Living abroad: are we really strangers?

charles-darwin-quoteIt’s 8.30 o’clock in the morning and I am in the office. I have already interacted with people in 3 different languages (4 if you include my kids childish wording).
I speak with my kids and my hubby in our native language Italian, then I bring my kids to the Hirschhorner Kindergarten where I talk to the german teachers, and finally I arrive in the office and start my normal working activities in English. This is my life and like me, everyday millions of people do the same, struggling between difficulties and happiness, jugglering between Sadness and Joy. Definitely we all push ourselves out of our comfort Zone very often. I’m lucky enough that I could chose this life and I was able to make it (thanks to the great opportunity my company gave me). But I can image how hard it must be for people that have no choice but going away and have to escape from where they live. And here it starts the new life as a “stranger”.

My question today is: What is stranger at the end? Borders are only inventions of humans. If there were no boards I would had lived closer to Heidelberg than to Roma. Without borders people would have had much more connections and probably we, as population, would have been closer. Maybe conflicts could have been avoided. I realized that similarities are much more than differences within us humans nowadays and globalization is bringing us acting more and more the same way. We eat the same food, we drink the same cokes and smoke the same cigarettes. We live with Smartphones in our hands and take the same planes to travel. We work in the same way, using the same tool and many customer are even the same ones.
So why are we still much talking about differences and yet nobody talks about how much do we have in common? Is it something more like an habit than reality? Are borders these days changing their meaning? If I can go 600 km far away in an hour, would that impact my sense of distance? My believe is YES, absolutely. And it is impacting in a good way. The more we connect, the more we know each other, the more we unify. Migration is not about invading, is about connecting.

I could see though that despite the good willing, some people can’t adapt to what’s new anyway. Maybe they don’t have the strength or they are not motivated enought, but many strangers keep themselves “strangers” in the real sense. Thus I can understand why, I don’t agree.
Once I have met a 50 years old man who has been living in Germany for 25 years and still is not able to ask one single question like “how old are you?” in German! Not surprise if he also complains about how “cold” Germans are, of course you don’t understand what they say! Plus you don’t even engage yourself a little in learning the language of the country you live in, what do you expect from the people around you? I must say I hate this attitude so much.

So far in my life I had lived two “integrations” and I would like to share what has helped me to make it working. My 5 Tips for an Expat to facilitate his integration in the new hosting country:

Learn the local language: absolutely the most important factor. No matter what language it is, learn what your neighbors, your colleagues, your doctors and your surrounding speak.

– Study the history of a country: not, you don’t have to take a degree on historical matters, just a little knowledge. It helps to understand what you see and hear everyday

Eat local and at the same time. Ok, not all and not always, and yes you can personalized recipes. But try to immerge as much as possible in the food culture and habits. Which could mean to eat early or very late. (I personally find a little stupid keep other eating hours that the standard of the country you live in, because you won’t find any restaurant serving food when you’re used to eat then).

Dress up like the others. Just be clear, I come from Milano (the capital of fashion) and I’ve always cared a lot about what I was wearing. But since I move I realized that all those so pretty things would not fit my life now. Shoes with high hills or very delicate bags doesn’t meet the need of walking in the woods or climbing the hill to pick up my kids in Kindergarten. Plus I’d be way overdressed in the office. At frist I was skeptical, now I feel much better, more comfortable and I found there are also nice clothing more “easy style”. Of course I kept all the nice Outfits for my Italian vacations.

NEVER criticize. Most of the things you find awkward are just habits, often without a logical explanation. Does it make sense to be critic about it? To me absolutely not. Thus It makes sense to wonder why and ask. But don’t expect a logical answer, in many cases there is any. Example: in Italy it is usual that salad comes after the hot meal (which is normally pasta), in the rest of the world the vegetables are eaten before. I personally like this way and I had no problem adapting to it but my husband absolutely can not eat vegetable before his pasta! Does he deserve a critic for it? No way!
As long as he does not compain about it…

Starting a new life in a different country is a roller coaster of emotions. Everything is amplified, from the lowest sadness to the highest joy.

Happiness assumes a new meaning and important values change. No more importance is given to material things but relations become the Lymph of everyday life. It is somehow like coming back to our childhood but at the same time become wiser.

 

Giving Trust is the most underestimated Skill in workplace

Trust is the first sign of courage

Today I’d like to step a little outside the Social Media world. I feel the need to talk about something so important and yet still so underestimated in work place: trust.

Lack of trust could damage way more than saving for possible mistakes.

I love living in a place where trust is the key word. In fact I truly believe that Germany has established its culture and way of living in trusting each other. Of course if you trust someone it’s because the other person,thing or institution had never let you down. For example why do we think that “Chinese” product are not reliable? Probably because they have failed our expectations many times in the past and thus they started the de-Trustring process. Of course once the perception is created, we well know there is nothing you can do about it. Same thing for the people, people who don’t believe in “politics” (and now they’re more and more) it is because they think politicians had have never maintained what they had promised. Again, failing in satisfying expectations is the problem.

So, while I understand loosing trust when the other person/thing failed in reaching your requirements, what does it make people not giving trust in advanced? If don’t know you, but I have experiences in many different work environments simple lack of trust in advanced with no apparent reasons. And let me tell you, such behavior is causing actually more problems than the ones it should prevent. How does a person feel if has not been trusted?

  • Weak, because he/she knows he has to ask for everything and if he/she makes the wrong choices, those choices are just the prove that he is not reliable. But of course if you never chose, you never learn. And we know that unfortunately mistaking is part of the learning process.
  • Small, yes. You feel like a child that needs to ask the permit to her mother to go to the park and eat an ice-cream.
  •  Insecure, the power of decision gives you the strength to stand up for your thoughts and fight for your opinion. If you know you don’t have any decision-making power, you of course will not fight for anything, even when you are right and you could overcome someone else mistake.
  • Demotivated. You act like a robot that only executes, with no thinking. It is of course it’s boring and workaday. At the end you just give up, work only on minimum required and the biggest aspiration is to go home earlier. Until you quick or you get hospitalized for depression Syndrom.
  • Resigned – If you have been treated always like a monkey, would you then become a pro-active and leading person only when and where the company need it? I doubt it. You can not expect anyone that has not been encouraged to be all of the sudden a racehorse.

It is not a case that also Forbes wrote about it.This sentence from the article summarize perfectly the concept:

The key success factor becomes the ability to persuade someone over whom you have no power to collaborate with you in pursuit of a common Mission.

To end, not giving trust to the team will lead to unhappy, discouraged and demoralized people. Ones that you don’t want to work with. So, how should we give trust to your co-employers without risking too much on their wrong choices?

  1. Make them doing frequent small decisions. Such decisions that would not hurt so much but at the same time make the person satisfy to be able to take it. For example ask your Marketing colleguae to decide a Layout/Design.
  2. Providing support whenever he asks for it but not imposing your voice. Sometimes people only need to talk with someone to understand better what they have to do. That’s why listening is more imporant in those moments.
  3. Assuming the responsability of their mistakes. If we trust, we know they can fail. But it is our Job believing in them and encouraging them, even if they make mistakes. So they can feel free to try on things and making decisions.

Why being active in social media?

BLOG DESIGN

Nowadays everyone has a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a Linkedin Profile, a Blog, a Google+ circle and so on.

We are all about being online social and be knwon by the higest possible number of People, to be famous and recognized by others, obioussely in Internet. Photo of vacations, parties with friends, photo Album of our children, Icons buttons or emotiocons. But most of all, we are all active in Internet Groups and Forum, sharing our personal thoughts within Folks we don’t even know that do the same with us.

It is a huge consumption of our time being “wasted” to build unuseful Relations and no sense online connetions. To the opposite, there is the reality, a real life made of relations with real People with whom we often not spend enought time.
Without going in the pyscological and phylosofical meaning of this phenomenon, I would like to Analyse the effect that it brings to our professional lives.

In this senario, you might think it is obvious that People spend a large amount of time to build their online reputation also on a professional level, which is way more important than private. Instead, only a minority of People think about putting the same effort into their professional virtual lives. Especially entrepreneurs or young professional still with an carrier to build, should invest at least 80% of their time and money in online visibility, because that is simply the future.

Being iSocial is a new made-up term to express how important is it to be there, on web or Internet, and to be active and social. Interacting, creating content, posting, starting discussions, blogging, having a Website, it is all about being THERE in the net and marking your presence in web.  If you still have any doubt about it, These are the numbers of Internet today

To give you an idea, These are numbers from Facebook:

864 million daily active users on average for September 2014

703 million mobile daily active users on average for September 2014

1.35 billion monthly active users as of September 30, 2014

1.12 billion mobile monthly active users as of September 30, 2014

Approximately 82.2% of our daily active users are outside the US and Canada

More important: Facebook’s latest self-reported statistics say that the average user spends 55 minutes a day on the site, which implies nearly 30 hours a month. Basically we spend more time on Facebook than in the Bathroom!

And that is only Facebook…I don’t have to explain more why is so crucial to be there nowadays. In Addition there are LinkedIn, Twitter and not less important Youtube, plus millions of alternatives and more specific online platforms.

What I struggle to understand is why many Company, professional, or free lancer aren’t yet. Or maybe they are but do not interact or feed their pages, which is even worse! I have clearly said it is mandatory to be there, but it is also mandatory to be there good, strong and powerful. Your iSocial life has to be a Support or your Job or carrer, not a disadvantage.

 

LIDL: what do you do?

LIDL LIDL customer

I can’t understand LIDL recent communication campaign.
Why? Because I don’t get who the target is, or better, I don’t understand why you LIDL changed it.

What is the typical LIDL customer? It is a normal or low-income woman, more likely in her 40/50ies or older, normally with a family, with no interested in fashion or style, who wants first to save money and second find all common German food. While there, she would also buy clothing if she finds them convenient and not too bad. She would also buy baby/children clothing.

During the years LIDL has been increasing more and more their offering, introducing non-food articles. Now you can also find special offers of electronic tools, thrill machines, furniture, garden utensil, and almost every week a long variety of clothes.

Of course entering the fast fashion world was too attractive for Discount chains, and there it go. From children clothing to underwear, from shoes to belts and all possible clothing you need. Don’t get me wrong, they are not mistaking at all, sales confirmed it. Their minimum-stock vs fast sales process works best, so great job LIDL. The only thing that I don’t really understand is why then changing then your target?

When I see their latest adv campaign (both on TV, online and on paper) LIDL is very much talking to a younger audience than usual. Both visual and messages are targeted to young women, I would even say teenagers. And my question is “WHY SO”???
From what I can assume either you LIDL want enlarge the age of their customers, trying to sell clothes also to younger people or you use that image because you want older women feel younger. I believe in both cases it doesn’t work.

Here 5 Reasons why:

1. If LIDL wants to attract young women to shop there – it will of course exclude older women – as a 20 years old does not dress like a 50/60 women (both for size and style). Either one target or the other. Problem is, if I’m 20 years old would I ever go to LIDL to shop? NEVER!

2. Plus even if you LIDL makes them coming to buy those such nice Jeans by “Sophia Thomalla” from you, the young 18-20 years old girl would never buys fruits and toilet paper while she’s there, that is her mom’s job. So again, failure in up-selling.

3. Probably a 20 years old girl think: “LIDL is where my mom would buys clothing, not me! I go to H&M or even better, I shop online by Zalando!” It could be the best, most stylist, modern and in the same time cheapest skirt ever, if the mothers has it no way the daughter will wear it. It is a perception game and there is nothing we can do to Change about it.

4. There is a size problem also. A 40/50 woman normally does not have the same size as a younger skinner girl, so how do you manage that? You make smaller and more shaped clothes only? Or you make them in ALL sizes? Again no possible.

5. The messaging of “Simply being yourself” (Bleib schön du selbst) is also to me not effective. That kind of target does not want to be “yourself”, they actually want to imitate the testimonial “Sophia Thomalla” and therefore dress like her!

If I am correct or not, no one knows. And surely LIDL is too strong and powerful to have a negative impact from one single campaign. But it would be interesting to understand why they decided to approach that target and what is the strategy behind it.

I am always very interested in understsanding retail strategies and communications plans, that’s why I observe and write here my thoughts. No controversy, no criticisms, only my willing to learn.

never stop wonderif you want to learnnever

My coach is me, and the YouTube videos

youtube + text + image

Kenyan Julius Yego yesterday (Aug. 26) secured a gold medal at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing in javelin after learning how to throw on YouTube! Yes, he almost entirely self-taught how to throw watching the tutoral Videos of Jan Zelezny and Andreas Thorkildsen, both of whom won Olympic and world titles.! (complete article is here ). Now, why is that so important for us in Marketing? Because it shows once again how online Tools are becoming more and more imporant and crucial in our lives.

I’m always amazed when I read such things. The power of digital new technologies and digital tools is really changing everything all around us, even without us realizing it. The way we communicate is transitioning from verbal to written, liking it or not. The way we exist it not only physical but also virtual, even if we don’t have online profiles, there are a lot of info of ourselves in internet anyway. Even NOT having an online kind of form tells something about us.

How companies cope with this transitioning? It is crucial their presence on the web to create a strong online visibility. And what is the key there? Providing interesting contents. Network is not only to promote products but also to create the brand awareness. As well we have to establish our brand off line as we have to dominate it online.

How do we implement a new brand online?

ONLINE VISIBILITY It is not only about creating a website and various social media profiles – That is the mandatory – It is creating the expertise in the specific market that will put our brand to be the first. Being the first source of information when it comes to that products is what makes people think it is we are “the expert”. Thinking what and where the customer would look for our products and providing content to full fill their need.

– INTERACTIVITY Maintain and create as many interactions as possible, dedicating resources only to be there on the time when customers need. Use online chat, twitter comments, LinkedIn forum, email fast answering, whatever it takes. Never forget: “Consumers rule” Jeff Bezos – CEO Amazon.

CONTENT RELEASES. Never leave too long customers without contents and information. Follow the positive momentum and softly but frequently repeat the selling proposition within communications, in the same time maintaining the relation with the prospect/customers.

GOOD COPY-WRITING. Content such as posts and articles need to be simply written , clear and effective. A content must conduct the customer through a message long enough to win all possible objections and rejections. A short copy does not provide information but is it manly promotional and it does not work anymore. High importance has a catchy Headline that attracts immediately users to stop and read the article. Only at the end of the page, insert a call to Action.

Easy no? See you next time!

Marketing Job: how it’ll look like in the near future?

social media

Exactly! I totally rely to this. To me the Marketing Job is now changing towards new activities, more and more online using media channels as well as Standard. What is now the Goal of Marketing?

  • Market Share increase. The is not doubt: the main goal of Marketing is to be making the company known in the reference Market. How? Well, searching for channels where their customers look for the same kind of products and be in these channel, FIRST (possibly) and STRONG.
  • Develop the leadership in your Market. Increasing Market share means being and acting like the leader of your market – that is what all companies should aim to be. Once the leads are attracted to your communications tools, your brand has to present itself as THE leader on that market. How? There are different ways to do that:
    • Creating digital network tool to be presenting your product as the expert (tutorials, Training Videos, Manuals)
    • Having all material and website in the local language of your country AND in English
    • Providing frequently contents (again also in English) – best is with a Blog section in the company Website where your Show you are the “Expert” in your category
    • Showing your presence not only in your local area but also everywhere else possible, promoting it off and online
    • Interacting with users throughout blogging and social media. Users are most likely your future customers.
    • Testimonials are crucial. The more the better, always include name and company, not using fakes.

What does Marketing still do?

There are many definitions and job descriptions when it comes to Marketing but in reality what Marketing People do it’s really depending on the company. I saw Marketing Managers creating and designing Products or Marketing peers that were only in charge of organizing hotels and facilities. It is really based on what the company thinks Marketing does. Here the main functions that are still on the Marketing function.

  •  Organizing Events, from fairs to congress, from the invitation to the design of the location, everything is under the umbrella of Marketing office. Even the catering section, up to the choice of the Menu (we know if the food is bad and few, the event is a failure).
  • Making up some kind of Promotions. There are many way of defining a promotional campaign, but at the end we talk about pushing actions to sell more, often using special prices for limited period of time. Nothing wrong with it, when it’s well made it’s a success, but many cases marketing has less decision power on how to do them and it could somehow lower the final results.
  • New product collateral. This is tricky, as it is something in between who creates the product and who launch it. It is really more a domain of whomever creates the product but Marketing is normally involve in the creativity.

All of this to say that the Marketing function is in companies is transitioning in a larger area of competence, redifying its edges and responsibilities. I am joyfully part of this Transition, studying to have new competences and developping new abilities.

1

Do you feel yourself not sure in your work? Are you always afraid you will be the next let go? What to find a way to be really needful for your company? It is easy, the only way to create an added value in your departiment is to solve a problem. Solving a problem could mean creating new things, selling more, making better analysis, improving relations with customers, reducing people conflicts, and so on. Every area has its own pain and we need to find it, understand it and settle it.

In other words owing your Problem Solving Plan! Here 10 action point that should consist your PS_Plan:

1. Where is the pain?
Is there a process that does not work correctly, it is a person that is a bottle neck or it is a product that do no perform well. Any way, find where the pain sits.

Example: Marketing Dep. needs more brand visibility in the market and all sales team complain customers do not know enough their company and products.

2 How long has it been going on?
So there mush have been a moment when it all worked smoothly or is it always been like this? The longer the frustation last the better recnoglition you will get if you solve it (can you image yaears and years of bad sales and then the start of growing again?)

Example: this Problem occurs for a long time but it is getting more critical since when the competitor have started to be more aggressive on campaigns and events

3 Why is there such Problem?
So what happened that caused the overstock of some products? Why such an non-experienced person was hired? Or whatever the problem is, find the reason why it has started. Evaluate the causes.

Example: in the past more focus was given to other aspects of Marketing and branding visibility and communication was not always the priority

4 Implement your SP_Plan
After gathering all info, you can start thinking on how to solve it. It is usually not one-move solving, it implies list of actions and problably other people involvement. The more this problem affects the happier management will be to help you to find a way to solve it.

Example: brainstorm with colleagues and come up with list of events and campaigns that would help.

5 Share your Solving-problem Plan with your boss

Always include higher references in your plans (not only this one). But this case is crucial since you will need their support in making things change. Think about if your plan involves the way another person works, without her/his consensus it’d never work.

Example: send this list to sales and ask feedback

6 Start executing
This is painful. People normally do not want to change the way they work and it requires strengh, willing and enthusiam not to give up. Always remember the final goal and stay focus on that. Sometimes people will get angry, live with it.

Example: having some activities approved, start working on them. New events up coming (fairs and customer local events). Brand Awareness Campaign through Direct Email Blast, Ads, Sales Letters, Press Release and Lead Generation campaign.

7 Set a deadline
Having a date set gives also a temporary dimension to the plan. Normally first results should start to be visible after 6 months (it depends on the volume of the changes). If after a year no change has been seen and no improvements, you don’t have a good plan or maybe you didn’t understand the real pain.

Example: deadline is 2016

8 Communicate the results

As soon as positive results come, say it, say it and say it! Let everyone know that you were the key on that improvements.

9 Enjoy the recognition

Yes, it will come – no worry!

10 Take a Vacation

A little vacation is needed

And start thinking on a new Problem 🙂