Lessons I Learned Today 6/24/09 – We Are the Owners of Corporate America and Should Act Like It.

This is a digest and recap of highlights, quotes, and comments from articles and discussions posted on this date on the Applied Entrepreneurship, LinkedIn group site.


*Measuring the ROI of Social Media

“It is becoming increasingly important for businesses to interact with current and potential customers online, consumers are expecting your business to be online for them. So businesses are now faced with the necessity of participating in Social Networks with their consumers. If they don’t chances are the consumer will click on your competitors site who happens to participate the way they want them to.”

“The bottom line here is, operating a Social Media Campaign is a business expense. For many businesses this expense come mainly in the form of time, there is little need for additional software and many of the most popular Social Networks have no membership fees. The old business adage “Time is Money” most certainly is appropriate for Social Media.”

“Regardless of the metrics used to analyze the productivity of the Social Media Campaign prior to initiation, it is important to determine the business’s current status of both tangible and intangible measuring metrics. If this is not completed it is not possible to provide accurate data on the performance of the Social Media Campaign.”

“Much of the success of the campaign is based on customer experiences, such as:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Improved communication
  • Better service response
  • Higher brand perception”

“Some of the more identifiable items to monitor to ascertain the effectiveness of your Social Media Campaign include increase in:

  • New visitor numbers
  • Returning visitors
  • Newsletter subscribers
  • Page Views
  • Time on site
  • Adsense ad revenue”


*Measuring ROI of Social Media – Another Perspective

There are three steps to figuring out the ROI of investing in social media:

  • Step One: Circulation – take the hours it takes for you to work on that network and compare that to the cost of an ad with similar circulation.
  • Step Two: Conversions – the objective is often more about awareness and driving traffic to a Point of Sale.
  • Step Three: Assessment – see if they are sharing your message with others, talking about your message, or going over to your website.

“With these three steps you can compare your Social Media ROI with any other promotional investment you are making. Often what you will find is that conversions made through Social Networks are more targeted, responsive and longer lasting that those made from traditional advertising.”


*The “Intangible” Benefits of Social Media

“The elevator pitch about these “intangible” or long term benefits of social media is very simple. A good engagement on social media is part of the brand experience and supports brand building.”

“Brand building campaigns and brand management aim at delivering the adequate customer experience in a repeated way, so that customers consciously or unconsciously associate the brand values to the company and its products.”

Social media are well adapted to the following (these are only examples):

  • Drive internal discussion between employees and/or with the management
  • Support collaborative exchange within a project team or any group who is motivated at sharing knowledge and experience
  • Create awareness, for example with a good content, preferably a video or webcast rather than text
  • Enable and facilitate discussions with customers and potential customers on product feedback, product definition, product roadmap, or customer support
  • Make a company and/or part of its staff recognized members of a community
  • Drive thought leadership via facilitation of valuable discussions  – this one uses social media with a classic goal of marketing and communications BUT the execution must be very subtle in order to adapt to the rules and etiquette of social media: a peer to peer dialog

“There are quite a few paid services available to monitor and analyze conversations on the web. These services allow a qualitative and quantitative  analysis of how discussions on your company or your topics of interest spread over the internet. A recent article written by Dan Schwabei and published on Mashable  (http://mashable.com/2008/12/29/brand-reputation-monitoring-tools/ ) provides a very good concise description of 10 of them.”

“When designing a social media campaign, you should have a clear idea of your target group and of the expected short term and longer term impact (nothing really new).”


* Jack Connors: Managing Succession by Patricia O’Connell

“Succession planning is a huge issue for companies. Many don’t to it properly, if at all, resulting in disruptive management transitions that are bad for morale and business.”

Connors trusted his own judgment about deciding it was time to go in 2000. “At the risk of putting words in Yogi Berra’s mouth, when you sell your company, you don’t own it any more, and so, my hunger, my level of interest, began to recede ever so slightly,” Connors says. “So gradually, my lack of hunger began to show itself in the lack of growth of the company, and Hill Holiday had always been on a growth track, so it was important to bring in people who could reenergize that growth.”

Connors considers the succession, well, a success. “At the end of the day, this is very much a business. It’s a for-profit company whose objective is to return money to the shareholders of IPG,” he says. “But within that, we always felt an obligation to the people who work here. They’ve dedicated a piece of their lives to the success of this organization, this particular mission. And so it’s not just a matter of paying them, but it’s a matter of looking out for them.”


* ‘Starchitect’ Libeskind Reinvents the Mall by Reena Jana

“The world is suffering. But this is exactly the time to do exciting things. It’s not the time to hide our heads,” says Libeskind. “It’s when we have to use our imaginations to try new materials, new ideas. Not just add gold and chandeliers!”

Libeskind made his name by creating dramatic cultural institutions with angular, jagged silhouettes, such as Berlin’s Jewish Museum, not shopping centers. But he thinks his portfolio shouldn’t be split into two categories. “I don’t believe in this old-fashioned distinction between cultural and commercial projects, as if we live in split worlds,” he says. “Architecture is about everyday life, not just about going to a museum. I want to blur and erase the lines between culture and commerce. And it’s a fact that museums want to be successful economically, too.”

“Libeskind is used to creating big budget projects such as CityCenter with large-scale, intentionally crooked walls and ceilings. These are his design signatures, meant to evoke surprise in the people who visit his buildings. So his fans—and critics—might be truly surprised that the architect is looking to remake objects on a tinier scale. These are well-timed, and potentially well-priced, for a recession.”

“I believe people want a ‘wow’ experience in their lives, not just when they visit a museum,” Libeskind says, emphasizing that during such glum times, businesses really need to supply “wows” to draw customers. The businesses include, of course, his own.


*‘An Explosion’ in Women-Owned Companies? by Damian Joseph

“Seven years ago, Nicole Loftus was entrenched in a $19 billion-a-year industry she felt was following an outmoded model. As a distributor of branded products, she served as an intermediary between companies that wanted products imprinted with their logos and the manufacturers that made them. Remarkably, neither side ever interacted. Loftus struck out on her own—against the advice of her family and then-husband—and began building what is now a multimillion-dollar company, Zorch International. The Chicago company offered an innovation to the branded-products industry’s supply chain and changed how many corporations procure such products.”

“It can be especially challenging for women to establish companies seeking a broad reach, such as those that provide services for corporations—and securing financial backing can be nearly impossible. In 2008 only 6.8% of venture capital went to companies founded by women, according to Dow Jones VentureSource”

“Loftus started the company herself with the aid of angel investors, bank loans, and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. In 2008, Crain’s Chicago Business ranked Zorch the fastest-growing company in Chicago, and Inc. magazine ranked it the eighth-fastest-growing in America. Inc. also ranked Zorch the country’s No.1 company owned by a woman for its astounding 10,822% growth rate from 2005-2007.”

“The biggest challenge for women in starting successful companies, Millman says, is they need to become more aggressive and less risk-averse. This would include women more confidently marketing their expertise and forging ahead with potentially valuable business ideas despite market conditions. “The resources are actually more plentiful and it’s much cheaper to start a business now than a decade ago,” she says.”


*A New Agenda for Boards of Directors by Ira M. Millstein

“I’ve had the good luck to have lived through the Great Depression and every recession since, and I’m still here, which is the good news. However, the depression of the 1930s had a lasting impact on my attitude toward life and times. I don’t suppose any of us who lived through it ever fully recovered enough not to worry about money, jobs, and all the rest, no matter how we otherwise made out in life. ”

“This particular crisis bears a resemblance—but only a resemblance—to the 1930s. Really, in my opinion it’s nothing like it and won’t be. Furthermore, I am confident that the lasting effect this time will be positive, not negative. Watching my grandchildren and their attitudes, I see them fully capable of resetting their goals in a very positive way. I think they will see the world as one in which real values are more important than the values we created in the 1980s and 1990s. So, I’m confident about the future.”

“The first thing we must do is restore trust in the system. This requires a new approach to proposed government regulation once the need for emergency responses subsides. Future regulation should be based on an analysis of its costs and benefits in terms of economic impact. In addition to regulatory reform, we need to take a hard look at how the private sector governs itself. To earn trust, both analysis and reform demand total transparency to convince the public at large that regulation and governance are designed to benefit the “real economy,” not Washington or the executive suite.”

“In assessing the economic impact of proposed regulations and private initiatives, we must make strategic choices for the economy as a whole, between innovative and lightly regulated financial markets and the stable and heavily regulated market of the post-depression period.”


*The Tools of Social Media

“Before beginning a project of any type it is a pre-requisite to know what tools are available, what tools are required, and a clear understanding of how to use the available tools.”

“Social Media offers numerous tools of varying types to businesses and consumers, knowing what is available, which Social Media tools you should be using to achieve your company objectives and how to use the tool for your business’s project can be confusing to even the saviest Social Marketer.”

“The primary business objectives of Social Media is to converse and engage with customers and potential customers to achieve a desired result which may be a sales or sales lead or improved customer satisfaction.”

The articles give a nice, detailed analysis of the primary tools types of Social Media Tools.


* A Scholar-Activist Challenges U.S. Patent Law by Michael Orey

“Critics of the U.S. patent system have high hopes that 2009 might be the year Congress acts to amend it. But their lobbying has failed for years, so John F. Duffy sees another path to change: litigation. “I’ve thought a lot about reform of the patent system through the courts,” says the George Washington University Law School professor. “It’s not like the courts can’t adjust in this area.”

“Two years ago, in a case known as KSR, he helped win the most important U.S. Supreme Court ruling on patent law in 40 years, making it harder to patent readily apparent inventions. And on June 1, the high court agreed to review another hugely important case with which Duffy has been involved, dealing with what kinds of business methods can be patented.”

“Duffy contends that to promote innovation in an evolving economy, advances in a broad range of areas ought to be eligible for patent protection. This includes business methods, which are controversial because they cover things such as financial instruments and management techniques, not physical-world inventions like a new chemical or a machine.”


What I Think

I think the articles posted on this date show a variety of reasons for entrepreneurs to be optimistic. The social media articles demonstrate that the innovative tools, which we collectively call social media, can be effective ways to connect with customers and keep them engaged. Just as important, the popularity of these tools has led other innovators to find ways to measure the return on investment, which companies can and do achieve when employing social media campaigns.

Other potentially optimistic trends for innovative entrepreneurs include changes in the patent laws, more deeply ingrained systematic corporate succession planning, and what Damian Joseph’s article, An Explosion’ in Women-Owned Companies, predicts as an upcoming increase in the number of women bucking the trend to become the founders of companies in science-based sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, software, and clean energy.

Finally, there are words of encouragement in the excerpt from Ira M. Millstein’s keynote address, as printed in the BusinessWeek article, A New Agenda for Boards of Directors. Millstein is senior associate dean for corporate governance at the Yale School of Management and a senior partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, one of the largest law firms in the world, with approximately 1,300 lawyers and gross annual revenue in excess of $1.7 billion (per Wikipedia).

Millstein, who says he had “the good luck to have lived through the Great Depression and every recession since,” feels, with regard to this economic crisis, “confident that the lasting effect this time will be positive.” He also thinks his grandchildren will be fully capable of resetting their goals in a very positive way, giving us hope for the next generation. Millstein understands that “innovation and risk-taking are a source of wealth and should not be stifled.”

He talks at length about the need to balance legislation so that the goals are clearly defined and there is a direct correlation with creation of jobs in the private sector. As he says, “we know economic growth depends on trust in the functioning of the capital market and in the people responsible for running financial institutions and our productive corporations. The private sector is uniquely positioned to restore trust in the capital markets. It is at the very place regulation ends that individuals are asked to make discretionary decisions about the use of capital in the interest of their beneficiaries. It’s here in the gray areas that self-regulation and prudent corporate-governance practices are absolutely necessary. It’s in the boardroom that independent oversight is necessary, especially in the area of risk management, to instill market confidence.”

Together “we,” the whole investment chain, are the owners of corporate America and we should act like it. 


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If you enjoyed my impression of these articles, why don’t you read them for yourself and see what you and I missed or hit? Join the Applied Entrepreneurship group on LinkedIn. Membership is free and I try to post about ten articles a day there. We have some great discussions going and if you are an entrepreneur, we hope you will join us.

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Posted in Applied Entrepreneurship, Business life cycle, Growing a business, Recession strategies, Running a business, Social networking & media, Succession Planning, Women Business Enterprise

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