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Randall Craig

Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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Ask your CEO, and they will say that your greatest asset is your people. Ask your marketing chief, and the answer will be your brand. And ask your CFO, your value is determined by your revenue or EBITDA. But is it possible that they may all be wrong… or may soon be? (Hint: how would your CIO answer?)

The profusion of systems has led to a bumper crop of data. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and all of the other social media sites track the beginning of the journey, while marketing automation tracks the latter part of it. CRM systems track prospect and client activity, while ERP systems track both “delivery” and financials. Other systems track post-sales service activity, while the organization’s websites (internet, extranet, and intranet) generate even more data. Finally, data can be shared from suppliers, clients, and other partners, or purchased from third parties to further enrich what you already have.

While the term big data has been around for a number of years already, the reality for most organizations is that they have a big data mess.  To begin extracting value from this asset, consider your organization’s data analytics maturity:

  • Level Zero: Does not collect data.  Relies on gut to make decisions. (And sporadic market research.)
  • Level I: Collects data within separate systems; reviews data sporadically.
  • Level II: Data architecture that combines and “relates” all of the data from the disparate systems, so that it can later be used. Data is cleansed, and duplicate records removed. (The reason all this happens is that a specific person has been assigned the role of data steward/master data manager.) Unfortunately, the data is not generally accessible, except through difficult programming or special requests.
  • Level III: Specific slices of the data are exposed in real-time for better decision-making. Each user role may have a different dashboard, depending on their responsibilities, while standard reports are used throughout the organization.
  • Level IV: The data is proactively plumbed for insights, risks, and opportunities, possibly with machine learning and artificial intelligence.  Internal and external data are married to provide higher order insights and competitive advantage.

Most organizations are at Level zero or I, yet aspire to Level IV without doing the heavy lifting required of Levels II and III. Building competitive advantage through data is just not possible without an investment in systems, an ongoing investment in data quality, and data analytics.

This week’s action plan:  What level are you at?  This week, begin the process of moving to the next level by socializing these concepts with your colleagues: share this Tipsheet to begin the conversation.

This year’s action plan: Systems and data quality are easy, but proactive data analytics is a skill most organizations do not have, and often, do not understand.  Over the next year, identify a person or group that can do this, either internally or externally.

Related post:  Data/Information/Intelligence.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Does the trend to digital mean that traditional communications are effectively… dead?  That all of your traditional communication tools (newsletters, magazines, brochures, booklets, etc) are destined for the trash heap?  One only needs to look at the sorry plight of the newspaper business to see that the future doesn’t look rosy. The world has changed.

Or have we so bought into the inevitability of technology that it has blinded us to what we are giving up?  And have we left many of our key target audiences frustrated, disengaged, or abandoned?  Consider your own behavior:

  • Do you really love receiving email blasts, or are you swimming in email overwhelm and rarely open everything sent to you?
  • Do you always remember the password to every website?  And are you super-enthused about keeping your accounts and profiles up-to-date?
  • Do you really engage in everyone else’s Facebook page, Tweet chats, LinkedIn groups, and other social media efforts, or are you generally indifferent to their efforts to engage you?  (Or maybe you actively choose not to use Facebook or other social media sites, for reasons of privacy.)
  • Do you really love using a mobile event app, or do actually prefer a printed program so you can easily write notes.  (And not worry if your smart phone runs out of power.)
  • And finally, has your vendors and partners rush to digital actually improved your relationship with them?

For many people, the answer to many of these questions, sadly, is no.  Digital is not the solution to every problem, and sometimes it creates completely new issues.

  • In the 1970s, the advent of computers heralded the age of the paperless office.  Today, we have more paper than ever.
  • In the 1980s, the advent of email heralded the end of traditional mail.  Today, 86% of all email traffic is spam (Cisco, 2016.)
  • In the mid-1990s, the advent of social media heralded the age of digital connection and personal empowerment.  Today, many are spooked by their loss of privacy.

Most sophisticated organizations understand it is the synthesis between digital and the real-world that creates connection and opportunity.  And for this reason, any digital initiative needs to be planned not just from an “implementation” perspective, but also a “process integration” perspective as well, with the key audiences at the center of every effort.

While today’s hot topic might be Digital Transformation with a capital D and capital T, some of the heavy lifting is surprisingly easy, and just plain common sense.  Consider the evolution of a simple monthly “print” newsletter or magazine:

  • Stage One – Traditional:  Print version sent via traditional mail.
  • Stage Two – Early Web:  Print version translated into an “e-zine” and blasted to everyone on the list.  (And posted on the website, sometimes as a PDF.)
  • Stage Three – Process Change:  Print version cancelled, and replaced with content delivered as individual blog posts, social links, and an email summary of the month’s posts.
  • Stage Four – Measurement and Awakening:  Hey, not many people are reading this stuff anymore, let alone “engaging” with it.
  • Stage Five – Audience-centered:  Continue as above, but blog posts repurposed into alternative formats.  This may include white papers, books, events, and other digital and non-digital formats.  (And it might also mean a print version sent via traditional mail.)

This week’s action plan:  Has your rush to digital been centered on the desire to reduce internal costs, the desire to be on the tech bandwagon (eg an event app, social media, a shiny new website) or on the requirements of your key audiences?  This week, go back five years, and re-look at the traditional communications that you no longer do.  Has anything been lost? (And if so, welcome to stage four.)

Marketing insights:   Stage Three – Process Change is special because it improves internal efficiency, in this case changing the editorial process from a batch mode to a continuous one.  Stage Four – Measurement and Awakening is important because it speaks to the importance of market research, measurement, and alignment.  Stage Five – Audience-centered is important because it puts the focus on delivering value to key audiences.  Digital Transformation is not about websites, mobile apps, or databases: it is about using these tools to achieve the benefits of Stage Three and Stage Five, with an always-on Stage Four.

 Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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Checklist: 20 Top News Sharing Ideas

by Randall Craig April 28, 2017

When there is important news, how do you share it?  At the 30,000 foot level, the answer is simple: send an email and put it on Social Media.  When it comes to execution, however, many organizations miss great opportunities to get the word out. Here are 20 ways… Social Media Write a blog post about it, but tie the […]

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Leaving a Market Behind?

by Randall Craig April 21, 2017

Have you ever slipped into the assumption that just about everything (and everyone) is fully connected over the social web?  That a connection is one click away on the latest smartphone? Recently I had a stark reminder, in the most unlikely of places, that this is absolutely not the case.  For several hours, I spent sorting […]

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Activating your learning investment

by Randall Craig April 14, 2017

We spend hours reading books, attending seminars, and taking courses, but too often, the knowledge is lost, and virtually no change takes place. Must this always be the case? Instead, after you read, what can you do? Here are eight specific ideas… Summarize for colleagues Make reference notes Create an action plan – do something […]

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Insight: Improving Creative Potential

by Randall Craig April 7, 2017

  What is the one rubbish statement that single-handedly limits our creative potential? “Some people are incredibly creative, and others are not.  I am more analytical than creative.”  Rubbish! Creativity is a skill to be mastered – not an endpoint of a so-called creative-analytical continuum. In the interest of providing practical ideas to improve creative […]

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Always-on Social Media Society

by Randall Craig March 31, 2017

One of the major downsides of social media is the addictive nature of it: even when we are on vacation, we feel the need to post photos, check others’ Facebook walls, see who has viewed our LinkedIn profiles, and Tweet about what is important to us.  (We train ourselves for this by constantly checking our […]

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Blog and Social Media Errors [updated]

by Randall Craig March 24, 2017

Have you ever seen a mistake in someone else’s blog or social media post?  Or maybe you’ve been a victim of this yourself?  It could be a simple typographical or grammatical error, a case of misattribution, or a more serious case of factual error. Unfortunately, it happens far too often, for some very obvious reasons: […]

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Agile Methodology

by Randall Craig March 17, 2017

Project managers the world over build Gantt charts, PERT charts, Work Breakdown Structures.  They focus on delivering on-time, on-budget. No matter your role, is there something that can be learned from the profession of project management? In the olden days – and sadly, “today” for many organizations – the most common project management approach is […]

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Trust, Website Security, and SEO

by Randall Craig March 10, 2017

Whether real world or on the web, trust is a powerful factor. For users of the popular Chrome browser, Google recently made a change that is sure to give many people pause.  Consider the image below: for the first time, the word “secure” appears within the URL bar. Contrast this, with this next screen shot, […]

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Insight: The Business of Risk

by Randall Craig March 7, 2017

What if something goes wrong? Most people are not keen on taking risks. A small faction of people are definitely risk–takers. Whether you are one or the other, the decisions you make often boil down to one ratio: The Risk-return equation. We spend a lot of time on Return, and a lot of time on […]

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Six Tests for Testing Trends

by Randall Craig March 3, 2017

How often have you read a prediction, statement, or about a trend, and began to wonder if it were true?  Sadly, with so many instant experts, pundits, and self-serving gurus, it is sometimes difficult to tell fact from fiction. Here are six tests that can help you improve your signal-to-noise ratio: A trend is defined to be a projection from a known state in […]

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Becoming an Efficient Thought Leader

by Randall Craig February 24, 2017

One of the more popular thought leadership “strategies” is to create relevant, provoking, leading-edge content.  Not only does this provide evidence of the thought leader’s special knowledge, but it also helps attract new followers, through sharing (social and real-world), and through discovery (Google, conference speeches, and publicity.) The most successful thought leaders recognize that this […]

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Six Top Thought Leadership Articles

by Randall Craig February 17, 2017

For most people in senior roles, the holy grail of recognition is embodied in two terms: Thought Leadership and Trusted Advisor.  Yet too often, these very terms are thrown around, overused, and just perhaps, may be losing their value. Notwithstanding this, the underlying concepts are powerful – with a matching value in the marketplace.  Here are six posts that explore […]

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Bloated Websites: Transparency vs. Accessibility

by Randall Craig February 10, 2017

How often are you frustrated by websites that have so many pages, it is impossible to actually find anything? Unfortunately, this is all to common of a complaint.  Websites are often used as corporate dumping grounds for every bit of information from every new initiative, often spanning backwards into the decades.  And every time the website is […]

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Customer Service: Automated, Templated, or Customized

by Randall Craig February 3, 2017

Many organizations struggle with setting up a social media (or email) response strategy.  How do you trust front line staff to answer properly, if they don’t know the policies?  How do you have a consistent response, no matter who responds, or when?  And how do you minimize service costs, while maintaining service quality? One thing is certain: […]

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Seven Disruptive Business Models

by Randall Craig January 27, 2017

Do you see your website, CRM, social media, and other digital initiatives as a way to improve service levels, market your organization, or be a central part of your thought leadership strategy?  While important, at best these are tactical approaches:  too often the bigger opportunity of digital transformation is ignored. This isn’t surprising, as digital initiatives are often driven from […]

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Insight: Software Costs in the Age of the Cloud

by Randall Craig January 20, 2017

Software has a cost, but it may not be as clear as you may think.  Yes, purchasing Excel may be straightforward, but what about CRM, Marketing Automation, a new financial system, or any other core database that requires collaboration across the organization? In the olden days, it was relatively simple:  the application was usually custom-written, and […]

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Five Steps to Reduce Risk

by Randall Craig January 13, 2017

Are you keen on risk?  Do you seek it out?  Most people and organizations don’t – and for good reason.  Yet risk is not necessarily bad: it is part of the risk-return equation; it identifies potential opportunity… and exposure. What is bad is unnecessary risk.  This simple framework can help: Step One: Identify all of […]

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New year, new thinking?

by Randall Craig January 6, 2017

While the new year may in fact be refreshing, have you ever considered that your approach to marketing might be, at best, dated? That you might be following a strategy of incremental improvement, when a completely new approach might be what is really called for?  If so, you’re not alone.  But why? It is much easier […]

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