Pivot in Company Strategy – the Nvidia Example

After making chips and graphics chips for personal computers for most of the almost-20 years it has been in business, Nvidia has plunged headlong into a new market; that of the mobile chip, the chip that powers tablets and mobile phones.

Why has Nvidia changed its product strategy, and therefore its market strategy, and therefore its company strategy?

Well, because it feels it has to, that’s why. It’s current market is not only slowing dramatically because computer sales are down, it is beset by competitors like AMD and Intel who now include very adequate graphic processors in their standard setup, thereby effectively cutting Nvidia out of the picture in terms of selling an add-on graphic processor to the target PC manufacturer. Nvidia, and more specifically, Nvidia’s CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, has made a tough decision that staying in their current market will lead to slow, but certain death, and is now striking out for the frontier of mobile chips.

The writing is certainly on the wall. As noted, Nvidia’s graphics chip business is taking some hits, and so is the segment they supply. Meanwhile, the obverse side of the coin has the Android operating system, which Nvidia has built its chip for, forecast to comprise over half the smartphone and tablet market within three years. Android is such a strong newcomer that most credible market analysts in the mobile industry believe that tablets with the Android operating system will outsell the current market champion iPad by over 50 million units by 2015. As a sidebar to this forecast, it certainly doesn’t bode well for the just-introduced Blackberry Tablet, but let’s focus on the matter at hand for today.

Okay, it’s one thing to make the decision, another thing to make a product, and then yet one more thing to actually sell a whole lot of whatever you make. There is little doubt that Nvidia has made the right strategic decision for their business, but can they execute on their new strategy?

Nvidia has a new chip called the Tegra 2, which is already in the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the new Droid X2 smartphone, the new Motorola Droid Bionic, the new Atrix 4G, and others and has gotten good reviews.

Nvidia also has an even newer quad-core processing chip called Kal-El (yes, that was Superman’s real name from his parents on Krypton) that is still not yet on the market that promises to make some serious waves. Nvidia has released a video of a homegrown game called Glowball that shows off the new (and obviously expensive) processor’s capabilities, and those capabilities are very impressive. The company says the new chip will be in Android-powered smartphones and tablets by September of this year.

If you’re wondering what the main competitive thrust is with improving the Android platform as it compares to the iPad, it’s mostly all about the ability to get movies and music on the device, and play that media back without crashing the device. The iPad is better than Android-powered devices at doing those things right now, but the new processors developed for Android by companies like Nvidia are closing that gap very quickly.

The Achilles heel in all of this is battery life. Nothing is free, and those processors suck up a lot of juice.

Which brings us full circle back to whether Nvidia can execute on their change in strategic direction. In fact, it is probably giving this scenario short shrift to describe what Nvidia is doing as a change in strategic direction; it is much more accurate to call it a reinvention of the company.

My personal opinion is that Nvidia has a very good chance of executing this massive reinvention. They read the tea leaves of where the market was going, and acted early. Huge kudos to them for their alertness in this regard. This, folks, is how you’re supposed to look out for your company’s future. But, praise aside, I think they’re doing everything they can to be successful in their new market. The next few years will be the test.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in marketing, sales, front-end operations, and strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.comm.


Will Your Business Need a Turnaround Soon?

Four times in my business career I have answered a telephone and someone else on the other end asked if I could help them turn th180degreeprotractoreir business around.

I accepted the challenge each time, and have a success rate of 75%. Three of those businesses were turned around successfully; one was not. Each business was at death’s door by the time the call was made to me. Each person in charge of those businesses waited until the last minute of the last hour before deciding that it was time to “do or die”, that it was finally the right time to accept the wrenching changes that would be necessary to give their respective business a fighting chance at survival.

I don’t wish to belabor the obvious here, but it sure would have been easier to bring back the commercial concerns in question if there had been earlier recognition of problems at those businesses, as well as an earlier willingness to act to fix the problems. Believe me, I would have been happy to come on the scene earlier, be given a set of more manageable problems concerning the health of the business, and, spared the client the experience of living inside the pressure cooker of uncertainty regarding the survival of the company, even if it meant far less billable hours.

But, that’s not how it usually works. Business owners are human beings, and human beings tend to develop inertia and be resistant to change. Business tails off, but it’s not off by a lot, and then it gets a little worse, but, you know, things are still okay, and then things are just okay for quite awhile, until they’re not.

I’m reminded of the passage in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, in which one character asks another, “How did you go bankrupt”?

“Two ways”, the other man says. “Gradually, and then suddenly”.

Yes, that’s how it usually happens. Businesses almost never explode and fail, a la the CFO running off to Bolivia with the company’s working capital, or an ugly public relations fiasco, or the CEO and founder perishing in a plane crash. Nope, most companies that die simply wither away slowly.

Will this happen to your business?

It’s possible; many businesses fold, and disappear under the waves of commerce every year. But, if you’re paying attention to the basics, your chances of sticking around get much, much better.

The basics include, but are not limited to:

  • Paying attention to what your competitors are doing – not only does this give you a way to match/exceed their offerings, there might be something they have that you want to emulate.
  • Paying attention to market trends – even if you’re not first with the product your customers desire most, a fast second will usually save the day (and sometimes rule the day).
  • Being cognizant of overall economic trends – if all you sell is trucks that get 10 mpg and gasoline climbs up to $5 a gallon, there is trouble on the horizon.
  • Making it as easy as possible for customers to buy what you’re selling – Example 1: Client had the national distribution rights to a product (machinery) that the target market definitely wants and needs, but the acquisition cost was high and many customers could not afford the one-time expense. The solution was to find a small-ticket lessor that would offer lease financing to prospective buyers on a private-label basis (leasing branded with the client’s name). The client not only moved more product at higher margins, they also made fee income from the leases generated through the arrangement. Example 2: Client that does custom web development wanted to sell website templates of their own design to customers that want a different look than most sites, but do not have the budget for custom work. Unfortunately, many of these prospective customers have little or no technological expertise. The solution was to offer different packages with different degrees of required customer involvement at different price points. There was no “take it or leave it” attitude in terms of the product being offered; in fact, our client offered enough different levels of “do it yourself” packages so that it the average prospect found it highly likely that they would find a package that suited their skill/desire level.
  • Conducting regular business strategy sessions – If you’re a very small company, this may seem almost laughable to you, but replacing those conversations you have after hours with your three employees over take-out food with a scheduled strategy session led by someone with experience in business strategy can usually produce better results. And, if you’re a large company, and you’re doing okay in the market, and nothing (product, competitors, size of market, etc.) has changed in five years, there probably doesn’t seem to be a pressing need for business strategy at corporate headquarters, but again, it can prove to be quite valuable to put a day aside and sit in a room with your peers and talk about just where you want the business to go in the next couple of years.
  • Always thinking about a strategic alliance – it’s a cold, brutal business environment out there, and having another ally when facing off against your competitors always helps.
  • Reviewing your marketing assets on a regular basis – there may be value in data or relationships you already have. I had a client that acquired a much larger, poorly-run competitor in order to get their retail locations and their commercial contracts, and ignored the list of 45,000+ consumer customers that came with the acquisition for over two years, despite the fact that it was a higher margin business that that the client was then trying to build up in a separate business unit. I was told, “They’re not our customers. There are some very unhappy campers in that portfolio”. Meanwhile, good money was being spent to send out direct mail pieces to new prospects.
  • Constantly improving your business processes – reducing costs, reducing cycle times, increasing profits and increasing customer satisfaction are all very good things that should be done on an ongoing basis, not just when a crisis is looming.
  • Having business financing always available – don’t wait until the moment it starts raining to get an umbrella, have one ready. Establish lines of credit before an emergency situation, not as a result of – the terms will be better, and access to the funding is immediate.

Now, all of this may seem pretty basic to all of you. It is. And, as I noted above, this isn’t even a complete list, there are more basic things businesses should do in order to not need a turnaround specialist in the future. But I think you would be surprised at how many businesses, large and small, ignore the basic blocking and tackling that they should be doing on a daily basis. Lethargy creeps in; the living organism that is the business is fat and happy, and habit takes over in terms of day-to-day activities.

Let this serve as your alarm clock if your business is one of the sleepy ones, and your senior managers are conducting their duties in a soporific trance. I’m happy to come over to your place and help you with a turnaround, but really, I think you would be happier if you didn’t need a turnaround in the first place.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in marketing, sales, front-end operations, and strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.comm.


Measuring the Success of Business Strategy

It’s so easy, right? A successful strategy means the business grows and is profitable. There might be other consequences that are positive that occur because of a successful strategy, but growth and profitability are the only ones the really matter.

Right?

Well, what if you have a technology company that is never intended to become profitable, but instead is intended to attract attention as an acquisition? How about another company that doesn’t grow but still manages to outlast almost all of its competitors?

I could go on and on with a lot more “what if” scenarios, but then someone from the back of the room would pipe up with this: “A successful strategy creates shareholder value. Whether it’s improving employee morale, market growth, building a brand, better HR systems, a strict business-attire dress code, netting a profit, it doesn’t matter. All those things create shareholder value.”

Okay, I can roll with that, but how in the world do you really measure the impact improving employee morale has on shareholder value? It’s more or less voodoo, isn’t it? You can measure an increase in employee morale and say that a subsequent increase in the value of the company happened as a result of the boost in morale, but I defy you to prove that beyond a doubt.

So is there a soft side to business strategy, intangible results that you intuitively believe exist, but cannot be proven? Is the checklist regarding strategy success employed by companies and strategy consultants incomplete? Should the success of strategy be measured using a large, holistic dashboard (and free crunchy granola and delicious banana bread for all)? Are we deluding ourselves with all of these rigidly-defined paths of business strategy that lead to an unalterable destiny, measured by accepted models, numerological systems and systemic markers?

Holy smokes! My world has been torn asunder and my mind is reeling right now.

No, just kidding, I’m fine.

The answer is that those measurement tools like KPI, Strategy Maps, ROC, IRR, Balanced Scorecard, ROA, Benefits Measurement, share price, etc. work very well for measuring the success of most business strategies. That’s why they’re used.

But strategy is dynamic and so are the successes attached to it. Sometimes, depending on the strategy, it’s going to be a little more Art than Science. This not going to happen very often, but sometimes you just have to let go and trust that it will pay off. Sometimes you do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, and sometimes you do the right thing because it’s good business to do the right thing, and the positive results of the former are sometimes not as readily apparent of the latter.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in marketing, sales, front-end operations, and strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.


Product Development – Today’s Lesson Is From McDonald’s

You are probably aware that McDonald’s is not just an American experience anymore; the company has retail stores all over the world, and like other American fast-food corporations (KFC, etc.), has found great success in the international marketplace.

The company didn’t achieve that success by ignoring local tastes, and if you’ve ever been in a McDonald’s in Japan or Germany or some other country, some of the menu will be unrecognizable. Even the food that looks familiar may have a very different name on it (for those Pulp Fiction fans, this is your cue to recite those lines about a “Royale with Cheese”).

There’s a reason I’m bringing this up. According to an article published in various newspapers, McDonald’s in France has just rolled out a new product named the McBaguette for a six-week market trial, and it’s a perfect example of great product development. I have no idea what it actually tastes like, but it is a superb product development concept.

The new sandwich exploits the fact that the French love their bread (their fromage, too, but we’ll get to that in moment) with an admirable passion. In fact, 98% of all French people eat bread every day. And one of the most popular types of pain is the baguette, a cylindrical loaf baked with a hard crust. The French love bread; they really love baguettes, and this emotional attachment runs deep. Around 65% of the two billion sandwiches sold in France every year are built with a baguette as their underpinning.

What better thing to put a couple of hamburger patties on, then? For the next six weeks, customers in France can plunk down four and a half euros on the counter at McDonalds, and get a burger on a baguette (albeit a square one), covered with melted Emmental cheese (from France, naturellement!) and spicy mustard.

As I said, I have no idea how it tastes, or how it will taste to the average French man, woman or child, but it’s simple, yet brilliant product development and execution.

And that concludes today’s lesson, mon amis.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in marketing and strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.


Experience and the Turnaround

While at a business conference earlier this year, a fellow I had just met mentioned to me in an offhand way that they (his business unit) had just hired a young guy out of a prestigious business school program to “fix” their business, which has been on the decline for the past three years. They hired this guy as a permanent employee, and the CEO had great hopes that he would bring the company back into the black by the end of this year, using the latest business strategies. He reports directly to the CEO, not the head of the business unit.

After all, he did have a perfect GPA at the B-School he attended.

I hope that works out for them, but I did give him my business card. “Just in the instance that the task turns out to be a little bigger than you thought”, I said.

Now for some business-style preaching:

When managing a business turnaround, there is a great deal of reliance on data, on forecasts, on costs, on efficiency, on quality, etc. And many of the things you do to fix the company are the things taught in most business schools and/or internal management training programs at large corporations.

So, any young over-achiever right out of business school with the most up-to-date academic knowledge can probably fix what’s ailing your business and get it turned around pretty quick, right?

I’m waiting…

Yeah, that’s what I thought. Good answer.

Not many business owners or business CEOs are going to trust a turnaround to someone who doesn’t have a fair amount of battle experience. And believe me, it will be a battle, and there will be casualties.

Whether that trust from the person managing the business is because of their own business experience, or because of their intuitive belief that an experienced, steady hand is what’s needed in this type of dire situation, that trust is not misplaced.

Experience is what enables you to manage a crisis, and keep a crisis from degenerating into chaos.

Experience is what lets you walk into a process shop and know immediately that there are problems there.

Experience gives you the ability to monitor several dozen calls in a call center and quickly figure out why average talk time has gone through the roof.

Experience allows you to sense the submerged hostility between the head of operations and the head of sales and marketing, and realize they’re been sabotaging each other for years, and that mutual sabotage has now brought down the company. And it also allows you to realize that the COO won’t do anything to stop it because he is extremely competent but completely non-confrontational.

Experience lets you ascertain almost immediately that the guy in charge of IT is much more interested in building “the perfect beast” in terms of the company server, the website platform, etc. than doing what is best for the company, even if that means he doesn’t get those new Sun server boxes until next year, or the website update gets put off until after the busy season is over. And the company president doesn’t know enough about technology to challenge him on it.

Experience is what gives you the ability to figure out pretty quickly that the CFO stopped really caring about her job sometime ago, and for whatever reason, is now just basically going through the motions, and that there may be some gains available to the business by using cash flow more effectively, or more diligent oversight of expenditures – if someone would just do it.

It’s not that I want to portray experience as some black magic or some intangible “art” that is both mystical and inexplicable, but I also don’t want to discount its value when time is crucial and the health of the business is slowly ebbing away. If nothing else, many times it will prevent you from running down blind alleys at full speed for a couple of months, if only for the simple reason that you’ve already run down that blind alley before. It helps, it really does, and as long as you don’t get stuck in the “well, this is the way we’ve always done it before, and so this is the only way that will work” trap, experience is a big plus in turnaround efforts.

So, that concludes today’s sermon, congregants. I’m going to step down from my pulpit now, and I hope to shake your hand and wish you well as you exit. May Providence be with you.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in rebirth and rejuvenation. 


Business Blog Primer

If you’re a business these days, you’re supposed to have a blog to go along with your company website. The reasons why?

Well, it can keep your customers informed, for one. It can provide a great platform for your customers to interact with the company, for two. Third, it’s a great way to keep talking about the company in a positive way. Fourth, it’s a good way for the company viewpoint on issues to be delineated, if that is important to the business. Fifth, people may actually come to your site just to read your blog, or, some other site may find something interesting on your blog and link to it, thereby driving potential customers to your site. Sixth, each new blog post (and each new comment, if you allow comments) is yet another reason for the search engine bots to crawl your site, thereby moving you up in the search engine rankings, which is always good for business.

Okay, so a lot of good reasons to have a company blog. The problem is, of course, just as with other things, the execution. Apropos of that execution, how do you get a blog, how do you get good, relevant content for the blog, and how do you keep it going?

If you determine that your business needs a blog, you should decide what the goals of the blog are. Do you want your blog for all the reasons laid out here, or just some of those reasons? There is also a practical technological consequence to the decision to have a blog – can your current website accommodate a blog platform or will you need to pay for website development work to add a blog module? If you have no website, and you want a business blog, then you should make sure whatever website platform/theme/template you get can support a full-feature blog. Just for the record, a full-feature blog will have the ability to customize frames, colors, pages, fonts, etc., and will enable you to offer video, podcasts, images, PDF files and more to your blog readers. It will also have SEO (search engine optimization) tools built into the blog architecture. That’s at a minimum. You may wish to have other, extra features like flash animation, etc.

There are free blog platforms that are good, like WordPress, and there are other good free blog platforms that can cost a fair amount of money in development costs, like Drupal and Joomla. What’s the difference? You generally get more features and more control over those features with the platforms that cost money. There are also platforms like SQL, SQLServer, ASP.net, Flash, PHP and JavaScript, which can get very expensive in a hurry, but these are almost always used for more robust websites, and would be considered overkill just for a blog application. However, if your existing site is on one of these more expensive platforms, you will either need to build the blog on that same platform or switch over to something else.

That brings us to the next stage of this decision process. Who will build the blog? Who will maintain the blog and put new posts, photos, video, etc. in every week or every month?

Good question, right?

The most obvious answer is someone at your company. For instance, a WordPress blog is free, is fairly easy to build out, and offers an intuitive CMS (Content Management System) utility. But, it looks generic (because it is). As noted, there are other blog platforms that require more (or much more) technological expertise, but offer more features and more customization potential. Still, you may have the in-house capabilities to build your blog, and, to manage the maintenance thereof.

Or, you may be the best company in the world and not have those skills in-house. In this instance, you can hire a web developer, who will design, develop and code your site for you, whether that site is in Drupal, Joomla or WordPress (all open-source platforms), or, one of the other site technologies. They will also provide the CMS services after the install and launch, if you wish, although I strongly suggest you have the web development company build a site for you that has an easy and intuitive CMS functionality. That way, someone at your company can control the look and feel of the site, as well as text, photos, etc. There are hundreds of website development companies that do this sort of work; in fact, one of these types of companies is one of our clients – they do wonderful, innovative work, do it worldwide, and their rates are quite reasonable. Clients really do love their work. But, there are many companies that do custom website development design and finding one shouldn’t be a problem.

Now, on to the challenge of content. Who will write the blog posts, who will embed the video files or the podcasts, who will edit the site, and so forth?

Again, the most obvious answer is someone at your company. If there are people at your company that can write well in an entertaining manner, and can produce content on a consistent basis, then you’re set. Of course, you’ll still need an editor.

Why is consistent output a requirement? Why is an editor of the blog a requirement?

It’s important to have consistent output because you don’t want a “ghost blog” where the blog has, say, 10 posts in the first two months, and then, no new posts for the last year. It reflects badly on the company, it makes the blog look forlorn and abandoned, and makes the company look careless for leaving it up. There is also no reason whatsoever for people to visit the blog if there is never any new content, or, the new posts are so infrequent that people get tired of waiting for something new.

It’s important to have an editor because you want the blog to be well-written, with excellent spelling, grammar and continuity in the text; you want the subject matter (including photo, videos, etc.) to be appropriate, you want the company to be well-represented by the content, and you want a single person responsible for the look and feel of the site, so that there is central authority concerning the blog.

What if you don’t have those resources in-house? What if you’re a successful SaaS company and the only thing anyone can write is code? Which also makes sourcing an editor in-house out of the question? Or, what if you can have some content produced in house, but it’s not enough? Or, you can produce enough content, but there is no one that can be an editor? Or, you have an editor, but no content?

Then the company will need to hire a writer (or writers), or an editor, or both. Many companies hire an editor (full-time, part-time, or contract employee), who also contributes as a writer, and coordinates the purchase of content from external freelancers, which seems to work out well. In fact, there are so many business-related blogs, that it is not out of the question for your editor to obtain some content for free. Some blog owners will allow free reprints of their content as long as you attach a blurb to the post about the author, the blog, and provide a live link back to the originating blog. The blurb usually looks something like the one at the bottom of this post. In fact, when I get a reprint request from a business blog after I publish this piece, the tag below will be the blurb they will put at the end of the post when they publish it on their site.

So, free is always good, but you can’t rely on getting enough good content for your blog for free; you’re going to have to either have employees do it, hire someone to write your content, or buy content by the piece from freelancers. And you need good content on a consistent, frequent basis or there isn’t much point in having a blog. You need fresh content, you need well-written content, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a variety of authors, so that different writing styles are offered to your readers. That is the way to keep your blog relevant and vital, and to keep your readers coming back for more.

Which segues nicely into the last question regarding company blogs, and one I get asked all the time when we’re helping our clients with their business blogs:

“Should we allow comments on the blog articles?”

That question, by the way, is usually asked with some trepidation. Businesses are wary of letting people comment on their blogs because there is always the risk of some unhappy customer with an axe to grind poisoning the well for other customers (or potential customers) with his or her vitriolic commentary about the company, company personnel or products. There is also the more general issue of incivility so rampant on the internet; people say the worst sort of things to each other in the comments section, and companies don’t want to be part of such a hostile environment. And, then, of course, there is spam.

The obverse side of the coin is:

Companies tend to learn things about their products, service levels and personnel pretty quickly through comments on their blogs. And, people like the interaction with other people through comments, and they like the perceived interaction with the company through comments, and that is a very positive thing and makes return visits to the blog more likely. Also, customers do say nice things about the company in the comments – it’s not just negative. Lastly, all blog platforms allow moderation of comments before the comments are published; you don’t have to worry too much about profanity, spam and craziness slipping through, since you get to review all comments before publication.

That wraps up this primer about business blogs, and remember, you don’t have to figure all of this out by yourself, or, get it done by yourself. There are hundreds of vendors ready to help you with setting up and maintaining your business blog. The only hard part is shaking off the inertia and getting started.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in marketing, sales, front-end operations, and strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.


What is Your Social Media Content Strategy?

It usually works like this with content, tooA common complaint from businesses, large and small, is that they have a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, a website, a blog, they’re on LinkedIn and YouTube, etc. and they’re doing everything right in terms of being present in social media, but nothing is happening.

Upon inspection of their customer source data and other metrics, it turns out that they called that pretty accurately; there is nothing happening as a result of their presence in the digital online world.

Then you look at what is on their Facebook page, or their blog, or their Twitter feed, and it becomes obvious why nothing is happening. They have little or no content, and/or the content is awful and boring.

As we mentioned in this piece titled, Business Blog Primer, having smart or funny or informative or engaging or thought-provoking content is key to making social media work for your company, whether that’s on a blog, or on YouTube, or on Facebook, or even if you’re simply participating in a discussion on LinkedIn. And it needs to be consistent, as we mentioned in that same piece from a few months ago. There is nothing more pathetic than a business blog that has three posts in the past 12 months.

Social media is all about conversation, albeit in a digital vein. And just like regular conversation, if you don’t have something interesting or humorous or thought-provoking or relevant to say, people lose interest and don’t want to talk to you anymore, and they also don’t want to talk about you. And just like regular conversation, if it is interesting or humorous or thought-provoking, etc, then people will want to repeat it to others, in this case online. It will be tweeted, or re-tweeted, quoted, linked to, etc.

Can you create your own content? Should you create your own content? The answers to these questions are, in the order they were asked: “Yes”, and, “Probably not”.

Time for some brutal honesty here – most people cannot write very well. And most people are not skilled and creative enough to make good videos or podcasts. You might be one of those people in the minority that can create good (and hopefully, occasionally) great content, but you’re probably not.

Which is okay; most people that can create good/great content are really awful at calculating P&L costs or managing a call center or doing statistical modeling around account acquisition. Or, for that matter, leading a company or a business unit.

So, if you are truly skilled in the area of creating content, then you should do it. If you’re not, then you should get as much content as you can for free (legally!), and pay someone to create the rest.

Why is this worth the money you’re going to spend?

Because it’s important to your company’s brand and to the bottom line, and the online competition for eyeballs is fierce. Remember this when you’re thinking about social media: When you are competing for someone’s attention online, you’re not just competing with other providers of your product or service (your market competition), you’re competing with everything a person has available to them online. You’re competing with tweets they’re getting from their friends, tweets they’re getting from famous people, visits to the CNN.com website, all the posts and links they’re getting on Facebook, that website about sports they go to every day, emails their friends have sent them that have a link enclosed and text in the email saying, “You HAVE to read this”, dating sites, and on and on and on. There is a finite amount of things any person can look at online every day, and everyone makes an unconscious calculation of just how much time is going to be allocated to whatever single item they’re reading or viewing online. You’re competing with all of that other digital stimuli.

Furthermore, there are millions of teenagers and young adults that now rely solely on Twitter links or Facebook links to get whatever information or news they receive on a daily basis. They don’t visit news sites or blogs on a recurring basis, they merely respond when something is “pushed” to them by someone they know, with perhaps a descriptive four or five word blurb attached, and then they will follow the link to something on a blog or The New York Times website. Those of you with teenagers still around probably know that some teens visit Facebook dozens of times per day. All done while receiving texts from their friends, by the way.

If your social media content isn’t good in some way, it will be ignored. Period. You’ll never get anyone’s attention. And, if it is good and you get someone’s attention, and then don’t follow up with consistently good content, they will simply flutter away to some other distraction in the social media universe, like a butterfly that you cannot catch, and will never see again.

Good content is paramount to effective marketing via social media. Here are the ways to get good content on a consistent basis:

1)    Create your own.

2)    Get some for free – reprint articles from other sites AFTER getting permission from the owners of the content, link to other content, have guest writers, podcasters, videographers, etc.

3)    Hire talent to create content – either as a full-time employee or hire freelancers.

4)    Allow comments on your blog, Facebook page, etc. so that people can talk to you and each other about your company and its products, people, etc. When someone asks you a question, respond immediately and in a thoughtful way. This is all content as well, in case you’re wondering.

Don’t skimp. Don’t become lackadaisical and ignore putting out new content. Don’t expect immediate results. Don’t set up a blog or a Facebook page or a Twitter profile until you have first determined where your content is coming from and how often it can be generated. And, finally don’t get discouraged. This is not as daunting as it seems.

But it is necessary. If you’re going to play in the social media sandbox, you need a strategy for content.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in marketing and strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.