Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

Don’t look in a mirror, look out the window

December 5th, 2014 Comments off

downloadHBR recently posted a terrific article titled “A List Of Goals Is Not A Strategy

The key premise is many managers, when tasked with defining a strategy, instead start focusing on KPIs and designing solutions to maximize those KPIs. They focus on the goals and tactics but forget about actually creating a strategy to set the context for what they want to acheive.

Starting by identifying the stakeholders, what you want from them, and what they want from you is a great first step. Understanding what your stakeholders truly want by asking and not just guessing (or assuming they’re the same things you want) should be the primary focus. I’ve heard it compared to “Creating a strategy by looking out the window, not looking in a mirror.”

Crystal clear understanding of what your winning aspiration is, where you will play, how you’ll win and what capabilities you’ll need to win there are also key pillars.

As one of my mentors said recently in a strategy session, “If we’re not making hard choices on what to do and what not to do, we’re not creating a strategy!”

Categories: Strategy

Quote of the day

November 10th, 2014 Comments off

imagesI overheard this at the recent “Net.Finance” conference

Turning it on is not success. It’s just the beginning.”

So true. That’s when the real work of making it a success begins.

Categories: Strategy

Crisis Managment and Flying the Plane

September 10th, 2014 Comments off

How_Planes_FlyWe’ve all been there… things go horribly wrong and people start losing their heads. I like to think one of the things I’m good at is crisis management. As things go more and more out of control, I seem to have the ability to get calmer and calmer (and I’ve learned that has a tendency to drive those around me even more nuts!).

That’s why I found this article on the number 1 rule in crisis management so insightful. It talks about the investigation of the crash of Air France 447 and how it came down to the pilots panicking and not doing the one basic thing… keeping the plane under control. Apparently, the emergency checklist for a Cessna has 6 steps. Step one is “Fly the plane”.

It is very easy to go into a crisis spiral and forget to the do most basic things to keep the situation under control. I’ve actually taken this to heart. Recently when I was in a ‘crisis’ situation (and by crisis, I mean something was going wrong with our internal systems that nobody outside of our company would ever care about), I kept repeating the same phrase… “Are we still flying the plane?” It took a little while before others understood what I meant and we were able to make sure the basics were being taken care of while the malfunctions were being addressed.

Next time you find things spiraling out of control, just remember that Job #1 is:

  1. Fly the plane
Categories: Strategy

State of the Internet in 2014

August 5th, 2014 Comments off

MeekerIf you’re in financial services, you wait breathlessly every year for Warren Buffet’s annual Letter to Shareholders. If you’re in the digital field, you wait every year for Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report. This year, Mary’s report is again a very worthwhile read. This article on Bloomberg provides a pretty good analysis of the key points in her report.

I’m certainly not qualified to criticize any of Mary’s finding and conclusions. However, I do have to agree with Bloomberg that Mary’s report is not easy on the eyes. They asked Emiland De Cubber to redesign Mary’s slides to see if he could improve on them… and he did! Same content, but much easier to read and understand. I hope Mary takes a look at Emiland’s work for next year’s trends report.

Categories: Strategy

Unofficial Twitter rules

September 15th, 2013 Comments off

twOne of the fun parts of my job is teaching the uninitiated about Twitter. It’s hard enough to get the ‘language’ of Twitter when you’re using it to communicate with friends and family. It’s a whole different beast when you’re using Twitter to communicate professionally and build a brand. I have a mental list of unofficial rules that I teach our people on the proper professional use of Twitter to build brand equity.

I stumbled across a great article from Steve Ladurantaye outlining his own personal Twitter rules. These rules are so closely aligned to what I teach that I think I’ll be pointing my people to this post ahead of my session to give them a nice solid foundation before we talk. A couple that resonated with me:

1. You are one tweet away from being fired.

3. There is no difference between a professional account and a personal account.

9. Retweet. But it’s often better to add something to the link to explain why you’re doing.

25. Open a bottle, close the Twitter.

The last one (#25) is one that I really love. I’ve seen too many posts from friends and colleagues that come late in the evening. I’ve sent them a personal, off-the-corporate-network message saying, “Umm… you may want to delete that post”.

Great work Steve!

Categories: social-media, Strategy

Jumping off cliffs

July 22nd, 2013 Comments off

cliffjump“We Have to Continually Be Jumping Off Cliffs and Developing Our Wings on the Way Down.”

This quote has been attributed to both Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a great metaphor for what it’s like to do digital strategy at a large organization. There is another old saying that goes “Fake it ’till you make it” and I constantly feel like I’m faking it. A large part of my role is figuring out what we’ll be doing in the digital space 3 or 6 months down the road. I come up with plans and ideas for what I know will work in the financial space. Unfortunately, for most of those plans, I don’t have a clue how I’ll actually implement them… or whether it’s even possible to implement them. I just know that it’s something that we should be doing.

So like the quote, I jump off the cliff… and then pray that the wings will develop before I crash at the bottom! So far, the luck has held out and we’ve been able to implement my crazy ideas, both technically and compliantly. It’s terrifying to put plans in place and present them to the business leaders, all the while having your fingers crossed hoping you’ll be able to deliver. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are many other options in this space.

If you only plan for and implement the things you know will work, you will always be a follower. The only way to be sure something is going to work is because you’ve seen someone else in your space do the same thing. If you want to be leading edge, it means occasionally taking the leap of faith in yourself.

Categories: Strategy

I cheated. Sorry. But it’s interesting…

July 11th, 2013 1 comment

cheatI was doing research on another article (ironically, an article on authenticity) when I came across a site called I’m purposely not linking to it because I feel a little dirty. It’s a site that allows you to ‘buy’ fans and followers. Out of curiosity, I bought 1,000 Twitter followers for $12. I figured it’s a low investment to see what would happen.

Well, it happened just like they promised. I started getting notifications that all of these ‘people’ started following me. I had to turn off the notifications for new followers. For a little while there, I felt like a celebrity!

So now I have 1,000 robots following me in addition to the 400+ real people that were following me. What’s the point? The point is actually quite interesting. It really worked like it’s designed to.

One of the bits of advice I give to my colleagues just getting started on LinkedIn is that you have to have at least 50 connections on LinkedIn before publicizing your profile to the people you really want to be connected to. 50 seems to be the magic number when someone takes you seriously as a LinkedIn member. Apparently, something similar happens on Twitter. The content of my feed hasn’t changed much. However, I’m getting more and more ‘legitimate’ followers on Twitter. I’m not able to prove this, but I have to think that when someone looks me up on Twitter and see I have over a thousand followers, that I must be saying something very interesting and want to join the crowd.

So for all my crowing about ‘Authenticity being the key’, I’m sad to say there is another factor. That factor is social proof. People like to do things they see lots of other people doing. It saddens me to say that buying followers seems to work, at least in the short term. I suppose it’s like attending an event. If you see that there a LOTS of tickets available, you may be less likely to attend yourself. But if you see that thousands have already bought tickets, you feel that you better buy or you’ll miss the bandwagon.

Do I recommend this approach? No! It really doesn’t take much for anyone to see that a large portion of my followers aren’t real people. But it was a very interesting experiment. Now… what do I do with all those bot followers?

UPDATE: The folks at Twitter are smarter than I gave them credit for… about a week after I did this, a note was posted to the FanMeNow site saying the Twitter went through and did a sweep of all the robot followers. My fake followers are gone. I’m now back down to reality. It was nice being ‘famous’ for a while. Oh… and no refunds.

Categories: social-media, Strategy

Kindling and logs

June 30th, 2013 Comments off

kindlingI hate constantly quoting Seth Godin, but he has another post that got me thinking called Wasted Kindling. It’s about resting on your PR and planning on that to keep you going as opposed to continually inventing and creating new ‘stuff’. I have to admit that I’d fallen prey to that for a little while. Readers of my blog will notice that several months went by where the only thing I posted was press, speaking appearances and tv interviews. That’s great stuff for my own PR, but that doesn’t add much value to your the reader. It’s basically a rehash of things I’ve already discussed in this blog.

So while those posts are great for my ego, I’m going back to my roots and posting new interesting content that will hopefully be interesting and relevant. If there are any topics you’d like me to discuss, feel free to email me at and I’ll try to address them.

Categories: Basics, Strategy

Silu Modi – Social Business Leader? Wow…

June 6th, 2013 2 comments

Trophy WinnerWow… Information Week named me 1 of 10 Social Business Leaders for 2013! I’m pretty darn proud of myself. It was all quite strange.

There was a big write-up in Information Week by David Carr. I actually loved reading the profiles of the other winners again. It got the wheels turning in my head. I started thinking about what else we can do to advance digital strategy in Financial Services. I think the time is right to get it out of the ‘afterthought’ stage and make digital a key part of the marketing strategy.

One of the quotes I love from the article:

While there is a pent-up demand from advisers who want to get into the program, particularly after hearing tales of how it brought in big contracts, the role of social needs to be kept in perspective, Modi said. “I don’t think anybody in their right mind is going to invest a half million with an adviser because of a pithy tweet.” Instead, the smart adviser who goes prospecting works all the online and offline channels available “until somewhere on the path they hit a tipping point — after four, five, six, eight, nine touchpoints, you hit on something that takes them over the edge.”

I will be at the E2 conference in Boston in mid-June talking about our social media program. If you’re there, be sure to stop by!

Categories: Strategy

Digital Marketing for Financial Services

June 1st, 2013 Comments off

DMFSI was part of the Power Panel on Digital Strategy at the Digital Marketing for Financial Services conference in Toronto. Along with Andrew Artemenko (VP of Digital at Bank of America) and Darrin Diehl (AVP Digital Content at Sunlife), we had a very lively discussion on how to do effective digital marketing when you have to be conscious of regulatory and compliance issues in financial services. We had several good strategies discussed. Judging by the feedback after the conference, I think we struck a chord with the attendees at the conference.

Categories: Strategy

Compliant Social Media at the IIAC Social Conference

May 22nd, 2013 2 comments

iiacI was part of a panel at the Investment Institute Association of Canada’s (IIAC) Social Media Conference. We had a great panel discussion on having compliant social media in the financial service sector. It was a packed audience and I think they enjoyed the different perspectives presented by the panelists.

Investment Executive Magazine had a great write-up of the panel discussion. My favourite excerpt:

Reputation is everything and who you are is your business,” said Modi. “You should always assume that your personal persona is tied to your professional persona. Don’t post anything on a private feed that you wouldn’t want to email out to your clients.”

Clare O’Hara said quoted it better than I thought it sounded live. It’s true. One of the things I’m quite aware of in my digital postings is ensuring that no matter what I write professionally or personally, I assume that it’s all tied back to me professionally. As I quote around the office, “Never write anything online that you don’t want posted on the front page of the newspaper that your boss, your spouse, your friends and your parents read!”


Categories: Strategy

Presenting at the Hearsay Social Innovation Summit

May 8th, 2013 Comments off

hearsayI was asked to present at the Hearsay Social Innovation Summit in early May 2013. It was a last-minute thing and I hadn’t had a chance to meet the other panelists ahead of time. We had about 15 minutes during a coffee break to have a quick chat about the panel topic and I was a little nervous going in with almost no preparation. However, the panel went very well. It’s great to be with 3 other people that know the topic so well. We had some areas of agreement and some areas of debate. All of which makes the panel far more interesting for the audience.

Silu Modi presenting at the Hearsay Innovation Summit at the Royal York in Toronto.

Silu Modi presenting at the Hearsay Innovation Summit at the Royal York in Toronto.

We had a great discussion about several topics (highlighted in the Hearsay blog post). My favourite part was:

Sulemaan made a comparison between social technologies emerging today and the way some companies approached email in prior decades. Speaking to a CEO about compliance trying to block a social media pilot, he told them, “You sat on the other side of this table and told me we didn’t need email. We did, and we’re moving forward with social.” Later, Sulemaan added, “People don’t connect with brands. They connect with people. Unleash them.”


Categories: Strategy

Net.Finance conference in Phoenix

May 8th, 2013 Comments off

NetFinancI just returned from the Net.Finance conference in Phoenix. If you’ve never been, and if you’re in digital field in financial service, this is THE conference to attend! I met colleagues from across North America. As is usual with conferences like these, I took lots of notes from the many sessions I attended… but the true value of the conference came from the meals and cocktails outside of the sessions. It was at these where I was able to talk to peers and find out what they were *really* doing. The insights and advice from those ad-hoc chats were almost more valuable than the information gleaned from the official sessions.

I was there to present on a panel titled “Deploying social across your organization” with Martha Hayward from Fidelity I think the panel went exceptionally well… the feedback I received was very positive. Though I couldn’t get much feedback as I was hurdling over the chairs on my way out the back door. I had two hours from the end of my session to my flight back to Toronto. With TSA security at the US airports, that didn’t leave any time to bask in the glow.

Categories: Strategy

Taking stock in social media

October 16th, 2012 Comments off

I was recently a guest along with Mike Newton on BNN’s “The Close” with Michael Hainsworth. We were interviewed for a 7 minute segment on social media in financial services. Though I was quite nervous (first time doing LIVE tv), Michael Hainsworth was a great host and put me at ease immediately. Happy to say that I didn’t embarrass myself. Actually, I’m quite happy with how it went. Now I have the media bug in me!

Click on the images below to watch the clip on BNN’s website

Silu Modi on BNN – Taking stock in social media


Silu Modi on BNN – Taking stock in social media

Categories: Press, Strategy

Getting the basics right

October 16th, 2012 Comments off

It’s easy to forget the second word when talking about Digital Marketing. The word ‘digital’ just describes the channel being used. It’s actually all about ‘marketing’. Without a thorough understanding of the basics of marketing, the next new shiny toy won’t help reap any rewards.

My clients often ask me what the next new technology or channel is for their digital marketing efforts. I can often sense the frustration when I tell them to first work on their website, write some compelling thought-leadership pieces and send excerpts out to their audience using an email campaign tool. Then measure, adjust, refocus, lather, rinse and repeat. Only when you’ve exhausted the basics should we consider adding a new channel to your marketing.

Learning the basics of marketing is easy. Executing the basics of marketing is hard. Not difficult, but it takes time, labour and consistent persistence. It takes some time (months, usually) to see measurable results from basic marketing. But once you have the basics right and firing on all cylinders, adding a new technology or channel into the mix is much easier.

As my old boss used to say… “Don’t worry about the tricks of the trade until you’ve actually learned the trade!”

It seems more and more of my blog posts have the obligatory Seth Godin reference. It didn’t take long to find a post from Seth that (again) summed this up better than I could:

Fledgling sushi chefs spend months (sometimes years) doing nothing but making the rice for the head chef.

If the rice isn’t right, it really doesn’t matter what else you do, you’re not going to be able to serve great sushi.

Most of the blogging and writing that goes on about marketing assumes that you already know how to make the rice. It assumes you understand copywriting and graphic design, that you’ve got experience in measuring direct response rates, that you’ve made hundreds of sales calls, have an innate empathy for what your customers want and think and that you know how to make a compelling case for what you believe.

Too often, we quickly jump ahead to the new thing, failing to get good enough at the important thing.


Categories: Basics, Strategy

Marketing vs. PR vs. Advertising vs. Branding

June 9th, 2012 6 comments
Categories: Strategy

Digital Marketing conference

May 24th, 2012 Comments off

I was recently a speaker at the Digital Marketing for Financial Services conference. I gave a one hour presentation on “Effective Social Media in a Regulated Environment.”

The presentation went very well. I also had the chance to connect with some very smart people in the field.

The amazing folks at wrote a great article about the conference, with several references to the presentation I gave. If you get a chance, give it a read.

Categories: Press, social-media, Strategy

Digital Sharecropping

May 15th, 2012 Comments off

j12EG-928AJeff Atwood writes a great article on Digital Sharecropping. That’s the concept that built many of the Social Networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Flickr. Those sites just provide the foundation, but the content on the sites is provided by the users. The reason the users provide all of the content is…

Well, that’s a good question. Why do the users provide free content (and essentially, labour) someone else’s site? Generally a site that makes a profit off that content? Why would they so often be willing to give up their intellectual rights to that content?

That’s something to keep in mind when formulating your plan. If your Digital Strategy includes building a community around your brand, you have to ask yourself very early on, why would someone want to take the time to be part of this community and provide free content. What am I going to give them in return?

It has to be a two-way street. There has to be an added value or benefit for your community to be part of your community. Or as Jeff put it so well, the user will ask themselves, “What do I get out of the time and effort you’ve invested in this website? Personally? Professionally? Tangibly? Intangibly?”

If you don’t have a good answer to that question, you might want to take a closer look at the rest of your Digital Strategy.

Categories: Strategy

What success looks like

May 6th, 2012 Comments off
Categories: Strategy

There’s Always a Better Way

April 22nd, 2012 1 comment

troll-webI was out with a friend the other day and I was reminded of a “creative” solution we implemented to an age-old problem. We had set up an online community for a client, and as is too common in communities, there were a couple of users that trolled the community annoying the remaining 99%.

We tried all of the usual methods to resolve it. Sending warnings to the offenders, manually editing and filtering, and finally banning the offenders. Of course, with the ease of getting a new email address and re-registering, the trolls kept coming back and it turned into a kind of “whack-a-mole” game.

Finally, I took a page from Philip Greenspun (author of the classic “Philip and Alex’s Guide to Web Publishing“) and got creative with the situation. Instead of trying to ban the users, we decided to just frustrate them into leaving on their own accord… without them knowing.

When a troll was identified, they were flagged in our database and we flagged the account. The next time the user logged in, they had a 1 in 3 chance of actually being able to log in, or getting a “Server Timeout” error message. If they did actually manage to log in, every page refresh had a random delay of 5-30 seconds, and even then, they would occasionally get a timeout message. The flagged users generally just got frustrated with the “poor quality” of our site and moved on.

One of our developers actually took it a step further. Trolls live for stirring the pot. They post abusive and over-the-top posts and wait for the firestorm. What if the firestorm never arrived and the other users just ignored their posts? The developer set the database so that when a flagged user posted a message, he would see his post in the thread, but no other users would see it. He would sit back and wait for his comments to start a flame war, but the other users would just carry on with their own discussions, unaware of the flame-bait posted.

The number of trolls dropped dramatically. Users were thrilled that their conversations continued without disruption and there were no more warnings issued by the moderators. And, of course, no one was aware of what was going on behind the scenes to clean out the disruptors.

It just goes to show… the tried and true methods sometimes don’t work. Looking for a creative solution based on the habits and motivations of your users often yields far better results than going with the textbook approach.

Categories: Strategy