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Pitching MR solutions in the EU

presentation

When pitching US market research solutions in the EU, be aware of a different privacy regulative environment. The reason for this short post is that US developers of market research (MR) technologies appear to be unaware that their technologies may not be allowed in the EU (or their functionality severely limited).

In the past week, I have been contacted by several developers intending to present at the IIeX-EU event in Amsterdam that gasp when they learn that they may be subject to the EU regulative framework. For instance, many regions in Europe prohibit the use of CCTV to track customer movement, others limit the use of GPS technologies and still others prohibit the aggregation of data from different sources as it invades the customer’s privacy (basically you can identify an individual which is usually restricted). Yesterday I was asked: “How do marketers manage to work in Europe?” My answer: “They really don’t; they are confined to advertising.” That said, there is no need to panic even if you are presenting next week in Amsterdam. What you need to is this:

  • Speak with a lawyer that knows the EU privacy regulative framework inside out and outline briefly where your technology may conflict with these regulations.

  • If your technology does conflict with the EU regulations, do not despair – just open with a statement such as: “We are aware that our technology may not be fully implemented in Europe due to a stricter privacy regulative environment, but we want to demonstrate its full potential so that you may select what components may be of interest to your company.” EU managers are wary of the privacy regulations, so gunning ahead without that type of disclaimer may cause them to stop listening right there. The reason is that if they perceive it as a potential risk in terms of invading customer privacy, they will immediately decide not to explore it further.

  • Once the disclaimer is established, knowing exactly where your technology enters into the EU regulative red zone allows you to state that during the presentation itself. That removes the immediate barrier and encourages the audience to seek you out after your presentation.

  • When the presentation is complete and you are approached, find out from them what they can do with your technology. Be more ears than mouth at this stage – it will save you a lot of time and enable you to follow-up using their own ideas as to how to introduce your technology to Europe.

See you in Amsterdam.

Market research goes nuclear

IIeX_banner

When the credit system collapsed in 2008, I was asked which economy I thought would recover first: the EU or the US. My answer: “The US because it is driven by people that want to succeed while Europeans prefer to be taken care of.” This week, I attended a market research and technology conference in Philadelphia, The Insight Innovation Exchange, where this observation was not only proven but greatly amplified. I used to live in Boston where I worked in the market research field and considered myself fairly up to date as to what was at the forefront of market research technology and insight generation. Little did I know what this conference held in store.

The first day, I was exposed to presentations that made me realize that I was not a little bit behind – I needed a landspeeder in order to catch up! The first presentation was ‘Fizzy Visuals: 12 Years Evolution of Reporting Insights with Coca-Cola‘ given by ace presenter Patricio Pagani of Infotools. He clearly demonstrated how large customers can be brought straight into the development phase that results in solutions and services that are tailored to customer needs. Infotools has not only done so for Coca-Cola; they also list Microsoft, Ford, Audi, BMW, Mazda and Viacom as their clients which proves that their method works wonderfully. Listening to Patricio was a great experience and of tremendous value to entrepreneurs and solutions providers of practically any size, type and geographic location.

Next up was a presentation by Nick McCracken, Product Innovation Research Manager at Ford, titled ‘Creating a Truly Global Marketing Research Function‘. He began by illustrating what the condition of Ford was once the crash hit and car sales plummeted. For many companies, such a sudden decline in sales means downsizing upon downsizing until nothing is left and the company evaporates into thin air. Nick, however, showed how Ford managed to regain market trust and loyalty through groundbreaking market research techniques and attention to customer expectations, wants and needs, and succeeded in bringing sales back to pre-crash levels. One example that really hit home was the observation that we usually have our hands full when attempting to open the trunks of our cars. How about this concept?

ford_handsfree

There is much more going on at Ford that can be directly traced back to effective market and consumer research and this conference really brought it all out. If other conferences are hits, the IIeX is a ‘Best of‘ album. Gasping for air, I both dreaded and looked forward to what was to follow. I also realized that the US is not years ahead of Europe; it is decades as these selected presentation titles show:

  • The Power of “Wow”: Emotional Valence in Social Media (David Johnson, CEO, Decooda)
  • It’s Not The Size Of The Data, But What You Can Do With It (Zachary Nippert, Chief Marketing Officer, MotiveQuest)
  • Technology Frontiers: Text, Sentiment, and Sense (Seth Grimes, Principal Consultant, Alta Plana Corporation)
  • It’s Not Mobile Research, It’s Research In a Mobile World (Bob Yazbeck, Vice President, Digital Methods, Gongos Research)
  • Listen In: How to Gain Insights from Conversations (Frank Cotignola, CIM, Global Analytics and Digital Insights, Mondelez International)

This box of confectionaries was of course followed by a main course: ‘Expert Panel: Big Data or Big Brother? Ethics & Regulations in a Data-Rich World‘ featuring:

  • Peter Milla, Principal Consultant, Peter Milla Consulting/CASRO

This was only the first half of day one; there were two more days of this! The entire schedule is available here so you can see what you missed if you were elsewhere occupied. This is only beginning, however, so keep an eye on the IIeX; it will only get better. Now, attempting to summarize this great event in a blog is like attempting to describe the picture below using a typewriter (if unsure what a typewriter is, click here):

nebula

Each day ended in a networking event hosted by various firms involved with the IIeX conference. These events were held at bars or restaurants and enabled a free-flowing dialogue between solutions and service providers, potential customers (usually in the Fortune 500 category), VCs, consultants, and visionaries like Ari Popper, who gave an incredible lecture on how science fiction can project the future and then sent us through an exercise that forced us to really consider what the future may hold in store for us. Most of us have gone through such exercises before, but few have completed them with Fortune 500 managers on their team. The World Bank also had a presence there which indicates that market research and related technology is taken quite seriously at the highest levels and for good reason; the better we can project the future, the better our growth strategies will be (and I personally believe it will culminate in ‘individual choice‘ as opposed to ‘economic means‘).

So, to spiral back to where I started, the IIeX conference is a prime example why the US will, in my opinion, maintain its leadership position as far as innovation and market drive are concerned, at least in the foreseeable future.  Where else in the world can a blender like the IIeX be established that allows businesses to form partnerships, seek mentors and advice, forge strategic alliances, meet privately with major corporations, interact with VCs, give presentations to a highly receptive audience, and become a part of something much larger? This is a new model that creates energy of a type I have never experienced before. It was as if the air itself was electrified and when conference came to its conclusion, I not only felt up to date; I felt as if I had gained a vision of what is to come over the next 3 years (I want to say 5 but that is an eternity given current pace of things). To finish, this entire concept is cooked up by a handful of visionaries that have both the ability to envision it and to execute it to perfection!

It is the US that will propel the world forward through futuristic thinking and innovation while Europe hesitates to take risks and overthinks everything. Life is about taking risks for safety leads straight to stagnancy (as Kyle Nel, International and Multicultural Research, Lowe’s Home Improvement, pointed out during our panel titled ‘Data Philanthropy: Channeling Information To Drive Public Sector Innovation‘. That is where I fear Europe is heading unless the Horizon 2020 EUR 80 billion EC fund is deployed with actual monetization strategies and growth targets as leading concerns. Play is safe and those billions will be wasted. Bring in that market savvy and business drive from the US as part of the free trade agreement between the two regions, and Europe may find itself with more business intelligence firms than just SAP. Europe has slept for too long; it is time to wake up.

I want to thank my good friend Lenny Murphy for igniting this torch and the Gen2Advisors and Greenbook teams for making it all happen. You guys simply rock! It is an honor knowing you.

5 keys to 500+ LinkedIn contacts

inmapGetting your LinkedIn network to 500+ is important. It gives you greater reach across sectors and regions, enables you to quickly pull together teams or panels if the need arises, send direct queries regarding specific issues directly to people that may answer them, or call in professionals to help with a project. Getting to 500 also makes your profile appear stronger.

I began using LinkedIn October 27, 2008, or just when the Icelandic economy came tumbling down. Until 2013, my network grew at a rate of 1 per week which, toward the end of 2012, translated to around 200 contacts. January 2013, I merged IceStat with the Iceland Development Agency and assumed the position of Marketing Director. In order for me to take the company to the next phase, expanding my contact network became imperative.

In less than 3 months, I broke the 500 contact barrier, which equals a growth rate of approximately 275%. The majority of these contacts are of value either as direct contacts that I may interact with at some point – if I am not doing so already – or they are people of interest that post interesting content on their profiles or in group discussions. Having a solid network is more valuable than a large one since this is a professional network unlike Facebook and Twitter that are basically mass-market advertising channels.

If you want or need to expand your network beyond the 500+ limit, the following Keys may help (I assume you already have a basic professional LinkedIn network in place that consists of 200 connections or less):

KEY 1: Actual contact

Use email or even the phone to make key connections. The higher up in the pecking order these people are, the better. Stay clear of cold invites at the outset; few people accept invites without checking the one requesting the connection. If you want to connect with someone, ask yourself why. Then simply transform that why into email or a phone call and end it on the question: “Would it be OK for me to add you to LinkedIn?” Very few say no to that. They now know you, have interacted with you, and perhaps even see some future value in having you in their network. Key 1 is only used on specific, high-profile targets and to get your head focused. You are not selecting key contacts at random; they are the cornerstones of your professional network so handle this with great care. Once you master this key, move on to:

KEY 2: Outliers

Outliers are wonderful. They work with – or for – your key contact whom you have already connected with, so you use that as your weapon when sending out a batch of cold invites. Whenever you manage to connect with a key individual within an organization, you can connect to at least 10 people he or she works with without saying anything at all – they check your profile, see that you have him or here as a contact, and that is sufficient for most. Do not, however, randomly select your targets; pick those that are of relevance to what you are actually doing. Key 2 is all about piggybacking off Key 1 and get you to …

KEY 3: Groups

Groups are party platters filled with a wide range of potential contacts. Participate in the conversation, pick out the conversation leaders and engage them until they check your profile. Once they do, engage them once or twice more and then send an invite. Most leaders have egos and want to be asked instead of asking themselves. The more power you gain, the more this will begin to act in the same way. As with selecting key contacts, select groups that match their sector, industry or interests. Your professional network should basically belong to the same groups as you do; if not, you are doing things wrong and wasting time. If you are too lazy or afraid to communicate in groups, feel free to skip to …

KEY 4: Ping pong

Pick someone of interest – again someone who belongs in your professional network – and check their profile. Do this until they check you out. Wait a few days, then check them again. If you manage to send the ball 3 times back and forth, send this: “Hi [NAME], I’m very interested in [A SUBJECT THE OTHER LISTS] and am wondering if you would mind me adding you to my LinkedIn network?”  It’s always a good idea to retain the ‘LinkedIn’ part of the invite. First, it brings the recipient into the LinkedIn realm with its own set of rules; second, it does not appear as spam. These four keys work well but are rather slow. The fastest way is …

KEY 5: The Uzi

The LinkedIn smartphone app is the fastest way to get a network past 500 in a matter of days. The behavior of the app differs from the web version in one very important way, but be very careful exploiting it … it can get you permanently banned from LinkedIn. Try it and you will soon learn what Key 5 is and why it is so effective.

If you found this helpful, please share with others that might benefit from it. Also, if you have discovered effective methods to grow LinkedIn networks, that’s what the comments section is all about – I’d love to learn what you find most effective. I have been asked to write something about how I use LinkedIn to drive business forward (over 90% of my business happens over LinkedIn and has done so since 2008  despite the network being considerably smaller) and that may well be the next post here. If we don’t share our bits and pieces of understanding, we learn less.

Iceland Social Democratic Alliance shipwrecked

is_government_1999_2003Five years after Iceland’s economy imploded, austerity-weary voters looked set Saturday to return the parties widely blamed for the disaster to power.” This is the opening of an article by Jenna Gottlieb and Jill Lawless. How, we may ask ourselves, can this be? Icelanders are generally considered to be intelligent and boast of a good educational system; still, they want the parties back that sent the country to the brink of bankruptcy and caused hundreds of highly educated individuals to leave the country. How can this be?

One reason is the lack of long-term vision/strategy and short-term tactics to deliver it. Elections follow rules of warfare (in this case market warfare) and there are two ways to lose a war:

  • Deploying worse strategies than the opponent.
  • Failing to have a strategy in the first place.

Not only did the Social Democratic Alliance (SDA) show lack of adequate strategic planning; tactical mistakes were made that directly contributed to the political massacre witnessed today. These mistakes include, but are not limited to:

  • Changing the party leader too close to elections. Any change in leadership is disruptive and it takes more than a couple of months for a new party leader – or corporate CEO – to settle in. Both the SDA and the Left-Green Movement (LGM) changed their party leader far too close to elections. If the new leaders had pushed for that change individually they would have been better prepared to take the reins, but as the situation was forced upon them, they were not ready.
  • Party leaders traveling to China when they should be here driving the campaign. One of the reasons the SDA won by a landslide in 2009 was its strong leadership that had incubated and evolved for years. Current leaders have not had the time to build the type of following necessary, which put them in a very unfavorable position at the start of the election campaigns (that were not really campaigns at all). The LGM, however, fared better, and the reason is:
  • Focus on a specific issue. While the SDA attempted to push too many messages across, the LGM’s newly elected party leader turned the attention to education. This internal focus countered the SDA’s external – EU – focus which happened to be more relevant in the minds of voters, resulting in minimized loss whereas the winner of the 2009 election – the SDA – was slaughtered. And that despite the fact that tax raises on households and businesses can be traced directly to the LGM.

is_government_2005The SDA appeared to wake up only days before the elections and by then it was too late. Without a strategy, the party had no way to reach voters – the target audience – with effective messages. The SDA has since 2009 become more and more isolated from the Icelandic people as it fails to keep track of what voters really want and need. The party leader of the Progressive Party (PP) exploited that weakness very skillfully; the team behind it have earned the respect of both marketing and PR communities.

This is not to say that the teams behind other parties – notably the SDA – were at fault; the party leaders are to blame for what happened as they created these problems by mistiming events and not doing their homework properly. We see similar sloppy marketing work throughout government agencies, many of which are responsible for external marketing and are making blunders that may end up costing the economy billions and result in permanent loss of market territories. Many of the so-called marketers in Iceland have only superficial understanding of how marketing really works in the big world and have little insight into the economic and market-driven layers necessary to prepare and execute international long-term strategies.

WHAT MAY HAPPEN NEXT?

The PP and the Independence Party (IP) directly caused the crash of October 2008 by irresponsible and short-sighted activities that led to a wave of bankruptcies, foreign exchange restrictions, and general economic turmoil. That they will fix it is perhaps doubtful but possible. IceStat was part of the Special Investigative Commission responsible for tracing the actual causes of the collapse (it was actually established because of it), and these two parties were instrumental players. Therefore, what we expect will happen following these elections is that:

  • Major companies that bankrupted almost immediately following the banking system collapse (and the sharp weakening of the currency – ISK) will be listed on the stock exchange again. Domestic banks are already lending 70% toward purchase of shares in these companies, which is exactly what happened in 2001 – 2008 and fueled the bubble.
  • One of these banks, Landsbanki (currently state-owned), will participate and  fund 70% shares in registered companies which leads to the formation of holding firms. This artificially inflates bank balance sheets which in turn inflates Central Bank balance sheets (fractional reserve banking is quite the monster when let lose as 2008 demonstrated).
  • Landsbanki will be privatized by the same parties that privatized it and Kaupthing (by merger with Bunadarbanki) in 2002 (Landsbanki and Bunadarbanki) and possibly merge with MP Bank. This will eventually lead to the exact same situation Icelanders faced in October 2008 when the bubble burst. This second crash, however, will be so much worse as it will compound Iceland’s already fragile financial position and that is a scenario voters may not have considered when they went to the ballots.

If these elections told us anything, it is that Icelanders learn nothing from past mistakes. The blame is not with the voters; it is with the SDA and LGM that completely failed to take decisive lead and walled themselves in illusory ivory towers that have now come crashing down. The new regime comprised of the PP and IP will undoubtedly start with a bang by lowering taxes and getting the investment market back on track, but the methods used have to be closely monitored or Iceland may well be facing the end of its era of independence. That is what may happen; it is our responsibility to make sure it doesn’t.

Problems and the Petri dish

GoldfishWhy do we persistently transform simple issues into complex problems? Most of us agree that the world becomes more complicated as we move through the terrible teens into adulthood, but just ask anyone over 70 how complicated the world really is. To our elders, the world is not as complicated as we experience it for their perspective – as is that of a child – is different: it is detached.

Complication arises from our inability to fully concentrate on a given subject. No external distractions are necessary; we are fully capable of generating them as we go along. The greatest enemy of focused thought and clarity are choices and this is why:

  • We may know what we want, but acquiring it may mean we cannot get something else later. Once we commit, other options close. Options trading literally means we can commit without really committing; it just costs us a premium.
  • We are taught that few options are unfavorable, so we automatically resist committing. We fear that we may make the wrong choice and therefore postpone making one. This is why deadlines were invented; without them, we would get nowhere.
  • Once we limit our options and commit, we begin to dread that we may have made the wrong choice and do everything in our power to find escape routes in case everything comes tumbling down. Hedging is exactly that; if you lose on the left hand, you (supposedly) gain on the right which usually results in no gains at all over time.

To put this in perspective, who has not experienced the dread of a multiple choice exam? These infernal inventions force us to commit against a tight deadline and there are no hedging of bets or alternative options available; once that choice is made it is fixed! Fortunately, the standard use of pencils in these tests allows us to change our answers before turning them in, else most of us would probably run out of time resulting in a considerable failure rate.

Fewer choices accelerates our decision-making process. Ford built his entire empire on that concept: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” On May 26, 1927, he watched the 15 millionth Model T Ford roll off the assembly line. More colors would have slowed down the sales process as potential customers would have been bogged down with choices. Ford was obviously aware that people wanted choices of color but decided against meeting that demand. Another fine example of limiting consumer choices is Gillette, which maintained a limited range of models of the safety razor until 1934. During World War I, the U.S. government ordered 3.5 million razors and 36 million blades to supply all its troops. Pretty good results for limiting consumer choices.

When we face a problem, we immediately over-complicate it by dragging choices and contingency plans to the table. That is not the way to solve a problem; it only makes the problem more difficult to see. When dealing with a problem, forget all contingencies and concentrate on the problem itself. Before long, the problem will shrink so that it fits nicely on a Petri dish. Everything not directly related to the problem is outside that dish and is to be ignored; smart as we may think we are, our brains simply cannot work with more data than is present on that small plate.

Once we have the problem confined, we can begin to examine why it is a problem. What makes it a problem and what variable has to be removed or changed in order for the problem to become an opportunity? Once we manage to identify that, we find ourselves staring the solution in the face and it is usually much simpler than we ever dared hope for. Usually, it is just a matter of rearranging the problem parts but we cannot do that if our heads are busy finding options and alternatives in case we are wrong. Contingency planning comes later; first we must pin down the problem itself and the component(s) that makes it a problem.

We humans keep complaining that the world is a complicated place. If that was true, how can an amoeba with no brain survive? And goldfish, who can only remember things for 3 seconds and operates on basic primal instincts? There are more amoebas and goldfish in the world that humans, so how complicated can it be?

The Partnership Scorecard

PartnersMost businesses start on an individual with an idea. The second step is usually selecting partners to develop that idea. ‘No man is an island entire of itself,” wrote John Donne (1572-1631) in his Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (Meditation XVII, 1624), “every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Most of us realize this, but we tend to make mistakes when implementing it by selecting partners. While it is only natural to make mistakes when assembling partners for the first time, there are some simple methods that can be used to prevent these first-time partnership exercises from becoming problematic. Having known someone for decades is not a valid reason for a partnership; it can actually have the reverse effect and be a disaster.

Some people seem unable to form strong, lasting partnerships while others succeed in doing so time and again. While talent comes into play, the key success factors are focus, vision and strategic thinking. Consider partners to be ingredients in a donut: Would you pour a batch of liquorice into the batter? Probably not, so before selecting a partner, ask yourself the following three questions:

Q1. Do I really need a partner?

The answer depends on whether or not a partner is essential in building the business. If you can build it yourself, you have no need for a partner just yet; you may be looking for a contractor instead. If a partner is essential, the next question is:

Q2. Why do I need a partner?

A partner is not supposed to do your work or enable you to work less. Your laziness is not a valid reason to give away part of your business. Doing so is plain silly but many do so nonetheless. A partner either has some specific skill or access to a network that is absolutely vital to getting your business off the ground. A partner can also double you up in case your workload is too great, but for IT start-ups that suggests business inefficiencies that have to be dealt with or your business may fail. If you manage to determine why you need a partner, the next question is:

Q3. Whom should I partner with?

This is where things can get tricky as you enter into the realm of personal interaction. If you have 5 different people on your radar but can select only one, which one do you pick and why? You have to be very cold and calculating; this is your business and the wrong selection may cause it to fail. Still, this process is uncomfortable for most which is why so many mistakes are made. Fortunately, there is a way to do this is an impersonal but constructive manner that will actually make you look good no matter whom you pick. We call it:

PASCO – THE PARTNERSHIP SCORECARD

The Partnership Scorecard – PaSco – is based on core business areas and lets you and potential partners determine your combined strengths and weaknesses (it is also very effective for employee recruitment but that is another discussion entirely). We use PaSco internally and also on client businesses to improve overall efficiency levels and reduce ‘fat‘. The core business areas addressed are:

  • Management & Operations (e.g. Corporate innovation, Strategic management, Communication)
  • Finance & Economics (e.g. Capital budgeting, Investment banking and analysis, Econometrics)
  • Marketing & Sales (e.g. Campaign management, Lead generation, Profitability and market analysis)
  • Legal (e.g. Commercial lending, Corporate taxation, International trade and tax law)

PartnershipScorecard

Each section is broken down into 20 or more subcategories, which potential partners check based on whether their strength in that specific category is High, Medium or Low. As you did this too, the consolidated scorecard will award points reflecting the summation of your scores and theirs; providing you with clear overview of how individual candidates stack up against you. The last thing you want is a partner that doubles you up; you are looking for a partner that is strong where you are weak!

The image to the left are actual client results that clearly indicate operational strengths and weaknesses. Based on the charts, Financial and Legal skills are weak and next in line as far as partners are concerned, whereas marketing and sales are less important (digging deeper, however, reveals that while Marketing is strong, Sales is weak, so there is an argument toward pumping up the sales department).

With this type of mapping in place, the personal element is replaced by hard facts. The gap in business operations has to be bridged to even out the slices and the candidate that delivers the best results – i.e. makes the slices more uniform – ought to be selected. The PaSco approach disarms to candidates not selected and actually provides them with valuable insight into how a strong business foundation is established. They learn from this and that makes you look good regardless of whether you select them or not, thereby neutralizing the ‘personal‘ factor.

If you have already screened candidates properly, there should be no non-factual elements to disrupt the verdict such as ‘Do I want to work with this one‘ or ‘I’d rather work with that one.’ If you find yourself doing that, return to Question 3 above. This is your business we are talking about; not a fishing trip.

If you would like more information on the Partnership Scorecard, contact us.

Efficient cloud cooperation

WelcomeThere are 7,105 known living languages in the world. Cloud-based business solutions have to address at least the top 10. Without local language support, a cloud company has to rely on target audience professional language skills which can be problematic. While someone may be very good at reading and writing common English, that same individual may be completely at a loss when it comes to words and terms relating to his or her profession. A marketing professional from Stuttgart may have read the entire Stephen King ‘Dark Tower‘ series without missing a word only to get stuck on a platform that asks: Please enter unit contribution for incremental cost analysis.

Anyone know what a ‘question wagon‘ is? This is an Icelandic market research term and it is introduced here to illustrate the language problems associated with professional terms and phrases. If you understand a ‘question wagon‘ to be ‘survey‘, you are correct. This type of scenario is typical in professional environments and we must remember that one of the primary skills associated with any business degree or profession is linguistic command; the actual application is literally dependent on it. If we lack the words, we cannot communicate effectively; if we cannot communicate, we cannot execute. As a result, the tools we use to develop our strategies and tactics become less useful.

Cloud companies tend to be reluctant to offer localized version of their webs due to loss of central control; i.e. the partners handle local sections. When it comes to platform localization, the problem becomes that of magnitude; the task may simply be too great for partners to handle. Both concerns are valid but there are ways around these problems. By breaking the GLOCAL approach in two sections – web and user platform (i.e. user interface) – we are left with two challenges:

  • How to maintain multilingual webs.
  • How to maintain multilingual dashboards.

The top 10 languages of the world are (parenthesis reflect what percentage of world population uses each one):

  • Mandarin (14.1%)
  • Spanish (5.85%)
  • English (5.52%)
  • Hindi (4.46%)
  • Arabic (4.23%)
  • Portuguese (3.08%)
  • Bengali (3.05%)
  • Russian (2.42%)
  • Japanese (1.92%)
  • Punjabi (1.44%)

In order to provide sufficient local content to capture target audiences, the website has to provide some content in the local language. This is not a complete translation of online materials, just what is most important such as:

  • The sales pitch: Targeted material as to how the company and its platform leads to customer success.
  • Peer pressure: A list of local customers with quotes and local media coverage.
  • Contact info: Localized support makes most business managers – buyers – feel more at ease with their decision to buy.

This content can be delivered on 2 – 3 pages by the partners, who then use direct links for marketing purposes. The only issue the company needs to decide on is how may local urls it wants to secure. It is a considerable investment, but for a serious company it is one of the keys to staying at the competitive forefront.

TANGENT: A company that wants to go further, however, redirects users to corresponding pages automatically depending on where they are located (see google.es and google.com/es).

Dashboards and cloud applications require partners to do some more work, however. Sometimes, this is best left to professional translating agencies for two reasons:

  • Partners may not be talented copywriters which renders the text clumsy.
  • Partners are supposed to actively engage the market and this activity may slow them down.

Still, partners know their market and how to approach it which renders them ideal to lead this effort. One of the main challenges is that dashboards and platforms cannot be condensed as localized web pages can; it is an all-or-nothing affair. In order to make this step easier, it is highly recommended that developers use a separate language table rather than fixing the language in the code itself. Partners are then directed to translate these tables and maintain them; it is simply part of their responsibility. This design issue is often overlooked when planning cloud applications and while it may work initially,  it creates problems once the company attempts to go global. In some cases, tearing the application apart and piece it back together with proper language controls in necessary, but that is a step most CEOs hesitate to take and for good reason.

Cloud cooperation is one thing; efficient cooperation quite another. Partners need to become more involved in localization activities so they can capture their own sections of the world. In order for this to happen, the cloud company needs to ask itself whether or not it wants to apply the GLOCAL approach or not. If it decides against it, it risks losing market share to local competitors.

Cloud services and support

Cloud computing … can anything be more vague? A cloud is a mist that cannot be clearly defined and I am seeing that reflected in many business strategies out there. For you that have not given this term much thought, I recommend clicking on the image to the left; it will lead you to a world filled with unclear phrases such as “… the use of a cloud-shaped symbol as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it contains in system diagrams …“, “… sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economies of scale similar to a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network …” and that the “… origin of the term cloud computing is obscure, but it appears to derive from the practice of using drawings of stylized clouds to denote networks in diagrams of computing and communications systems.”

For some peculiar reason, pitching SaaS services (henceforth termed ‘service’ for legibility reasons) as ‘cloud-based‘ is in many cases a sufficiently strong argument for business managers and professionals to take things seriously. I attend sales meetings quite frequently and have noticed the effect the word ‘cloud‘ has in these scenarios. It does not seem to matter how strong – or weak – the service is or how impressed the target audience is; once the word ‘cloud‘ is uttered, gasps and nods follow as if Moses just came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments raised above his head. The only thing ‘cloud‘ really says is that ‘We host your data and provide you with a web-based interface to work with it.’ So? Does anyone remember the AltaVista translator? That was cloud. Google is cloud, Netscape (I was actually at AOL when these two fought for market leadership, so that link is quite gratifying) is cloud, most statistical agencies on the planet are cloud. So what makes ‘cloud‘ such a sales clincher?

I have begun to suspect that the market likes the word since it offers both sides a handy shortcut; sales people can dodge explaining how everything is pieced together and buyers can appear knowledgeable – both look smart and everyone is happy. There are some big problems associated with this shortcut, however. Many cloud services lack proper support as their go-to-market strategies are not properly thought through. Anyone with basic skills can build a cloud application. The most basic one is setting up a web page using this code (if you copy it into Notepad and change the ending from .txt to .html, right click and open in browser, you have taken your first step into the realm of cloud computing):

<br>
<p><strong>Need help with your Marketing Strategy?</strong></p>
<p>I have tons of experience there.</p>
<a href=”mailto:marketing@icestat.com?subject=I need help with my Marketing
Strategy” class=”button”>Contact me</a>

Not very fancy, but it does provide a service and uses code to deliver it – sending an email. It could be expanded to convert monetary time series into uniform currencies and aggregate data frequency into a calculating matrix (e.g. for international portfolio management, investment analysis or market research), but that little snippet is actually the essence of how cloud applications work. So how many will gasp now when they hear that word?

To me, ‘cloud‘ means much more than just providing something that works on the internet; it means servicing customers at the local level and that is where most ‘cloud‘ based companies hit a wall (and now I will address you developers directly):

You may have the best platform on the planet but still fail against a third-rate system simply because they provide local support and you do not!

There is a myriad of ‘cloud‘ solutions appearing every hour but only a handful make it past month twelve. Most perish, mainly because they lack a solid go-to-market strategy outlining how the service will be leveraged internationally or, more precisely, how the company intends to go truly global. A ‘cloud‘ service has to have centers in all target locations or local competitors will block them; it is as simple as that. If you are based in Colorado and want to attack France, get a French partner that will drive the effort by providing local support or local competitors will steal your customers (getting a customer that has already begun using one platform to change over to a competing platform is very difficult and expensive). Although it is an old term, GLOCAL should guide all ‘cloud‘ marketing and expansion strategies.

internet_usage

Google, Microsoft, IBM, SAP and most of the leading ICTs established global partner networks early on to drive their sales efforts. It worked and they are now international market leaders. Why emerging SaaS providers do not use that strategy is very odd and, in my opinion, a fatal mistake. First, if you are located in the English-speaking country, you can forget penetrating Europe except for Malta and the UK. You may get a few deals, but local entities will seize the market from under your feet simply because they offer localized services. I am seeing high quality cloud platforms being rejected here in Iceland as the localization element is missing, but I truly do not blame developers for leaving this 319 thousand people market for last. Still, we have an internet penetration rate of 96.62% (click on image left; source) so overall penetration rate will be considerable.

To continue on that tangent, many cloud developers use Iceland as a test market. It is absolutely ideal for this type of market testing, especially in terms of trying out different strategies before rolling them out to larger markets such as Germany, France, Japan, China, Brazil and South Africa. We at IceStat and the Icelandic Development Agency receive on average 3 inquiries a month from ‘cloud‘ developers from the US, EU and Asia but are very selective in who we work with. We urge ‘cloud‘ developers to adopt the GLOCAL ideology if they want to own their respective niches. We are well positioned to run strategic marketing tests here in a controlled environment that can be scaled up for attacks on larger markets. Capturing key sectors and market segments in the US or EU is difficult and time consuming; up here it is easy and fast. Make use of it!

When you go cloud, go all the way. In technical terms, the cloud may be described as the “… sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economies of scale similar to a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network …

In strategic terms, that translates to:

“… sharing of resources to achieve market leadership at the local level similar to an organization (like the United Nations) over a well-integrated and cohesive partnership network.”

The word ‘cloud‘ may be great for sales, but it causes developers to forget what really matters – the customer.

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