Monthly ArchiveOctober 2007

Byline Book Reviews 31 Oct 2007 04:58 pm

Byline Book Review: Good to Great by Jim Collins

Welcome to the first Byline Book Review. Unfortunately the book is not hot-off-the-presses, but if you like concentrated doses of truth and relevance, Jim Collins’ Good to Great is a crucial read and one that may change your perspective on business for good.

I finally committed to reading it during my flights to and from NYC this weekend, and I could feel the strangers next to me peering over my shoulder to read along.

The premise: Good is the enemy of great (do you love it?). Collins and his research team set out to determine how a select few companies were able to turn themselves around from just being “good,” or even bad, and achieve greatness. In order to define “great,” the research team examined Fortune 500 lists from 1965-1995 and narrowed down a list of companies that sustained great results (profits) for at least 15 years. It also compared these “great” companies to their “good” competitors, who were never able to sustain the same level of success.

It took five years, but Collins and his team were able to cull their findings down to a few key characteristics that define a great company, as well as the key characteristics that mark certain doom. Instead of me summarizing the empirical findings, I will just quote a few words of wisdom from within, which were backed by extensive and convincing research. Hopefully they will convince you to read the whole thing:

  • Focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organizaton is the only path to greatness.
  • Not one of the good-to-great companies focused obsessively on growth.
  • …culture of discipline. When you have disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy. When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy.
  • Everyone would like to be the best, but most organizations lack the discipline to figure out with egoless clarity what they can be the best at and the will to do whatever it takes to turn the potential into reality.
  • The good-to-great leaders began the transformation by first getting the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus), and then figured out where to drive it. . . the key point is that “who” questions come before “what” decisions – before vision, before strategy, before organization structure, before tactics.
  • “Level 5″ refers to a five-level hierarchy of executive capabilities. . . Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.

* Collins believes that potential Level 5 leaders exist all around us, if we just know what to look for, and that many people have the potential to evolve into Level 5.

I will stop at seven, since Nicole and I believe that all lists should contain an odd number of items, unless of course there are 10 :)

I encourage you to read the book and let me know what you think.

Posted by Rebecca

Leadership 22 Oct 2007 09:56 am

Leadership notes from Dan Mulhern

Since my first undergraduate course in leadership, I’ve been fascinated by the abundant scholarly and practical leadership philosophies aimed at cultivating success. Leadership is not an industry-specific phenomenon. Nor is it a subject only for upper-level executives. Leadership impacts organizations at every level.

At this month’s E2Detroit Entrepreneurship and Excellence Symposium, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture on leadership by First Gentleman Dan Mulhern.

Formerly a high school teacher, community organizer and successful attorney, Mulhern has spent the past several years consulting, speaking and writing about leadership. He shared insights from his most recent book, Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics and Life , with E2Detroit attendees. At its core, Mulhern said, leadership is about two things: where are we going? (Vision), and how do we get there? (Momentum).

Vision can bring real life results to your home, work environment and any other organizations or issues with which you’re involved. Begin your vision with the end in mind; make it clear and simple and set activities based on desired outcomes. Vision doesn’t need to be grand and it doesn’t have to come from the top down. In fact, vision is most powerful side-to-side. To cultivate your vision you must create a team and excite people.

Some questions to ask your self as you build you organization’s vision:

  • Where do I think they’re going?
  • How well do I tap in to what my employees think and care about?
  • What are my employees’ most cherished values?
  • How hard am I listening to what other people think is successful?
  • What is my picture of success?

“Leadership is all about energy,” Mulhern said. That’s where momentum comes in. Once the vision is in place, how do we motivate people toward the goal? The first step is realizing the primary job of leadership is emotional; priming good feelings and releasing energy. Some other easy ways to create markedly positive momentum include encouraging the heart, setting reachable goals with clear deadlines, pitching in, making decisions and challenging people.

If you find problems generating momentum, ask yourself three things:

  • Where is the energy moving?
  • What do I need to do to get things moving in the right direction?
  • Who am I being that the people around me aren’t lighting up and what do I need to change?

Posted by Nicole

Marketing &Technology PR Insights 18 Oct 2007 03:17 pm

Click and Stick: Successful Internet marketing strategies

Eiler Communications’ CEO, Larry Eiler, published an article on Internet marketing strategies in the September issue of Focus on Small Business, the Small Business Assocation of Michigan’s magazine. Below are our firm’s insights about how businesses owners can make e-marketing work for them. To order a copy of the magazine, contact the Michigan SBA.

The definition of marketing has recently expanded to include measurable, precisely-targeted Internet strategies that initiate dialogue with consumers. Since people use the Internet to make purchasing decisions, establishing a Web presence is crucial. Here are five ways your business can enlarge its e-footprint:

Search engine optimization
61 percent of people consider search engines their favorite tool for product research, according to a Yahoo! study, and Data Springs says 87 percent of them do not pass page one of their search returns. The demand for page-one visibility caused an explosion in search engine optimization (SEO), the business of increasing Web site traffic through natural search results.

“Achieving a high search ranking takes time and commitment,” said Linda Girard, co-founder of Ann Arbor Internet marketing firm Pure Visibility. “Successful sites are well-written, informative and easy to navigate. You are writing for search engine algorithms that comb the “key words” of your site for relevance by matching the search terms.”

Search engines don’t always recognize photos, graphics or music files; they care about relevant text. Are the terms “Michigan dentists” in your URL, page titles and site map text? If not, your chances of showing up in related search results are smaller.

Web site links are another important ingredient in SEO. Get listed in the top online directories in your industry and consider linking to companies in related industries on your Web site; they will return the favor. Every few months, evaluate the effectiveness of your key words, value of online referrals and which Web pages get the most visitors.

New media
Blogs, podcasts and content-sharing sites matter because people use them, sometimes more than traditional media. Hitwise finds more people visit the video-sharing juggernaut YouTube than the sites of all major TV networks combined. Journalists, too, read blogs to stay up on trends and story ideas.

Initiate conversation with customers by starting a blog on your Web site with a service like WordPress or TypePad. It will increase Web site traffic and bump up search engine returns. Blog about relevant articles, trends and products, and let readers post comments. Link to other relevant blogs and they will link back to you; join their online conversations and they will join yours. Make sure to officially claim your blog Technorati, a blog directory.

Create company podcasts, digital audio or video files, on your computer and uploaded to your Web site for viewing/listening. Pick topics you can educate others about. Virtual tours are popular with universities and builders; “how-to” demonstrations or executive interviews work for almost any business.

Post commercials on YouTube to establish an initial presence, but use the site to dialogue with others through interesting, interactive content. Blendtec, a company that sells blenders, did this with its viral video series “Will it Blend?” The series invited viewers to nominate new, ridiculous things to blend (like marbles). The initial campaign, which cost about $100, prompted high-profile media attention and increased sales.

Social networks
One in four people Americans use MySpace, a social networking site that accounts for a significant percentage of online retail referrals. Use popular social networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn, to connect with people in your local market. If you own a restaurant or boutique, invite people in your area to join your network for updates on sales and new products.

Online advertising
Paid online advertisements, or pay-per-click (PPC) listings, are purchased through major search engines and allow you to reach customers searching online for your services. PPC ads show up when a customer searches for the terms you’ve selected for your campaign. You pay when customers click on your site; ad impressions are unlimited. PPC programs allow you the freedom to set your own budget and track campaign success.

“Regardless of company size or budget, PPC is an effective marketing tool,” said Google AdWords Strategist Matthew Neagle. “Because ads are displayed alongside search results, a key benefit of Google AdWords and PPC marketing is the ability to target customers who are seeking your products or services when their need is top of mind.”

E-marketing collateral
Newsletters and marketing collateral have digital forms now, which are often more cost-effective and make it easier to measure effectiveness. Graphics and flash animation make e-collateral visually stimulating, and all traffic ultimately leads customers back to your Web site. Distributing via e-mail allows you to track who opens your mail and takes action.

The best way to maintain an e-marketing campaign? “Stay informed,” said Girard. “Research industry trends. Knowing about opportunities is the first step toward making them work for your business.”

Marketing &Social Media 18 Oct 2007 11:52 am

Unmeasured events grow rapidly as firms turn ad dollars to services for consumers

More examples of how companies are using the Internet to reach consumers directly came in a recent New York Times article, “The New Advertising Outlet: Your Life.”

Several large companies were cited as creating new web sites to appeal directly to their consumers, chief among them Nike with its Nike+ site.

The idea is to use events, contests, internet search ads—all long-considered unmeasured, to reach consumers directly.

In Nike’s case, it increased traditional advertising with media by three percent to $220.5 million while growing non-media ad spending 33 percent to $458 million in the period 2003-2006.

This is a fundamental change in the way Nike views advertising and non-media activities such as contests, in-store ads and product placement.

Ads are no longer aimed primarily at seeking to get people’s attention while they are doing something else. Rather, they are taking the form of reaching people while they are participating in workouts, participating in online communities or active in sports competitions.

And such events, like running clubs, races and online communities, provide a home to trade information for those people interested in a specific subject.

This movement bodes well for PR because it includes using all forms of media to reach consumers—or specific audiences targets—and engender their participation directly. That is what the Internet means for PR today: new ways to reach consumers directly using the new forms of delivery it makes available.

Posted by Larry

Marketing &Public Relations Tools 17 Oct 2007 12:08 pm

PR greatest marketing tool, writes

We all know that media are moving and changing fast as new Internet offerings are available—blogs, podcasts, the social media of Facebook, YouTube. People are going to new media for their information because of search engines’ speed of delivery and the individual’s rapid access to immediate news.

But what has not changed, according to a recent story, is “The Single Greatest Marketing Tool: the allure of public relations,” which is writer Lisa LaMotta calls “the discipline of shedding benevolent light on a person, company or cause by tapping the news media,” print or online.

“PR offers a potentially huge benefit that advertising does not: third-party approval,” she explains.

The main key to reaching media is to know what audience you want to reach and then driving for stories in online or print media that reach those targets with compelling information (messages) about your business or organization.

There is no magic to PR. It is a simple process of knowing your audience and messaging and targeting writers who cover the space you are in.

Measurement is an important issue to prove the value of PR. The most common way to measure is “hits,” coverage in online or print media. And there are more subtle messages as well, such as getting your prime messages included in an article. Ad equivalency, or the cost to run ads that cover the space of the stories you get through PR, is another useful way to measure.

Posted by Larry