In previous blogs, I have compared diamond prospecting with opportunity identification as well as diamond polishing with strategy and business plan development. As a result, I wondered if any diamonds were cut in a hexagonal shape...
The standard and most common diamond cut is the ideal round brilliant cut. This cut, as a result of the internal angles, reflects light with the most sparkle and brilliance making it the most desired and expensive cut per carat weight. The round brilliant has 58 facets or sides including a large octagonal table on top (53-57% of the diamond’s diameter). Diamonds that are not cut as round brilliants often as a result of the rough crystal’s size, shape or defects and inclusions are termed fancy. The more common fancy cut diamonds and shapes include the princess, marquise, pear, emerald, heart and oval.
There are two hexagonal-shaped cuts: The hexagonal cut is a simple step cut similar to the rectangular emerald cut with a hexagonal shape and a hexagonal table. The more interesting fire rose cut is hexagonally shaped with a hexagonal table and 61 facets. In 1988, diamond merchant De Beers presented it as one of five new cuts loosely based on the round brilliant in order to maximize their brilliance. They were designed by master Antwerp cutter Gabi Tolkowosky.
The largest hexagonal-shaped (fire rose-like?) diamond may have been the 32.62 carat Bazu. It was only mentioned once as part of The Order of the Golden Fleece, a pendant created by King Louis XV that also contained the French Blue, the precursor of the 45.52 Hope diamond. Unfortunately, the Golden Fleece was among the French Crown Jewels stolen in 1792 and broken up so the Bazu's existence is controversial.
© Duncan Jones Hexagon-Innovating.com (2015)
“Optimism doesn't wait on facts. It deals with prospects. Pessimism is a waste of time." Norman Cousins
Hexagon Innovating can assist you in finding, sorting and polishing rough diamonds (innovative opportunities) in order to drive your firm’s growth.
© Duncan Jones www.Hexagon-Innovating.com (2015) All rights reserved.
Photos sourced from http://www.allaboutgemstones.com/diamond_geology.html
Many of us have experienced difficulties in getting projects and even just good ideas not only approved and undertaken, but even just considered by our boss, senior management and in some cases external financiers (i.e. Angels investors and Venture capitalists). So what can you do to improve your odds of getting an opportunity to present and more importantly attract the support, approvals and resource commitments (financial, structural and personnel) required to successfully launch your project?
The excellent article, in the January-February 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review, entitled "Get the Boss to Buy In,” authors Susan J. Ashford and James Detert outline seven tactics to help you succeed. I propose three additional tactics to bring the total to ten.
In summary, Ashford and Detert’s seven tactics are:
1) Tailor your pitch - Just like selling to any customer, your project must address the “buyer’s” needs or issues.
2) Frame the issue - In a related manner, your project and its outcome(s) must fit with the overall strategy.
3) Manage emotions - As soon as people are involved, so are emotions. You need to show your passion, while minimizing their fears - fears of failure, of wasting resources and especially looking bad.
4) Get the timing right - We all know that there are good times and bad. Be patient and wait for a time, when you can expect the decision-makers to be most receptive. Reschedule if necessary.
5) Involve others - Getting others on board can both help strengthen your plans and pitch as well as provide some validation to the soundness of the project.
6) Adhere to norms - Basically, you must operate within the current culture. This is an area where more experienced supporters can provide valuable assistance.
7) Suggest solutions - No one wants to hear about problems, they want to be presented with one or preferably more than one well thought out solution that they can choose between.
I whole-heartedly agree with these tactics. In my time as a venture capitalist, I fully expected the entrepreneurs that called to be addressing and solving an important issue (#2, #7) while understand our needs and interests (#1), namely being able to show measurable progress on a 1-2 year, $500,000 investment. The entrepreneurs needed to have a good team (#5), one that at least initially we felt we could work with (#3), and one that understood the venture capital environment (#6) with it’s focus on returns.
The three additional tactics that I would add are:
8) Document the your project or idea fully - A detailed plan, along with the executive summary and slide deck, not only provides decision-makers with a memento for further consideration, it shows that you have thought through you project, and perhaps most importantly provides a baseline upon which the plans can be further developed and integrated into existing activities and strategies. See my blog: “To Draft a Business Plan or Not?"
9) Outline the project’s strategic next action - Describing the next step, especially when it is an experiment that can help confirm or disprove a key assumption, provides decision-makers a means to provide a practical, conditional approval instead forcing a go/no go ultimatum which often results in missed opportunities or wasted efforts. See my blog: “Improving New Product Development through Thoughtful Experimentation."
10) Build or sketch a prototype - Having a prototype and presenting it as part of the show and tell can help demonstrate the concept and functionality as well as your determination. The prototype can be a miniature 3-D model, a simple physical model made of wood to represent size and shape, sketches from different angles, a spreadsheet version of the algorithms, a mock-up of the packaging or product monogram, or screen shots representing the user interface and basic functions. It does not need to work completely. It does not need to be in final form. It just serves to assist you in conveying the concept.
While working in and with larger firms and their senior management including research intensive firms, the development of written, detailed project plans and the associated experiments to test ideas and assumptions was rare. This information is generally maintained more tacitly by those responsible. This reduces the time and effort required to document it, in addition to reducing unpleasant questions and accountability. Unfortunately, the tradeoffs include good projects and ideas never getting a chance to be tested, as well as important and high potential ongoing projects not receiving enough input and advice from other company employees, collaborators and consultants. An open company culture that encourages risk-taking and embraces the failures that come with innovating will be far more likely to be successful in growing the business. See my blog: “Effective Portfolio Management Depends on Your People."
© Duncan Jones Hexagon-Innovating (2015)
Video content marketing has become a very popular and preferred form of “stealth” advertising. It is not, by definition, a sales pitch. Done well these presentations deliver four values to the participants: They raise awareness of a problem, issue or opportunity. They provide some educational material on how this issue can be properly addressed. They demonstrate that you and your firm have expertise in this area. And, they can start to establish a trusting relationship between you and potential customers/ clients. Lacking the "hard sell", content marketing attracts prospects that may have a need but are not yet ready to act. As a result, a good presentation as well as the recommended downloadable handout can have great impact - putting you and your firm top-of-mind for an eventual sale. The addition of an online poll or polls can provide you with additional details as to the: who, what, why, when, and where of prospects’ requirements.
SIDE NOTE: Similar to a TV ad, an online video or presentation can serve as a direct advertisement outlining the benefits and features of your product or service with the intent of generating sales. However, unless the customer is ready to buy now, these efforts often have little impact. Furthermore without the captive audience of live TV or an in-stream ad, they are frequently avoided or immediately halted.
SIDE NOTE TO THE SIDE NOTE: A similar argument can be made for print ads and sales brochures as compared to content-based e-books, white papers and articles.
So given that you wish to embark on a video-based content marketing effort, how do you decide between hosting a live webinar and creating a pre-produced piece? To explore this question, I examined the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of employing these two approaches. First some definitions: A live webinar is an event scheduled for a specific time in which a presenter addresses an online audience in real time, usually with the aid of the ubiquitous PowerPoint slides over a web conferencing tool such as WebEx, GoToMeeting or Adobe Connect. A pre-produced piece, as the name suggests, is produced in advance and placed on the internet, often through channels like YouTube or your company website, to be viewed on demand. What follows is my list of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of these two approaches. Assessing the relative importance of each of these factors to your content marketing goals will help you to decide which method to select.
SIDE NOTE: This list is "minimally reiterative to the inverse equivalent” i.e. for a basketball player, if being tall is listed as a Strength, then the (inverse equivalent) Weakness of being short is omitted.
The Live Webinar:
- It creates a buzz. This is positioned as an event that one doesn’t want to miss.
- It has urgency. There is a set time and date that helps encourage attendance.
- It is exciting. The audience can sense the more casual, spontaneous nature of the presentation.
- It is engaging and responsive. The audience can ask live questions and answer polls giving the speaker feedback and adding to the spontaneity.
- It can cover a topic in depth. Webinars generally last 50’ or so (45'-60’). This is a result of being a scheduled event as well as its exciting and engaging nature, as described above, which tends to hold the attention of the audience.
- It can be fairly quick to prepare for. The presenter just needs a slide deck and a stock photo of themselves. Someone familiar with the web conferencing software can set it up easily and add features on the fly.
- External experts can be easily attracted to speak. The amount of preparation is similar to a live talk: some slides and plenty of room for spontaneity.
- There is a cost associated with web conferencing. For a one off event, this can be $20/attendee hour. More frequent web conferencing can be done much cheaper.
- Significant effort needs to be made upfront in advertising the event. This is usually done through e-mail as well as other social media campaigns.
- Since live webinars can be recorded, they can be re-used/ re-purposed to what are in effect, pre-produced pieces with little effort and at no further cost.
- Technical failures can occur including completely dropped webinars, dropped or weak sound, and attendee logon difficulties which leave a bad impression especially because attendees have set aside the time. Incorporating slide decks work well, but video segments add additional risks. Experience and practice with the web conferencing tool can go a long way to minimizing these risks.
- The timing may not be appropriate for all potential attendees. This issue can be mitigated by posting an on demand version following the presentation, or even holding multiple sessions.
- The material is available on demand. Interested individuals can watch when it is convenient and at the time when they want the information.
- It takes place over a shorter timeframe making it easier to prepare. Pieces lasting from just a few minutes to a maximum of 15’ (the YouTube channel limit) are recommended as these appeal to on demand viewers who can be easily distracted.
- There are no ongoing production costs. Video software like iMovie is required and a camera, tripod, lights and even a green screen are recommended.
- There are minimal errors - segments that are of poor quality can be redone multiple times until the desired results are achieved.
- The viewer can pause, replay and in some cases view the material faster or slower. The material can also be watched again at a later date.
- Time and effort must be expended to make the video product look professional. This has become the expectation of on demand viewers, who will logoff if not impressed with the quality.
- Although live, dynamic (and responsive) polling is unavailable, a static poll can be done after the presentation through a link to a tool like SurveyMonkey.
- Similarly, questions cannot be addressed directly but the follow-up handout could include frequently asked questions (FAQs) collected from the polling and questions that are e-mailed in.
- It is relatively effortless to go from a pre-produced piece to a live webinar. The visual material and even the script are already in hand.
- Viewership can be low unless the material is continually marketed. One means to achieve this is to produce a series of pieces, releasing a new one at a set time each week or month, while providing an index and links to previous ones.
In reviewing this list and reflecting on my experiences with both formats, I have come to the conclusion that: Exciting and especially very current presentations by well-known third party experts benefit from the promotion, investment and spontaneity of a live webinar - like a major sports simulcast. More technical, detailed, educational and enduring material is better served by a series of shorter pre-produced pieces - like the format used by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Between these two extremes, a live webinar series with on demand availability afterward, or a structured series of pre-produced pieces should serve both the viewing audience and the producers of the content marketing well. The decision comes down your own weighting of these SWOTs relative to your goals.
© Duncan Jones, Hexagon-Innovating (2015)