Friday, 25 June 2010

Identify your competitors and evaluate your marketing strategy

The ideas of competitors and markets used to squarely belong with marketing strategies for off-line companies. The online world has shifted the focus because it allows fast, automatic, analysis of your competitors. Many tools are offered under Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) allowing inside information on what your competitors are using as keywords to hook people in to their site, what search engines they are listed on, what links enhance their optimisation, what ranking they command in the engines and many more pieces of intelligence. Are you checking your competitors regularly? Worse, are they checking on you?

There's a free tool that analyses some basics that you can use for your own site or for a competitor at Search Engine

Search Quest gives a breakdown of what analytics they offer for small, medium and large companies. Of course, the charges go up accordingly, but it helps to see the range of analysis that is offered for a price. What price is competitor intelligence worth to you?

It's as well to remember a few caveats about trying to emulate your close competitors. They have perhaps forged ahead in their branding for several reasons. Is it worth you always trying to catch them up or should you use the intelligence to out think them? Just reproducing the same strategies but later than competitors will not give you an advantage.

So are you a blue ocean company or a red ocean company? The article from Mind Tools about blue ocean strategies is worth reading to help focus your strategy on winning by establishing difference, not by copying your competitors. Food for thought. Happy strategising.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Social Media Crunching

You can't blame people for getting a bit paranoid about what people are saying about them on Facebook and worse, Twitter. But it is now a serious business if your brand is being dissed on them and you haven't got a strategy to deal with this. Are you advising your clients to think this through? Are you trying to deal with it by using tools to monitor what's going down on the social grapevine?

Well, luckily a few companies are ahead of the game and Fresh Networks with their sister company FreshMinds Research have done an analysis of seven social media monitoring tools in a free report you can download from their site at

This also gives some insight into the basics of social media monitoring, where to find social conversations, and the drawbacks of monitoring social comments. I imagine from my linguistic days that it can be a nightmare to analyse chatter let alone texting but I'm interested in this side of things because language analysis has progressed leaps and bounds. I just wonder if the analysis gets hold of the wrong end of the stick more often than not! (Imagine trying to analyse that last sentence!). Get more about this by looking at The Problem with Automated Sentiment Analysis 28th May by Matt Rhodes.

Whatever, social media networks are giving the trad media boys some puzzlement over what good they can be to them. New Media Age (3rd June issue) featured the dilemma for broadcasters after the BBC have integrated the iPlayer with Facebook and Twitter enabling users to share and recommend shows to each other. Of course, the rest of the TV players want in on the game.

Talking of games – yes, we'll be avoiding the World Cup so there won't be a blog next week. We're off snorkelling in warm waters, ash permitting.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Managing client expectations – a common project problem

From the number of job descriptions where this phrase features, this is a skill in big demand. What's more, these jobs are in the higher pay brackets too. Most difficulties stem from lack of understanding on both sides, lack of clarity about what will be produced, and in the end a lack of trust. It needs someone to apply some analysis and jump in and sort out any emerging problems.

In iMedia projects the risk from miscommunication increases. Why is that? Well, we’re talking about what for most people is an intangible process (computing processes), we are working internally across specialisms that have their own language of description, and working with clients who have their own specialisms, descriptive languages and markets. Then, of course, we deal in look and feel – very subjective issues.

Very often it is the things that are not said that prove to be the gremlins. These are implicit expectations the client has about the project. The only way to get clients to verbalise these is to ask specific questions. The client may not have realised that they even needed to consider X,Y and Z, but if you raise the issues and insist you have to have some answers before proceeding, this educates the client into giving information that is vital. (The project 'Scoping' questionnaire we have discussed previously can help with this).

For example, it is very important for you to know if a site has to be designed for the client to update. The client might presume that is what they'll get as all their contacts operate in that way. But, unless you ask the key question about the assumption (implicit expectation), you’ll be up **** creek! And we've all been there!

Just to be clear, managing client expectations is part of the wider role of stakeholder management, that we also discuss in these pages. Stakeholders can be anyone who can influence the project and so this can include clients, your direct contacts there as well as indirect contacts in their company. It can include your internal team and management too. All their expectations have to be managed in appropriate communication – dealt with elsewhere but I felt it needed to be put in context here.

So not an easy issue at all but a skill that is highly valued although not one that is analysed well in cyberspace! All I can offer you in the way of recent thinking is:
  • Managing Client Expectations (April 2009) on Continuous Thinking (author unknown)

  • Managing Client Expectations (December 18th 2009) by Raj Modi, - a slightly sideways look as he discusses consultancy and client expectations but has validity

  • Finally, if you really can’t manage the client any more as they are beyond managing this might hold some answers! How to fire a client (August 2005) by Andrew Neitlich in Sitepoint