Inroads in social media marketing for financial services

Consumers have long moved on from just using the internet for information-gathering. Social networks are growing at an incredible pace. We all know that social media lower costs and optimizes marketing spending. Now is the time for financial services companies to move from just “being” on social media and start to truly “engage” with their customers. At the end of the day it is all about using social media tools to build personalized customer relationships.

There are many financial companies, like American Express or UBS, already optimizing their use of social media. Accenture has identified 11 social media tactics that can help achieve a specific outcome and that should ideally not just be used in isolation.


It is important to keep in mind, that social media marketing always needs to be fully integrated in your company’s digital and corporate strategy to achieve the best impact possible.

Here is a link to the full report.

Where are you on Gartner’s Digital Business Development Path?

Garner has published a Digital Business Development Path that examines different business models from before the web to today’s digital platforms to help businesses see where they are currently and help make a case to increase their digital business. According to Gartner, by 2020 75% of all businesses will be digital or on their way to become one. So where is your business on the development path?



Source: Forbes

Digital Disruption

brian-solis-disruptionBrian Solis, Principle Analyst at Altimeter Group,  posted this amazing “Wheel of Disruption” in a recent article. While it may be full of buzzwords, we cannot deny that digital technologies are impacting our customer’s behavior already today and even more so in the future. And businesses need to respond to these changes if they want to remain competitive. Brian interviewed over 20 strategists from leading global companies to find out how they are changing in light of this. Very interesting to hear that most felt that the way to adapt to this transformation was not only through investing in new technologies. But to adapting to the behaviours of customers and employees. At the end of the day is it about “creating a culture of adapation and innovation” in your business. And that is something us in marketing communications also have a large role to play in.



It’s all about Mobile: Some Insights from Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends Report

Mary Meeker’s State of the Internet presentation gives us a great insight into the Future of Digital – albeit in a 164 page slideshow. Here are some takeaways that I find the most interesting:

  • Internet access growth may be slowing, but not on mobile.
  • Tablet shipments increased by 53% in 2013 – that is a faster pace than PCs ever had. And many consumers are leapfrogging the PC completely as we are living in an era of smartphones.
  • Mobile accounts for 25% of all web usage. That’s 14% increase from last year!
  • We spend 20% of our media time online. But there still is a huge opportunity for mobile ad spend growth.
  • We are using social networks to share more privately than broadcasting – just think of the rise of WhatsApp. This also accounts for photo sharing being up 50% over 2013 in just the first half of this year.
  • Mobile business since 2008 has exploded from $2 billion to $38 billion. This just shows how important it is for media companies to promote high-quality apps for their products and services.
  • Google and Apple are the future. While this may seem obvious we should remember that 8 years ago they had no phone business, today they rule our operating systems.
  • Video still is king. And YouTube cannot be underestimated. It creates stars and is getting huge monetization through ads.
  • And finally China. It is becoming a critical market with 80% of its internet user now on mobile. Plus China is not copying, it is innovating. So we need to keep an eye on that.

And to conclude: the future of the Internet, in one graph, showing screen time by screen type around the world.



Living in a Digital Economy with Analog Boards

analogIt’s been a while since my last blog – summer is turning out to be busier than I thought! Russell Reynolds Associates 2012 Study of Digital Directors did catch my eye this month though.

In today’s world, the CEO should also be the chief digital visionary in order to be able to lead the company’s digital transformation. And if this is not yet the case, companies – large and small – definitely need to start building their digital capabilities in order to remain competitive in this ever increasing technological environment. It was not surprising to read that almost all of the “highly digital” boards were in the U.S, with only two in Europe and none in Asia.

Technology is creating new ecosystems and opportunities. And these opportunities also demand the need for thoughtful investments. So in order to fully take adavantage of what our new digital world has to offer, CEOs and management boards need to start to adapt.

It’s time for management to become digital visionaries!

Leadership and Governance in Family Enterprises


I attended a very interesting summit of Turkish and German family entrepreneurs at the beginning of June in Istanbul. The conference was held at thevhistoric summer residence of the German embassador in Tarabya – a gorgeous house on the Bosporous with the most amazing gardens.

Most of the world’s best performing companies are family owned. They are job creators and drivers of growth in today’s often frazzled markets. But being a family enterprise often poses risks. Discord amongst family members, succession issues, ensuring smooth transitions amongst the generations. All these issues can make or break a family enterprise. And this is where leadership and governance come into play. They are the glue that keep family enterprises together. For generations to come. Or at least can. It is all about managing this “golden triangle” between family, management and ownership.

But how do companies manage to keep all these in balance?  Many may have so-called family constitutions, others have put some type of family shareholder governance into place. And having rules in place to govern is necessary and part of a professionally run company. But there is always something that is missing from a contract. One of the most important factors in keeping family enterprises running is to be able to pass along the common values and to keep an open dialogue amongst all family members. This needs to be installed from an early age on.

But succession planning is also just as important. Family enterprises that are looking for growth and long term continuation need to make sure there is an open path for the next generation to move up sooner rather than later. The older generation needs to give the next enough time so that there is less pressure to succeed and room for failure.   Governments are mostly only liable for 4 years. Management in big corporations only live on 5 year plans. There is no one really liable for ensuring the long term continuation. They are not invested in their undertakings. Emotionally and monetarily. And that is why family enterprises and entrepreneurship are the drivers of the future. And leadership and governance are the cornerstones that keep these enterprises on track and successful for generations to come.

This was the second time that the confererence was held and it is a great opportunity for dialogue and business opportunities and I would like to thank Alphazirkel for the wonderful organization.

Yes, you need a content strategy!

contentMarketing products and services through smart and relevant online content is an absolute must nowadays. And yes, before you start creating content, it is absolutely vital that you you have a strategy in place.

It is about a systematic approach with which you can manage content across all channels, on- and offline, ensuring that you reach all customers. Developing a strategy will also allow you to create the type of content that your target audience is looking for and give you the opportunity to build thought leadership in your community.

When developing a strategy make sure to define why you are creating content and who you are creating it for. Do you know the information needs of your target audience and how they consume content?  Take the opportunity to see if your current content is creating the results that you expect or if readjustment need to be made.

If it is done correctly, a content strategy will help you analyze the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. And you will provide your customers with something of value. And that in turn will translate into more engagement, more leads and stronger customer relationships.

My customer, my fan

thumbsFans have become the new currency of success for many companies’ marketing and sales departments. How often do I hear a client tell me full of pride how many likes or followers their social network has.

But if we only would measure success in the number of “thumbs up” or followers we would all be pretty amazing. We must remember that what we really want are truly satisfied customers. Companies that want to be successful need not only have best in class products and services, they also need to ensure a certain emotional relationship with their customers. This can be achieved through having excellent customer contacts and making your relationship with them unique. Give  your employees a motivational driven work environment. A company culture cannot thrive without success. Encourage customer oriented thinking.

And remember that trends come and go,  but true fans stay forever.


Does one really need skills to be a social media manager?

apeWhile I have been working in marketing and communications for a very long time, social media was not always around. Everything I know relating to social media is something that I have taught myself and have learned by working with and for different clients. And it does not stop there. Technology, metrics, SEO, you name it are developing at incredible speeds meaning having to constantly stay on top of the latest developments. It certainly is not something anyone can teach you overnight (even if there are many companies out there, making a quick buck offering certified social media professional courses).

I notice many businesses underestimate what it means to deliver good social media. It takes time and expertise. It demands lots of different skills like networking, planning and strategy, understanding the customer and the business, writing skills, analytics, commitment and focus, just to name a few. And very important is also experience. I certainly would not trust a new college graduate or trainee to handle my business’ social media activities. You need a strong grounding in marketing communications. You need to understand the industry, its products and have customer facing skills to deal with what social media is all about: engagement. Engaging with community for a business needs to be be strategically driven. And this works best if you are a marketing strategist who can oversee the complete picture. If you believe social media success is about having tons of followers then you are walking down the wrong path.

But enough on this topic. Sailing season is starting and I am off to the boat in bella Italia! Ciao.

The fear of capital market financing

alpha3Having sufficient equity capital and access to long term credit lines are important for any company’s growth strategy. But there is this well-known German phenomenon,  this “fear” of capital markets and IPOs. According to studies, almost 70% of German companies solely rely on banks for their financing needs. But as it is becoming more and more difficult to get new capital through banks, another look has to be taken at the capital market and what it has to offer. All the more interesting was a panel discussion I attended last week in Munich with German Mittelstand and family entrepreneurs on exactly this topic.

The German capital market  and its exchanges are not being as positioned as positively as the UK or US ones so  there still is a lot of skepticism ranging from the possibilities to the requirements capital market financing brings with it. Many family owned businesses do not want to lose their independence, their majority vote. Entrepreneurs also are much more emotional, building up and relying on networks, in comparison to externally managed corporations. Being visible on the capital market as a company means that revenues and returns are in focus, one has to be more transparent.  One has to be truly present in the public eye. Many family owned companies do not want that kind of exposure. These and other topics were discussed with the general outcome being that these are fears that can easily be alleviated. For instance through better education from the German stock exchanges about financing possibilities as well as their actual requirements and what this means for the MIttelstand. Being listed can bring many positive aspects to these companies such as succession planning or the ability for greater international expansion and, most importantly, not having to rely on bank financing alone.

(thanks to ALPHAZIRKEL for organizing another great evening!)