It's not the plan that counts, it's planning that counts!

I once had a professor in graduate school who was very fond of the phrase, “It’s not the plan that counts, it’s planning that counts”.

His point was that the most important part of any plan is the planning process itself. A good strategist is smart enough to understand that plans may require adjustments. If you develop what appears to be a sound plan, and then discover that it isn’t working, do you stick with it or do you consider other options? I think most would argue that making adjustments would be both prudent and logical. This isn’t to say that sticking with a foundering strategy may not ultimately result in success. Sometimes a strategy takes time to build, and requires early losses before generating results. However, failing to even consider change is neither strategic nor wise. It’s a sign of arrogance and stubbornness.

Having to adjust your plan doesn’t mean you’re wrong or that you’ve failed. It means you’re learning and adapting. A good strategist is constantly scanning the environment, gathering data and evaluating alternatives. This applies to almost any type of planning:  military, sports, personal finance, or of course business.

A good business plan is developed based on the information that you have at the time the plan is created.  In a dynamic business environment, knowledge that you glean today, may be obsolete tomorrow. A smart business will constantly be scanning and observing its surroundings, while reviewing and evaluating its strategic plan, then making the appropriate adjustments to help ensure the business succeeds.

How often do you review your strategic plan?

How much social media is too much?

Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Foursquare, Places, Yelp, Blogs, Vlogs, YouTube, Flickr, Linkedin, Plaxo and the list goes on and on.

How to properly utilize social media continues to be a very hot topic in marketing circles.  But how much social media is too much? 

Should you be everywhere?  Should you limit the number of comments and posts?  How do you know if people are paying attention or if you're wasting your time?  When is more, better? And when is more simply...more? 

Unfortunately, regardless of what any "Social Media Expert" might tell you, there are no black and white answers to these questions.  It is completely subjective and only through experimentation and self analysis can you know for sure whether or not you're over using or under utilizing social media.  However, here are a series of questions to consider as you launch your social media campaigns:

1.  What social media sites make the most sense for my business operation?  Review your business model and the nature of how your customers and prospects use your business.  Make sure that the functionality of the social media channels you choose is aligned with your strategic business goals.  Linkedin is generally better for B2B or professional networking, while Facebook and Foursquare might be better for B2C operations.  You may even realize that social media isn't right for your business.  Don't automatically assume it is.
2.  How much time should I dedicate each day to managing my social media sites?  There is no magic number here, but you should understand that the less time you can dedicate to it, the less frequently you can post new content or reply to posts  Social media shouldn't monopolize your day, but you should be prepared to dedicate a portion of your day to managing the content on your site/s.  You must also consider social media a long term strategy as it takes time to build fans and followers.  An immediate financial return should rarely be the primary objective when launching a social media campaign.
3.  How often should I post new content?  Again, no magic number.  However, the first contacts that I delete from Twitter are those who seem to feel that the only thing I have to do all day is read their minute by minute updates.  The frequency of your posts is less important than the quality of the content of your posts.
4.  Should I be on as many social media sites as possible?  It depends upon your strategic objectives.  However, I believe that a Facebook account and/or a blog are the best places to launch your social media campaigns and should be the cornerstones of most social media efforts.  Primarily because they give you the best opportunities for content development, customer engagement and feedback. 
5.  If people don't respond to my posts, does that mean that my content has no value?  The answer to this question is unequivocally, "NO".  Just because people don't respond doesn't mean they don't find value in your content.  Most people prefer not to actively participate.  They like hearing what others have to say before formulating an opinion.  It doesn't mean they're not engaged.  It just means they aren't vocal.  The best measurements of the success of your social media efforts are retention and referrals. 
6.  How much should I promote my social media channels?  As often as possible. You have to treat your social media channels like a product.  It is a meeting place to engage your customers and prospects.  If you're not telling them you're there, how are they supposed to find you?  If your social media sites aren't getting much attention, this may very well be the cause.

Most importantly, don't feel that you should jump in all at once.  It will only confuse you and burn you out.  Start slow by opening one channel, then build an audience before you consider launching a second social media channel.  Once you have a built in audience, it will be easier to migrate that population to your new platform than to build a completely organic following.  Plus these visitors will become your best advocates and a resource for driving new traffic.

When did a handshake stop representing mutual respect?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of a handshake is: a gripping and shaking of each other’s hand, as to symbolize greeting, agreement, or farewell.

Growing up I was always taught, both in school and by my father, that a handshake was a gesture of mutual respect. To shake a man’s hand in agreement was as solid a commitment as a more formal signed contract because a “man’s word is his bond”.

In today’s cynical world, I see more and more signs that a handshake doesn’t seem to have the same symbolism as it once did, and I think that’s sad.

My father-in-law recently shared a story about agreeing on the price of a new car, then sealing the deal by shaking the salesman's hand.  While sitting in the sales manager’s office going over the paperwork, the salesman and the sales manager tried to tack on a handful of additional fees and charges that significantly raised the final price of the car. How many of us have had similar experiences? My father-in-law refused to pay the additional money and proceeded to lecture the sales manager on the verbal agreement he had made with the salesman and how his handshake on the price was an indication of the salesman's (and thus the dealership's) agreement on the matter. To change the price after the handshake was highly unprofessional and dishonorable. Eventually, the dealership conceded, but only after my father-in-law threatened to walk out.

I remember at a previous job, I had agreed to contractual terms on a partnership with another business only to eventually learn that the partner wouldn't honor its end of the agreement. To make matters worse, the partner then lied about bringing on board a third party who was a direct competitor to us. When I was invited to a meeting the next year to discuss renewing the partnership (a meeting that someone else had scheduled), I initially refused to shake the company principal’s hand. I always believed that a handshake wasn’t something that was entitled. It was something that was earned or offered. My failure to shake this man’s hand got me in a bit of trouble with my supervisor, but a handshake is a sign of respect, and I had none for this man given his history of dishonest business practices.

Too often today businesses fail to look at agreements as true commitments. Contracts are made with the understanding that they can easily be broken. Fulfilling the terms of an agreement is far too often subjective. Lawyers get involved, contracts are “interpreted” and ultimately an arbiter has to decide which party it believes is interpreting the terms of the agreement correctly.

In my world, a contract is a contract. An agreement is an agreement. Your word is your bond.

A handshake symbolizes trust and respect. If you don’t intend to fully honor an agreement, then don’t shake someone’s hand. Just give them a fist bump. I don’t think it shares the same symbolism as a handshake.

Google Success Story and Its Brand Performance

If somebody asks you who made a significant change in technology and human knowledge sharing in this decade, the answer should be Google, a big global brand name, both online and offline. Nowadays, people can simply "google" everything, seriously "everything", that they wish to know and take advantage of their different services. However, have you or other Google users ever wondered how Google actually started and what made it become so successful? Are the key factors simply an eco-system for making money, high quality products for free, smart acquisitions and also smart hirings? Anything left?

Last year, I did two presentations about Google within the brand management module in my master's program, discovering Google success story and evaluating the brand in order to explain the success and recommend solutions to boost their brand performance. I want to share them again as they are somehow an interesting way to examine a very popular brand, in the branding perspective, that I think you may want to discover

The first presentation is a brief summary of Google's starting point, their culture and brand identity. The brand success is evaluated and supported by Young & Rubicam model, focusing on its differentiation, relevance, esteem and familiarity.

The second  presentation is an analysis and evaluation on Google brand, using Prof. Leslie de Chernatony's brand building model, "From Brand Vision To Brand Evaluation", in order to fully "audit" the brand itself. From that, some ideas for boosting the brand performance are coming after.

Basically, that's what I learned and discovered one year ago about Google. However, there have been so many changes in the virtual world  recently, therefore, the evaluation should be updated to keep up with the trends. Should any factors be added or  eliminated? Hopefully to receive your updates and opinions about this.

Happy Labor Day!

I appreciate all the years of hard work that my parents put in to give me the opportunity to succeed in life. I hope I can give my son the same opportunities.

Happy Labor Day!