Future-proofing your marketing

I am sure that most commentators would agree that right now, Facebook has one or two issues! Couple these with the current focus on GDPR data privacy and, from a marketing perspective, we are definitely living in interesting times. But where does this leave the future of marketing using platforms like Facebook?

Same Old – Same Old

Whilst some will be presenting these issues as creating a seismic shift in marketing, in reality, the situation is one we have seen before and the fact is that whilst media and methods may change, the fundamentals of marketing remain the same. Let’s start with a definition of marketing:

“The science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit."  Dr Philip Kotler

This is an old definition that I learned during my MBA back in the 90’s, but one that is still totally relevant today. In other words:

Marketing is constant, it just the ways it is implemented, and the tools at our disposal, that change.

20 years ago, marketing method & tools were very different to those we use today. My prediction is that in another 20 years this change will only accelerate. So how do we manage this change and prevent our marketing from becoming obsolete?

Focus on the core

A good marketing strategy has 3 key elements:

  1. Know your market and the value you add
  2. Create a clear brand/message to communicate this value
  3. Use the best tools at your disposal to deliver this message and engage with your market

In reality, it is point 3 that tends to be most affected by changes in technology. As long as you have a clear handle on points 1 & 2, adapting your communications to fit with the latest tools available should be fairly straightforward.

So what about Facebook

Facebook is (in marketing terms) a communication tool, pure & simple. Granted, over the last few years, it has been a very effective one for many businesses, but as trust and use of Facebook decline, (as currently seems to be the case), it is likely that its effectiveness as a marketing tool will also be impacted. As marketers, we need to be in a position to look for alternative ways to engage with our markets. BSA’s philosophy is that web marketing has 2 core elements:

  1. Content creation & hosting
  2. Communication & promotion of that content and the message it conveys

The issues arise where you are relying on a tool like Facebook to deliver both of these aspects. Whilst it is great for communication and engagement, hosting all your marketing content on a platform like Facebook makes looking for an alternative a whole lot more difficult.

Future-proofing your marketing

In our experience, the key to future-proofing your marketing is to separate these two aspects and to ensure that you are 100% in control of your content and the way it is hosted.

Content Creation & Hosting

It is no secret, we love WordPress, and as a tool for hosting and managing website content, it takes some beating. One of the things we love most is its flexibility and the way that it is constantly adapting and being developed. WordPress V1 was released in 2004 (we have been using it since 2008). Over the years, WordPress has changed out of all recognition, but this change has been an evolution. The content we added in 2008 is still there and active. By using a system like WordPress, your content is protected from the changes in fashion & technology in many ways. It is these changes and updates that may lead other tools (remember Friends Reunited, Geo-cities, Friendster or Myspace?) to become obsolete. Businesses relying on any of these for their marketing engagement faced a real challenge.

Communication & promotion

The downside of hosting all your content on your own website is that you have to get people to visit your site to view it. This is where a platform like Facebook seems to be a great option for hosting. Millions of people are on Facebook so if I host my content there, the people will see it! This is true, however:

  • What about the people who don’t use Facebook?
  • What happens when Facebook falls out of fashion?

Much better to use Facebook and other social media as communication tools to promote your own content hosted on your own platform/website. Post content on Facebook, and it is on Facebook. Post it on your website and you can then easily promote this using whichever tools are currently most appropriate (email, social media, printed press… the list goes on). Using this scenario, when a tool falls out of favour and is replaced by a new one, switching to using the new tool is simple.

By separating the hosing & communication of content, you stay in control of your marketing

5 tips for future-proofing your marketing

To finish, here are my 5 tips for staying in control of your marketing.

  1. Know your market and the value you add
  2. Create a clear brand/message to communicate this value
  3. Host your content on a platform that you control, that presents your brand effectively
  4. Understand where your customers “hang out” and use the best tools available email, social media, etc to engage with them where they are
  5. Always be on the lookout for new communication tools, and be willing to use them as appropriate.

Marketing – More than just a good idea

Many SME businesses are constantly on the lookout for the next great marketing idea! As a result, (and perhaps not surprisingly!) marketing services businesses often pitch their proposition as just this – a great idea. The increasing ubiquity of the internet delivers new applications and ideas almost daily. There is a seemingly endless stream of new marketing ideas on offer. Make no mistake, there are some great service suppliers out there. They offer great marketing services but a great service isn’t enough. It needs to be right for you and your business. With marketing being core to virtually every organisation, marketing activity should be more than an add-on. Using a 3rd-party supplier to deliver their knowledge and expertise can make sense. However, as a business owner, you need to take ownership of your business marketing. It must be an integrated element of your business plan and objectives. When you are considering a new marketing approach and talking to a potential service supplier, perhaps you might like to consider the following as a route to making sure you get the most out of your planned promotional investment.

Beginning-Middle-End

Effective marketing with a 3rd party service supplier has 3 Elements

  1. Beginning – Establishing your relationship with your supplier
  2. Middle – Working to implement the new service
  3. End – Seeing the sustained process through to delivering real value to your business

With a service supplier keen to take on new clients and an SME market looking for those great new ideas, it can be easy to find the focus is on 1 and 2 because these are the areas that (ostensibly) meet the needs of both parties. In actual fact, the real success comes from 3. With the most focus on 1 and 2 things can seem to go well at first. This is when it is all about set up and anticipation. Then, sooner or later, consideration turns to whether the marketing effort is really delivering? Because maybe outcomes haven’t been thought about too much, there is a distinct possibility that the answer is No! Bringing consideration of ‘Delivery of real value’ into the mix from the start can be uncomfortable. Through this process, you look at possible results and how you might monitor progress. In essence, you consider the possibility of things not working out as you hoped.

No failure – only alternative outcomes

Actually, good marketing should never fail (in that it delivers nothing) because if you are monitoring what you are doing you should always learn! So, there is no need to be afraid of focussing on the Beginning, the Middle and the End, right from the start. Considering the whole process of implementing a new marketing idea from beginning to end can be more challenging than just concentrating on the new idea and getting things rolling. This is particularly true in the early days but ultimately a well thought through campaign is more likely to sustain because understanding the bigger picture keeps things in perspective. Good planning definitely improves the likelihood of success but even if you don’t get the hoped-for results, you will learn things that can prove invaluable in future marketing planning. In practice, I don’t believe you should ever rely 100% on any single piece of marketing. As I have said many times, effective business promotion and communication is a joined-up process linking together all the key aspects of your business proposition. Anyway, the most reliable way to get good results from your marketing is to have a well thought out plan. The next time you come across a marketing service thinking ‘That sounds like a good idea‘, make sure you give yourself some time. Consider and plan how you might implement it to deliver real benefit to your business.

Real-world SEO in 2018

Since the arrival of the internet search engine, companies have wanted to get listed at the top of the rankings. Undoubtedly this is a valuable and relevant objective, but the process to achieve this goal in a meaningful way for business development has been fraught with pitfalls. Consequently, too often business owners, enticed by the lure of quick and easy success, have found investment in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services delivering little or no real business benefit. SEO has sometimes been pitched as a ‘Marketing Magic Wand’. Since, unfortunately, there are no magic wands, a different, more integrated approach is called for. In this post we took a look at how we believe the place for SEO is changing in 2018. While it is undoubtedly true that ‘formal‘ SEO does have a role in competitive markets, particularly across e-commerce and social media where companies are aiming for wide national or international influence, this is not the case for all. While some ‘formal’ SEO may have a role, for many (or probably most) SME businesses across the UK, there may be more benefit in concentrating on regular, well-constructed content which takes heed of relevant target keywords and phrases. As a result, you can effectively combine the delivery of sustained, relevant content with consideration of the key elements of more ‘traditional’ Search engine Optimisation (SEO). Consequently, I believe that, for most SME businesses, the best marketing communications approach is to focus on delivering well-written, engaging content. This is the approach we normally recommend to our clients and we consistently see it delivering real-world results. A solid approach to content can deliver great SEO as an added bonus! Here are 3 recent examples of clients from very different sectors each applying the BSA approach…

Case 1: Specialist Machinery Engineering

Marketing Approach: A modern website, regularly updated with product data, technical information, case studies and testimonials. Marketing Communication: Regular programme of E-newsletters since 2014 Performance improvements 2014 to 2017:

  1. Website Traffic up 82% delivered increasingly by Organic Search
  2. Website Enquiry Form Submissions up 52%
  3. £0 budget dedicated to SEO services

Case 2: Bespoke Travel Service

Marketing Approach: A modern website, regularly updated with location details, travel advice, case studies and testimonials. Marketing Communication: Regular programme of E-newsletters and Social Media Performance improvements to 2017:

  1. “A healthy uplift in year-on-year site traffic”
  2. Site visit to enquiry conversion up 80%.
  3. £0 budget dedicated to SEO services

Case 3: HR Consultancy

Marketing Approach: A modern website, regularly updated with HR information, advice, case studies and testimonials. Marketing Communication: Regular programme of E-newsletters Performance improvements to 2017 – from the MD:

  1. “Year-on year growth every year since 2011 launch”
  2. “Prospects approached years ago remember me and sign up now.”
  3. “A growing portfolio of happy clients”
  4. £0 budget dedicated to SEO services

In conclusion, I know that statistics can be made to say pretty much anything and that opinions are subjective, yet the bottom line is that all of the above are happy BSA clients with growing, profitable businesses. In each case, their website is central to their marketing and business development but none spend budget on dedicated SEO services. Finally, the root of all these successes is straightforward: Simply tell your story; consistently and relevantly. I am happy to discuss any case in more detail.

SEO in 2018 – A new start for search ranking?

We are all about helping clients promote their business and build their brand by creating and publishing interesting, relevant content online. A well-recognised brand coupled with a solid reputation communicated through an appealing website is a great way to build business opportunity. However, the best content is only of value when it is seen and read by relevant potential customers. Making sure your target audience can find your content quickly and easily is an essential element of the marketing process. I recently got into a debate with a colleague about the value of Search Engine Optimisation as part of this process and whether it still has a place in SME marketing: In essence, our debate came down to 2 questions:

  1. Is organic search ranking still important in getting your content noticed?
  2. Is there still a role for the “SEO consultant” who will manipulate your site to optimise technically for search?

So let’s look at and answer these questions

1. Is organic search ranking still important in getting your content noticed?

Having your content visible on Google, in a way that gets it noticed is vital. Ask a new enquirer how they found you and 8 times out of 10, the answer will be

“I am not sure, I probably found you on Google”.

The fact is that Google is the number 1 way that people search for information online. so yes it is still important that your content can be found on the search engines; organic listings are key to this. So the Simple Answer to this first question is YES, organic search ranking is important Moving on to the second question:

2. Is there still a role for the “SEO consultant”  to optimise your site for search?

This is much more complex. It depends on many factors. To keep things focussed I am going to base the rest of this post on the assumption that the site is built in WordPress. Given that recent figures suggest WordPress hosts over 78 million websites and is, by some way, the single most popular web development platform, I reckon this is reasonable! Regarding search optimisation, WordPress takes care of much of the technical stuff:

  1. Delivers search-friendly URLs that you can edit to include keyword text
  2. Allows full control over page titles & descriptions
  3. Has a great SEO tool available in the Yoast plugin

So WordPress is a great start, but what else should we consider?

The “competitiveness” of your market

By competitiveness, I am talking about the number of companies you are competing with to be found on Google. It goes without saying that if you are the only person working to list on a particular search keyword, then appearing on Search Page one won’t be difficult! On the flip side, if you are faced with thousands of competitors, then getting a 1st-page listing is significantly more challenging.

The range of keywords you are targeting

The traditional SEO pitch is – we can get you onto page one of Google for keyword XXX. Whilst this has never been a good approach to SEO, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you are on page 1 for keyword XXX then all will be good. But this is not a good approach as this post suggests (I wrote it a while ago, but the principle is still valid). Another example is a case we are working on at the moment with a client. Through their Adwords (pay=per-click) activity, we have identified over 1200 keywords that are delivering traffic to their site. Optimising for all of these would be a challenge. However, almost 70% of the actual searches are covered by only 10 keyphrases. Optimising for these 10 phrases would make sense – the other 1190, not so much! The point here is that it is not about organic search and 1 keyword, it’s about using all the tools available (both organic and paid) to deliver the best overall result.

The Market you are in, and the scope for creating great content

In researching this post, I found 2 interesting articles that I think are very relevant:

  1. How to Rank in 2018: The SEO Checklist – in particular – point 4
  2. The Impact of 17 Factors on Google Search Rank

My takeaways from these posts are that:

  1. It is all about creating engaging content that will draw people to your site
  2. Keywords are way down the list of importance. (They don’t make an appearance until #12 in the 17 factors listed in the second article). Whilst important, keywords are far from the most important factor

The bottom line is that it’s all about content, and the more competitive the market you are in, the more important that content is. So in a more competitive market, you must have the scope and resources for creating engaging, broad-ranging content. So the Simple Answer to this second question is – It Depends

2 Scenarios…

Scenario 1 – Yours is a niche market without huge search competition

This is typical of many of the SME companies that we work with. Most are in niche Business to Business markets but even when they are in broader markets, they tend to focus on specific specialities or niches within these markets. In this environment, getting organic search ranking can be fairly straightforward, involving a process of making sure that keywords are well represented in the URLs, Titles & Descriptions of pages – As I mentioned earlier, WordPress and Yoast are great tools for doing this. Furthermore, when it comes to keyword research, Adwords is a great tool too, and often looking at a targeted campaign in the early days can both deliver quality traffic in the short term, and valuable keyword research info in the longer term.

Scenario 2 – You are in a niche market but with greater competition for search rankings

In this scenario, simply focusing on optimising your existing content using WordPress & Yoast tools is probably only part of the answer. To really deliver in this scenario, you will need to have a content strategy.  You should also be committed to delivering focused, well written and engaging content. While delivering on these this can benefit from external specialist help, this is usually in the form of copywriting and social media management rather than technical SEO. Looking back at the The Impact of 17 Factors on Google Search Rank I mentioned earlier, most focus on content, and the ability for that content to engage people and keep them on your site. In reality, optimising for search should be a secondary objective of this strategy. The primary goal should be to deliver engaging content and to use this content to connect with your audience through non-search channels such as email, and social media. This approach, coupled with an underlying consideration of the search terms you want to target, should lead to an improvement in search traffic – almost as a by-product of your activity.

In conclusion

So to go back to the two questions I posed at the beginning… There is no question that search ranking and organic traffic is an important part of the marketing mix. In many cases getting external specialist help in driving this can be valuable. However, in today’s Search environment, that specialist help is likely to be a Marketing/Content specialist rather than someone focussed on the technical aspects of SEO.

Looking to the future of the WordPress editor

In a recent post, I talked about the concept of page builders and mentioned Gutenberg – The new editor coming to WordPress later in the year. As a follow up, I found a video from a recent wordpress conference that talks about Gutenberg, and how it will integrate with WordPress to make site customisation & editing easier, couple this with the Yoast Plugin, and you have a great system for creating engaging content optimised for search engines like Google. I thought you might find it interesting:

 

We need to talk about….GDPR

The imminent implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation is one of the most talked about subjects in business just now. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on what the impact for business will be. There is a great deal of hype and even fear being generated around GDPR and B2B email marketing. Therefore, I feel it would be useful to have a look at some of the key facts in relation to SME businesses. Before I start, this article is my opinion of the regulations, not a definitive legal interpretation. GDPR is a document full of legalese and EU-speak. However, the principles are not designed to put unnecessary barriers on people doing good, honest business. They are designed to give individuals reasonable protection in an increasingly complex world. No bad thing in my opinion. There has been a great deal of ‘fear talk’  and I want to establish some balance. I am not proposing to attempt to deliver a ‘One size fits all’ approach to GDPR. Rather I am looking objectively at the regulation based on the output of key partners to the regulation including the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) and the DPN (Data Protection Network) The ICO is the UK representative on the EU’s Article 29 Working Party  – the EU body at the heart of GDPR. The DPN is dedicated to providing expert opinion, quality resources and learning materials, to both experts and non-experts in the field of Data Protection and Privacy.

GDPR is coming.

One thing is for certain:

GDPR will apply from 25 May 2018

So what should you do about GDPR in your business? First and foremost, you shouldn’t ignore GDPR. I believe there are 4 key issues to consider:

  1. Is it legitimate for you/your company to hold & process personal data as you do?
  2. Have you assessed the data you hold to check it is appropriate?
  3. Have you assessed potential risks arising from any data breach and have you taken reasonable steps to protect against any such breach
  4. What procedure do you have in place to take appropriate action in the event of a breach resulting in the unauthorised release of personal data

To look at these another way:

  • You need to be comfortable that your business operates within the regulations
  • You need to be aware of the principles of GDPR and the rights of ‘Data Subjects’ regarding the data you hold on them.
  • Your policies (e,g, Data Protection/Privacy policies on your website) should meet the requirements of GDPR
  • You should be ready to engage openly with people about the data you hold
  • You should respect the rights of Data Subjects to say ‘No Thank You’

The principles

I have read around the subject of GDPR. The principles behind the regulations actually seem to come down to four words: Reasonable, civilized, common sense If you hold information on a person, you should respect that data and only use (‘process‘ in the jargon) the data in ways that are – to quote the Advertising Standards Authority:

  • Legal
  • Decent
  • Honest
  • Truthful

The idea applies here to all data, not just that used for Advertising & Marketing, in addition, I think we should also add the principle of openness. If someone holds data on you it is reasonable that, if you want, they should be open about letting you know what information they hold, why they hold it and how they use it. Furthermore, you should have the right to oblige someone holding your personal data to stop using it – unless there is some higher legal obligation.

Must I gain opt-in consent from my data subjects?

This is a key question from businesses using data for marketing and the answer, in short, is No! Consent is not an absolute requirement under GDPR Understandably, there is a lot of emphasis on consent. In many instances, getting the consent of a data subject to hold and process their personal data may be ideal. Getting specific opt-in consent should never be a bad thing though sometimes it is impractical. Under the GDPR, there are 6 ‘Lawful Bases’ for processing data. Consent is listed first although there is no hierarchy in the list. Each ‘Lawful Basis’ has the same weight. In practical terms, the basis most likely to be relevant to marketers (B2B in particular) is ‘Legitimate Interest’

Legitimate Interest in GDPR

The GDPR states,

‘the processing of Personal Data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for a legitimate interest.’  An organisation may wish to rely upon Legitimate Interests where Consent is not viable or not preferred and the Balance of Interests condition can be met.

Note the phrase: “may be regarded as…”, so organisations will still need to ensure they can establish necessity and balance their interests with the interests of those receiving the direct marketing communications.This may be where consent is not viable or not preferred, though the DPN rightly stresses the fact that organisations will still need to show that there is a balance of interests – their own and those of the person receiving the marketing. Though the GDPR does not list all circumstances in which legitimate interests may apply, it does specify that any processing under this banner meets the balance of interests condition – are the interests of the controller overridden by the interests or rights of individuals? The DPN’s guidance document explores these ideas and gives a range of examples (though these are predominantly B2C)

Is the Legitimate Interest basis appropriate for my business?

There is a difference between B2C where you are targeting individuals and B2B where you are using personal data to actually target job roles. Consequently, in B2B it may be easier to establish Legitimate Interest relevance. In B2C, particularly where children, the elderly or more vulnerable adults are involved, if you apply the common sense approach I talked about earlier, you will see that things become more complicated. There is a template for such an assessment in the DPN’s guidance document Whatever your approach you should always be Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful – and open.

Conclusion

In summary, GDPR is not a threat to the large majority of businesses. There is a great deal of hype and ‘fear marketing‘ around at the moment. Many of the principles enshrined in GDPR already exist in the current data protection legislation. Some, however, have been clarified and extended. There are some great guidance notes available from both the Information Commissioners Office and the Data Protection Network. The sun will rise on the morning of 26th May and the world will still be turning! Please Note: The above are my own views based on my research, not a definitive legal opinion. For more detailed advice on the application of GDPR to your business, I recommend you approach a GDPR specialist.

Technology delivers usability – At a price

Let’s get one thing straight: websites, and the technologies that drive them, are getting increasingly complex. As are the demands that businesses put on them. Back in 1999 when we produced our first website (thank you wayback Machine), anyone with a text editor and a how to book on HTML could create a website. But a site that would – by today’s standards, be considered rudimentary at best.. Fast forward 19 years, and the websites have moved on. As has the technology and complexity of the systems driving them. Whilst this means that websites are now capable of much more, the skills & knowledge needed to create than have also expanded beyond “html for dummies“. Fortunaly, as is often the case much of this complexity can now be handled by a friendly user interface. In this way fully functioning websites can be created with the need even to resort to HTML code.

Enter WordPress Pagebuilders

A Page-builder is basically a WordPress plugin that allows you to manage the layout and content of your site using a friendly drag & drop/fill in the boxes interface. It will then convert this into the code needed to display your site correctly. As with most plugins, there are many options out there if you want to use a page builder. After some research, we have come up with 2 that we are focusing on:

WP Bakery, was one of the first page builders, and is bundled with a number of themes. It is therefore worth consideration. For our money though, Elementor seems to be the better option. There is even a page builder that is being considered for addition to the WordPress core – Gutenberg –  Whilst this is rudimentary at present, the fact that it has WordPress behind it means it is definitely one to watch. It is currently expected to make an appearance in the WordPress core later this year. Whichever page builder you choose, there are a number of things to consider. Hence we have decided to look at the pros & cons of using a page builder over getting a WordPress template custom coded from Scratch.

Pagebuilders – Pros

  1. They simplify the process of creating & managing page layouts – This is pretty much the nuumber one reason for using a page builder, they alow you to create professional page layouts using a verity of technologies including jquery and css animations & effects without the need for any coding knowledge.
  2. They give more content control to non-technical users – Using a page builder allows non technical users to manage their content without needing to resort to “coding”. Once you understand how the page-builder works, you should be able to manage the content on your website without trouble.
  3. They Allow focus on Marketing rather than tech – As we have stated in another of this weeks posts Technology should be the servant not the master. Pagebuilders do tame the technology, and so allow you to focus on creating & delivering the marketing message, putting you rather than the techies back in control.
  4. They handle the  visual complexity in your site within a plugin – Typically a pagebuilder is a wordpress plugin, thus using them to drive your layout & content allows you to use a basic theme (What is a WordPress Theme?) as a starting point. This means that all the complexity in the site is kept in one place (Plugins). In our experience, because they are more general & less influenced by fashion, plugins tend to be better supported, updated more regualrly, and become obsolete less quickly. Thus keeping the complexity in your site with the plugin arena is a good move.

OK, so those are the reasons to use a page builder, but what about the reasons not to.

Pagebuilder – Cons

  1. They restrict flexibility of detailed layout tweaks – Because the page-builder adds a layer of flexibility & complexity into the site layout, it is much more difficult to edit the site layout directly. This means that changes to the core content & layout have to be done via the page-builder removing the ability to simply add bespoke functionality. In reality not a major issue, but you have to accept the limitations of  the page-builder. Whilst additional custom coding can sit along side page-builder content. There is no doubt that it’s inclusion does place restrictions on the way a site can be developed.
  2. Adds reliance on third party support (of Pagebuilder creators) – by using a page-builder, you are relying on this being supported by the plugin’s developers, and requiring those developers to maintain & update the plugin into the future. Whilst not an issue in its self, you do need to choose carefully when deciding which page-builder to use. You must also have confidence that the support will be there when you need it.
  3. They are an additional layer of complexity – As with anything, ease of use for the end user means complexity hidden elsewhere. In this case, the page-builder is acting as an interface translating the drag & drop actions of the user into code that makes up the web page. This added complexity creates additions potential for issues & conflicts with other elements of the site. This is the key reasons to select a page-builder with a good track record for support.
  4. There is no (realistic) going back – or is there? – Once you start using a page-builder, you are pretty much committed to using your chosen builder into the future. Another reason why support is key!. Being WordPress, there is always the option to switch to a new theme & rebuild the layout of the site, and whilst the content would be unaffected, it would require a fair bit of work, so this definitely needs consideration when selecting to use a page builder.

In Conclusion

If you want to maximise control over your site layout without the need for support from a more technical partner, then a page-builder may be the answer. However, having support from someone who understands WordPress is valuable. As is someone who can offer direct technical back up when you need it. Even if you do decide to use a page-builder. It’s the 80:20 rule. 80% of the time, you will probably be able to deliver great professional results using WordPress & a page-builder like Elementor, but for the 20% of the time when you want to do something a bit extra, outside the capabilities of the drag and drop, then having someone on the end of a phone to assist is invaluable. If that person also understands you business& marketing objectives, all the better.  

WordPress continues to deliver

About 10 years ago, we used to have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) programme called OfficeTalk. It was a really good system but had a problem – not enough users! OfficeTalk was developed by techies but simply didn’t have enough marketing behind it. Because there weren’t enough users generating revenue, software development started to slow down and things stopped working. What had been a great solution to our CRM needs stopped delivering and we moved elsewhere. This is a real problem with software. Only the really big software companies with many thousands, or even millions of users, are in a position to develop and maintain high-quality, commercial software at a unit price that people are willing to pay. Sure, there are niche software products designed for a particular sector or business type but using them can cost many hundreds, or even thousands of pound a year to licence and use.

The Open-Source Model

Normally, independent coders write open-source software. They collaborate to develop a solution to a need. Often, they do it for fun! There is some really good open source software out there. However, the support behind it is often fairly limited and technical. Perhaps not surprising as open source software is free to use and development is normally a project-based labour of love! Consequently, it is most often people with enough knowledge to understand the available technical support who use open-source software! WordPress is unusual. The core WordPress software is open source so free to use. Because it works well as a way of developing a website at little or no cost, and nearly all businesses, as well as many individuals, have a website, WordPress became VERY popular. Recent figures (https://www.codeinwp.com/blog/wordpress-statistics/) suggest runs nearly 30% of the entire internet. Inevitably, such a huge user base has attracted commercial services. Not everyone wants to do it themselves and paying for help is a good option for many people and businesses – particularly because the sheer scale of the WordPress user-base means many of these services can be offered at modest fees. A real win-win The open-source base of WordPress keeps costs down but the user base makes it worthwhile developing commercial plugins. These are add-ons that add some significant functionality-even if they only cost a few dollars. It isn’t unusual to see plugins that have been downloaded 50,000 times. Even at a cost of $5-$10, this means serious revenues! All of this development also means there is a lot of investment in WordPress so there is value in maintaining development of the underlying core systems.

WordPress Keeps Delivering

WordPress has developed into a positive spiral of improvement.

  • Security Updates
  • Functionality Updates
  • Fundamental System Updates

Developers release updates every few days, keeping your website current and secure. Even if a problem does arise there are ways to roll-back to a version that does work. Your website stays live. In the meantime, the developer community is on the case and typically problems get fixed very quickly. As we looked at above, OfficeTalk is an example of an investment that didn’t pay off. It simply didn’t reach a critical mass. WordPress is the polar opposite. Even though no one company owns WordPress, there are so many people using WP and so much investment in the platform, delivering real value and generating significant revenues across the board, ongoing development is essential to maintain the value already in the system. Unless there is a fundamental technology shift at the heart of the internet, it looks like WordPress will continue to deliver, getting better and better, for some time yet. If you want to find out about making more of this internet phenomenon for the benefit of your business, do get in touch.