Marketing for small businesses

This content is 9 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I’ve blogged about Milton Keynes Geek Night many times over the last 3 and a half years – and it’s still just as good as ever. Last Thursday’s geek night (number 14)  had possibly the most eclectic mix of talks I’ve seen in a while though – with a talk about Life on Mars as well as the usual collection of web design/developer topics. And then there was Chloe Briggs’ 5-minute talk about marketing for freelancers.

Although Chloe (@clever_cloggs) called it marketing for freelancers, I recognise a lot of this being applied in small-medium businesses too. Indeed, it’s only the large enterprises I’ve worked for that don’t seem to “get it”. Even so, Chloe gave what I consider to be some very good advice, so I’m blogging it here!

  • Stand out from the crowd:
    • Use blogging as a tool
    • Know your audience
      • Think about who your existing clients are and what type of clients would you like to work with?
      • Target your content to this audience
  • Look after existing clients:
    • It’s good to keep in touch
      • Send a well-crafted newsletter every month/quarter
        • Click-throughs from email outperform social media
    • Clients often appreciate a call every few months to check in
      • They will increase their loyalty to you and make them feel supported
      • You will pick up extra work
  • Productise your services:
    • Tiered packages make it easy to compare services
    • Packages provide a jumping off point to start a discussion
  • Be a specialist
    • Create your own niche
    • You can easily become knowledgeable about a particular product or service
    • Creates trust and authority
    • Increases your value
  • Create residual income
    • Sell after-sales support for maintenance etc.
    • This can be a package including other services, e.g. hosting, analytics reports, etc.
    • Retaining your services on a monthly basis creates loyalty

Hopefully these tips can help others to build their businesses and attract/retain the right clients.

Highlights from day 2 of #iStrategy London

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Yesterday I posted some highlights from my time at the iStrategy digital media conference. Having written about day 1, it seems sensible to follow up with a post about day 2.

Using content to complement your brand

The morning keynote was an awe-inspiring look at the Red Bull Media House, founded in 2007, 20 years after the drink/brand organisation, to focus on creating a media business – building a structure and organisation for the commercialisation of Red Bull’s content assets.

Red Bull’s Chief Commercial Officer, Alexander Koppell, believes that brilliant content should be at the centre of every great brand. But, with content as the company’s major asset, Red Bull found that they needed to consider how to create more; to create a platform and tools; and to handle distribution. Rather than turn to agencies the Red Bull Media House was created as a 360 degree media business with content, its own production facilities, marketing communication, publishing press, music label publishing, broadcasting, platform provision, and worldwide distribution. As a result, Red Bull is the third most influential social brand globally.

Now, as YouTube has become the world’s global video pool, it has partnered with brands to move into content creation. Red Bull is one of those brands and this is just one of the results:

Koppell summed up by highlighting Red Bull’s key focus areas of:

  1. Brilliant content
  2. Multichannel execution
  3. Reach and monetisation
  4. And a new paradigm based on Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT).

As for his advice to other organisations? Build structures, invest inside your company – if you go for third parties be aware of the risks to you as a content player – and at same time build up your asset (be that technology, events or Formula 1 racing teams!). Whatever your core product is, make sure that you can differentiate your company from its competitors!

Online video: great to watch, even better to share

The next session was a panel on video and, as is usual with this format, I found my mind wondering to other things – panel discussions just don’t engage me! I did get to a session later in the day on the topic (more in a moment) but a couple of quick points I picked up were:

  • We have always loved video but it’s now easier to distribute and consume.
  • An emotional video ad that makes you feel good about a brand is unlikely to lead to an immediate purchase – it may influence future decisions though.
  • And, as for the future of social video:
    • Expect to see more value exchanges – e.g. watch a video in preference to a micro-transaction (e.g. buying a crop in Farmville).
    • Infomercials will become common.
    • The democratisation of video creation (as the barrier to content creation is now very low) will create an explosion of channels and an amazing amount of content.
    • Brands can be content creators too and users will decide whats good or not (great stuff will bubble to the top).

The accidental social campaign: understanding the multiplier effect

As the conference moved into a series of breakout sessions, I decided to join Jonathan Wolf (@JonathanWWolf)’s workshop looking at creating the multiplier effect – taking advantage of user generated content and using it as many times as possible to maximise value.

In stark contrast to a later workshop, Jonathan took a refreshing approach to self-promotion, joking about having six slides to present about his company first, and then saying “not really” and moving straight into content. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jonathan. That, combined with some quality advice is an example of thought leadership. And it meant that I did actually read the literature about BazaarVoice rather than blanking them from that point forward (take note Wildfire and Telligent – more on Telligent in a moment…).

Jonathan outlined a couple of case studies where companies used user generated content to build loyalty and brand advocacy:

  • White Stuff‘s UHT campaign gave customers the opportunity to put their man on a charity calendar. In step 1, people contributed stories/photos and participated, but step 2 was to get people back to vote on the best stories – a second wave of the campaign (for free as heavy lifting already done). Once the finalists had been selected, White Stuff got people to come back again and vote once more (and if your partner was there you would have got all your friends to vote…). Now they have selected a winner but not told us who yet – so expect a fourth wave as they market back out to us – combined with the press opportunities as this is a charity calendar… In all, the same content has been (or will be) used four or five times so the return on investment is great!
  • Domino’s Pizza had a brand crisis in the US – so they reformulated their food and gave people insight into how things work (Amy is making your pizza, Joe is delivering your pizza) with a pizza tracker. On top of this, they encouraged customers to write reviews and the company put them on screen in New York’s Times Square. This campaign has several effects: it gives insight and solicits feedback; it is used internally as a measure of how well the company is doing; it engages employees to have pride in their work (employees don’t want their name on a bad review…); it serves as an advertisment (in Times Square); and it’s driven from the web – so the Times Square activity acts as an ad campaign in itself.

After whetting our appetite, Jonathan stopped and got us to have a go at a practical exercise. But I wanted more… the workshop was good, and well-run, but it was a lot to squeeze into a short session which ultimately led to us over-running the time-slot. Hey ho, I guess that was the brief…

Video: it’s how we see the world

In this next session, Google’s Harry Davies (@HarryDavies) gave some insight into the world of online video (and advertising… after all he does work for Google!)

He’s absolutely correct that it’s to video we turn to to understand great events (citing an example from 9/11 – watching events unfold on the TV in his boss’ office [I did that too]).

Harry’s hypothesis is that video is the closest media we have to life and that makes it “super-important”. And advertisers have long understood the magic of television and used that so that they can ride on back of great content and provokes an emotional response (for example the John Lewis Always a Woman ad) – which attempts to connect with customers on an emotional level:

Quoting from Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking fast and slow”, Harry highlighted that we make snap decisions based on emotional connections – and that’s what TV ties into. Online provides an opportunity to take the emotional journey further.

Some more snippets from Harry’s talk:

  • On average people watch 4 hours and 2 minues of  TV each day and 54 minutes of online video viewing – but half of the ads are not watched, so Google developed skippable ad format to avoid annoying users.
  • Skippable ads are  good from an advertiser perspective – getting rid of those who don’t care about your product/service and retaining those who are truly engaged (you don’t pay for those who skip).
  • So what’s next? The democratisation of video – examples include:

Of course, Harry demonstrated some YouTube functionality, like trends, charts and video statistics (look for the button next to the play count), but that was in context, and useful… so not really pitching.

Summarising the session in four points:

  1. Emotional ads work.
  2. Follow the user (where are they watching – if there is an 80/20 split between  TV and online watching – split your budget and plan accordingly).
  3. Only pay for engaged users.
  4. Develop content for the new video generation (you don’t have to stay with traditional ads – think about generating your own content – people don’t care where it came from as long as it’s good).

How to transform your marketing with social customer engagement

This session promised a lot. And delivered very little.

In short, Telligent showed us a 3 minute corporate video (with United States contact details) and then their partner (Insites Consulting) spent some time telling us about themselves… Hello? We are not here to hear your pitch!

I'll say it again: *do not pitch to me at a conference*. Use as an opportunity for *Thought Leadership*; sales will follow later #iStrategy
Mark Wilson

I very nearly walked out of the session at this point, but I stayed to listen to Insites talking about the co-creation that they did with Heineken and upcoming designers to create  the nightclub of the future (I could have just read Insites’ blog entry – and there is an expanded version of the slide deck online) but there was nothing about some of the other brands mentioned in the conference brochure (Heinz, Unilever).

I’ve used Telligent’s software (Community Manager) in the past and I hope it’s a lot better now (that was in 2003). I won’t be engaging with them though based on their performance at iStrategy. And next time I see a presentation is being delivered by a “Sales Director”, I should know better than to expect anything other than a pitch…

The iPitch

Post lunch, the conference moved in to a Dragons’ Den-esque session with six companies each given six minutes to pitch their product. It was a bit of fun – and quite interesting, although, by this point I had one eye on the clock as I needed to leave soon…

Redefining marketing success: why ROI and marketing don’t always belong in the same sentence

The first thing that this panel did was to redefine the topic to “A decade of focus on metrics (measurement, accountability and ROI) is inhibiting innovation and progress in social…”

Moderated by Thomas Brown (@thinkstuff), the panel included Georgios Kolovos (@gkolovos) Azeem Azar (@azeem), Delphine Remy-Boutang (@delphineRB), Joshua Graff (@joshgraff) and Marc Munier (@marcmunier) and there were some interesting points put forward.

Some of the key points raised in this debate included:

  • The Days of Don Draper are over – we need goals, not just eureka moments – and what better goal than ROI? Combine this with an iterative process to get closer to that goal.
  • Metrics make sense when you know what to do and you have done it before but don’t make sense for innovation. To deal with this and avoid being late to the table 90-95% of time needs to be driven by metrics (in order to be operationally efficient) but 5-10% should be around experimentation, within a framework and with the right people.
  • Scale is an issue – in a large organisation it’s not so much about new ideas but ideas that are scalable. That means that a rigorous approach to assessing innovation is needed, and process and rigour come with ROI. Marketers need to be bold enough to agree that others brought an idea to market and also to say it’s not viable for us.
  • Perhaps, consider a “return on ignorance”, which also has a cost. Eurostar spent €6n to reduce journey times but meanwhile customer feedback suggests they are less concerned about journey times and want Wi-Fi on trains. We need to listen to our customers – not so much for the I in innovation as the C in collaboration.
  • It’s not either/or (ROI or not) but striking a balance: data vs. creativity; and data vs. innovation. Data driven marketing decisions help drive innovation by better understanding consumer behaviour, segmenting customers and what they are doing, we can be  more thoughtful and creative. Data, creativity and innovation are not mutually exclusive and the greatest innovations come from a balance: work with data, innovate and then mesh with creativity.
  • Marketing needs invest ahead of curve (unlike sales, finance, customer service, etc. who can ramp up as need to based on sales, invoices, customer interaction, etc.).

Going global: how Ford Motor Company sets the tone for a global social media strategy

I had to leave early and missed the final keynote, scheduled to be delivered by Scott Monty (@ScottMonty) from Ford although I understand he was unable to travel and Alex Hultgren (@AlexHultgren) stood in for him.  Even so I’m sure it would have been a pretty interesting close to the conference as Scott’s story at Ford is an often-quoted case study on crisis management and I’m sure they have a pretty good grip on social media with lots of advice for the rest of us.  In leui of my own opinions, I’ve picked some tweets from others that were in the session

#istrategy secrets to reinventing Ford Motor Co 1 - break down silos, get common vision
Kay Wesley
Universal truths in social: create strong products, create engaging content, speak like them,let people speak, & then listen #istrategy
George Ioannou
The important thing for Ford is to make the brand more human #istrategy
the social bureau
"How to make your brand more human? Showcase the humans that work at your brand." @ of @ #istrategy
Neal Schaffer
Ford driving massive numbers with Yahoo! activity and Facebook for 2012 Explorer. Outperformed a Superbowl ad! #istrategy
Phil Taylor
#istrategy Ford gave a fiesta away in a competition on Facebook using Instagram.
Kay Wesley

Wrapping up

Yesterday I said that I had mixed feelings about iStrategy and the major letdown for me was the apparent inability for certain presenters to avoid their own marketing pitches. I’m told by one of the conference organisers that guideline number 1 for speakers is “do not pitch”. I guess you can’t help some people but it’s particularly galling when “social media gurus” and marketing professionals don’t understand the difference between promoting your brand from a thought leadership perspective and turning your audience off with thinly (or not so thinly) disguised sales tactics.

On the whole though, iStrategy has let me take stock (and think a little about my own future direction) as well as to arm me with additional knowledge about the world of digital media (although it’s also true that some of that knowledge can be obtained from free events too – I’ve written on these pages about Dell’s B2B Social Media Huddles and about Digital Surrey and those are just two examples). Nevertheless, for busy marketing professionals, iStrategy should represent a pretty good return in their (time) investment – particularly if they are grappling with their own organisation’s move into the brave new world of connected consumers and data-driven marketing.

It has a good mix of keynotes, workshops, case studies, networking and the ever-present panel (in a variety of formats) and, whilst not all formats will appeal all of the time, there should be something in there that works for everyone.

That’s not the end of my iStrategy coverage on this blog – I’ve got some additional notes that I’m likely to shape into blog posts over the coming days and weeks but, in the meantime, I’ll be switching modes, back from geek marketeer into solution architect as I fill the rest of my week with the immediate day-job concerns around IT strategy and governance…

Highlights from day 1 of #iStrategy London

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I’m spending a couple of days this week at the iStrategy digital media conference. Whilst my current role is not strictly concerned with marketing, elements of it have led me to describe myself as a “geek marketeer” in the past and I hope that I’ll be able to do so again in the future. Either way, I live and breathe “digital” and we all need to be something of a marketeer these days…

iStrategy attracts a broad range of marketing professionals and executives from all sectors (a quick glance at a few badges shows a wide range of brands that we would all recognise) and, equally, features some high calibre speakers. Its multi-stream approach is both a blessing (allowing delegates to attend the sessions that mean most to them) and a curse (inevitably some sessions run up against one another but this post gives a rundown of some of the highlights from the sessions I attended yesterday.

The social media brandsphere

Kicking off the event, Adam Burns (@AdamRobertBurns) welcomed us to Stamford Bridge, home of the newly-crowned European Champions, Chelsea FC, before international speaker and author Brian Solis (@BrianSolis) spoke about what he calls “frictionless sharing”. I’ve heard Brian speak before and he is certainly entertaining and engaging but the subtext to his talk is “buy my book”, giving just enough to whet the appetite but not enough to make anything real (some might say that’s smart).

I’ll probably write a more complete blog post over the next few days but, in short, Brian suggests that:

  • We have lost our way in digital media, confusing brand engagement metrics with likes/comments/shares whilst missing the true metrics which are about how people feel and engage.
  • The challenge for digital marketers is to design a form of engagement which provides a worthwhile interaction, to make today’s more discerning “connected consumers” come back and to get them talking/sharing your content.
  • Context is now king: mobile and web, online and offline need to work together seamlessly because, whether we like it or not, customers contribute to the state of our brands simply by sharing their experiences.
  • Great content is consumable; and great social content is sharable – alwyas think about relevance, resonance and significance. What we say is far less important than what we do.

Mobile first, exploiting the potential of the mobile economy

The next session was a panel discussion about the use of mobile technology in marketing. I’m not a fan of these panel discussions and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the audience checking his email etc. as five people sat on the stage chatting amongst themselves with very little audience interaction…

The most useful points (for me) can be pretty much summed up with a tweet:

Yes! Apps vs. HTML5: not an either/or; make mobile site work (concentrate on UX); mobile accessible; apps about rich experience #iStrategy
Mark Wilson

(I’m not sure, but I think most of that was based on comments from Mastercard’s James Davlouros (@james_davlouros).

The (real) value of social media

Introduced by Alistair Beattie (@bicameralman) from Tribal DDB, this break-out session was a workshop looking aiming to ”look beyond the value of media in social media.” and to reconnect with the importance of the social graph, and with marketing as a whole.

Re-enforcing some of the messages from Brian Solis’ keynote, Alistair highlighted:

  • Interaction: the 200 top brands only get 1.3% interaction on Facebook and other social platforms – and that’s likes, commenting is even lower.
  • Reach: fans are only a small portion of the available market – and pages naturally reach just 5-20% of those fans.
  • Loyalty and advocacy: purchasing frequency doesn’t increase after becoming a fan – and, because of a phenomenon known as edgerank, likes aren’t actually seen by 250 friends – the real number is closer to 16 as not all friends will see that status update.

Regardless of the above, social media is still a powerful medium. When considered with the “Four Ps” of promotion, product, price and place we can use the social graph to improve connections and the session broke out into groups looking at how to apply this principle to a second tier shoe brand looking to retain and attract 16-24 year-olds to its brand.

Open innovation: how EMI learned to love APIs

Betrand Bodson (@bbod)’s case study session was another one that warrants a more complete examination in a separate blog post – and I found it very interesting to hear how EMI Music has managed to create an environment for open innovation (OpenEMI) in a market sector that is traditionally considered slow to adopt new business models.

By creating a secure, managed environment (a “sandbox”) for developers who have signed up to OpenEMI, the company provides a brief and content to for the creation of commercial apps for iOS, Android and the web.

The system is based on a partnership approach with regular reviews and a 60/40 revenue split between EMI and the developer/platform owner:

  • Developers are responsible for the apps, engineering, product development, upgrades and maintenance.
  • EMI provides content, manages the clearance with rights holders, and markets the app
  • The EchoNest provides a technical platform and tools, intelligence on app trends, and facilitates the creation of a network of developers.

Incidentally, one of the other case studies in the same slot examined at how Macdonalds used crowdsourcing in Germany for its Make Your Own Burger campaign – and the challenges that presents to the business if adopted more widely. I would have liked to have heard that talk, but there’s only one of me so I can only be in one place at one time! Nevertheless everyone I spoke to who attended seemed to find it interesting.

Social unleashed: unlocking the transformative power of social media

After a pitch-side lunch, the afternoon keynote was probably the biggest disappointment of the day and, based on the RTs I received, I was not alone in my view that hijacking a keynote to promote your product is unacceptable – even if you have paid a lot of money to sponsor an event.

In fairness to Wildfire’s Doug Laird (@dougbytes) he was a substitute speaker but instead of using the keynote as an opportunity to be a thought leader he simply marketed Wildfire’s social media marketing platform and, ultimately, put me off any future engagement.

If “earned media” is the holy grail of social media marketing – exposure via word of mouth marketing – maybe 13,000 brands can’t be wrong but it all felt a little “me, me, me”:

Adaptive brands: delivering contextual value in a shifting world

In what was probably the best session I attended at the first day of iStrategy, Neil Clemmons (@neilclemmons) from Critical Mass got me on board right from the start when he said that everyone has a list with two columns: urgent (those things you need to do to hit your numbers) and important (those things that will become urgent if you ignore them).

Neil’s presentation was about the “important” things and examined how the 4Ps (used in the morning session on the value of social media) no longer apply – how brands need to adopt new attributes to adapt to a changing market as the emphasis moves from product to service to serving.

Much better than any synopsis from me, Neil’s team had his slides on Slideshare soon after he finished – and I recommend you take a look:

(It struck me as a little odd that fewer speakers are sharing their decks this way – after all this is a digital marketing conference…)

[At this point I missed Didier Drogba being interviewed an photographed on the pitch about his impending departure from Stamford Bridge!]

#istrategy Drogba on the pitch. Might be the last time we see him here. Id like £250k a week!
Robert Arwel Hughes

Data and creativity: the near future of display advertising

Micheal Steckler’s session was full of insight into the future of display advertising as the data held on each of us allows for more personal approach.

Michaels own final thoughts make a good summary in that:

  • The data you own is still the most powerful.
  • Consider that most activity is talking to existing users online.
  • Differentiate creative, offer and pricing by user group (this is the future of display ads).
  • Use sophistication to marry data insight and creativity.

The social club

Hosted by Adam Burns, the final session of the day actually made the panel discussion format work (more chat-show style than discussion around the table). Some of the highlights from Gillian Muessig (@SEOmom), Kerry Bridge (@KerryatDell) and Azeem Azhar (@Azeem) were:

  • Corporate values have to match brand values – we can tie employees up with social media guidelines but not their friends, family – or our customers… and they will talk about their experiences.
  • When people come to your “place” to discuss something (your website, your blog, etc.) then you are the centre of the conversation… be that place for your industry or topic…
  • Dell trains employes in social media just as they do for presentations…
  • For proof that word of mouth is real – Telenord found that if someone has a frind with an iPhone, they are twice as likely to buy one themselves within the next 90 days. If they have two iPhone-toting friends, they are five time more likely – and that’s based on real world conversation (not social), together with Telenord’s insight nto phone data (i.e. who calls who).
  • We are putting more online… expect to see more companies seamlessly segment users – not as rough as influence engines but in same way might by, for example, postcode, today…
  • We often compare influence scores with credit scores but Experian would never disclose your credit score – that’s a key difference with influence engines (and credit is due to Azeem for his transparency and honesty in highlighting this!)

End of day 1

At the end of day 1, I have mixed feelings about iStrategy. As an event it has a lot of potential, but I’m not convinced the mix is quite right (maybe, given the early start, providing some breakfast might have put me in a better mood!) – and I’ve already given my views on Wildfire’s abuse of the afternoon keynote. Even so, I got a lot of value from some of the other sessions, so it can’t have been all bad – and I am writing this on my way back to London for day 2 after all! Watch this space for highlights from day 2 (and some more of the detail from day 1 too).

12 tips for digital marketers (@allisterf at #digitalsurrey)

This content is 13 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

In yesterday’s post about marketing in a digital world, I mentioned Allister Frost’s 12 tips for marketers but didn’t go into the details. You can find them at the back of his deck on SlideShare but I took some notes too so I’ve added them here:

  1. Invest in social leadership and social players – it may be you, or it may be somebody else who sets the strategic direction but find people with energy and enthusiasm to make it happen. Do not confuse the two roles: if you’re the social leader don’t play as you’ll lose sight of the strategy.
  2. Invest in tools and expertise – ask tough questions of vendors selling tools.
  3. Develop your social recommendation optimisation (SRO) strategy – optimise everything so it become recommended through social channels. Not to be confused with social media optimisation (SMO) which is short-sighted (too focused on channels).
  4. Listen, then engage – don’t assume you know the answers – understand the channel first.
  5. Answer the social telephone – if a phone was ringing, you would pick it up so treat social in the same way to avoid losing opportunities.
  6. Moderate wisely – if you don’t, your brand can become associated with spam.
  7. Create social objects – think about how they get to customers. May be a video, a white paper, or something else…
  8. Make it better when shared – thank, reward and encourage.
  9. Handpick your interfaces – go and find the channels where your audience is.
  10. Be remarkable – do things that people remark upon.
  11. Show some personality – there is a balance between appearing as the juvenile delinquent or the company robot and you can move – just don’t stay at the extremes.
  12. Fail fast, learn faster – continuously pilot-test (again and again…)

Marketing in a digital world (@allisterf at #digitalsurrey)

This content is 13 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Last Thursday was Digital Surrey night and this month’s speaker was Allister Frost, Head of Digital Marketing Strategy at Microsoft.  Allister gave an engaging talk on “doing marketing in a digital world” and, whilst there might have been a couple of things I wasn’t entirely convinced of, I’m not a marketing professional (even if I spend a good chunk of my day in what could be described as marketing) so I’ll defer to those with more experience.

Allister has kindly shared his slides, along with some supporting materials – which makes my task of blogging about the evening a lot easier, but I decided to have a play with Storify for this one:

I’m in two minds about this approach to curating the information from the evening… it took just as long as writing a blog post and all of Google’s (sorry, Bing’s) link love goes to another site… but it was worth a try (and it’s definitely a great tool when most of the content is already spread around the web). If you have any content from the evening that I missed, please get in touch and I’ll add it to the story.

[Update 22 December 2017: Storify is closing down. I exported the content in HTML and JSON format but many of the links are now dead (many years have passed) so there’s little value in recreating this post]