Why Successful Businesses get Disrupted by the Innovations of “Cheeky” Upstarts

Innovation, Entrepreneurship

This report is intended to stimulate the kind of strategic thinking busy business owners and managers often find hard to make the time for, in the midst of the jungle of demands that most established businesses battle with on a daily basis. Steven Covey put it in the Important, Not Urgent quadrant. However, with the rate of change we’re experiencing, if we don’t all spend some time in that quadrant, we’re likely to find someone else in the jungle will push it into the Urgent quadrant, in the not too distant future, whether we like it or not.

Upstarts, by the way, are what Startups get called when you’re on the receiving end of their disruptions. So why, if you are a well-established business, generating good cash flow, might you be unable to see that some far less established business, with quite possibly less technically advanced products or services, is about to eat your lunch?

According to Cyril Bouquet and Chloe Renault from the prestigious IMD business school in Lausanne, there are 3 things going on:

  1. You’ve become ‘prisoner’ to the system you’re operating in.
  2. You’re in denial.
  3. You’re not innovating. Well, not enough, anyway.

Let’s look at some examples. The taxi industry had a system that was so ingrained it was unconscious to them, so they were unable to imagine a whole new way of operating. Enter Uber. Customer satisfaction with taxis, with few exceptions, was low, but for decades they had the hire car market locked up and so became imprisoned by their own assumption nothing was going to change their world. And even when Uber arrived, both drivers and taxi companies were in denial and couldn’t understand why customers were flocking to an alternative. Uber used the same technology that taxis could have used to locate cars and inform passengers of arrival and route, to automate payment and rate drivers etc., but there was no innovation going on of note within the taxi industry.

Blockbuster videos knew about Netflix but considered them unable to compete with their stranglehold on the video hire market. Blockbuster even turned down the chance to buy Netflix for just $20m. Video stores were hooked on a business model that earned them the total cost of their videos after just a few night’s late fees. In fact, the creator of Netflix, Reed Hastings, got going after being stung $40 for his late return of Apollo 13. Kodak, whose own scientists invented digital photography, was so in love with their business model, based on a virtual monopoly of film sales, that they couldn’t contemplate doing business another way.

All these businesses and many more were prisoners of their own device, couldn’t see the need for change and weren’t looking for new ways to charm their customers.

Of course, it’s human nature when you’ve found a winning formula, to stick to it and not to want to throw it over for a new model that might not work yet. And any sound management or board of directors is going to look sideways at a business case that puts their cash cow at risk to explore something foreign to their customers and employees that can’t reliably forecast what the ROI might be.

Established businesses are set up to execute a well-understood business plan, with well-understood products, or services, to well-understood customers.

Startups, on the other hand, are exploring who their customers are, what their problems and desires are, how to satisfy them, with new products or services that are still in development, what business model to use and how to make money from the enterprise.

This is a process that doesn’t readily blend with an existing operation that is focussed on the next quarter’s results, trying desperately to increase sales by 5% and decrease costs by 5%.

And yet if you want really game-changing innovations of the kind that can transform your business, or prevent you from being the next statistic in the global disruption trend, then you need to consider how to take some of the methods Startups use to develop those innovations.

We’re not talking here about incremental innovations. The kind that can be gleaned from suggestion boxes, surveys of employees or customers, or simply an intelligent engineering based consideration of how to improve your product or service for next year’s model. Those improvements are important and necessary – once you are onto a winning formula. What we’re discussing is how and when to find the next quite different winning formula.

Take Apple as an example. Their invention of the first smartphone was a game-changing new formula that disrupted the phone market and led to business breaking problems for the previous dominant players, Nokia and even Blackberry, who themselves had disrupted the market. However, once they had introduced the smartphone, Apple’s annual updates, though important, can be considered to be incremental. Apple was also willing to disrupt their own winning formula for the iPod, which put ‘a 1000 songs in their customer’s pocket,’ with the creation of the iPhone. In this way, while iPod sales plummeted, they continued to capture music hungry customers, as well as a whole new market who were delighted to find the iPhone put ‘a computer in their pocket.’

Innovations that grow your business by 800%, as the iPhone did for Apple, take fresh thinking.

We call it Unicorn Thinking.

We’re not talking about the magical kind of unicorns, although the kind of innovations that result might seem like magic to competitors and delighted customers alike. We’re talking about the thinking that leads to private Startups growing to valuations in excess of $1 billion. At the end of 2017, there were 197 such companies, known as Unicorns, according to a survey from CB Insights. You’ll be familiar with some of the better-known ones, such as Airbnb, Canva, Dropbox, Pinterest, Slack, SpaceX, Spotify, Stripe, WeWork, and Xiaomi.

Australian software enabling company Atlassian was a Unicorn before it floated on Nasdaq for $10 billion. So were the tech giants of today, colloquially known as FAANG – Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Netflix and Apple. Of course, these stocks have moved a long way from being Startups, but in most cases, they are still drawing on what they learned about developing game-changing innovations to continue to grow their businesses.

We believe virtually all businesses can benefit from putting some resources into understanding how these kinds of Startups developed their innovations.

In our view, there are 6 main steps.

But first, here’s where not to start. With an idea.

Most people will jump to an idea and then look for supporting justification. Again, that’s just human nature. So, if you have ‘a good idea’ already, try to park it for a while and start back with your target customer’s desires and no preconceived ideas on how to satisfy them.

Here are the steps:

  1. Find an important unsolved problem
  2. Ignore the competition and start over with a blank slate
  3. Imagine the ideal solution regardless of accepted wisdom, or obstacles
  4. Search emerging technologies for ways to do what wasn’t possible before
  5. Make the simplest possible prototype and test with customers
  6. Use feedback to improve it multiple times before production
  7. Make a business case with reverse income assumptions

The world’s capitalist system basically operates by generating products and services that persuade customers they will solve their problems or fulfill their desires.   The trick though is how to discover an unsolved problem and a fresh and better way to do solve it.

Unicorns use Design Thinking processes to explore it.

Design thinking stems from the way designers investigate solutions to problems in a human-centric manner. It’s found a strong following outside of pure design circles in recent years, because the method can be broadly applied to solving complex problems, including business problems of most kinds. The UK Design Council coined the term the double diamond to describe how you initially diverge from an assumed problem to explore, then converge to define the key issue, then diverge again to explore possible solutions, before testing and feedback helps to converge and deliver a specific solution.

Don’t rush to conclusions on what your customer problems are. Empathise and explore what’s really going on for customers in the setting of their lives and work, before defining their most critical issue and developing a solution that emphasizes the customer experience.

Sometimes the problem you begin with turns out not to be the critical problem you need to solve.

I had my own experience of innately using this process many years ago when working as a marketing consultant. I was commissioned by the advertising agency for Qantas domestic, or TAA as they then were known, to come up with a new ad campaign to differentiate them from Ansett, their fierce rival at the time. In those days planes were divided into First Class and Economy. I started my assignment by spending a week flying around the country in both TAA and Ansett and seeing what the travel experience was like for various customers.

It soon became apparent there were two main groups of travelers in Economy. People flying for business reasons, who wanted to get there on time in a rested state of mind ready for a busy working day. And people who were traveling for social reasons, often going on holidays, who wanted to start their holiday fun the moment they got on the plane. It quickly dawned on me they needed to be treated differently. So, the problem I went in with, to write an ad campaign, became redefined as a challenge to reconfigure the cabin and the in-flight experience.

I recommended that Economy should be split into Business Class, up the front, with passenger entering via the front stairs to an oasis of peace and calm and Holiday Class, at the back with passengers entering from the rear stairs to a livelier reception.   After a while, they implemented Business Class but missed what I thought was another good opportunity to create a Holiday Class experience.

Starting over from first principles.

Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, and founder of Tesla and SpaceX, recommends starting by going back to a clean sheet of paper and first principles. Here’s how he describes it.

“Historically, all rockets have been expensive, so therefore, in the future, all rockets will be expensive. But, actually, that’s not true.

If you say, what is a rocket made of? It’s made of aluminum, titanium, copper, carbon fibre. And you can break it down and say, what is the raw material cost of all these components? If you have them stacked on the floor and could wave a magic wand so that the cost of rearranging the atoms was zero, then what would the cost of the rocket be? And I was like, wow, okay, it’s really small – it’s like 2% of what a rocket costs.

So clearly it would be in how the atoms are arranged – so you’ve got to figure out how can we get the atoms in the right shape much more efficiently. And so, I had a series of meetings on Saturdays with people, some of whom were still working at the big aerospace companies, just to try to figure out if there’s some catch here that I’m not appreciating. And I couldn’t figure it out. There doesn’t seem to be any catch.

So, I started SpaceX.”

Elon also reasoned he could cut the cost of space travel by 90% if he could make rockets reusable, enabling them to land safely, rather than tossing them into the sea, so to speak. That took several very expensive failures to get right, but he and his team finally succeeded.

Instead of assuming things have to be done the way they always have been, start from scratch and imagine new possibilities that will empower you to achieve your mission.

Test your value proposition, then your prototype and only then your market.

It seems extraordinary, but true that the most common reason new products fail is that nobody wants to buy them. Unicorn companies have learned they need to test their assumptions at every step of the way.

First of all, they need to be tested in what Steve Blank termed a Customer Discovery Process in his book, The Startup Owner’s Manual. Steve and Eric Reis who recently updated his thoughts in his book, The Startup Way, realised the startup journey often failed because enthusiastic entrepreneurs rushed their ideas into production and launched them without thoroughly testing their reception with the target market first.

Even global companies can fall into this trap as I found out when I was working for the British pharmaceutical company GSK, or Glaxo as they then were. At the time Valium, made to treat anxiety by Hoffman La Roche, was the biggest selling drug in the world, selling over 2 billion tablets a year, however within Glaxo it was considered to have a problem, in that it had the side effect of making people sleepy. So, Glaxo chemists set out to see if they could make a benzodiazepine analog, in effect a chemical cousin of Valium, with less of a soporific effect. They succeeded and spent some years and many millions getting it through clinical trials to show it was as effective as Valium at reducing anxiety, with less of the soporific side effect. However, when we launched it in Australia, sales were very disappointing. Initially they thought the marketing was at fault so that was rejigged, but still, the sales were slow. So finally, they sent a market research firm out to interview GPs to ask why they weren’t prescribing this great new drug.   The answer came back, “Well if someone comes in with anxiety serious enough to warrant treatment it’s not such a bad thing if they end up napping during the day and getting an undisturbed sleep at night.”

So, it’s clearly a better idea to test these things before spending years and millions launching the product. The Lean Launch Method and the Business Canvas provide tools to test first your ideas and then your prototypes, for your new products and services, and also your new business models. This is usually a challenging process. Steve Blank said no business idea survives its first encounter with a customer. Or as Mike Tyson put it, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” It’s better to take your punches early. Fortunately, there are now quite well-established protocols for testing your hypotheses before you lock in your blueprint.

Sprinting to the finish line.

Getting your new product developed used to be guided by spreadsheets and Gantt charts with finely constructed critical paths. That is still appropriate for a well-understood process, but for an innovation that breaks new ground for your company, you’re better off using what has become known as Agile Project Management.   Innovations necessarily involve experimenting and that necessarily involves surprises, both of failure and success. But they cannot be rigorously plotted on a Gantt chart. Instead, they are best tackled as a series of Sprints with a small co-operative team accepting it’s a fast learning exercise, with frequent check-ins on feedback and what remains outstanding in the work plan.

The Innovator’s Business Case.

As fabulous as your innovation may be, it probably still has to pass the screening of a diligent, if not skeptical board of directors, or in a smaller company the CFO and key investors. Discovery-driven planning uses a reverse income statement to address this problem.

Wharton’s Ian MacMillan and Columbia’s Rita Gunther McGrath developed a system they called “discovery-driven planning” in their book, The Entrepreneurial Mindset. “Discovery-driven planning acknowledges that at the start of a new venture, little is known and much is assumed.” They contrast this with conventional, “platform-based” planning, in which “assumptions underlying a plan are treated as facts – givens to be baked into the plan – rather than as best-guess estimates to be tested and questioned.”

 

Startups used to write long Business Plans of 50 to 100 pages with reams of financial projections forecasting what the income and expenses would be 5 years into the future, or even went further to generate a Net Present Value for the company from a discounted cash flow analysis of the effective life of a company’s core assets. Investors and Directors would then beat up the CEO if these fanciful projections weren’t met with some exactitude. I know, because I went through it with a biotech company I took to an IPO on the ASX as CEO. The reality is of course that a Startup is in an exploratory stage and doesn’t know exactly what profit or losses it will make. The same is true for a truly new endeavour inside a large established business.

 

However, you still need some sensible method of assessing commercial viability.

The key to using discovery-driven planning is to list and honestly test the key assumptions you are making that underlie the belief the new venture will be profitable. Rather than pretending all will go to plan the reality is accepted that some assumptions will be proved wrong and that you expect some surprises as the business develops. But by laying out the assumptions you are checking and adapting as you proceed.

 

The reverse income statement, rather than starting with income and cost forecasts to see what profit or loss that generates, begins instead with the required profit after a period of time and then sees what costs are tolerable in order to achieve it.   The focus then shifts to the creative challenge of how to produce the product or service within those costs. The same challenge is set for creatively achieving the necessary revenue.   Required profits equals necessary revenue minus allowable costs. With this approach, the emphasis shifts from being right, or being blamed for not meeting forecasts, to being creative as a team, in order to meet the cost and revenue challenges, while openly and transparently checking whether or not key assumptions are holding up as the adventure unfolds.

Mapping your own areas of disruption risk

Unicorn Thinking is a very useful set of tools for developing major innovations, however, how do you know in the shorter term in what areas of your business you might be at risk and what you can do to defend yourself? Customers tend not to desert companies who are hitting their mark in 8 key areas of business.

One of these key areas is Intrinsic Brand Value. Are you competing on price, as a commodity, or are your customers willing to pay more to get your brand? The goal of branding is to allow your product to be sold for more than competitors with similar products.

Rolls Royce is owned by BMW. The Rolls Royce Ghost is built on a modified version of the BMW 7 series platform and shares a modified version of the 7 series V12 engine. No doubt there are refinements with the Rolls, but it’s substantially the intrinsic perceived value that allows it to be sold for 3 times as much as the BMW. Apple iPhones sell at a premium to their competition. Blind taste tests of different whiskeys, conducted by Dr. Stephen Chadwick and Dr. Hugh Dudley, both surgeons at St. Mary’s Hospital and Medical School in London, showed that most people can’t tell the difference between single malts and cheaper blends without the knowledge of which one they’re drinking. As advertising guru, David Ogilvy said, “They’re tasting images.”

 

Whether you’re at risk of having your market disrupted may depend on how firmly your customers have bought into a belief in your intrinsic value. Customers can’t always be fooled, of course. The perceived intrinsic value must be backed up by exceptional user experience to maintain leadership. As Clay Christensen explained in the Innovators Dilemma, with innovations such as smaller disc drives, their initial inferiority led them to be dismissed by the dominant players. But, it was also the lack of intrinsic brand value with older formats that meant customers had no compunction in buying the cheaper product as soon as the improving performance got within range of the existing devices.

 

Building intrinsic brand value provides not only higher profit margins, but also higher safety margins against disruptive newcomers.

 

Author:  Tom Williams, Principal of InnovationConsult : www.innovationconsult.com.au/

Turning marketing on its head: The rise of Predatory Marketing

Predatory MarketingAll of us want our message heard. All of us want our message to impact our customers’ lives. All of us want to drive sales and boost profit margins.

But the brutal truth is, more than often, our messages are ignored and our perspectives – no matter how valuable — are being missed. Australians are bombarded with thousands of ads and calls-to-actions a day and the fact is: people are becoming desensitised by information overload.

Predatory Marketing is the answer to being heard above the noise. It’s a development that challenges any preconceptions we may hold about how organisations can expand their client base. To get a better understanding of how Predatory Marketing is helping companies, we sat down with 2015 TEC Speaker of the Year, Ashton Bishop, Head of Strategy at Step Change, to learn how his new tool is affecting the way companies communicate.

The new marketing reality

The way marketing is taught has followed a typical pattern for decades now – that it’s about meeting the needs of customers. But this is changing.

It’s no longer enough to assume that your target audience has needs that require fulfilling. The business world is advanced enough that most of your target audience is likely to be at least satisfied with the goods and services they already have access to. Today, the only predictable need that customers have is a need for less corporate ‘noise’ – communications that are overwhelming customers with too much information.

The challenge is now for business leaders to stop thinking about simply meeting customer needs and to target the weaknesses of their competition (more on this later). In other words, companies need to embrace Predatory Marketing.

Predator or prey?

Now that companies can no longer think solely about satisfying needs, they have to start asking, “Who has my money?” It’s a zero-sum game that businesses are operating in, and organisations now have to tailor their marketing practices to ensure they accommodate this new reality.

Failing to keep up with these changes will ultimately make it harder for companies to grow, especially as their competitors actively start trying to poach customers from their brand.

Cutting through the noise

In Australia, we spend roughly $13.3 billion on marketing per annum – translating into around a million branded messages that each of us see every year. That’s 3,000 every single day.

Of those 3,000, we will only notice 80 and react to 10. And of these 10, we instantly treat half as unwelcome intrusions into our lives – leaving only five messages a day we actually notice, react/respond positively to and absorb.

When crafting a message that can qualify as one of that handful, you also have to remember the five-ninths law. This law states that five-ninths of marketing messages will be misattributed to the leader of a market segment, rather than the company paying for the message.

For organisations that aren’t in this leadership position, they are essentially cementing the position of their leading competitor with their own marketing budget. Overcoming this gap, and crafting messages that actually move market share away from competitors is therefore key to building a successful Predatory Marketing campaign.

What does Predatory Marketing look like?

Whenever we work with clients who are looking to embrace Predatory Marketing, there are four key steps we advise them to take:

Step 1) Identify where the money would go if your company didn’t exist

Imagine your business didn’t exist – where would your customers’ money go? A competitor? Or would customers spend it on a completely different offering?

Asking these questions is the foundation of a competitor analysis. From just asking these questions, you’ll usually identify four or five competitor organisations that are offering a comparable product that your customers would gravitate towards.

From there, we are looking to narrow down the list to find a target. This means identifying a competitor that is very large or is perhaps a little lazy and isn’t meeting the needs of its customers. If you can find one of these, then you have the starting point of your Predatory Marketing campaign.

Step 2) What are the strengths of the opposition?

Now that you have a competitor lined up, you need to objectively evaluate their strengths. To do this, put yourself in the shoes of a customer or consider why a third-party would recommend them.

What you are looking at here is the natural language around what the company’s offering, rather than a slogan grounded in marketing jargon. When you can express in simple terms the strengths of your competitor, the next step is much easier: weaknesses.

Step 3) Find the weakness that comes from the opposition’s greatest strength

Within every strength is a hidden weakness. The challenge with Predatory Marketing is to find the specific weakness that arises from a particular strength and then explain it to the customers. The reality is that customers won’t necessarily notice this weakness by themselves, nor will they know that you can address this weakness – unless you tell them.

Step 4) Where are you strong?

The final step is to build your strengths to address this pain point and then convey this value to customers. You can be explicit here when communicating with prospective clients – acknowledge the strengths of a competitor before honing in on the weaknesses that your products and services can address.

Many business owners won’t have taken this step. They don’t to really understand where the value lies in their own product offering and how these match the weaknesses of their competitors.

Tailoring a Predatory approach to the market

These four steps represent the core of a Predatory Marketing campaign, but it’s also important, to tailor this offering to the specific market conditions that a firm is operating in.

For example, a firm that already occupies the dominant position within its sector usually shouldn’t be applying a Predatory Marketing approach towards its direct competitors. Instead, it’s generally smart to be using these same tactics to grow the market and bring customers into their category.

Challengers who aren’t in that dominant position will instead be looking for the competitor or class of competitor that is currently occupying that dominant position. In a very fragmented market, or one that is very generic or confused, it may even be that would be competitors are best to band together to shift a certain audience mindset.

Regardless of whether the target of a Predatory Marketing campaign is a single business, a group of businesses or potential customers, the process is relatively consistent.

Lastly, a Predatory Marketing campaign has to change with your business and with the market. Just as context is key to a great strategy, so too is it central to a Predatory Marketing campaign. If a Predatory Marketing campaign is so successful that a company has become the dominant force in their category, for example, the techniques that got them there may no longer be relevant.

It’s time to get Predatory

Customers don’t have needs anymore; their needs have been filled. We need to arm ourselves with new tactics that can help us rise above the noise of our competitors and ensure that our message is the one being heard. Predatory marketing is the best tool to disarm your competitors and will ensure your company is in a position of strength and ultimately boost your profits.

Apply Ashton Bishop’s Predatory Marketing to your business and ensure you are always ahead of your competitors and in your customers’ minds. Take action today and subscribe to Step Change’s blog to keep up with all the latest thinking around marketing, strategy, tactics and business insights. If you have any questions surrounding your own business strategy and how you can best incorporate Predatory Marketing, you can send them your enquiry here.

Building an agile company: the case of McDonalds

Every business needs to be able to keep up with market changes in the face of widespread upheaval. Maintaining this organisational agility isn’t easy, especially for large companies with an international outlook.

Building an agile company the case of McDonaldsbWhile there are plenty of examples of industries that have been up-ended as a result of new competitors and changing conditions, there are also many that have managed to respond to these changes.

Among these is McDonald’s – one of the world’s largest and most iconic fast food brands that has reinvented itself in recent months by focusing on agility and innovation.

Meeting the challenge of a competitive marketplace

The food sector, and fast food in particular, has traditionally been one of the most competitive industries. The relatively low barriers to entry and large customer base have seen organisations compete on price, convenience and the shortest possible wait between ordering and eating.

While these factors have traditionally underpinned the industry, evolving market conditions and increasing competition from “fast casual” dining experiences that focus on quality have changed the industry.

For companies like McDonald’s, international economic conditions, such as slow spending in Europe, have affected sales while a generational shift away from fast food has decreased the number of young consumers dining beneath those iconic golden arches.

In the case of McDonald’s, the result has been slumping revenue and profits. The company’s revenue has dropped 11 per cent, resulting in a 30 per cent decline in profit, according to a report in Fortune Magazine.

To address this, the company has embarked on a strategy to become leaner. This year alone, the company will close around 700 under-performing stores around the world – double the original predictions. However, this shift is going much deeper than simply closing stores – the company is moving quickly to redefine its dining experience.

Reimagining the consumer experience

To reinvigorate global sales, McDonald’s has unveiled a number of new dining experiences that aim to reconnect with younger patrons, while also creating a higher-quality and more personalised product.

One such innovation has been the introduction of the Create your Taste experience in Australia, giving diners the opportunity to build their own burger from a range of 30 different ingredients. This new way of ordering uses touch-screens in participating stores that patrons can use to customise their meal.

This innovation is currently available in around 30 stores, but will be rolled out to 700 stores over the next nine months – underscoring how quickly this service is being scaled across the business.

While the Create your Taste product has been adopted across a large number of stores in Australia, other innovations have also been launched.

In Sydney, McDonald’s has launched The Corner, a redesigned McCafe that is styled to resemble an independent cafe rather than a chain. The design plays down traditional McDonald’s branding like the golden arches in favour of gourmet, personalised offerings served with metal cutlery and a range of cafe style hot beverages.

While the company has no plans to roll The Corner out nationally or internationally, it highlights the creative directions the company is pursuing in an attempt to reinvent its dining experience. This isn’t the first time Australia has seen the trial of new experiences from the company either – the first ever McCafe opened in Melbourne back in 1993.

Has this shift worked?

Transforming one of the world’s largest fast food services into an agile company that embraces modern trends is no easy undertaking. For McDonald’s, it’s too early to tell whether these organisational shifts will reverse the company’s financial position.

At an organisational level, there are signs this move is being embraced, with the company’s Australian CEO Andrew Gregory stressing these changes are designed to build a more transparent and responsive dining experience.
For other business leaders, the McDonald’s experience underscores how it is possible for even the very largest enterprises to become more agile and innovative. As market conditions continue to challenge organisations, developing, testing and implementing new strategies across multiple branches and departments will be a defining feature of successful companies.

How to create the perfect LinkedIn profile

For any executive, having a social media presence isn’t optional any more. Being active on social media is now an essential part of a CEO’s efforts to build a reputation for themselves and their business.

So what makes a great LinkedIn profile? Here’s a quick guide that can help you to get the most of your LinkedIn presence:

1) Start with a brief summary of yourself

Among the first steps to take for your LinkedIn page is to add a short introduction to yourself and your experiences.

This will begin with a short description of your position, which will need to be limited to 120 characters and appears below your name. Here’s a good example:

CEO of XYZ Corporation | Our Vision: To provide exceptional products and services to ASX 200-listed organisations

This description should cover your job title, what you do, why you do it and give an example of the sort of clients your organisation works with – valuable information for anyone viewing your page.

Next, include more information on the subsequent sections of your personal profile. This should be similar to an elevator pitch or how someone might introduce you at a speaking event. The purpose is to be concise and convey all the important information about your personal brand so that people are interested and want to learn more.

As well as including useful information, you should also consider optimising the content with keywords, which are words or phrases that people associate with your business and which people might search for if they were trying to find you. Including these in your description will make it easy to find a person online.

Once you have this basic information, the next step is to personalise it and make it interesting for a reader. This means taking the time to add some personality and make your page unique. Also, consider removing and reorganising the sections on your home page. All of this information is customisable and if it isn’t holding it’s weight, deleting it can help to keep your page concise.

2) Use the right photo and background

LinkedIn users have the opportunity to use both a personal picture and a background photo to make their page more unique.

For both, it pays to use a professional image which also gives some insight into your business. A picture of a recent awards ceremony or similar achievement as a background photo can help to make the connection with your company, while a professional personal photo is also valuable

As a rule of thumb, use a profle photo of around 200 x 200 pixels and a background image of around 1,400 x 425 pixels and under eight megabytes in size.

3) Customise your URL

Rather than having a string of letters and numbers after your page, LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to select your own URL address. This means that when people share your page, it is much easier to recognise the page is yours, based on the text of the link.

To do this, go to the “Edit my Public Profile page”. The option to change your URL should appear on the right.

For example, a person named Gregory Hewitt, might change their custom URL to something like:

au.linkedin.com/in/GregoryHewitt

Or:

au.linkedin.com/in/greghewitt

4) Set your profile to public

If people cannot easily identify you, it becomes a lot harder to be visible on LinkedIn. Make sure that your profile is set so that other people can see your name and title so they can recognise you when you visit their page.

From the Edit my Public Profile page, your privacy settings should be located directly below your personal URL settings. You can then tick the boxes to display as much of your profile as you want to be viewable to the public.

5) Integrate it with your online presence

It’s important to treat your LinkedIn page as a lead generator that can direct people towards other sources of key information that are available about you online.

Linking to your personal site or blog is an easy way to further build your reputation. You can also build a badge for your personal blog or website, making it easy for people to be redirected to other parts of your online presence.

This can be accessed from the bottom of the right-hand panel of the Edit my Public Profile page, directly below your privacy settings. From there, you can choose the badge you like and copy the code into your professional blog.

6) Find new connections

One of the most useful features of LinkedIn is the ability to find new connections or engage with people you may not have had contact with for some time.

This might include fellow alumni from university, contacts from your email accounts or suggested people from LinkedIn. Each of these sources will be essential for building your reach on the network.

Once you know who you want to contact, reach out through LinkedIn’s messaging tool to try and build that connection with another user.

Rather than sending a generic message, make sure to mention how you know the person you are trying to connect with as a way to build that connection early on. That will be especially important for individuals who are receiving a high volume of messages.

Another useful tip is to think about what your goal is when making a new connection. If you are looking to build a useful industry contact, think about how you can structure this message to achieve this result.

7) Join professional groups

Almost every industry has professional groups on LinkedIn that can help to expand your networking efforts and which will allow you to engage with other leaders in your field. Membership in these groups may be restricted so it pays to take the time to understand which are worth investing your time in.

It’s also worth seeing whether the groups you are involved with in a professional capacity, like trade organisations, are active on LinkedIn. Complementing these real-world connections with a digital presence can help to boost your reputation.

If there are no groups that suit your industry, don’t be afraid to start a new one yourself.

To find possible professional groups, you can use the “groups” subcategory from the drop down menu to the left of the LinkedIn search bar. Then you can search for keywords that are relevant for your industry to find groups that are active in your area. You can also see the groups your connections are a part of by visiting their page, making it easy to spot relevant industry groups.

8) Publish your own articles on Pulse

You are now able to write and distribute their own articles on Pulse – the publishing platform that every LinkedIn user has access to. This gives CEOs a sizeable opportunity to show their expertise, while also creating articles that can be shared throughout the network.

It’s important to put the time and effort into writing a unique, thought-provoking piece when approaching this option that what you have written is meaningful and offers a unique perspective on your industry.

Publishing articles is also a great way to align your presence with that of your company, letting you play a part in your organisation’s broader LinkedIn strategy.

By following these steps, you can build a solid LinkedIn profile that is ready to be noticed online. Make sure you are investing the time to ensure that your network is continuing to grow.