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We Reach New Geographies and Markets Through Social Media

Lee Cottle, VP at

Lee Cottle, VP at Push Technology Ltd

Today, I spoke to Lee Cottle, Vice President of Business Development and Global Alliances at Push Technology Limited. His company ensures that businesses can deliver engaging real-time applications and services that increase customer experiences and employee productivity, while reducing communication and infrastructure costs. 

Personally, I used to work with Lee a couple of years ago, when I was still living in the UK. Lee isn’t only a networker. Moreover, he also is a people connector. He is optimistic, fun to be with and has an excellent sense for business opportunities. I spoke with him about career, leadership and how he perceives social media.

Lee, I have followed your incredibly fast career since I know you. What drives you in your business life?

I personally need to believe in the company and its technology as well as in the benefits that it brings. I know that this sounds a little cliché,  but if I don’t believe in what I am doing I cannot be passionate, and that is the fuel that drives me.

I know, you have been perceived by many people as a leader at Speechworks (today Nuance), where we met. Which characteristics do you think make a good leader and why?

That’s very kind of you to say, Claudia. I think a good leader has to be a good communicator and that means you listen and I mean really listen to your team and customers and partners. You must do what you say you are going to do. So that means being honest. This is (in my mind) the basis of your own integrity. The ability to delegate is important, but you must delegate based upon your teams individual abilities with consideration of their own personal objectives. Finally, you must remove negative thought from the work place. A positive “can do” attitude must be the default operating model for the entire team.

Would you have an example of when you had to show leadership and steer a team throughout a difficult situation? How did you succeed?

Over the years I have experienced good performers within a team that have upset the balance. Often the root cause of the presenting issues are either disagreements or points of view (not being heard) or non-work related influences. I try to understand and have the individual acknowledge the core issue before we agree a specific action plan.

A good example is when I joined the board of a small software company; I spent the first week meeting the sales team, reviewing the sales opportunities, followed by one-to-one meetings with the rest of the 40 strong company workforce. It was clear that the company, which had just raised a significant amount of funding, was not going to make the company sales target. I discussed the issue with the Sales Director, who at first, struggled to acknowledge the very clear issue. I later presented my findings to the CEO, who understandably did not receive it well and, of course being the bearer of bad news, alienated me personally somewhat. Fortunately, I had a high-level plan which included a change in market focus and cost cutting. Once I had fleshed out the details with buy-ins from the other stakeholders, we went into my favorite mode “execution”.  We succeed through what I call “relentless execution”. The impact was positive for the business including the staff, but it wasn’t easy. The important thing is communicating this; something I constantly try to improve.  The results were, the company being listed 16 months later after moving into profit.

You are Vice President Business Development and Global Alliances at a young, innovative company. Sounds as if social media plays a vital part in your business? Do you use it to your advantage and what are your learning experiences so far?

We fully acknowledge the importance of social media, we are still at a very early stage of using this medium and are still learning how best to use it. I would say that we are not yet fully using social media to our advantage. We have a presence on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter, but we need to improve this by exploring other groups and forums that we can be part of. This is very high on our corporate strategy. However what we have learned is that we have been able to reach new geographies and markets through this medium. At the same time, you need to keep up the quality of your information and you need more of your employee workforce contributing.

Which social media platform is your favorite one and why?

I personally like LinkedIn and Twitter, but if I had to pick one it would be LinkedIn, because I find it a better platform for business to business. It’s great for research on the companies and people who you might want to engage with, but also what’s happening in those organizations.

Blogparade: MarketinGorilla – Protokoll einer Suchtgeschichte

(See English version here.)

Aus gegebenem Anlass, hier ein Beitrag zur “Blogparade”. Die “Blogparade” ist eine Idee der Österreicherin Alexandra Steiner und ein schönes Beispiel für “Blogger Relations”. Weil ich die Blogparade originell finde, habe ich mitgemacht – als Selbstversuch und ausnahmsweise in Deutsch. Das Thema ist: “Die Geschichte meines Blogs”:

Ganz ehrlich, meine Bloggeschichte “MarketinGorilla” ist eine klassische Geschichte der sukzessiven Abhängigkeit: Ich wollte schon seit ein paar Jahren ein Marketingblog starten. Just for fun, und weil ich nichts anderes kann und will, ausser Leads generieren, ROI’s zu steigern,  Kunden glücklich zu machen und komplexe Projekte umzusetzen. Das ist meine Leidenschaft – beruflich.

Ich poste und twittere übrigens auf Englisch, weil im Marketing, naturally, sowieso alle Englisch sprechen.

1. Phase, Einleitungsphase: “Ich wollte es nur mal probieren!”

Facebook (FB) stand ich anfangs sehr kritisch gegenüber. Konsumentendaten sind natürlich das A&O für uns “alte Verführer des Verkaufs”: Sag mir wer Du bist und was Du magst und ich sage Dir genau, weshalb Du mein Produkt haben mußt.

Schon bald war mir aber klar, daß ich mich als Marketer dem Thema nicht weiter verschließen konnte. Ich mußte mitreden. Also habe ich mein Profil auf FB angelegt. Ich wollte es nur mal probieren… So zu Studienzwecken.

Was für eine überwältigende Erfahrung: Da tauchten plötzlich Christiane auf, Monika und Achim, Micky und Iris. Alte Schul- und Unifreunde oder ehemalige Arbeitskollegen. Ich hatte seit Ewigkeiten keinen Kontakt mehr zu den meisten von ihnen. Mit der steigenden Anzahl meiner FB-Freunde, nahm auch meine Hemmschwelle ab, Informationen zu teilen.

Der erste Schritt hin zur Abhängigkeit hatte sich unmerklich vollzogen.

2. Pase, Kritische Phase: “Bist Du auch auf Facebook?”

Es kam jedenfalls, wie es kommen mußte: Ich war sehr schnell emotional abhängig. FB war ein fester Bestandteil meines Soziallebens geworden. Meine zweite Frage nach einem Kennenlernen lautete üblicherweise: “Bist Du auch auf Facebook?” (Meine erste Frage ist die nach dem Namen.) Warum sich also weiter unterhalten? Auf FB kann ich ja bequem alle weiteren Details über den anderen abrufen. Sozusagen ab der Geburt! Was will ich mehr?

In der Psychologie nennt man das im übrigen “ausweichendes Verhalten gegenüber der Umwelt” oder auch “die kritische Phase”. Ich wies mein natürliches Umfeld ab, ja ich grenzte mich regelrecht ab.

Schnell war mir klar, ich mußte und wollte endlich mehr über Social-Media-Bewegungen lernen. Aus Schulzeiten kannte ich noch Anja Beckmann (Red Mod Communications & Travel on Toast). Also schrieb ich sie an und fragte, ob sie mir via Skype eine Schulung geben würde. Gesagt, getan.

Nun, ich will nicht so weit gehen, Anja als “Dealer” zu bezeichnen. Immerhin hatte sie mich noch vor Twitter gewarnt… Aber ich glitt völlig blind in die nächste Phase ab…

3. Phase, Chronische Phase: Ich machte es jetzt auch an sonnigen Tagen

Danach ging es richtig los. Als mir meine Arbeit im bürgerlichen Leben endlich mal etwas Luft ließ, habe ich mich einen Regentag lang durch WordPress gequält. An weiteren Regentagen schrieb ich meine ersten Posts und fing an zu twittern wie ein Spatz. Schließlich habe ich es auch an sonnigen Tagen gemacht. Man wird ja geradezu in die Abhängigkeit gezogen von Twitter & Co. Das passiert unmerklich und zwangsläufig durch die Follower, Likes und Sharings, durch die Inspirationen, die man gewinnt und mehr. Ich weiß noch – mein erstes 5*-Rating: Da haben mein Mann und ich überlegt, ob wir schon mal die Anzahl der Besucherparkplätze vor dem Haus erweitern lassen sollten. Mein erstes “Like”: Ich war fast drauf und dran Autogrammkarten entwerfen zu lassen. (An dieser Stelle noch ein redaktioneller Hinweis an alle, die mein Blog lesen und mich dann anrufen, E-mails schreiben oder treffen, um mir zu sagen, daß ihnen das Blog echt gut gefällt: Das ist der falsche Kanaahaaaal!!! Zwinker, Zwinker!)

Doch eines war klar: Der totale Kontrollverlust hatte begonnen.

4. Phase: Ausstieg?

Nein, ich denke nicht. Social Media ist die einzige Abhängigkeit, die ich akzeptiere. Das Thema ist nicht nur ein Trend, es hat sich bereits im Verhalten und in den Köpfen seiner vielen Fans gefestigt. Es übt großen Einfluß aus auf die Art und Weise wie wir kommunizieren und was wir entscheiden. Es entwickelt eine ganz eigene Dynamik. Von der Markenbestimmung über ganz neue Industriezweige bis hin zur politischen Revolution. Da bleibe ich – ganz selbstbestimmt – doch lieber am Ball.

What to Do When You need Creativity – NOW?

IMG_1285Marketing is a broad field. It’s about research, analysis, statistics, insights, strategies, planing, concepts, budgeting and tactics, tools and measuring the ROI. Still, every single person in a company wants to share their ideas with you about how to market something. This is probably, because marketing is also very much misunderstood. It is often confused with promotions and communications.

I once found myself in a discussion with a colleague about creative writing, syntax and wisdom from his high school teacher. The latter marked the authorization of his opinion. Another time, I had the CFO taking money out of my marketing budget for fishing events he wanted to do. Tricky, isn’t it? Though I think the CFO should be a CMOs best friend, I prefer when everyone sticks to their own centers of competences. It is one challenge of a kind, I admit. (For all German speakers, there is also an interesting article with Wolfgang Frick in the NZZ touching on this phenomenon. He is Head of Marketing at the retail chain Spar in Switzerland.) However, there is one topic, where I’d like to urge you to gather your colleagues in a meeting room: It’s on creativity!

In my opinion, everyone is creative. Maybe not to the same extent, but I think, creativity can be triggered. Here is my top five on how I switch from analytic or strategic thinking to creativity. The colleagues are on top of my list, and hopefully they are happy to have contributed to a marketing tactic after all:

  • Brainstorm with your colleagues. I’m always baffled to see, how creative non-marketers are in such meetings. And they usually really enjoy it.
  • Word clouds. I write words around my first topic and derive meanings from it or other words that pop into my mind randomly. There are no limits. Then circle the one you like best and try to link them.
  • Travel back in time and think of activities you have done in the past. Transfer them onto your current project and onto a different channel. The more different the industry or product was, the better the results.
  • Get inspired by others: scan magazines, blogs and online ads.
  • Go cross country running.

Any more tips anyone?

Leadership – My Dedicated Team

Last weekend I got  a phone call from my friend Denise. We chit chatted a bit until she told me about her recent BBQ with her team. Another attempt of her boss in building a team. Luckily, the weather wasn’t too bad that evening. The food was indeed nice, but the mood was a bit akward. After dinner, people vanished quickly, and the next day, everyone moaned about the waste of time. The team spirit wasn’t any better than before the BBQ.

What do you consider sucessfull team building? From my point of view, a random group of people work best together as soon as they have the same objectives. Ideally, these should be the yearly objectives that even the CEO has.

These objectives must than be broken down into the individual team’s objectives (top-down cascading system). Once people aim for the same goal, they HAVE to work together. A joint team event might than be a less obvious team building event, but actually a nice leisure event.

Would you agree? Denise and I are curious to hear your suggestions.   

Standing out from the Crowd

avatar_birthLike my avatar? Yes, it’s self-made.

Do I hear you laughing? Well, you are not first. My little MarketinGorilla already had a lot to endure. I was seriously asked, if he was wearing high heels, if he was actually a “she” (I wonder which features do suggest he is a female?) and why he has such a funny look on his face.

As a marketer looking for a unique feature to her blog, I obviously contacted a professional graphic designer: Stilfreund in Bonn. I like his work. We’ve had a short conversation about what I wanted, and when I put down the receiver it suddenly popped into my mind that I could give it a go myself. Just for fun.

Okay. I’m clearly not a graphic designer. Now we have evidence. And I admit, I changed his eyes and lips over and over. I got furious. I wanted him to look a bit aggressive. However, no matter what I did, the out most he did was sulking.

In the end, I grew quite fond of him. He is unique. Not perfect, but he stands out from the crowd. I hope, you will like him, too.