It’s all about the c-word

It’s time we focused on customers, not COVID-19. More than ever you must invest in your customers, understand what matters to them, reward them for their loyalty, and focus on helping them be more successful and prepared for the future.

At Digivizer we’re working with a number of businesses that have had to recast their physical go-to-market presence into enhanced online alternatives very quickly. The fastest wins have come for those prepared to keep things elegant and simple, and those measuring everything to understand where they are winning, where they are losing customers, and in continuously testing new audiences.

By designing for customers first, and improving each metric to increase performance and results, they are preparing their businesses for the future.
The results are encouraging: by investing in digital, many of them are reinventing themselves at a speed and in ways they hadn’t imagined were possible two months ago. The brands that are doing well are those that have the customer experience and journey front and centre.

Read more on why businesses that will succeed as we leave the lockdown will be those who never forget about their customers, in my article published on Mi3. Link –  https://www.mi-3.com.au/03-06-2020/its-all-about-c-word]

Chasing vanity metrics now will be the death of ‘marketing dinosaurs’

One thing we’ve seen – too often – is a continuing reliance on vanity metrics as companies and marketers make sense of the new COVID-19 lockdown world we all currently operate in. As I explain in this new article in Marketing Magazine, only marketing dinosaurs rely on vanity metrics. To be successful, digital marketing strategies, from the most sophisticated, multi-layered programs built by the largest of companies, to the very first tentative steps taken by the smallest of businesses determined to prevail through this crisis, must focus instead on what matters most: customers, integration, careful targeting, measurement – and analysis. Forget vanity metrics. Leave the marketing dinosaurs behind.

Read the full article at https://www.marketingmag.com.au/hubs-c/opinion-vanity-metrics-havent-died-in-the-eyes-of-the-marketing-dinosaurs-but-they-will-make-them-extinct/.

Oh Crap, Amazon: Where to (and what) next for retailers?

Jeanswest and Bose are the latest big-name retailers pulling back in Australia. They following contractions announced by EB Games, Bardot, and the shuttering of Harris Scarfe in December. In this article, published in Mi-3, I ask the obvious question: is this a continuation of an industry in terminal decline, or a wake-up call that finally jolts retailers into action? I passionately believe that the retail sector can reinvent itself. In reality, it has no other option – and I share some examples of retailers making a bang – and some bucks – that go beyond their size.

Read the full article here: https://www.mi-3.com.au/26-01-2020/oh-crap-amazon-where-and-what-next-retailers

What marketers should do as the apocalypse hits

As the NSW and Australian Federal Governments edge ever-closer to following the UK and other countries into Covid-19 lock-down, I wrote this article for Mi-3 on how marketers can take the lead as the four horsemen of the apocalypse come over the horizon.

Businesses of every size and in most markets are facing similar challenges: how to engage with nervous customers, how to loosen spend in nervous markets, how to position their solutions, what are the best strategies to launch products, when attention is understandably focused elsewhere.

With uncertainty and change, there are opportunities to help organisations test new ways of doing things, to test new markets and new messages. Read the full article here: https://www.mi-3.com.au/23-03-2020/what-marketers-should-do-apocalypse-hits.

And of course, always happy to talk more.

Just don’t die – the art of growth

I was honoured to speak last week at an event organized by Investible and FD Global Connections for International Women’s Day.

With the theme #SheScalesGlobal, I wanted to focus on what I passionately believe are the foundations for success for anyone in business, whatever their gender in growing a business globally. 

The core requirement for anyone wanting to forge new markets is one of determination and resilience. Making it personal and being super determined with a minimum view of do whatever it takes, as long as you don’t die. See everything you pursue as an opportunity to continuously learn. Scaling into new markets is so much more than translation. It is localisation. And the only way you can localize is to understand the local landscape, the social, economic, political, business and personal aspirations of a country (and for large countries, the counties or regions).

International Women’s Day reminds everyone of what women continue to achieve (Apple’s advertising for International Women’s Day raises the bar I think), and more importantly, it reminds us that our own futures are ultimately in our own hands.

For any list of successful women, whether they are women from history, or women you know and work, I suspect they share a number of traits: they were the first to break barriers, they knew what they wanted to do, and they developed the skills and strategies needed to get there.

I acknowledge that the need to champion women remains, to call out their successes, and to call out entrenched biases when we see them. But I have never wished to measure myself, and any success I’ve had, only against half the population – so I speak not as a woman in business who has experienced success, but as a business leader that has experienced success.

When a vision prevails

One example comes from my time as President and COO at Altium. In the mid-2000s, Altium (a global, listed Australian software company) was expanding into China. We had a huge opportunity there, because China had declared its intent to change from “made in China” to “designed in China”. Altium’s electronics design software, though widespread, was universally pirated. Rather than take a heavy-handed legal route to clawing back revenue, we decided to emphasize and offer the added value users would get from using legitimate versions of the product. 

Our vision was to legitimize our software and our customers, our strategy was to compete with, and not police software.

Noting Mao’s famous statement that “women hold up half the sky”, my experience in China was interesting. I was in my mid-thirties, the most-senior women executive in Altium, and the second-most senior of any executive after the CEO, a mother of 3 children, and they could not understand how this was even possible, for a company so well-known in China, in a culture with a one-child policy still in force.

The question was often asked there how I did it, and I made the answer, especially with the language barrier associated with being in China, very straightforward: because I want it enough.

The second example is of course Digivizer. I’m still often asked how it was that I chose to leave the corporate safety of Altium, to start a new company with new technology, again with still-young children at home. Again, the answer is that I wanted it enough.

This time, though, the vision was mine alone, for what the new company should be, what skills I would need in finance, operations, and leadership, and also to know when things simply couldn’t be done, in a company with a handful of resources. I wanted to help all businesses harness the digital footprint of their customers and prospects and make sure we built a platform that was affordable and easy to use. 

I went from running a company of 450 and 2000 reselling agents globally to starting a company with 2 people, growing it today to a company of 50+ people.

About three years ago, we expanded into south-east Asia, setting up a hub in Singapore and hiring great talent in 12 other countries around the region, including Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Thailand. In Digivizer’s case, we did this by learning as we went. We were moving too fast for the government bureaucracy to keep up, and we went from client contract signature to open for business in five weeks.

And in all of these examples, this has not been about any focus on my confidence as a woman, and everything about my confidence, skills and expertise as a business person. 

It’s been about building the confidence to use radical candour and about managing by Objectives and Key Results, as we do in Digivizer.

Neither of course is gender-specific. And I might add neither does success become a destination reached. It is a continuous journey where I keep striving to the next peak, only to enjoy the view of the next I set to conquer.

Sharing what I have learned

My first point is a simple statement of intent: whenever I’m faced with biases, I acknowledge them, challenge them by ignoring them, going around them or over them. This is not about the empowerment of women, more a fundamental position in life that I’ve chosen to take. 

Universal rules that anyone can apply include: 

  • Focus on seeking to add value to a business or a relationship
  • Embrace people who focus on growth and seek to create great outcomes
  • Focus on talent, not gender
  • Don’t do what is asked, instead deliver what is needed and do what delivers greatest value
  • Remove yourself as the limiting factor. We often place a lid on our growth because we do not think big enough
  • Develop the mindset that you are the best person for the job
  • Choose to pursue where your strengths and passions will best be used, and where they will make you most successful
  • Make sure you understand the problem you solve and the value proposition you are offering, this should guide your priorities
  • Identify what’s negotiable, and what’s not and stick to it (especially around balancing time with your family commitments)
  • Do what makes you happy and pivot when you need to – growth implies change, so recognizing what makes you happy and continuously adapting what you do and how you work to ensure that you feel congruent in all you do!

In short, in business, the first rule is don’t die:then change, pivot, be flexible, then never give up. Put all your energies behind what you believe in, so that you are determined to smash through barriers. Only we can be responsible for our own futures and success. 

I’d love to know more about your experiences and inspirations. Please share your tips and thoughts below!

With thanks to Investible, FD Global Connections, Hotwire Global, and everyone who attended the event.

This article is also published on LinkedIn.

Heading: ICT industry needs a jolt to get it going

Harvard University’s Kennedy School’s Centre for International Development recently published its Atlas of Economic Complexity. It’s a fascinating read because it measures what the University calls an index of the value added by countries to their economies, and then rates them. 

Its power comes from being able to compare what drives a country’s economic activity, the point where added value appears, and the proportion it contributes to the overall figure. Digivizer plays on the ICT sector, so we looked into how Australia’s ICT sector performs. The answer is sobering – over the past 30 years or so, it’s essentially flatlined. The Australian Financial Review carried my observations as an opinion piece, but if you don’t have a subscription, here’s the summary:

  • The Australian Financial Review’s Aaron Patrick described the findings for Australia as: we’re rich, dumb, and getting dumber. Our Economic Complexity Index ranking has dropped from 19th to 32nd even as our GDP per capita has grown by 182% between 1995 and 2017
  • At no point does ICT rise by more than 157 basis points in a year (1991-1992, in reality a reversal of a similar drop the previous year). In contrast, the biggest annual rise for iron ore was 426 basis points (2007-2008), 605 basis points for coal (also 2007-2008) and 267 basis points for travel (2014-2015)
Source: The Growth Lab at Harvard University. The Atlas of Economic Complexity. http://www.atlas.cid.harvard.edu.  Analysis and chart by Digivizer. Terms used are those used in the source.

  • If we overlay the IPO dates of Altium (August 1999), Atlassian (December 2015), and WiseTech (2016), we can see small increases in the export activity of our ICT sector. It seems that these companies have contributed some heavy lifting
  • Comparing other markets and choosing the US as an example, we see consistent growth, even after the original dotcom bust. The sector is back to where it peaked just before the GFC. In comparison, and within its own context, Australia’s ICT export recovery was slower and flatter

Long-term commitments are needed to kick-start Australia’s ICT heart.  Industries such as ICT, as well as pharmaceuticals, medical products, high-technology and manufacturing, are needed to create the economic future and competitive playing field that we deserve in Australia. Action is required now if we are to maintain our standard of living. 

Talking digital, talking data, talking growth

Why should only large enterprises with big budgets have access to the best tools? In this podcast I talk with Vinay Koshy of B2B Success Podcast who interviews me about the journey and the unique role Digivizer plays in making the best Digital Marketing analytics available to help businesses of all sizes grow.

I love podcasts. I listen to lots of them (Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale podcast is a favourite) and I love being interviewed on podcasts: although I can’t see the audaudience to gauge their reactions, it’s a real conversation with the interviewer, and you can engage in nuances and diversions that are difficult in articles. I love the ebb and flow that takes place!

I recently spoke with Vinay Koshy on his Predictable B2B Success podcast, about how to use digital marketing analytics to grow B2B businesses.

Our work with a number of larger B2B clients (companies that include Lenovo, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Google, Optus) and smaller B2B companies, including some startups (companies that include Rockend, BluGlass) demonstrates that when you have data to underpin your growth strategies, you can accelerate that growth. While budgets and resources change with company size, data doesn’t. Knowing what works, and what decisions to take as a result, are crucial to fast growth – and make a real difference.

In the conversation with Vinay we talk about the need to associate numbers with individuals to better tell their stories, how privacy laws such as the EU’s GDPR have impacts on the collection of data, how building relationships with clients helps build success, and how having a people strategy is essential for global business growth.

Here are some other recent conversations I’ve had with other podcasters:

MBA and business working together: a Digivizer story

I co-founded Digivizer with Clinton Larson in 2010 and at about the same time I started my MBA (Executive) at the UNSW Australian Graduate School of Management.

Many questioned my decision around the timing – surely to do both at once could only make life more challenging than it needed to be.

But the decision was deliberate: I could apply what I learned in my MBA immediately to growing Digivizer, and I could apply Digivizer as an MBA case study in my course work.

The synergies were real and powerful, particularly in developing Digivizer’s business strategy for growth and to make the company attractive for initial funding (we decided early on to grow Digivizer mainly on revenues, with relatively-limited seed funding from investors).

You can read the story in a recent interview with the University’s Business School at https://www.business.unsw.edu.au/news-events/news/harnessing-the-agsm-executive-agenda-year-to-launch-a-digital-start-up.

Recently published in the Australian Institute of Company Directors magazine

I was interviewed recently by Company Director, the magazine of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

The interview was about innovation, and how that has driven the development and growth of Digivizer.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned in the journey so far, as discussed with journalist Stuart Ridley:

  • build for scale
  • ensure your differentiation, and do everything you can to maintain that
  • back yourself and know it’s OK to face challenges – as long as you learn from them
  • be prepared to disrupt what you’ve done previously – to go after the bigger prize and opportunity (we’ve pivoted a number of times)
  • be prepared to accept new challenges – especially if you move from a corporate position to starting your own business
  • innovation comes from experimentation – build that into your company’s culture, and allow your teams to test, fail and learn
  • be prepared to take risks

You can read the interview here. I’d love to hear your thoughts – contact me via LinkedIn.


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.