Don’t waste your time with brainstorming

We all know about the brainstorming approach. I hate it. I think it’s a waste of time. Why? I have 2 explanations to share. But, if you do Google search, you will find more research supporting my argument. Brainstorming is a waste of time.

Why do we do brainstorming? Answer: we hope to generate innovative solutions of business problems. Does it work? Answer: hardly. In my opinion, brainstorming suffers from at least 2 issues:

  1. It depends on the knowledge of the participants. If they are not a subject matter expert, they may or may not provide useful contributions.
  2. It suffers from the fact that everyone tries to achieve average outcomes. In a technical term, it’s call regression to the mean. This is the process of downward adjustment whereby the most talented group members end up matching the performance of their less talented counterparts. 

The only benefit I see from using the brainstorming approach is to gain buy-ins from the team. Having this session makes the team feel like they contribution something. It is one more placebo in the talent management cabinet, believed to work in spite of the clear absence of evidence. So go ahead, schedule that brainstorming meeting. Just don’t expect it to accomplish much, other than making your team feel good.


Create your ecosystem

Why do we have to care about Facebook, Online Travel Agents (OTAs e.g. Expedia), or deal websites so much? We have to use them to promote our products. I paid a lot of money to use their services. And, the answer is they have audience.

Their business model is that they attract people to come their way with free services. They hook those customers in using subscriptions. They entertain their audience with content and shopping-centre-liked service (OTAs). We pay them to reach their audience. Why don’t we create our own audience then?

Start small. You can create an ‘ecosystem’ or a ‘community’ using either the subscription model or creating a Facebook group. Then, you need to think about how to entertain them. Once you have your own audience, you can expect better conversion rates. This is because they are your audience. They know you. They read your content.

It’s a long term investment. And, you should start now. Start small.


Political systems

I am not an expert in politics. I do have opinions and I do know what causes I support. I am an immigrant from Asia. There seems to be an intense pressure from the West that Asian countries must support democracy. Is democracy the best system? Or, is a (country) leader more important than a system?

To be clear, I believe in freedom as long as we respect others. Therefore, I don’t lean towards any particular systems as long as I can do what I want to do, again with respect to others. The reason I raise the above questions is that I read a news piece about the Canadian Prime Minister and was surprised that some Canadians were disappointed about his performance. It makes me think – maybe “compromise” is the major flaw of the democratic system. If the government doesn’t get the majority of the seats, it has to compromise. On the contrary, if the government gains the majority, depending on the quality of the leader, it could be a dictator too.

I could be very shallow about this topic. However, I think the quality of a leader is more important than a system. If a leader cares greatly about his or her people (or team in a business context), any system would do the job.

What do you think?


Facebook tips on shared content

Do you use Facebook in your marketing activities? It’s very likely that you do. You may notice that your post engagement has dropped significantly since Facebook changed its algorithm about a year ago. This is because Facebook wants us to buy ads and boost posts. However, there is a way to improve the post engagement.

And the secret is in your content. An article by by Richard D’Ambrosio suggested that Facebook’s algorithm prioritises active interactions like commenting and sharing over likes and passive interactions like clicks. In Facebook’s mind, the more effort a user applies to posts in their newsfeed, the more likely that content has higher quality and value. And, the hierarchy of Facebook reactions is: 1) comments; 2) reactions other than likes; 3) comment replies, especially those where users tag friends; 4) sharing links over messenger; and 5) engagement on shares.

Things are getting harder now. Everyone uses social media to target customers. There are a lot of low quality content out there. We just need to lift our games. Content is king.


Marketing VS Branding

Do we, marketers, understand branding enough? I am not sure. And, if I am not sure, best of luck to explain it to an executive team. What is marketing then? This is too much for some people.

One of my team members share the below quote with me the other day. It says “Marketing is the equivalent of asking someone on a date. Branding is the reason they say yes.” This is very cool. I recently used a speed dating analogy to explain to my team of what we should not do – asking someone to marry you in the first date. I call all of our discount campaigns, a speed dating campaign. We lure customers in with cheap deals. Then, we sell them with our product.

Because the likelihood of that ‘someone’ to say yes I will marry you in the first date, our conversion rate is very low. The speed dating era has gone. Customers are very smart today. There are also a zillion solutions out there in the market. It’s arrogant to think customers have to buy just from us.

Branding is a long term investment. Yes, it’s unlikely you will get the results you want in a short term. However, it’s not an excuse why you cannot start doing it now. Branding is about building trust. I ask my team all the time – why should customers care about us? If we disappear, would they miss us? They are simple questions but hard to answer.


The Importance of SEO

Do you think SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is important? I kind of do. At the end of the day, a lot of people use Google to search for things they want to buy, information they want to learn. It’s a part of our online marketing routine. We have to include an SEO plan in all of our websites. I am not sure why but my perspective about SEO has changed.

It started when I read a few blog posts that our SEO agency prepared for our new website. It did help our ranking with certain keywords. It did the job for us. However, I didn’t see the value of those blog posts to customers. Later on, I found a quote from one of the books I read. She said that – don’t write for the bot, write for humans. And, that changed my perspective. When you write for the SEO purpose, you create a framework in your head the keywords you have to include. It’s not natural.

Instead, you should think about your customer’s pain points and have those in your writing framework. Your content would add more value to customer’s life. Your solution would reach customers more directly and eventually it will help you with a good SEO ranking.

Remember: write for humans, not the bot.


The Coaching Habit

Do you think you are a good leader? What a good leader look like to you? I may have share this quote with you in the past – “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence”. That is a very good quote. I like it very much. How can we do that?

I attended a leadership conference a few weeks ago. One of the speakers is a writer of The Coaching Habit book. His name is Michael Bungay Stanier. I haven’t read his book yet, but he offered 2 simple questions that stick to my mind until today. The concept is very simple. If you want to help your team develop and want to coach them, ask these 2 questions:

  1. Can you stay curious a little longer?
  2. Can you offer solutions and advice a little slower?

The objective is twofold – 1) asking these questions could help you truly understand the underlining issues, and 2) in doing this, it could help you offer the right advice or it could help your team coming up with a solution themselves.


Behavioural Residue

I am in a pursuit of inbound marketing. The goal is to reduce the reliance on an outbound, cold calling approach. It’s very difficult and it requires our marketing team to change a lot of things. How can we make customers want to talk to us?

One of the items in my list is branding. Everything about branding involves customer’s trust. It would improve content consumption, an email open rate, and a conversion rate. Building a brand takes time.

One small thing that I want to do is around a concept called “behavioural residue”. It relates to brand awareness. Public visibility is required to drive product to catch on. The idea is to promote ‘imitation’. Jonah Berger, the author of a book called “Contagious” defines behavioural residue as “the physical traces or remnants that most actions or behaviours leave in their wake.”

You see a number of companies do it everyday. An iPhone user sends an email with a signature say ‘Send from my iphone’. Supermarkets sell a shopping bag with their names and logos on it. Those items can be used repeatedly. It is a social proof that lots of people use those products.

You should think about this concept too. What is the easiest and the most cost effective way to get your brand, your product’s benefit out there in a meaningful way.


12 Social Media Marketing Predictions

I just read the following article – 12 Social Media Marketing Predictions From the Pros – which is interesting. I suggest you read it to at least catch up on the incoming trend in the social media marketing area.

The key points that I got are there are a lot of advertisements on those social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Pinterest. The below statement reminds me about being an average and a lazy marketer. I also buy a lot ads on social and I am the lazy and the average marketer too.

“back in July 2016 on the Q2-2016 earnings call, Facebook CFO Dave Wehner declared that the company was running out of places in the news feed to show people ads. To help mitigate this max ad load, Facebook spun up ads on Instagram in 2018. Soon the ad load started to max out there, too.” How sad is that? There are more than 7 million advertisers on Facebook!

What need to change for us is to focus on our niche. We need to create content that add value to our customer’s lives. Our content must offer solutions, must answer the big why question – why do my customers care about my offer? Then, we have to choose the right platform that our customers use. As there are so many platforms out there, we don’t have to use all of them. Pick one or two and be great at them.


Physiological Arousal

All marketers want customers to take actions when those customers see their messages or content. We also want customers to share our content. We do want a lot from customers. However, I would say the majority of the marketing content generate nothing.

I came across the above concept called “physiological arousal”. It is a state of activation and readiness for action. When aroused, we do things. There are two types of arousals namely – high arousal and low arousal.

Emotions like anger and anxiety are high arousal. Some positive emotions such as excitement or astonishment are also high arousal. What does it mean to us marketers? It means if your messages or content trigger those ‘high arousal’ emotion e.g. make them excited, it’s likely that customers would take desirable actions that you expect them to.

Low-arousal emotions such as sadness or depression have an opposite effect. Customers feel like they lose energy and don’t want to do anything. It’s unlikely that they would take any action.