View From the Spire: Star Mangled Banner
February 22, 2011
Proving that even the experts sometimes get in wrong, Christina (wot no more Xtina?) Aguilera fluffed a line as she excruciatingly belted out her version of the US National anthem that opened the recent Super Bowl final.
When she should have (obviously) sung “O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming” she ad-libbed on an earlier line claiming afterwards that “she got lost in the moment”. And I would think it easy to “get lost” at the prospect of performing such an important job infront of 110 million avid supporters around the globe let alone the brown trousering fear of 103,000 Cheesehead and Steelers fans in a newly built Cowboys Stadium in Texas. This ones for you Mariah Carey…
But she is one of the lucky ones; being able to make a mistake and get away with it by simply carrying on to the finish – at worst denting US pride and slightly upsetting the event organiser!
However, mistakes by business “experts” occur all too frequently too but often with farther reaching consequences. Unlike Christina’s mishap, it seems in business it is not just a question of just getting to the end (the “end” is surely business closure?) it is ensuring that you complete the task.
For starters, it is easy to be an expert – especially in a recession with so many good corporate people out of work turning their hands to some level of service provision; and it is far too easy to make mistakes (we all know that). Put the two together and depending on the situation, the inevitable mistake is blindingly obvious – like a bum note in a Les Dawson piano ditty, or an excocet missile – you know that it is coming but can do bugger all about it!
Take eCommerce and search engine optimisation: apparently every ones an expert. Paying experts to focus on SEO wont make you money if at core you don’t have the products that people want to part with their hard earned money for. A test: if your business is not viable with Adwords, you’re likely throwing good money after bad and I may even be so bold as to say that the same goes for your effort in online business – regardless of the experts you use! I had it suggested to me recently that SEO is an emergent property of eCommerce – and I think that that is largely right!
Then consider design and web development. Eye candy wins every time doesn’t it? If it looks nice and has nice coloured buttons with nice text – thats enough yeah? Money flies in, customers will be happy and you can plan your retirement where its warm?
Some design experts will seduce you with flattering design – it might make you proud or great to be a part of something as good looking as a flashy website, it may give you something to brag to your mates about down The Dog and Whistle, but it’s no guarantee of your businesses success. Only then will you think – how did that design agency suck us in? And then you remember the line…“Look how wonderful our design agency is – we work with RBS…” (Doesn’t every bloody design agency do work with RBS?).
To illustrate the point – take a look at the most aesthetically of appealing websites – then look at eBay. Which would you rather be yours? One of them has greater income than some Countries!
Lastly take the examples of social media and networking. Do you know exactly what this is? Do you know what it could do? Do you know how it will help your business? Its a complex thing (if you are of a certain age) and built for kids isn’t it? And it’s about sending funny videos to your pals, tweeting a bit (whatever that is) and creating a Facebook page isn’t it?
Social media is one small part of Sales and Marketing. It’s one of its many channels – and like the others, it needs constant attention and requires that you cast the net wide using all the channels available to you. However the relevant audience for your products should be crucial in any decision to focus on this as part of your marketing strategy.
In this piece, I am not here to pick on business experts in these three sectors – or any sector for that matter. I’m actually advocating a little patience and understanding in your business. I am a big promoter of undertaking due diligence, knowing a little about the work yourself and ultimately having a grand plan and sticking to it. I see so many people jumping in to SEO, web design or social networking having heard friends and colleagues talk about it. These areas of promotion are often very helpful and often lucrative elements of business but will not make a difference unless part of a greater effort across all areas of your business.
I am equally a believer in trying some of these things yourself – experience a little of social networking – read some blogs and forums; you will understand the concept quickly and be better informed to understand the potential as part of your greater vision. Then invite the experts to help you in this field and be better positioned to ensure a greater return on the investment in these areas.
In these examples, my experience is that you would be hard pushed to find a real tangible ROI for any work that is undertaken in each area in isolation. A focus in any one of these areas may on any given day work, although on another, it also may not – often the expertise, and even potential lack of it will be irrelevant. Either way, do your homework and know what you are getting into long before you sign on any experts dotted line.
I believe in a business that wants to make the best commercial success of itself – with or without a flashy website, outsourced SEO or use of social networks – it is the financials at month and year end ONLY that matter.
We all apparently make mistakes. And so if, like Christina, we are all prone to making mistakes in our performance, or take the wrong business turn or make the wrong commercial judgement what really only matters is how we manage the fall out, how we reposition ourselves and how quickly we get back on track.
Experts actually know their stuff – and in most cases to a phenomenal level that is worthy of your investment in time, effort and money as they are capable of delivering fantastic results for many business whatever the sector. It is up to you to understand some of what they say and can do in order to best utilise their talents within your business vision.