In the media: funding alternatives for entrepreneurs, the future of polling

I was recently published in Entrepreneur magazine, talking about the alternative approach taken here at Digivizer to fund our growth: a new, dual approach that encompasses self-funding, driven by early and sustained revenues, and partnerships with organizations that have market width and depth, that in our case also become customers.

I’ve also been quoted recently in the Australian Financial Review, on the recent Australian Federal Election – and why the polls got the result so wrong beforehand. I think the biggest opportunity exists in using social media platforms to poll, rather than older methods that clearly now don’t work, or are too prone to error. When you go where your audiences are (in social media and search) and listen to what they are already saying and searching for, you will get greater predictability on the likely outcome.

 

Making the best of our technology available to every business

At Digivizer we continue to learn so much from providing services to our enterprise customers. We’ve spent a lot of time with customers like Microsoft, Lenovo, Intel, Barilla, McWilliam’s Wines, Snapfish, and more.

We’re grateful for their continued support as we broaden our range, and for all that we have learned and grown together.

Increasingly, we’ve been asked to help smaller-sized businesses. We still want to look to deliver services like digital creative, paid media and analytics at different budget levels.

We also see the much larger opportunity to help empower and arm all small-to-medium businesses with the same insights that we provide our enterprise clients – and that we use ourselves to our own advantage.

We’re passionate about helping all businesses easily understand their investment in digital marketing, whether that be organic, earned or paid. Businesses need to know exactly how they are performing across all their social and search channels. We want to make this available in an affordable way to every business.

We want to make it easy for businesses to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.

I’m excited to share with you that for some time now we’ve been building a new product. It brings all our high-tech, big-end-of-town data crunching into a much more streamlined, accessible, affordable and valuable experience.

We have been testing and gaining feedback from our existing customers and are now ready to extend a beta version to more businesses.

For a limited time, we would like to invite you to register your interest to join our private beta at no cost or obligation to you. The more it’s used, and the more feedback is shared with us, the more we learn and understand what is important to you, and the better the experience for everyone becomes.

What does Digivizer deliver?

The Digivizer app brings all your digital data – paid and organic – into one live interface. That way, you can see what’s working on any given channel at any given time.

Digivizer gives you live data and insights to help ensure you deliver the right message, on the right channel, at the right time, to drive measurable business results. We answer questions like:

  • How am I performing?
  • What’s working and which platform?
  • Are we doing better than previously and where is doing better?
  • How much am I spending at any one time and where?
  • How am I performing against my objectives:
    • Impressions
    • Engagement
    • Video Views
    • Lead Conversion
    • Sales
  • How can I make sure I am not wasting my money as I am spending it?
  • How can I get this information easily and in one place?
  • How do I make my reporting easier?

One platform

Before now it’s been expensive – in time and tools – or just impossible to get an easy, single view across all platforms in one place.

We hear from our customers how painful it is for them to co-ordinate across each social and search platform. This has been made harder with the changes each platform makes. They move things around, change their algorithms, change what you see, and what things mean.

With Digivizer, you can easily connect all your paid accounts across social and search into our platform, see key insights and make easy comparisons. Today our product supports Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google Adwords, and Google Display.

Real time

A key pain point for many customers is that they find out how their investment in digital is performing weeks and months after they have spent the money. This is far too late to action any learnings.

Traditionally, small businesses are forced to access each platform manually and pull out the data, which takes hours. Then they have to interpret it, cobbling together a single report to see how their investment is working for them. Alternatively, they look at the final delivery point of lead or sale, and which individual platform has delivered it.

By the time you’ve been able to get the answers, the chance to adjust your strategy has passed. If it’s not immediately obvious with a big spike or dip in the numbers, then often you’re left frustrated, feeling like you’ve spent money and time without the ability to influence the outcome.

Having one view of cost-per-lead versus a view of what is delivering best value for money and what’s most-valued by customer, are missing. That’s what Digivizer can provide.

Easy to use

With Digivizer, you’ll be able to see how your ad campaigns are performing graphs and tables that are easy to control and explore. You’ll be able to add and remove the variables you choose – like date range, platform, objective.

When some part of your campaign is working really well – or not working as well as it should – you’ll be able to see it in the data and jump right in to start figuring out why. Want to take the long view and see how your campaigns have performed against each other? You can do that, too.

Best of all, you won’t have to just invest your money and cross your fingers for three months. You can see what you’re paying for as it happens. This gives you the freedom to turn it up, or turn it off, as you choose.

Affordable

We’re working to ensure the best of our technology is made available for the lowest per month price so it can be available to all businesses, with all your owned, earned and paid social and search media data and insights at your fingertips.

Over time we will continue to add a greater number of platforms and insights to cover the broader digital marketing funnel.

It’s an exciting time for Digivizer. We can now start offering the best of our technology built over nearly 8 years to every business. Those who we know deserve to get the best out of their digital spend, who are sorely in need of tech tools that remove the stress and pain, we hear you!

Please join us in a private beta. Register your interest to join at no cost, no obligation now, at digivizer.com.

A version of this article is also published at digivizer.com.

The relationship between government and business in supporting a digital-first economy

 

Yesterday I was on a panel of technology CEOs and leaders hosted by the Australian Business Software Industry Association (ABSIA) discussing the challenges that face Australian Businesses today, and exploring what would be required to support a truly digital economy.

 

The other panel members, representing a cross-section from industry and government, were Deborah Ralston, Kate Carruthers, Marjukka Maki-Hokkonen, Ramez Katf (Second Commissioner and CIO, ATO), Stuart Korchinski, Trent Innes and Karen Lay-Brew, moderated by Matthew Prouse.

Ahead of ABSIA’s own report on the discussion, here are my personal thoughts on where we are in this country.

Remove all constraints: be truly digital-first

Interestingly consumers are already digital first in their everyday actions. Our discussions related to how ready we were digitally in serving today and the future. In particular ABSIA asked the question whether Australia’s software industry was big enough to be a driver of the changes required to support the future and if so, what would be required.

What was a rarity less than 10 years ago is now the norm: people transacting, in their personal and business lives, readily giving up their personal data, often through mobile devices, desiring (and increasingly demanding) fast connectivity at all times.

Yet businesses often remain bound up too much by where we physically are – in our thinking and our infrastructure. This can be local infrastructure implementations itself – just think how much time is wasted trying to physically connect to a screen in a meeting room – or broader infrastructure limitations – for example, our inability to access fast bandwidth for processing large amounts of data from anywhere. Just yesterday I was unable to send a large file to a government body due to their file transfer limitations. This government department would not link to a Google Drive or Dropbox, nor take a USB drive, so instead we had to separate a single (and relatively small) PDF into three parts. Needless to say, this is not spending time on high-value activities.

This is before we look at the much more serious competitive limitations around the speed and cost of data processing, which is much more expensive here in Australia relative to other countries, and much slower. According to the Akamai State of the Internet Connectivity reports, Australia regularly ranks 50th in country connectivity speeds.

And whereas we still tend to fix employees to fixed workstations or points here in Australia, we see the removal of these constraints in some industries such as retail, and in some countries entirely – China’s consumers are operating almost entirely in a mobile world, including all financial transactions.

If we want to compete seriously, Australia’s future needs to be about supporting businesses and consumers operating without infrastructure or device constraints of any kind. Whatever you want to do, wherever you are, however you want to engage, it should be not only possible but totally personalised within an enabled environment.

This requires a fast and (ideally free) ubiquitous network.

The real promise of data

Data is all about opportunity. As I write this, debate rages about data privacy. We do need to build secure networks and data housing, but the issues that arise tend to be more around ethics, building trust, and permission. Organisations that have breached their customers’ trust have been punished throughout history.

For businesses the opportunity is to not focus on providing data infrastructure but rather to determine what questions we ask of data, and how do we want to engage, synthesise, transform and action data in meaningful ways that create value for the consumer. Unfortunately, infrastructure, speed, cost and connectivity become critically important: the closer your data analysis can get to real-time, the better-informed you are, and the more options around actions you have, also in real-time.

How do we choose to use data? How much data do we want or need? How comfortable are about the agreements we make with those with whom we share our data? These are decisions we are making every day.

If other countries are going to be able to hold and process data faster than we’re able to, and can more easily afford to do so, that we will limit our ability to compete for the global customer without considerable infrastructure investment.

When we factor in that tomorrow’s global workforce and consumers will know no other world than one rich on data and (mass) personalised offerings, we have some challenging questions to consider as a country.

One thing is certain, though: asking the right questions and determining how to action real-time data is the best advantage we can create for ourselves as businesses.

New dimensions for assessing skills

With the third of my three children now half-way through her high school years, I believe Australia’s education system needs major overhauls to equip our children for the future. This is more than an emphasis on STEM, important as that is. Unfortunately, today our children can “do well at school” through focusing on repeat activities and by building strong memorisation skills. With all the world’s information at our fingertips, this is not enough. With AI, robotics and machine learning impacting the way we work and the roles (and skills) required in the future, our advantages will come from exercising creativity, philosophy, ethics, and being able to think critically, take risks, and build, assess and refine strategies on the fly.

Already at Digivizer we are discarding any formal education as a measure of employment. Instead we look to hire on employees being able to demonstrate that they are smart, talented, infinite learners, get things done, and not assholes! We need people who are adaptable enough to a fast changing world full of many opportunities.

Back to our education system: I’m starting to see awesome pockets of capability being built through project-based learning when children get a mandate to build something, to create solutions to real problems and opportunities. These take form in fully fledged responses that include service offerings, websites, apps and new ways of doing things. This generation going through school don’t have to learn to think digital: they simply are digital. They are better-equipped than those who are 10-20 years older than them to navigate the world of opportunities available in a digital economy. This becomes a key advantage – or disadvantage if we are not considering this in our workplace designs.

If we want to compete globally, Australia’s education system needs to do a lot to help people think, more than how to remember. Talent needs to be defined and valued in new ways.

On the role of governments

Views on the role of government always seem to move between the government doing a good job and how the government needs to do more.  As anyone who has started and grown a business would attest, we are not playing victims expecting handouts. We are building great businesses based on determination, our own investment, grit and an appetite for risk. We have found a way – and have often overcome obstacles through sheer force of will. But with a population that represents just 0.34% of the global population, we need to be hyper-focused on how to compete globally. This is where we need the support of government.

The biggest benefits governments can provide are the infrastructure needed to be competitive and successful, updating our education system, opening up global opportunities for workforce and business, and financial incentives designed to support economic growth and value. The current R&D tax rebate incentive is an example of a good incentive designed to focus the minds of those seeking the rebates, so that true innovation, research and breakthroughs occur, but it is not enough.

As to future funding, we must ensure that the mechanisms for funding in Australia compete with those available overseas. Australian technology companies are receiving much more support at start up, yet need to go overseas for their next level funding – often never returning.

Final observations

As to the future of Australia’s software industry, yes – I firmly believe we have the opportunity to influence and lead, but we need to have the political and business will to make this happen. We can be smart and get things done, but it really will come down to our speed of adaptation to the digital future and a global mindset.

To scale globally we need access to funds and incentives to stay. And we need digital infrastructure like never before. As panellist Marjukka Maki-Hokkonen, who was born in Finland, noted, a small population spread over a wide, inhospitable landscape need not be a barrier to investment. Finland built a nationwide mobile network that connects the entire country, including unoccupied tundra, and citizens and business have access to very low-cost superfast wifi nationally. Sound like a plan?

It did strike me that much of the emphasis on creating a common data model, policies and infrastructure was being supported and lobbied by our financial industry and yet this industry is itself ripe for disruption. It is critical for us to consider the empowered future consumer: to win their business we will need to compete in environments where everyone has access to so many options. Emphasis will be on empowerment and value, and the consumer will respond with their virtual wallets and votes.

Whatever the solution to infrastructure, customers will expect, demand and insist that these options, services and systems deliver value and are available to them on their terms. As businesses, it’s our role to create the applications, product, services and capability that brings meaning to such infrastructure.

As always, the decisions and opportunities – as individuals, and as a nation – are ours to take.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Taking your business through growth

I was recently invited to speak at a tech entrepreneurs’ lunch.

In the audience were entrepreneurs just starting out sitting alongside those a number of years in who had successfully navigated the stages of early growth to something more sustainable. We were also lucky enough to hear research presented by Cameron Research Group on key growth inflection points for SMBs.

There were a number of insights gained through the research and the discussions that followed:

1) Focus and commitment to success

Many had chosen to do their own thing not just because they were driven to harness an opportunity and to create a new future, but also because they liked the control it offered. Entrepreneurs felt they could live the life they wanted, and the more time spent on forging their own way, the less likely they could ever work for anyone else again. The result? Total focus on making their venture successful.

2) Managing growth through key inflection points

The way someone was able to run their business in the early days could only get them so far. That point seemed to be at 20-30 employees, at which point entrepreneurs needed to think about switching from a control model to an empowerment model, from an authoritative leadership style to more democratic style of leadership. This meant hiring differently, bringing in new systems, enhancing leadership capability, and formalizing HR and marketing resources and programs.

The next growth inflection point was at 70 employees, where the audience again recognized that what had been built to get them to that size would need to be revisited again, particularly in terms of systems, leadership and culture. The main concern each entrepreneur had was on how to keep and protect their company’s culture and the way they wanted their business to run when they could no longer be personally involved with, or connected to, every decision.  An emphasis on investing in building a strong culture based on values, trust and empowerment was key to those who were successful.

3) Four main growth pain points

This seemed to be universally agreed upon. To grow their businesses from startup to success, entrepreneurs needed to:

  • focus on cash flow,
  • scale recruitment and performance management
  • scale sales and marketing,
  • control costs.

Everyone agreed that all of these were challenging, especially when gearing up for sustainable and often accelerated growth. This has certainly been our experience at Digivizer and we have put much investment in each of these areas.

What was particularly insightful for me was the number of businesses that had realized they had to switch their marketing models from doing it themselves to recognizing they needed external solutions.

And it was especially interesting to hear that once businesses grew to that 20 employee point, they needed to save time and become better at seeing and understanding what was working for them. In particular, it was time for them to invest in solutions as it was important for them to easily and quickly know the ROI of marketing expenditure. They needed to be able to easily measure what was working for them, and to focus resources there ie do more of what works and fix or stop doing what was not working. Data matters and tools could help over manual options.

This resonated with us, given that at Digivizer our focus is on helping businesses create better experiences for their customers by knowing more about them and what they care about in order to help them generate leads and sales from digital.

All of which makes me even more focused and committed to rolling out our technology and solutions in an affordable way for every business.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Brands and CMOs: don’t compete with creators and storytellers. Instead: inspire, invest in, and support them

Marketing has always been about achieving the best results by getting the right message to the right person at the right time using the right channel. That mantra remains as true as ever, but the techniques, long-accepted and built on the now-crumbling foundations of broadcasting messages at anonymous audiences in sufficient numbers that some of these messages eventually stick, are increasingly redundant.

What’s changed is the consumers. They are to be found on their mobile devices, managing their everyday work and personal life commitments, making choice about who to like or engage with, and to turn to, every waking minute. Overwhelming consumers with mass-market branded messages is increasingly ineffective, often prevented by ad-blocking technology, becoming expensive quickly, and still often misses the individual and their context.

The consumers are in control. And the secret to engaging with them lies with the true creators and storytellers.

Last night Digivizer supported Thom Whilton and Lisa Teh, natural storytellers, entrepreneurs and creators with whom we’ve had a long partnership, at the launch of their new book Australian Style: The Who’s Who of Fashion.

The book builds on Thom and Lisa’s on-line content and editing success, and celebrates Australia’s fashion industry innovators, leaders who create Australia’s leading designs, and those who tell their genuine stories to the industry and to consumers.

I joined a panel alongside Daniel Watts, managing director of Thames and Hudson Australia, Janice Breen Burns, former fashion editor of The Age, Lisa Teh, and blogger and influencer Lana Wilkinson as moderator. Despite our different backgrounds and careers, early consensus appeared:  a brand telling its own story no longer holds the same equity and interest for consumers. Consumers want a new and different story to be told by someone they trust, one that is entertaining and informative, and that aligns to their passions and values.

Thom Whilton & Lisa Teh, co-authors of Australian Style: The Who’s Who of Fashion

The evidence is in the data. Digivizer’s analytics show that those brands that work with great creators and storytellers gain greater consumer engagement, loyalty, interest and sales. They outperform those trying to control the branded messaging and solutions.

Brands must understand that to win, they must deliver the best experiences and provide great reasons for individuals to engage with them. One of the best ways to do this is to work with the people consumers already turn to for information and inspiration: the creators, the innovators and the storytellers who have already earned and built engaged communities of like-minded individuals sharing common interests, passions and values.

Consumers are savvy. They know who is being authentic and what is contrived, and they spot undeclared paid-for influence or comment. Even ahead of increasing regulation around declaring paid-for comment, brands should look to earn consumers’ respect for what they really help create, rather than look to trick or mislead. This comes through investment, inspiration and collaboration of these exciting possibilities via this new generation of creators and storytellers.

The process of engaging with individuals starts with great stories, but consumers quickly vote with their thumbs on their mobile devices. As they do, they leave clues about their intentions, connections, needs and preferences, many with the expectation that brands will act on these clues and engage with something of interest and relevance.

The opportunity sits in the precision of being able to act on these real-time actionable insights intersecting with the actual conversations and content engagement taking place on the social web.

The choice for brands seems clear: embrace the new role that supports, commissions and inspires the storytellers and creators to deliver genuine and inspiring collaborations that in turn fuels real Australian and global innovation.

Brands need to invest in, not compete with, the creators and storytellers.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.
Australian Style: The Who’s Who of Fashion was launched Wednesday 8 March in Melbourne, as part of the 2017 Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival IDEAS program. Follow the social conversation at #australianstylebook #vamff. Digivizer was the primary sponsor of the event.