7 Steps to build a successful mobile strategy and brand

This is the first of a serious of articles describing how to extend a brand or service into the world of mobile devices. Here we outline the 7 steps which should be worked through to define your strategy before you launch a mobile service.

1. Understand market trends, past and predicted.

The mobile market is fast moving and notoriously difficult to find good quality, accurate data. So get information from as many sources as possible and bear in mind national characteristics if you want to cover multiple countries.

2. Analyse your current audience and content.

Who uses your services and what you deliver today. This will be the basis of your mobile audience and what you will build on to generate success. But it doesnt have to limit you in terms of the target audience.

3. Create a vision for your mobile audience.

What is it you want your mobile audience to do? What will you provide that adds value to their mobile lifestyle and experiences? How will your mobile offering differentiate your brand or service from others on the market? The answers to these questions will help you create a vision of how you can work within the mobile environment and what you ultimately offer.

4. Define initial objectives.

What do you want to deliver and when? How do you generate revenue from the deliverable? How will what you deliver affect your brand, your current audience, and your business partnerships.

5. Specify an initial deliverable for launch.

What can be delivered as an initial release which is low cost, low risk and will provide you with immediate fedback from the market. This is often the best way to start.

6. Identify alliances and supporters.

Who can help you promote your brand and service on mobile. Business partners may be able to help and the ecosystem of mobile manufacturers and operators can offer a lot if there is value for them.

7. Plan a roadmap beyond launch.

As part of the initial plan have a phase 2 in mind and future activities which can grow your initial success. Be prepared to tune and adjust these plans based on feedback from the initial launch.

The next article in the series will focus on mobile market statistics and trends and review the options for generating revenue from mobile apps and services.

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Mergers and Acquisitions – The deal of the century

While reading Robert Frank’s ‘The Return Of The Economic Naturalist – How Economics Helps Make Sense Of Your World” I came across his comments on the AOL/Time Warner merger in January 2000


In Frank’s book he claims its the worst piece he’d ever written. This is probably a sensible statement given that the story proclaims the virtues of the $147 billion merger.

The following story in Dec 2009 brings the curtain down on the whole saga as the companies de-merge with combined total market values of  around $38 billion.


The scale of the numbers are staggering. No other words for it. $100 billion of shareholder value lost in the space of 10 years in two companies.

The vast majority of the losses were attributable to AOL. At the time of the merger AOL shareholders held 55% of the combined company giving a market value of $80 billion. When spun off in 2009 AOL was valued at $2.5 billion.

Time Warner at the time of the merger was worth a mere $66 billion and when spun off was valued at $36 billion.

The fallacy around the deal was the dot com bubble of the year 2000. When everything Internet related had turned to gold and there were few concerns about valuations far exceeding the industry norms. The hope was Internet access combined with entertainment content was a one way bet. It turned out it was, except it went the wrong way.

We are now speculating that we have returned to another Internet bubble with incredibly high valuations for technology IPOs and acquisitions.

How do we spot a bubble? I think we just need to look out for the next AOL / Time Warner style merger.

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Goals should be SMART

Specific – Well defined and clear to anyone who has a basic knowledge of the project.

Measurable – Know if the goal is obtainable and how far away completion is.

Attainable – Realistic and achievable.

Relevant – Based on overall project aims.

Time Based – Enough time to achieve, but not too much to adversely affect project performance.

When producing monthly or quarterly goals, I find it helps to have an overall medium term objective for a specific time period such as a year which is clear and simple.

Based on this the shorter terms goals can be established and as progress is made they can be refined or adjusted.


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Nokia’s troubles and a lesson on software

At the beginning of this week Nokia announced a profit warning. They expect their 2nd quarter results to be substantially below their previously expected range. And, probably more significantly, they do not feel they can confidently make a 2011 annual revenue forecast.

Nokia’s problems come down to one thing. They were unable to build a market leading phone and associated ecosystem to deliver internet services to their mobile customers. In effect they stagnated as a product company over the last 5 to 10 years in this emerging market of Smartphones.

Its interesting to note that this doesnt mean they didnt sell Smartphones in high volume. They did, and had many high selling devices in this category. However their issue was people bought the phones for the reason they had bought previous Nokia phones. They were stylish, good looking, and carried the latest high end features such as cameras.

These were the attributes which differentiated Nokia from the pack in the mid-nineties. An era when mobile phones went from being plain ugly, to a stylish fashion accessory. Nokia excelled here and became the dominant player in the mobile phone market.

But despite huge investment in the Smartphone segment, Nokia failed to deliver devices which encouraged their customers to use new Internet and application based services.

This is a classic business lesson in how difficult it is for companies to change their culture. Nokia found it incredibly difficult to go from a hardware focussed engineering organisation to a company which provides an open software platform for others to deliver compelling services from. But what also stands out here is the understanding of how software can change markets and business dynamics.

Software means new, compelling services can be launched overnight. And platforms such as mobile phones which support these services well will prosper. This is where Nokia fell down. Competitors such as Apple, which also made its name in well designed, stylish consumer electronics also made computers. They helped invent the computing industry. So they understand software and how it can be used to change a market. So when Apple launched the iPhone it was packed with new, software driven features, which attracted users to do new things with their phone.

Nokia has now teamed with Microsoft to launch a new range of Smartphones using Microsoft’s Windows Mobile technology. Microsoft understands software but has struggled in the past to break into the phone market. So on paper it is a good combination. The challenge will be for both companies to show they can lead the mobile industry in new, compelling applications and services.




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How to classify projects and purchases within organisations

I find it helpful to group change programs, projects and purchases within organisations  into the following categories.

Infrastructure – Upgrades to the essential building blocks of an organisation. Examples include new offices, faster computer networks and improved phone systems. Something which has the potential to affect improvements across the bulk of the workforce.

High Performance Workforce -Targetted improvements for a specific area of the company’s workforce. Examples include better accountancy systems for finance department and more efficient development tools for software programmers. Something which makes a targetted individual employee more productive.

External Enterprise – Improving the reach of the company to attract more customers or channels to market for the products or services offered. Examples include adding eCommerce to the web site, or more efficient advertising programs.

Using the above categorisations helps clarify the business case necessary, and who is likely to sponsor the project from within the organisation. For example it’s hard to build a business case for Infrastructure projects based on individual productivity improvements.

A case in point here is the adoption of mobile email within organisations. Early business cases attempted to justify expenditure through time saved by individuals and then quantify in monetary terms. These proved extremely weak as a business driver because they were not based on tangible measurements and results. Instead mobile email gained traction when it became part of a general upgrade to an organisation’s communications infrastructure eg. upgrading mobile phones to models which delivered email as a convenient extra feature.


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LinkedIn IPO

comparing LinkedIn IPO in 2011 with Google IPO 2004

Google raised $1.6bn for market cap of $23bn with 17% rise at end of trading day one. Google profits were $105m on revenues of $961m in previous accounting year. 7% of shares were offered.

LinkedIn raised $350m for market cap of $4.3bn with 108% rise at end of trading day one. LinkedIn profits were $3.4m on revenues of $243m in previous accounting year. 8% of shares were offered. LinkedIn does not expect to be profitable in 2011.

The market of 2011 is a lot more generous than 2004. Or is it desperate to find a home for its cash?

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