The Power of MindMapping

Genesis

I’ve had a problem since a really long time. Blame it on a creative bent of mind, but I just can’t think straight! I start with one thought, and then it becomes another and another and on and on till my brain would begin to feel like mush.
Trying to get everything organised as the thoughts came flooding in was a challenge. What was important? What thought belonged to which stream? What problem was I trying to solve? How would this be relevant? Could this actually link to something else?
Making sense of it all was a never-ending problem.

Then one day, my daughter re-introduced me to mind mapping. I say re-introduced because I had used it in in B School and then never quite used it again. She found it useful in organising her notes and ensuring she’d covered all the main points. She asked me to help her and before we knew it, we were scribbling away at mind maps. She was focused on her studies and I was sitting with all the scraps of paper, journals, notebooks and bullet journals that I had used to scribble my random thoughts.

It was tedious at first, but then slowly, the thoughts began to coalesce into a pattern. I recognised clusters of information around a common themes and themes around a specific topic. After the first hour, things began to get really clear. What started off as a simple exercise in organising discrete information became a detailed, enjoyable journey through possibilities and ‘connecting the dots’. New areas were uncovered, new approaches discovered and just like a map, the journey of exploration was as exhilarating as it was scary in the beginning.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about mind maps is its ability to adapt to any topic under the sun. It didn’t matter which topic was being discussed. It didn’t matter in what order the thoughts came to mind. It was neatly accommodated into an A4 size sheet of paper.

MindMapping in the real world

PebbleStream, the company I Co-founded with my B-School batch-mate Prithvi, is not just into digital marketing, but also in helping our clients make sense of their businesses. We meet business owners and key business process custodians across all levels of our client’s organization.

We found that many businesses in the MSME space were doing beautiful, magical work that we truly believed would make our country (and the world) a better place. But there was one little hitch. There was passion, there was drive, but we sensed a bit of confusion as well; “How can we use digital marketing to solve our _____ problem?”, “How do we organise our data in a way that we can make sense to a layman?”, “We are doing all this, but is this what we really want to showcase?”

So we took the plunge. We landed up at our next meeting with no slide deck. No PowerPoint, no Google Slides, not even a piece of paper or computer screen. We asked for a room with a white board and a few markers of different colours. Our (rather perplexed) client let us have it. We began the meeting by asking our clients to talk to us about their business – unfiltered through the lens of how PebbleStream would use it. We said we’d work that out once they had worked out their side of the business.

We started mapping the client’s business. Prithvi and I asked the questions and I mapped the points that were spoken. After the first few minutes, we began to see the map taking shape. As the process continued, we saw more and more clarity emerging on what mattered and what didn’t. We even paused to allow the client team to brainstorm new ideas based on what they had seen on the whiteboard. Mind maps allowed them the capability of ‘Big Picture Thinking’ without losing sight of the smaller, tactical details.

As the tendrils of the map branched out, we assigned specific actions and their owners. We saw opportunities for blogs, white papers, infographics, tweets, posts and many other content pieces.

What we’ve learnt from our experiences

What was most exciting for us was the way we were able to help the client make sense of their business and the way they began looking at their business processes in a whole new light.

We have used this approach for many of our client mandates and even our own business storytelling projects. The approach is simple but the results help us make sense of even the most convoluted projects and problems.

We’ve realised that every problem may seem daunting at first but breaking it down to a series of logically tenable smaller problems. The versatility of the mind map allows smaller problems to be tackled without losing sight of the big picture.

Stay tuned for our next blog on how we use MindMapping to create content ideas. It may help you, too!

The Integrated Approach to ‘Digital’

‘Digital’ is not about setting up social media presences, porting the links to the website and expecting the end consumer to have a ‘digital experience’. There’s a lot more that is involved in the process. As Steve Jobs would put it – “It’s about the whole widget”

Based on our interactions with clients across sectors, we’ve been able to see that clients who treat all online touchpoints as one and ensure that the online and offline flow seamlessly into each other reap the benefits of a coherent, consistent and customer focused strategy. These customers have higher engagement on their posts, higher responses to their calls to action and most importantly a more committed ‘tribe’ of followers online who engage with their posts beyond the usual ‘likes’.

Apart from the engagement ‘numbers’, the SEO is also more effective. AdWords, website content and social media all state the same thing. This gives the customer (and search engines) the best face of the brand for keywords. This lowers the cost per keyword, resulting in more cost effective campaigns on AdWords.

This begs the question : If it’s so simple, why do so many companies get this wrong so often?

The answer can be attributed to the level of maturity that an organisation shows towards Digital. Companies spend a lot of time and treasure on their offline marketing, but somehow expect Digital to be about a genie in a laptop that pops up and makes their customers beat their door down with calls and enquiries. When this does not happen in the time periods that are predefined and invariably benchmarked to already existing offline channels, patience wears thin and tempers run high. “Digital is not working” “If I had hired a sales guy he would be getting me leads now”, “I don’t think this will work for us”.

What could have prevented this downward slide? We believe it is an integrated approach that makes the difference between success and failure in all matters ‘digital’.

As Einstein put it : “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

The common approach has to change for there to be any changes to occur ‘downstream’. For starters, digital needs to be treated as a channel and not as a destination or end in itself. Digital is just one more way of adding another touch-point for a customer to reach out to the brand.

What we have seen is that Brands who treat digital as a constantly evolving, living, organic and changing entity are far more agile in their ways of working and thinking. Their website, social media and community programs all run as one. Each one feeds into the other and feed off each other.

For example, new events would not only cause an event page creation on social media but also a landing page for the specific event on the website and a parallel outreach program by eMail and community posts. The landing page would then become a point for lead generation through email and contact detail ‘farming’. Offline staff would then call these individuals and make personal contact with them and feed their inputs back into the system. The result : a more tightly run event whose outcome is greater than the sum of its parts.

Another example is that of new lead generation themselves. Brands simply cannot wake up one morning and decide to throw money at an ad campaign when precious little has been done to boost interest (or even awareness in the offering, for that matter) for the target audience. Digital cannot become a genie brands let out of a bottle here. It can only be a facilitator to help speed things up a little bit.

‘Content’ is also something that takes a beating. Brands that understand that they are the main content generators and work in tandem with their digital marketing partners in ensuring relevant and timely content is provided to the end consumer will fare better than companies that think content is something that ‘we’ve hired an external agency to create and it’s their problem’. More on this in our next blog.

To achieve these outcomes however, there needs to be a certain diligence and discipline in the way the operations of the Brand are conducted – just like running any company, large or small. There needs to a be a commonly held view right from the very top that digital needs to be embedded onto the system at an employee level  and not looked at as a ‘bolt on’ sub-assembly that can be fixed and jettisoned at will.

This discipline towards providing the ‘whole widget’ for the consumer is what will drive positive outcomes for digital and needless to say, the Brand as a whole.

Simplifying Digital Branding using social media

Simplify social media

Are you a small business owner who has a social media strategy but does not have the time to pursue it? If your answer to this question is ‘Yes’, you are not alone.

At PebbleStream, we’ve spoken to many, many customers and clients of various sizes in different industries through our two year long journey as a digital branding agency in Bengaluru.

Here’s what we’ve heard “I don’t have the time for my own social media!”; or, “I’ve created the strategy, the posts and even know what I should be writing for my blogs! But then the next client meeting alert pops up and I don’t get the time to go back to my digital branding project”, “I wish social media posting was simpler” and the classic “You expect me to have a social media strategy when I can barely keep my head above water?!”

We understand.

As a growing company ourselves, we too, are sometimes hard pressed to be active online while bring in the money to pay our bills offline. But it must be done. Here’s why:

Digital branding is about consistency

Digital branding is akin to gardening. There are no shortcuts. Only consistent, long term and focused efforts will yield results. So hang in there and don’t give up even if your efforts don’t seem to be appreciated/noticed. It will all add up.

Digital branding is about listening

Imagine someone walking into a room full of people. Hen opens the door, says something and then disappears. He does not listen to anyone and neither does he involve himself with the discussion. Weird – isn’t it? Now imagine he does this consistently. Would he be taken seriously? He wouldn’t. He’d actually be considered a nuisance and blocked from entering the room altogether.

Sadly, this happens a lot online. People walk in, throw something into the content ecosystem and then run off. There is very little engagement to hear from people and participate in discussions that pertain to the business and the brand.

The result is an uninterested audience that really could not care what your brand says.

Digital branding is about engagement

Would it not be way better if the brand puts out information consistently, but also stops by and participates actively in communities and discussion groups pertaining to the spaces where relevant content is seen?

Engagement refers to the simple act of listening and responding to feedback, queries and any other requests for information from the people who would read this content. Engagement needs to happen not only at a brand level but also at a post level. Do you have people constantly liking/sharing/retweeting and commenting on your posts? Engage with her in a one to one messaging system or even a phone call. Do you believe that a brand has been putting out some great content consistently? Let them know! These simple acts will build your brand better than any elaborate but unexecuted plan will.

Digital branding is about simplification

Branding is a vast subject. Any MBA graduate will tell you that. But focusing on what matters will help you cut the clutter and understand what levers to pull and what buttons to push to get maximum effect for minimum effort.

Look at your posts for a 4 week period and see what posts have done well. What posts have been shared/liked/commented and retweeted. Have any posts to your brand brought in a personal message to your social media inbox that you need to engage with? Make a list of the engagements that have happened using a pencil and paper. Then spend half an hour treating this as a ‘to do list’. Simplify.

We hope these tips have helped you.

Please stay tuned for many more such tips from PebbleStream Digital where we use our knowledge and experiences to make your life simple.

Engagement Depth versus Engagement Breadth

How often have you felt that a given solution does not really ‘solve’ your problem? Have you been faced with a situation where the solution does not ‘fit in’ with the way your business operates? Do you sometimes wish your solution provider had ‘thought things through’ rather than simply ‘solutioned’?

We ask these questions from ourselves and our solution providers day in and day out. Whether it’s in a corporate or startup environment. The solution to the problem is always tantalisingly close – but never in hand.

Why does this happen?

We believe it’s because problems can never be solved at the level at which it has been created. We must ‘zoom’ in and out of the problem zone to identify causative factors. It takes time, it takes energy and many trips back to the drawing board. Many late nights, lots of head scratching and scores of cups of coffee later, there’s an “Aha!” moment and the solution that finally addresses the issue presents itself.

Doing this seems counter-intuitive in the conventional business sense. It takes time, trouble and the ever present Damocles Sword of “Opportunity Cost”. It’s far easier (and more profitable) to provide a quick solution, execute and then ‘bill the client’. There’s less stress, less chances of disappointment and letting the client ‘deal with his own problems’ while we move on to acquiring the next client.

It’s a really convenient excuse. A service/solution provider can always shrug saying “Look! This problem lies outside my scope of work/expertise area.”, or “I can tell you, but then I’d have to bill you” or some such statement.

We’ve seen that this is not going to be a sustainable solution. Here’s why:

    1. The cause of the problem is never in plain sight. Looking for it actively will provide a lasting solution to a client. That helps build a lasting relationship with them. That’s bad business.
    2. Businesses now are built on trust. If you solve the real problems, you will get real business through referrals, increased reputation and massive amounts of learning – all of which stand us head and shoulders above the competition for the next client. You have her trust. Which is far more useful currency.
    3. “The reward for good work is more work. The reward for more work is better work”. This adage holds true in the world of business. Businesses must stop seeing themselves as “Vendors” or “Solution Providers”. They need to start seeing themselves as “Consultants” with a thirst for helping solve the problems of their clients rather than just stack up billing and invoices.

Over the next few posts, we’ll take you through some case studies where this approach has reaped rich dividends for us and for our clients.

Stay tuned for more from our blog.