they could be more intelligent about it and really first identify whom they should target, why they should target them and create much better focus this way.

A good comparison to be is as follows: enter a huge store (like Walmart). Try to find something that you do not know what you are looking for.  The task is overwhelming and you will give up. This is exactly what I have seen also in the social media space. It becomes overwhelming very quickly and you just give up as you do not see results. I am very selective in whom I follow and drop off the ones that are just causing noise in my life and do not bring any value to me as person, to my company.

What is interesting in this new company Klout is that they have already 450 companies using their APIs (application programming interface) and they have innovated some interesting ways to make money on this as well. I think this is an awesome way to build platforms that enables other applications to consume functionality and charge for this consumption. What could be more interesting and fascinating?

The overall approach of consuming functionality through the cloud is on the rise and you can see this by having third-party developers building solutions on top of applications such as Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics Online. I expect the whole software ecosystem to change going forward with information providers creating useful information and information consumers taking advantage of this information in different types of applications. You can see good example of this in the service from Microsoft with the codename “Dallas” that enables organizations to provide information that others can consume and pay for.   These types of information marketplaces will grow in the future and creates new innovations for us to be excited about.

From outbound marketing to inbound marketing – Is your current web-site representative of your business?

We call know that one of the toughest things we have to deal with is our own web-site and the messaging within it. I can’t remember how many times we have renewed our web-site during the past five years, but it is quite a few times. Smaller companies can’t afford to put marketing dollars/Euros in expensive outbound marketing campaigns and have to focus more on lead generation campaigns that are based on inbound marketing. In my previous post about social media marketing, I concluded that organizations and business owners need to have a wake-up call to understand the ramifications of it. Today I read an interesting article from BusinessWeek with the topic “Stop Wasting Time on Social Media” which includes valuable information what can happen to you if you are not careful in your time management.

I really like the data from Hubspot.com and their site that includes huge amount of valuable information about inbound marketing.  that provides excellent information of their client’s behavior in the net and based on a recent study of theirs, 2010 lead generation budgets (a sample of 2500 companies), 24% of the budget will go to outbound marketing while 39% to inbound marketing. This is logical if you think about it. Inbound marketing includes at least following elements:

  • SEO
  • Pay Per Click
  • Blogging/Blogosphere
  • Social Media/Buzz
  • Targeted Landing Pages
  • Lead Intelligence
  • Conversion Tools

So when it comes to the marketing efforts, the inside sales, email blasts, telemarketing, tradeshows and other media ads are not that effective as they used to or the audience will not put attention to them as they used to do. Ten years ago, outbound marketing was our only choice, nowadays effective inbound marketing is where you have to really invest things.

If you are a software vendor, specifically in the SaaS space, you will have new challenges in your marketing efforts as the traditional channel might be non-existent in some of the cases specifically if there is no integration or traditional IT consulting opportunities. I think Riitta provided valuable feedback to my previous post as she has to figure out an effective way to market her company Sopima that resonates to her audience and target market segment.

Back to my question of whether you have an effective web-site and whether your site drives business and leads.  Like in my post yesterday, let me provide you with a practical example of non-software related business. This is what happened.

One of our cooling systems broke down yesterday. We had 100 Fahrenheit yesterday (37.7 Celsius) so the temperature inside our house became almost unbearable. Luckily, my wife said that we had a contract with a heating/cooling chain that I could get to our house in the morning. I called and got this very arrogant lady answering the phone and she told me pretty much that somebody might come in the evening but no guarantees. So much about the maintenance contract…. What I did instead was to do an Internet search of local businesses, I found one and I got somebody to help me in 30 minutes. They came, fixed it and they got a client for life and all of the referrals that they get from me.

I called back the company that we have a contract with and asked them to never call us back. As a business-owner, I much rather give my money to other business-owner in my neighborhood than to some large chains that do not care if I and my three doggies melt in the heat.

The learning that I have of this is very simple. Make sure that your web-site has a good foundation for organic search results. Make sure that you are found by locals, if you do local business. Also, I would claim that the effectiveness of paid search is diminishing (I have also read research that this is the case) and I hardly ever click on the paid search and go instead with the ones that appear in the three first organic search pages.

If you do international business, make sure that your site makes sense across borders. I have unfortunately seen too many cases where a company wants to have success outside its home territory but has an awful web-site that turns away the possible prospect and future clients.

Check your web-site today and be honest to yourself. If it does not represent what it should, do something about it sooner than later.

It is a big mistake to ignore social media and categorize it as nonsense – read about a real-life story

First of all, this story is pretty long for a blog entry, but it includes interesting findings about the use of social media and what it can do for you.

I am surprised how many people still think that social media is only a new trend that will fade away soon. I run into very intelligent executives and their view of social media is that it is just a distraction and that he/she does not want to have his/her employees to waste time on it. I have even had clients that have told me not to use the word social media in the presence of his/her employees.  That is almost unreal to me and I am wondering how these people will be able to survive in the long run running their companies? If they are not willing to understand the world of digital natives and not even try to become digital immigrants, they might have issues running their companies going forward.

Let me tell you a real example of social media from my own life, something that really shows that you really do not have to know somebody to be able to start a discussion and without being categorized as a spammer. This story includes multiple people including me that got connected via social media and the discussion is still continuing. This is an example for those people that do not believe in social media and that still think that social media is nonsense. It might be nonsense to some, but if you want to stay on top of future requirements, you might want to reconsider your stance. I hope this example gets some of the non-believers to at least reconsider their stance.

One night I was linking myself to a person that I knew from the past via LinkedIn service and I found another person that sounded somehow familiar to me. Maybe it was her Swedish name and I wondered if she had gone in the same business school with me in Helsinki (Hanken). I did a quick Internet search and found her fascinating profile. Her name is Cristina Andersson, an author of The Winning Helix and owner of Develor company in Finland. She is a well-known coach and speaker with impressive background. I connected to her via Facebook, LinkedIn and we agreed to meet in Helsinki during my next trip.

Cristina did not know me from the past, our roads had never crossed and it might be that my 12+ years outside Finland had something to do with this as well. Meeting people in the net for social/business connections can be risky if you do not know whom you are connecting with. This connection was confirmed by another strong professional from Finland that is extremely connected and I admire her use of social media. Her name is Riitta Raesmaa, co-founder of Sopima ; a SaaS company that has achieved tremendous recognition during the past few months.

Sopima is building an awesome solution on Windows Azure platform from Microsoft to manage contracts online (Online Contract Bank) and they have a bright future ahead of them. Riitta and I have worked together in the past; she was my marketing director when I was corporate CEO for an international business intelligence company. Riitta put a note on my Facebook wall asking if I knew Cristina from the past… I said I did not but now I know and Riitta also confirmed this connection.

The virtual connection with Cristina led to a physical meeting in Helsinki.  My company TELLUS International  was contracted to do a 6 country Western Europe business seminar series for Microsoft WebsiteSpark members and one of the countries were Finland so I was able to meet Cristina during a beautiful and sunny Helsinki morning in late May 2010. We exchanged books, I got both her Finnish and English version of her The Winning Helix book and I gave my first book Onnistu suuressa maailmassa to her. I am looking forward Cristina to comment on my new book Rohkeasti maailmalle that just came out as well.

Suddenly I got a Facebook request from person that I did not know from the past. It was Eve Holopainen from Ladywebbi, the owner of a Finnish social media/marketing company. The fact that I got connected with Eve was not a coincidence; she knows both Cristina and Riitta well, whereby the virtual connection is now strengthening with ongoing conversation. Like in physical meetings, I became part of a network that I did not have before and Riitta was the only connection that could confirm who I was and also if either Eve or Cristina wanted to know something from my past.

The relevance of this blog post is that the social networking really works if you do it in the right way. If you spam the network, as many do, you will not get where you need to go. You need to be intelligent how you get connected even with people that you do not know. The way I do it is to refer to people that we both know, as this confirms that my connection request did not come from outer space and that there is a valid connection and reason for me to get connected.

It is sad to see many successful entrepreneurs not realizing the power of social media. These entrepreneurs have everything that is needed to get the word out to the cyberspace of their product/solution, but they limit themselves by not participating in the collaboration in forums/blogs/social media sites. By becoming an influencer in your domain, you will gain respect but it will always take time.

Do not expect your couple of blog entries change the world. You will have to change the way you think about your daily activities and how the social media is changing our ways of working and how you can benefit of it. I have during my worldwide travel seen hundreds of examples of people that have got it.

I am also very impressed how Eve, Riitta, and Cristina are using the social media to educate people about things that are close to their heart. Social media to me is to educate and not to force your sales message to somebody’s throat. Social media is to build your digital presence and continue nurturing your followers with information that they know that you have a passion for. Therefore it is really important to select your focus in the social media as you will fail if you try to be everything to everybody. You won’t be successful in business if you do not focus. The same rules apply in social media world as well.

Time will tell what I will do together with Eve, Cristina and Riitta but the foundation is there to continue innovating of cooperation and collaboration.

If you are not in the social media age, I would highly recommend you to start looking at it to learn what can be done and what is required from you. If you are the CEO of the company, you cannot just order your employees to start working with social media, you need to be part of that as well. This is unfortunately like quality management in the past… The CEO says that now we will be a quality driven company and hire a quality manager and the task of this poor manager is to be the quality guy without organizational support. Do you still remember those days? I do vividly and I remember many of these guys resign as there really wasn’t any organizational support.

I rest my case now and will come with new posts around this topic and how this impact our daily lives.

Understanding your Ecosystem and Leveraging it Using Modern Social Media Tools

Today I have been working on a chapter to my third book that has to do with ecosystem research and understanding the influencers within it.  This is something that organizations are slowly but surely moving towards and these are the reasons for it:

1)      Most organizations really do not know how to define their ecosystem .

2)      Most organizations do not know who the key influencers are within the ecosystem.

3)      Most organizations do not know who the competitors really are and how they use social media to get their voice to the target group of their product/solution.

4)      Most organizations do not know what to do with this information that is collected of the ecosystem that they are part of.

5)      Most organizations do not know how to position social media strategy in their overall business strategy including marketing and PR strategy.

6)      Most organizations do not know how to execute on social media strategy in their respective business domain.

I recently did a speech about this topic for a pretty large crowd (around 300) of people and based on the feedback I received was that it made them think about their own digital footprint and how they are seen in the cyberspace.  Many organizations are in the process of thinking about how to ensure that they are part of the cyberspace chatter and that they understand how it fits in their overall marketing and PR strategy framework.

It is also obvious to me that there are different maturity levels in the thinking based on the cultural background and also maturity level on companies and how they see social media. The most critical audience is the one that see social media as hidden porn or a way to peep into others life. Unfortunately they are missing the point.  Peeping has nothing to do with doing business using social media strategy and tools.

It is also unfortunate that social media has become almost inflated term to some extent and this is probably also due to so many snake-oil salespeople that have found a good way to educate people how to be effective in using Facebook.  These sales consultants usually do not tie the social media strategy to the overall business strategy which makes the senior executive management perplexed what happened. No wonder the budgets in many companies are not approved relating to social media!

But social media is really not about Facebook use or Twitter, it is a change the way we act and think. It is not replacing all of the marketing and PR activities in an organization. The way I see it is that it supplement some of the stuff that we are used to do. If an organization thinks that social media is the function of marketing and PR department, they are on the wrong track again. It is about educating the entire workforce how to think about social media and how to participate in it. I know that there are many that do not agree on this, but I do not see the old-fashioned, protected walled garden approach to work anymore. If somebody can give be evidence of me being wrong, I am more than happy to learn about it.  I have to admit it took me a while to really understand how to be part of the cyberspace flow, but now I see huge potential on a personal level and also as a company.

The approach that we are taking is a three-step process: map, monitor and mediate. The mapping exercise is to identify the ecosystem, its borders and the “reality” that we need to be focused on. How many times have you seen an organization that tries to sell everything to everybody? Not many… Neither have I… The mapping includes key influencers, their participation and what communities they are part of. It could be a special interest group or it could be a community of practice. If you are a software vendor think about the mapping as an exercise to identify your key target market, the name of the companies, the key influencers within those companies. It really isn’t anything new, the difference is that it is tied to the digital footprint that these organizations create on a daily basis.

Once you have done the mapping, it is time to put a strategy in place to monitor the ecosystem based on keywords that we define as part of our strategy. It could be monitoring specific competitors; it could be keywords with names of specific people or companies. It is all dependent on what we need to get out from the ecosystem and what type of actionable things you want to happen.

The final part of the research is to create a strategy for us to mediate in the ecosystem. This could mean that we participate actively in the discussion or it could mean that we continue to build our competitive strategy based on the findings of the monitoring. It all depends on what we are looking for.

The research that I did today included a deep-dive to a bunch of books that I have in my Kindle DX. I also ready a bunch of good websites, one of them being Jeremiah Owyang that used to work for Forrester but has now started a company The Altimeter Group together with Charlene Li that has also worked for Forrester. Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff came out with an excellent book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies which deals with social technologies and social media from an educational perspective.

Whatever your approach is to social media, you need to really educate yourself to think about the process and how you apply it to your company. Without this, you won’t succeed and you won’t get your employees to work with you on getting your brand and information out the cyberspace.

Book Review of Paul Chaney’s “The Digital handshake”

My latest book arrived yesterday from Amazon.com (was not available via Amazon Kindle), so I had to get a physical copy. What caught my eye specifically was the chapter nine “Niche Online Communities Can Benefit Your Business” as I am running http://www.isvcommunity.com as a forum for people that have an interest in software business, software business models and overall life in the software arena. When reading the book I really like the practical approach that Paul Chaney is taking and I recommend this book for people that want to achieve an understanding in overall changes in social media.
Check out also my comments of the book in a short video book review:

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