Is this the hottest brand hitting Australia right now?

There aren’t many growth stories quite like Qualtrics.

In January 2010 they had 37 employees, by December 2013 there were 260 employees and now (Oct 2014) there are over 550 employees. They’re going through hyper-growth and there are no plans to slow down.

The Utah-based start-up, which produces cloud-based survey software, recently secured $150 million in venture capital. The new stream of funding has been allocated to product development and overseas expansion.

In addition to the HQ in Utah, last year saw expansion to Dublin; the office grew from 3 to 50 employees in a year – next year the aim is to be around the 100 mark.

They’re now about to take on the same mission is Sydney.

Bill McMurray is the man tasked with the job.

Starting out as just a team of just three renting out office space in the Sydney CBD.

However, that’s all going to change pretty quickly.

“I’m currently in the process of securing 8,000 sq ft of office space in Sydney. We’re unlike most organisations that taper at around the $100 million mark – Qualtrics is still going through rapid growth.

“We’re aiming to be over 50 employees in Australia within 12 months and then we’ll start building out local operations in key APJ countries.” Explained Bill.

But the team aren’t starting from scratch, deployment has been years in the making and they already have an impressive 250 active customers here in the region.

Bill explained how people have been at the core of the organisation’s success and are consistently provided opportunity at the same rate as business growth:

“It’s the people that have really driven this business. They’ve been tapping away and built up a great base before we even arrived. Opportunities are passed down to the people in the organisation, I’m a firm believer in promotion from within.”

Tim’s story

The man behind the mission…. And it’s not who you’d expect.

Tim Pales was a man with a plan. It started back when he had one year left of his course studying Chinese and Business at BYU. Like most students Tim took a part time job.

It was 2008 when Tim joined Qualtrics – as employee number 29. He’d be at school all day and on the phones all night. The night calling was a very deliberate decision for Tim “My interest was always APAC. I had lived and studied in Asia and coupling that experience with my focus on business in school it seemed like a good fit. Seeing how rapidly the economies in Asia were growing, I knew there would be good opportunities there.”

“We first focused on academics and we successfully managed to land pretty much all of the major universities in Australia and New Zealand.”

The last three years have been spent managing his own sales team whilst building business in Australia, without so much as an office space here.

With continued success year on year, it wasn’t long till Tim became a senior manager. The mission never faltered “The goal has always been to create a problem so we had to come here. It got to a point where (after pushing it for three years) there was enough of a customer base in APAC. The appetite was there, the time was now – it was time to go.”

Whilst excelling quota for both him and his team members, Tim and John developed a full business plan for launch here in Australia. Part of that plan – hire an exec: “Qualtrics needed executive leadership on the ground in Australia. I have been fortunate to manage teams but I wasn’t the guy to strategically launch Qualtrics here. I found myself in the unique position of helping our executive team hire my new boss.”

Sitting with the team of three in their temporary rented office in Sydney, you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking you were chatting to a group of guys about to start their own business. Bill McMurray jokes “We see this as we’ve just started private school and have our parents financing – we’re all so interested in this region, it’s exciting to lead the launch here.”

Coming soon…. John’s story

This was John’s first role out of university. Like most he started in entry level sales 3 and a half years ago.

Over the course of the last 21 months he’s had 4 promotions.

How? The company has a really clear development path, it’s not based on politics or people leaving – it’s based purely on performance.

Every quarter you’re given a quota. Hit the quota of the level above you for 2 quarters, you get promoted. It’s that simple.

John played a big role in developing the business plan and now as part of the landing team, is a big part of leading the roll out in the region.

Article published on behalf of Salient Group, we connect great talent to fast growth brands. If you’re interesting in hearing more about brands like Qualtrics sign up here.

The 5 lessons I learnt interviewing 239 people.

Interviewing was a task that completely daunted me.

I still remember my first one, it was speaking to a guy called Fred who was set to present at a Retrofitting conference. When I heard that Fred was well known for a particular area of façade design and that it was my job to get some content from him.. I Panicked. I went out and bought a pack of highlighters and decided that this was it, make or break time for if this was something I could do.

3 years and 240 interviews down the line it’s become a passion, I’ve been pretty lucky getting to fire questions at Hospital Chiefs, University VCs, Finance CEOs, CMO’s, Government Leaders, EAs and a whole host of techy people.

A few tips matter, no matter who you’re interviewing.

Do your research
Why highlighters? It was apparent from the off that research was going to be key. We’re very lucky to have a host of background research available. Start with the company website, narrow in to the name of the person you’re interviewing – check if they’ve been in the press recently, if they have a blog, an active LinkedIn, a mention on their company newsletter. Prepare.

You don’t need to become a subject matter expert, you just need to know what makes this person unique – What makes them special? Why are you interviewing them In the first place? Use this to prepare your questions.

Why? Quite frankly you don’t want to look like a fool. Also, the key part of any interview is finding the ‘sexy’ angle. You won’t find it if you haven’t researched what’s already out there…

Be nice
Be friendly and approachable. I approach every single interview wanting it to be a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

Over the years I’ve been amazed by the amount of CEO’s and pretty influential leaders that still feel nervous in front of the camera. It’s not just you that feels nervous, and it’s important to put people at ease.

See the interview as ‘a chat’ and communicate that to the person you’re asking the questions to, right from the off.

Why? In addition to it being a much nicer experience for everyone involved, you’ll find people will relax and open up more – telling you the real stories, not the brand approved ones. They will also be more likely to work with you in the future.

Listen
The difference between a Q&A and an interview is huge.

I’ve always sent questions in advance, allowing time for preparation and to instil some ease. However, I understand that by doing this, it means I may end up with responses prepared by the Communications team. That’s why you have to listen rather than just move through the questions and take the answers, listen and ask follow up questions – drill into each answer.

Information you find out during an interview can also benefit wider departments.

Why: Again, it helps you find the angle and ask follow up questions. It also helps to generate future content ideas. Once someone has given you their time to be interviewed – pick their brains, make the most of being with them.

Use a formula
Each interview should be personal, no doubt about it. But there’s nothing wrong with having a bit of a raw framework to your question development – it helps you develop the content following the interview. Mine goes a little something like this:

Overview of Journey

Macro impact

Challenges

Above and beyond

Lesson Learnt

For example, the challenges question may end up being something like:

Change Management was clearly one of the biggest challenges of the project – could you tell me a little about the strategy you had in place and what hurdles you were faced with along the way..

Go the extra mile
It’s the simple things that count here, share a copy of the video – edited and raw footage, add some value to the experience.

Communicate where it’s been used and what the feedback is.

Being interviewed can be a real personal development tool. It will also increase your chances of getting the video shared with new networks. People are generally more than happy to self-promote, exponentially increasing your coverage.

I’ve changed my mind on content.

I didn’t start out in content. I didn’t even know I liked it till a few years ago, but always enjoyed the basic principle of telling stories.

It started at the age of 13, although granted that was mostly my brother and I telling porkies – the most elaborate stories to see what we could get away with. Completely fabricated but entirely fun. (Sorry mum)

In my first content role, I soon learned a side of storytelling previously undervalued – honesty. I was pretty lucky in the role, with access to some of Australia’s most interesting professionals. It opened my mind to the story in somebody’s day to day. What’s nothing to them, is something to someone else.

Writing came second. I actually used to hate writing. But then I realised it was just because I didn’t like the theory style writing your conditioned to use during university. I soon discovered the joys of writing a sentence based on opinion, rather than the pages of what someone said in a book.

The most enjoyable part has been meeting people, getting to know their journey then sharing their story.

The aim – get insight from one experience that will add value to someone else on a similar journey. Essentially, offer solutions where no one else can.

Year on year a new wave of tips and best practices have emerged as more and more content has emerged, and whilst I agree with it tactically. Recently I found myself changing my opinion on the underlying principle of producing content

It all started when the LinkedIn publishing platform extended. I found myself not getting ‘value’ from 90 per cent of the articles, yet kept coming back and soon found that I was visiting for a different reason, I was drawn to the stories

I used to think good content was a piece of content that solved a particular challenge, something that offered value for a particular circumstance. A how to, top tips, whitepapers etc.

The simple truth is everybody likes a story.

At every stage of life, you just never grow old of them. And rightly so.

It’s a huge opportunity that excited me as a content marketer.

As an example, my personal standout is GoPro. I remember seeing the video of thekitten being resuscitated. I immediately liked the brand.

Over time I’ve always watched their videos, never once giving me a ‘value takeaway’ on how to take better photos or edit great films. They never gave me a CTA, they never ensured there were banners across all my touch points. I didn’t get a sponsored Facebook post, or a timely email with a discount code. If there is a funnel, they’ve sure disguised it well.

But I want one, granted maybe i’m being greedy. But I want to make videos that capture a moment the way they do. I’m completely sold. All because they told me a few well told stories.

Don’t get me wrong, couldn’t agree more that strategy, analytics and all those things have a huge role to play in helping us get the right content to the right people. But it served me with a reminder of exactly why I’m in this profession…. To share great stories from one person to the next.

What do you think, value takeaway or story? What makes great content for you?

Share your thought on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141010034408-107004231-i-ve-changed-my-mind-on-content

Will universities rise or fall with reform?

Underneath the surface, we’re seeing a radical shift central to the strategic direction of a university.

Sure, we know the government is going to pay less and the students will pay more, but has the full scale of change been grasped yet? I think not.

I recently caught up with one person in the thick of it; Stephen Weller, Chief Operating Officer & Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Corporate) at the Australian Catholic University. He explained:

“Universities are not yet ready for the whole issue of price competition. If the market is deregulated on price, it’s going to fundamentally change how we work, and I don’t know if we have that expertise yet.

“As a result of a competitive market, universities are much clearer about value proposition, marketing, experience, the use of technology etc, but there’s a lot of work around monetising which we’re yet to do.”

Preparing for the unknown

The change is driven from government paying less, which will be a deficit made up by the student; an area Stephen warns is not currently front of mind:

“From a university perspective, we’ll get the same amount of money, because we’ll pass the cost on. Many students aren’t asking what it’s going to look like in 2016. There’s more concern around HECS.

“We know the price for 2015, because the government’s only changing from 2016, but if you’re a student commencing next year and the government’s changes come through, you’ve only got certainty for year one of a three-year degree.

“When people start to pay more, they will expect more. There’s clearly an issue of expectation management. It’s an area where the sector has significantly improved over the last four years, because it’s moved into a competitive environment. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Increasing expectations

Students have previously based their decisions around questions like: ‘What brand am I getting?’ More recently, they’ve asked: ‘What experience am I getting?’

Change will see the concept of: ‘What price am I paying?’ If the demand-driven system is also extended to private providers, it’s really going to put the emphasis on value.

Another value factor to battle is recruitment ratings. University was effectively a guarantee to get the right job. Declining graduate employment rates (despite many coming from additional macro factors) will put the spotlight on guarantees on return.

“The student experience has come in line with the way learning is delivered, but there’s still a strong desire for the university experience. The focus will be on the end result, looking at how many students got placed in a job after leaving each university. Students will be able to benchmark campus for campus and be much savvier in that regard.

“There’s huge potential for a positive change from all this, making ourselves more nimble and responsive in the same way other industries do. We can really thrive,” Stephen explains.

Becoming a more commercial entity

Terms like commercial entity, ROI and managerialism haven’t been top of the list in terms or describing a university, but Stephen confirmed its language that’ll start to be widely used:

“Universities are either incredibly bureaucratic or incredibly resilient. My view is they’re both. They can be slow to move; they’re traditional institutions. But they don’t have to be. We responded to amalgamations and demand, and as a result our university has grown from 12,000 to 30,000 students.

“The key is going to be to understand cost. What does a Bachelor of Business cost? At the moment we don’t have to work out what it costs, because the price is fixed.

“That whole notion of how you bundle price and meet expectation; that’s new to the sector in Higher Ed. It’s also new to the consumer. The key message I would say is: you have to be student-centric. You can’t just say it. Put the student at the centre of your business and ask yourself: what is the student’s return on investment? What are they going to get that makes us a better proposition than another university?”

Published ahead of Higher Education Revenue Models 2014

Universities missing a trick for generating revenue

Universities have always had a complex mission around the mix of what they do; from teaching through to research and community engagement. We’re now seeing a new type of demand – that of economic development.

For the Group of Eight and other Universities there’s going to be a growing focus on strengthening collaboration with business and contributing to productivity in the economy. International links also look set to contribute more significantly.

To gain a little more insight on where the potential lies both now and in the future, ahead of his presentation at Higher Education Funding,  I caught up with Robert Chalmers, Managing Director at Adelaide Research and Innovation Pty Ltd, Chair of Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia Inc and Commercial Directors Convenor, Group of Eight.

What do you anticipate to be new funding streams on the horizon?

There is an increasing focus on accessing philanthropic funding streams within universities and we’ve seen a number of major fund raising campaigns launch recently. A number of others are now going through that same process.

Philanthropic funding will be more significant in the future. If you compare Australia to the US, we’re well behind the level of contribution of philanthropy to the funding mix that you might see in the US – I’ve no doubt that will be a big focus.

In response to reductions in funding from government, particularly from a Federal level, there is definitely a lift in interest accessing alternative funding from the private sector. Either from business, industry or venture, or from high net worth individuals.

On the outer edge of new funding streams, something that may not provide a major contribution initially, but will be part of the mix as we go forward, is crowd sourced funding.

Crowd sourcing has an impact beyond just the funding model in validating the promoted concept and improving engagement, but you certainly see the potential of that with things like Kickstarter, the use of Pozible by Deakin and so on. It’s still early days, small start, but into the future, it will be part of a hybrid of different funding streams universities will be juggling.

Do you see any common opportunities missed that could be generating revenue?

When we look at the broader issue of connection and value creation – rather than immediate revenue – the alumni connections are crying out for better engagement. I speak to a lot of people about these issues; all of us recognise that’s an area where universities are not harnessing the connections they build with their students, adequately, after their time with the institution – especially in the context of their commercial interactions.

What obstacles need to be overcome to release the potential for generating commercial interest?

I’d highlight three: awareness of existing successful stories of engagement and impact, awareness of the pathways to engagement, and the focus on areas of need.

Often, universities focus their marketing efforts around the teaching and learning part of the agenda; the students. We’re not so good at marketing the benefits of our research engagement, for our partners, our clients, and the broader community. We’ll talk to research quality and our research eminence, but we’re not systematically focused on talking to the end output or impact of that research and the impact of innovation on productivity.

As a result, people are not aware of what’s out there right now, and what’s making a difference; so they have less appetite to engage. We’re now working to target stories of impact in a digestible format to the person in the street.

We need to concentrate on identifying needs in the community, and bring those back into Universities, so that we can see how we can hook research capacity up to that need and produce a result.

What’s the current focus at Adelaide? Where are you targeting your efforts?

The promotional effort is a very important one for us as a sector, to engage better.

At Adelaide, we’re also looking at our international partnerships, especially the more promising ones, in areas like the US and China. International connections are one of the fastest growing areas of engagement and income. However, we still suffer from tyranny of distance, and there may be some cultural competencies that people need to develop a bit better to engage in the region.

We’ve also done a lot more joint networking sessions with industry associations – to try to bring researchers together with those needs in the industry. The aim is to reach out and understand what the needs are, and then connect capability to them.

4 marketing essentials from Google, Facebook and LinkedIn

Today marks the start of our 2014 Digital Financial Services Summit and as a content marketer it’s a personal favorite from our portfolio.

This morning kicked off with Google, LinkedIn and Facebook all talking about their latest developments and it was interesting stuff. It genuinely makes me excited to be working in this field.

There seemed to be some real change in the room from even just 12 months ago. People are really starting to ‘get it’ when it comes to smart, customer centric marketing models but a few key things really stood out.

The linear funnel is dead.

Ok, maybe that’s slightly dramatic but we can’t just move people down a linear path any more. Just like digital in its essence, we’re currently going through exponential growth in the way we service and market to customers. Connecting on a ‘flight path’ now seems more accurate than taking through a funnel.

For example, statistics demonstrate that people on average have taken themselves through 60 per cent of the overall buying cycle by the time they engage with a brand. Using a flight path approach will allow companies to connect across more or those touch points rather than assuming they can be pushed through a linear funnel. It also offers the best chance of being in mind before 60 per cent of the decision has been made.

It’s perhaps these sorts of statistics that drove Barclays Bank in the UK move 25 per cent of their service desks straight into one of the leading supermarkets, Asda.

Content is not.

Content marketing is the leading marketing tactic. It’s been around for years, probably around 150 but in 2014 the barrier is low and the ROI is high.

In Australia, Facebook users who log on everyday (85 per cent of overall users) log on 14 times. There’s a constant hunger for keeping updated and consuming knowledge.

Even on LinkedIn, well known as being a place of job opportunities – Content is currently viewed 7 times more than jobs posts on the platform.

So what’s going to make good content going forward? It’s still the same principle – helping someone and offering value. To tie in with the omni style flight path, and 50 per cent of traffic now through mobile, we’re going to see the rise of Big Rocks. In other words, those big pieces you can slice and dice 5-10 other ways. This generally starts with an eBook, but then splits into articles, videos, webinars, infographics, podcasts etc.

We’ve still got emotions

Many a marketing team is trying to get a grasp on data, targeting, segmenting and creating various different buyer personas. However, some of the most successful marketing campaigns of the year have played more on our emotive sides, a reminder to never forget the powerful impacts a heartfelt campaign can have.

The latest example is the #TDThanksyou from Canadian Bank TD. And yes, I challenge you to watch it without shedding a tear – I failed (6 times). The video with the tagline ‘Sometimes you just want to say thank you’ has had over 10 million views and doesn’t play on any of the features the bank can offer with smart analytics or intelligent services. Nope it focuses on positive awareness and brand reputation, but I tell you what – I’d bank with them!

Mobile mobile mobile

I wish I’d started a kitty for $1 every time the word mobile was mentioned. Mobile has very much become our primary screen and we need to make sure every single landing page is optimized for that.

In any customer centric model, to be with the customer from the start of the journey, there absolutely has to be a massive focus on mobile. It’s about ‘information that moves with you’ – get that wrong and you’ve lost that customer forever.

Drawing on finance as an example, search results show that ‘home loan’ as a term was very much a Monday-Friday search. It completely dropped off at the weekend. However, we’re now seeing a consistent level of search results 7 days a week – this is causing the home lending companies to move into real estate listings to be there on the day as the person is looking at a house – being a mobile tap away from seeing if the buyer will be accepted for funds as the notion pops into their head.

Google are working on a next generation mobile concept for our everyday lives with phones connecting into the internet of things. ‘Project Tango’ (and you can find more here https://www.google.com/atap/projecttango/#project) uses visual cues to map out interactions. The goal of Project Tango is’ to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.’

Only time will tell the next big trends to make an impact, but no matter what tech occurs, it’s never been more important to start planning for being agile as a business. There are things that aren’t in the market yet, but the only way you can take advantage is to set a flexible working model now.

Last note – Did you know that if you’d have bought 100 bit coins in 2010, they’d be worth 761,000 now!?

Join the conversation @digifinance #digifinance

Universities and the Olympics have more in common than you think

Holly Knight, Manager Campus Planning and Strategy at Murdoch University is certainly someone who knows about delivering sustainability. Having recently joined the team at Murdoch University, her first major task is to develop the Murdoch University Campus Masterplan. Holly has spent 15 years working on sustainable development in the private and public sector, and was most recently Head of Sustainability for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) as part of London 2012

As a result of that role, Holly was invited by the U.S. Embassy and the State Department to tour the USA as part of their International Visitor Leadership Program themed on Sustainable Cities and designed to introduce emerging leaders to their counterparts in the United States. Holly was also invited by UK Trade and Industry, the Foreign Commonwealth Office and the United Nations Environment Programme to visit Japan, Brazil, and various parts of Europe to disseminate best practice learning and in 2012 she was honoured by Building Design Magazine as one of their 50 most influential leaders in sustainability.

Ahead of the Campus Development Summit, I caught up with Holly to see where the potential lies for Australian Universities to create something as inspirational as the Olympics..

What are you excited about in terms of sustainability potential?

Design – Often people think of technology to deliver sustainable buildings when actually good design is more important. For example, asking ourselves; how can we design out waste within our structures and save on resources?

I’ve come from the background of mega construction and the concept of lightweightingbuildings saves money and embodied carbon. It’s not a concept that’s big yet in the educational space here, but it does align really nicely with creating flexible buildings, which is a core feature of education now. We’re looking to design buildings that are fit for the future and be able to modify them down the line without being wasteful.

Technology – In addition to that, there’s exciting stuff happening with technology, particularly around energy. The cost of renewables has decreased massively and it’s at a tipping point for photovoltaics. There are other countries & cities ahead of us in terms of smart infrastructure, but within our masterplan we can start to include and plan for those technological changes, for example electric vehicle networks and off grid energy supplies. . That space in university master planning is really exciting. We’re only just scratching the surface on what we can do.

What’s your current focus at Murdoch?

Murdoch is just about to turn 40 years old and a lot of our buildings are at the stage where they need to be refreshed, refitted and retrofitted. I’m looking at a number of things within our Campus Master Plan. One task is to look at our existing building stock and see what we need to add to ensure we can meet the future demands of our university. We also need to look at our social and informal break out areas and make sure we are meeting the needs of this new generation of students. The other part is our amazing ecological resource at Murdoch – the ‘Bush Campus’. At the moment it’s quite wild, but we’re starting to look at how we open up this amazing resource so that people who come here can enjoy the natural beauty of the place. The overall aim is to manage development and to activate spaces on campus for different purposes and excite people about coming here – not only for their education, but for their social experience. These are the key things; the educational and research spaces, the social spaces and the landscape and natural space..

What were some of your key lessons learnt during time as Head of Sustainability for the Olympics Delivery?

A lot has been transferable both within a facilities space and an educational space. It is a great opportunity to transfer some of the best practice learning from London 2012. In fact we worked with a group of organisations such as the UK Green Buildings Association and the Association of Project Management to develop the Learning Legacy Project, which provided

training and papers on best practice in Sustainable Development, Health and Safety, Engineering etc., they can be found here. This is open source material and can be shared for educational purposes, but also these papers were designed to help demonstrate that sustainability can be delivered easily. It shouldn’t be overcomplicated and it’s actually not a big cost and there is a lot of evidence to say you’ll actually save money long term.

In an environment where budgets are tight, most good facilities management teams are looking at ways they can save operational costs – the efficiency side of that is perfectly aligned with sustainability.

Ensuring sustainability that withstands macro changes – what are you expecting in the future?

As a key service provider on Campus, we need to be constantly evolving and responding to the needs of our organisation. First and foremost being sustainable means we need to ensure we are efficient with our funding to support the University’s key focus of research and education. That means providing smart utility provision and holistic building and grounds management.

Because of the age of Murdoch and a new Strategic Vision – it’s time to reassess a lot of our management and capital strategies and begin a new phase of planning and whole-life costing, that’s great because it almost always favours the most sustainable options. We also need to start future proofing our campus for a changing climate, whether or not that’s re-assessing our thermal strategy or going back to look at groundwater and land management from a long term water supply perspective.

Within utilities, we’re also assessing diversity of energy supply and improvements to efficiency because we’re expecting changes to the cost of power and gas. The strategy will address the challenges and protect us against them.

These are all in an investigation phase at the moment; we’ll hopefully have some answers by the time of the presentation.

You’re running a workshop at Campus Development – tell us a bit about it

I want people to see that sustainable development is easy if you plan for it and set up a clear, well thought out and achievable strategy at the start. It is also important to embrace the notion that it can create a really special place. Students and academics are generally concerned with issues like climate change, and are very open and enthusiastic about sustainable initiatives and helping out with energy efficiency. As a campus facilities team, we are service providers for those people and it’s our duty to give them a place that excites them and helps them perform at their best. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of London 2012, especially when the Games received accolades for sustainability. Sustainability unites people and it’s an area we can influence in the Higher Education Sector – it’s a real opportunity to inspire people.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 244 other followers