Initiative – Clearly A “Dirty” Word

I have always been a “doer”.

Its not that I don’t plan, I do, but too much planning makes me anxious and after a while I just want to be in motion, breaking, making, failing or succeeding. Of course I know all those age-old cliches: “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and a Bulgarian one which is roughly translated to “sharpen the axe twice, chop once”; however, I am a restless being and usually start ‘doing’ long before I have any complete plan. Facebook portray this kind of attitude on the walls of their offices (poster, right):

“DONE is better than PERFECT” – In Facebook HQ

What is perfect anyway? Robert Kiyosaki, in Rich Dad Poor Dad, talks about the 80:20 principle. This can be applied to loads of situations, but the one I really like is that:

“You can get 80% done with 20% effort, while the remaining 20% (to get to perfection), requires another 80% effort.”

The point I believe he was making is to avoid perfection and rather go with completion (to get more done) because an obsession with perfection leads to nothing being done in the end. Why? Because if you are in a group of 10 trying to do a project with limited time available, perfection looks like this:

– PERFECTION but not completion – as a group you plan to achieve some specific goal, but after 6 months of little… NO… zero progress, you continue to hope that a day will come when all 10 of you magically appear in the same room together, where everyone will miraculously agree to the same project and in the remaining 6 months it will magically materialise. Also, no one will co-ordinate, somehow we will all do exactly the same amount and leadership responsibilities will be divided equally.

– COMPLETION – You take the initiative because time is running out and hope that you can get enough people on board with a charity project which may not be perfect, but it will make a difference.

– PERFECTION but not completion – You find out about an idea which may be perfect given our network and abilities, and you immediately notify the 9 other people it may (or may not) affect with an e-mail that covers every aspect of that idea, even though the idea is likely to still be half-baked and incomplete.

You spend several hours thinking about how to structure an e-mail which covers everything, anticipates any questions and clarifies issues you have analysed and decided may cause some confusion. You then prepare yourself for a ton of e-mails asking for further clarification which then take several hours to read and reply to.

In the process you might get annoyed at people who wrongly accuse you of this-and-that, but regardless, you put a smile on and reply.

– COMPLETION – You have a quick meeting with the people involved where and when it is convenient for them so that you can quickly share the basics and then see where the discussion goes, answering any reservations or questions along the way and you accept that not everyone will want to do this, but that this is fine because there are enough people who are happy to jump on board the ACTION train.

Which approach is more realistic?

I have always used the “80%, NOT 100%” philosophy and believe it is the main reason why I get so much done. It makes it really easy to take the initiative as well because once I like an idea, I just start working on it, worrying about the details as I get to them. Perhaps it is against conventional wisdom but somehow it usually works for me. Of course, sometimes it will fail and you learn from these failures.

Unfortunately, very little will be learned from the projects we don’t do. We will continue to plan for the perfect project and perhaps a day will come when we all meet, plan and agree, and then we will be ready but our time together will by then have run out. 

Initiative, it is clearly a “dirty” word in some people’s vocabulary.

Expotel… Exposed

I can’t believe I only have four weeks left at Expotel. Time has flown by.

At first when I started working here, the prospect of having to travel longer every day, no longer being bang shot in the centre of Manchester, and the ever shorter days, made me think of my second Manchester Masters placement as a daunting 13 weeks of work I just had to get through.

Then I met the ‘Partner Services’ team that has been my second home for the past 7 weeks. I was handed a project which was challenging but also perfectly aligned with my strengths and digital marketing experience. Expotel had clearly thought well and hard about what they wanted me to do here and this initial preparation meant I could just shoot straight into my project.

The first few weeks were all about getting to know the company and the industry it operates in. I was fortunate enough to attend the World Travel Market conference for three days, meet Sequel (our agency) down in London, represent the Partner Services team at the Agency Pub Quiz and go on two Familiarity Trips (MacDonald Hotel and the Red Carnation Dinner).

The perks and benefits list is endless. Every other day we have one of our preferred partners visiting and spoiling us with fruit bowls, lunch, sweets and chocolates… and how many people get 2 Christmas parties organised for them?

As for the work, there is nothing quite like being given a project to do, where you have the support of all the decision makers. Doors, floors and windows – they all open for you and its easy to move from one task to the other without bureaucratic time lags. Every business embracing change should do this – identify the key change drivers and manage them, “laissez-faire”.

And while my job was mostly about PayPerClick, SEO and Social Media (three terms I probably use more these days than even “thank you” and “hello”), I have still continued to develop:

  • Finally got round to some practical PPC experience, learned about “conversion tracking” and got to use Bing’s AdCentre as well.
  • Have been learning about AB-testing and my understanding of e-commerce has gone from an obsession with “getting traffic to visit a website” to “getting that traffic to convert into a sale” – a far more profitable obsession, I have since discovered.

In the coming weeks, I belive my focus will shift from the practice of digital marketing to the strategic planning of their marketing strategy for the future.

A key challenge at all our placements will be to build a legacy but then somehow ensure there are people and systems in place to continue what we have achieved, once we move on.

All in all, I keep feeling that these placments, with the trust and co-operation of our managers, could be more like a consultancy experience than a placement one – what a great way to describe them on LinkedIn or when we start going to job interviews in the next couple of months.

Social Media Optimization and other geeky SEO stuff

A few weeks ago I wrote my first entry to the 10 Golden Lists on Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Here are some additional notes on SEO to supplement that post:

  1. Think local – Google has developed an obsession with giving you local search results when you search for results in a specific location. This makes sense and is a current window of opportunity while other local businesses adapt. A key part of your strategy, if you are a local business, should be to get a good presence on Google Places and optimise locally:
    • Make your search keywords include the city/suburb you are hoping to be found in.
    • Get links from other local sites – they will be more valuable than links from sites located in different countries.
  2. Relevance – a recent observation I have made is that my blog is an SEO nightmare. I do not focus on one topic and for this reason keep confusing the search engines regarding what the purpose of this site is. For this reason, this SEO post is unlikely to ever rank highly in search results, which brings me to my last point.

SEO is NOT everything I have set up SEO projects on other sites that have done fairly well so I thought maybe I should try something new with this blog. I now get most of my traffic from social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter and I’ve even started using a new term for this kind of digital marketing – Social Media Optimisation. SMO is an exciting new way of thinking that may never live up to my expectations, but pursuing this kind of digital strategy will give me an opportunity to escape the largely uncertain, ever-changing and saturated world of SEO and possibly gain first-mover advantage in what I believe may well be the marketing medium of the next decade.

Oh and look, a Facebook like button below…