The Power of Dashboards

Marketing data is everywhere these days and allows deep insight into the workings of your marketing campaigns. With this plethora of data comes the issue of information overload. It is often difficult to see the wood for the trees.

In my view there are two key issues:

  1. Data Overload – there are so many metrics available, how do you focus on the important ones?
  2. Data fragmentation – each platform will have its own set of analytics making it difficult to see a joined-up view of all metrics.

It is these two issues that I explore in this post; looking at how a marketing dashboard can go a long way to addressing them.

Seeing the Wood, Clearing the Trees

The first thing that a dashboard will do is to allow you to pick out the key analytics, and display them in an easy to read format.

Most people will be aware of Google Analytics. Whilst being a fantastic platform for getting an insight into how people are interacting with your website Google’s data is not that easy to read. The sheer variety of statistics available makes getting a clear picture of you marketing’s effectiveness challenging.

For example, Google Analytics will tell you how many visitors you are getting, and where they are coming from. However, having your website visitor numbers broken down by source and charted month by month, makes it much easier to see what’s going on.

Furthermore, by pulling data into a dashboard, you isolate it from all the other metrics making it much easier to read.

And you are not just limited to charts. You can display data in many different formats, for example, tables, maps, and my favourite; the gauge.

Say for instance you are running a pay per click campaign. You could set up a gauge showing how much each conversion (enquiry for example) is costing you in advertising. Making it very easy to see if you are on target and that your advertising is being cost effective.

 

Bringing it all together

The other issue is the wide variety of platforms and the fact they all have their own analytics systems. Whilst you can see some external data in Google Analytics, this is limited to the number of visits to your site. Whilst key data, I believe you need to be “joined-up”. To achieve this you are going to need stats from the other platforms and having to switch from Google, to LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter…. to get the information can become tiresome.

Here again, dashboards are great as they allow you to use the APIs supplied by the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook to bring their data into a central dashboard. What’s more, the dashboard systems usually have connections set up with the main platforms. So usually all you need to access the data is your login to the relevant platform.

Another great use of guauges is to monitor activity on social media platforms. Say for example you have a target of posting 5 tweets a week or 2 LinkedIn posts per month. You can set up a guauge to monitor the number of posts on a platform in a given period. That way it is possible to check, at a glance, whether you are on target.

Data at your fingertips

Metrics and analysis are incredibly valuable. But remembering what you looked at last time, and how you access the data, means that reviewing marketing metrics often gets forgotten. Usually reviewed only when you have time, or when there is an issue.

There is a bit of work to do in setting up a dashboard. But once done, the data is easily available whenever you need it.  It will also be in exactly the same format as last time you looked.

The system we use – Klipfolio also allows you to permanently display your dashboards on big wall screens, so the data is there for you without even having to go and look for it.

If you would like to explore the power of dashboards, we would love to hear from you. So please feel free to get in touch

 

 

Joined-up marketing with PIMMS – A practical approach

In most SME businesses, marketing is either focused on planning or doing.

Rarely is it focused on both. Why is this?

I think it is because the marketing services offered to SME business owners are either focused on planning (i.e. consultants) or doing (i.e. design, web, search, pr, social, direct, e-mail etc.)

SME marketing is rarely truly joined-up marketing, focused on both…. But it should be!

Good marketing is joined-up marketing!

PIMMS is the BSA planning model which not only helps you plan your marketing but also creates a coherent, joined-up marketing process for making things happen – sustainably. Let’s take a look at the key elements of PIMMS – Plan, Implement, Monitor, Manage, Sustain

PLAN

Your Goals

Planning is not about having a plan! It is about thinking through your goals and defining the processes you want to operate in your business to help you achieve your goals.

These processes must be practical and logical. Things you can and will do.

It is particularly important that you write down your decisions. If you don’t, it is easy to use the benefit of hindsight to massage your memory!

If you quietly forget the actual decisions you took and choices you made, it is impossible to reflect on them and consistently adapt to reflect the reality you find.

Never forget, it is impossible to foretell the future. Planning is about defining your best guess based on the information you have and using this to decide what actions you will take to help you achieve your goals. As you move forward, you are always learning. Used properly, your new knowledge can help you make better decisions.

Goals

Why are you in business? How do you want your business to operate? What do you want to achieve, for yourself, your family, your employees, the wider world?

Your goals are the endgame of the PIMMS process. Once you have defined them, you can then set out the path you choose to take to achieve them.

Remember to make sure your goals are SMART – SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed

Your Proposition

A famous quote from Peter Drucker:

“The purpose of a business is to create a customer”

To achieve this, you need to give your customer a reason to do business with you. This is your proposition.

Remember, customers don’t trade with you out of the goodness of their hearts, they do so because they get value from you.  You might solve a problem for them, or make them feel better? Maybe both?

By defining (and writing down!) your proposition, you crystalise it. This allows you to objectively test it in the real world.

Never mind what you think, do you really solve problems and/or make people feel better?

Unless you are lucky, you will also have competitors. Other businesses who are trying to solve the same problems, deliver the same benefits as you. How can you differentiate your business to show how you deliver benefit more effectively?

Try not to think in terms of what you do. Instead, put yourself in eth position of your customer. What do they receive from you? Your perception of what you do and your customer’s perception may be quite different.

Remember what Peter Drucker says; the business goal is to create a customer.

It is the customer’s perception of your proposition that is most important.

Your Target Market

Creating a customer is central to your business. Where are you going to find your customer?

Having a clear idea as to who is likely to be your customer makes it easier to find them and to make sure you are targeting your marketing in the right direction.

In practice, defining a target market can prove challenging as there is a flip side. By specifying who is your target market, you are, by default, also defining who isn’t!

By excluding some people or businesses, you are saying here is a group of people who could (at least in theory) do business with me. However, I am consciously not planning to market to them as I believe they do not represent a significant opportunity to create the sort of customer I am looking for!

What if you are wrong? Actually it doesn’t matter. You know enough about your business that you shouldn’t completely miss your target audience, and anyway, if you do miss some opportunities, you can target them later.

Marketing is a Process, NOT an Event

Also, remember that your target market will always split between ‘People who know you’ and ‘People who don’t know you’. A good customer will trust you and that means they will know you. Building trust can take time.

It can be helpful to accept that creating a customer is a process. To this end, building a database of ‘People who know you’ and using this as a CRM* tool to grow relationships can be a great way to create customers.

IMPLEMENT

Knocking on doors

Sooner or later, if you are going to create a customer, you have to communicate with your market. OK, maybe not actually knocking on doors  (though why not?) but you have to get out there and take your proposition to your market.

Deciding what to say and how to say it can be overwhelming. There are so many different options – and so many people trying to tell you how their way is the best!

The key is to make a clear, written action plan that you are comfortable with – and then make sure the actions happen.

Remember….

Marketing is a Process, NOT an Event

It doesn’t matter if your action plan isn’t perfect. What does matter is that you get out and do something. By having a written action plan it is much easier to manage your joined-up marketing process and when it comes to reviewing how things are going, a written plan is extremely valuable.

Here are some ideas you may find helpful.

  • Different approaches will be more suited to different types of customer. If you are offering personal/professional services, a more individual/one-to-one approach makes sense.
  • Have different approaches depending on whether it is someone who knows you, or not.
  • Don’t do too much
  • It is better to use one or two communication tools well than to try to do everything

MONITOR

Measuring the Process

By measuring response to your marketing communication, you can see what is working and what isn’t.

Remember though that it isn’t just about signing up customers straight away.   Good customers may take their time to decide to work with you. In fact, a customer who takes their time in the first place can often be a more loyal and long-term source of business. It is worth the wait.

Most digital marketing communication tools such as e-mail, search, social etc. have extensive analytics tools allowing you to measure how people are engaging with your marketing.

Using these tools can help you find opportunities to build conversations on a one to one basis.

MANAGE

Refining the Process

A joined-up marketing process does not just happen. It needs to be driven. This can be challenging because marketing is also the easy thing not to do.

Doing no marketing has no impact today or tomorrow. Not responding to customers or dealing with enquiries does!

It can be difficult to allocate regular time to managing your marketing, particularly if you don’t have a marketing process. You find yourself working from scratch – and this takes up more time. Another reason why it can be easy not to even start!

Having a planned process that delivers meaningful measurement of how things are going makes it much more likely that you will put time to marketing. Even a 10-20 minute weekly review of an established process can point to opportunities that drive real progress.

SUSTAIN

Stick at it

I have said it several times:

Marketing is a Process, NOT an Event

Don’t expect instant success. You might get it, and if you do, count yourself lucky. However, normally you need to work at it.

As someone once said, ‘…the harder I work the luckier I get…’

Actually, when it comes to joined-up marketing, I think it is important not to have to work too hard. If you do, you are more likely to stop.

It is worth making the time in the short-term to build your plan and getting your marketing process up and running. This will pay dividends later. A good process is much easier to manage!

Download the PIMMS PDF and create your own joined-up plan

Want to know more? Get in touch

Where does marketing fit in your business?

Regular readers will know I am a fan of Peter Drucker. As the master of modern business consultancy, he has the advantage that previously there had been few, if any, quotable business quotes so he could simply say what he thought without having to put his words in the perspective of those who went before. He didn’t have to come up with a new angle on something. He just said it as he saw it – and I reckon he was one bright guy.

Consequently, Peter Drucker is immensely quotable on core aspects of business and marketing. He gets right to the nub of things and gives real food for thought.

Take this one:

 "The purpose of a business is to create a customer."

He goes on…

"Marketing is the whole business seen from the customer's point of view.

Taking these 2 together, I actually think it is wrong to ask the question: Where does marketing fit in your business?

The reality is that marketing IS your business!

Is it that simple?

Hang on a minute!, I hear you cry, my business is to provide this service or that product, and part of my business is to market and sell my service/product.

From your position, inside your business, it may certainly feel like this. You know how busy you are with all the tasks you do to keep your business thriving.

However, just take a minute and think about the first of Drucker’s quotes:  The purpose of a business is to create a customer. This makes sense. Without customers, your business is nothing but cost – in both time and money. It is the margin generated through profitable customer revenue that is the fuel to drive everything in your business. Whether you are a sole trader working alone, or a big corporation, this same basic rule applies. If you don’t have sufficient revenue from your customers, you run out of money and your business fails.

So, if we accept that a customer (or customers!) is the most fundamental requirement and purpose of your business, it makes sense that how your (potential) customers view your business is critical to your success. The process of getting your business messages out and therefore managing how your customers view your business is….Marketing!

So when it comes down to it, marketing is not a function of your business. Marketing doesn’t fit into your business. It is your whole business – as seen from the customer’s point of view. Ultimately, it is the customer’s point of view that is essential!

Some food for thought….

The Value of Content

Whilst most of our readers will not necessarily be looking to generate direct revenue from their content,  the importance of recognising the value of your content is still highly relevant.

It is this concept of valuing your content that I would like to explore in this blog post.

A word about my hobbies

To illustrate my point, I would like to talk a little bit about a couple of my hobbies, namely photography and playing bass guitar. Both of which I am looking to improve.

Do a Google or Youtube search on either of these topics and you will find the internet awash with “Free” resources. to help you on your way.

I started out teaching myself using these free resources available. Whilst this was great up to a point, it quickly became both frustrating and limiting. I therefore decided to put my hand in my pocket, selecting two paid resources to support my learning:

Bass guitar – www.scottsbasslessons.com

Photography – www.52frames.com

The first based on the paywall model, and the latter on the patreon model. Both these models allow for a level of free content, that can then be augmented by paid content as you get into it.

Because both of these organisations are getting commercial gain from their content, they are able to put significant sustained resource into generating it. The result being that the quality and overall value of the content steps up significantly compared to the free content available.

And the point is?

So what’s my point? As I have already acknowledged that neither of these models will necessarily work in the niche markets where most of our readers find themselves.

My point is that good content should deliver enough value to allow you to commit significant & sustained resource into generating it,  Good content has a significant cost of production, and so must deliver a return.

That return can come in two key forms:

  1. Financial Return – People are actually willing to pay for it
  2. Marketing Return – The content delivers real marketing benefit to you as an organisation as it re-enforces your message and attracts people who are in your target market, motivating them to buy from you.

Whilst financial return is the easiest to measure, it it the second (marketing return) on which I want to focus as this is where I believe most of our readers interests lie.

Assessing the Marketing Return

When you put together a marketing plan, you will no doubt allocate resources based on the value you expect the plan to deliver to your organisation. Some of this resource will be financial (paying other people to do stuff) and some will be the “cost” of using internal resources to drive the activity. In either case, there will be a cost, and you need to be sure that this is justified by the value that the content delivers.

A word of warning

Whilst sustainability in marketing is important, It is not the end of the story. Whilst using content to say “Hi its me again” has value, you have to recognise that people will read it, so if the best part of the piece is the subject line, you are not doing yourselves any favours!

Content needs to deliver value at all levels.

You are the expert

Remember, the basis of your marketing is that you are an expert in your field. Your content should therefore reflect that. As a result, the content should give the reader the benefit of your expertise thus delivering value. But remember not to “give away the family silver”. You are not providing this content as a public service. You are doing it to encourage people to contact you, and you should not forget that when creating & publishing content. Whilst interesting, the content should not remove the need for people to get in touch with you should they need your products or services.

The pay off

As mentioned above, your content should all be about increasing the likelihood that your readers will take notice and get in touch. Whilst  often subtle, there needs to be a connection between free content and your paid offering.

How not to do it

A good example of how not to do it is the website wpbeginner.com. Whilst they offer some useful content, that demonstrates their skills & knowledge around WordPress, I don’t believe that the content draws you in to purchasing their paid offerings (WordPress plugins). In fact, whilst I often end up on this site after doing a technical WordPress related search, it was only whilst researching this post that I actually realised what their paid offering is. And whilst I have used their plugins, I do not think there free content really re-enforces the quality & value of these plugins.

I do however suspect that much of their content is focused on the first business model (delivering an audience) rather than on promoting their plugins, so maybe I am being a little harsh and It would be interesting to know where their revenue comes from in reality.

A better example.

52 Frames on the other hand, constantly drops subtle promotion for its paid offerings with the free content, and occasionally makes the paid content available to everyone so they can see what they are missing. The free content is in the form of albums of community submitted photos on which members of the community are encouraged to comment & critique. However within the first few rows of the album, there are always elements promoting the Patreon scheme & content. Subtle, but it draws you in.

In conclusion

So if you are including content in your marketing mix here are 2 things to consider:

  1. You content needs to deliver value to your audience, and re-enforce your expertise in your field. So it need to be high quality
  2. Producing this content will have a cost in either time or money, so you need to fully understand and commit to the value that this content is adding to your marketing.

There is no doubt that, when done well Content marketing really works, but it has to be done both to a high standard, and sustained manner, so when developing a strategy, be sure that you understand the cost of production and the value it delivers.

If this has got you thinking about your content Strategy, and you would like some expert input – feel free to get in touch. We are always happy to chat.

 

Free software. What’s the catch?

It has long been said that…

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch”

…yet all across the internet, there are offers of free software and applications including:

  • Website software
  • CRM (Customer relationship management ) systems
  • Email marketing tools
  • Cloud accounting
  • Social media platforms

These can all be really valuable tools to assist in running your business. Many are sophisticated applications that have taken thousands of programming hours to build. How come they are being offered for free? What’s the catch?

The short answer is there may be no catch. However, the important thing is to remember that there really is no such thing as a free lunch. People and companies offering ‘Free’ software all get something out of it.

What does Free mean?

To understand what it is they get, we need to look at the different types of Free.

  1. Try before you buy

    You can use this software for a limited time before you have to make the decision to buy a licence to keep using it. This can be great to check if it meets your needs before you have to commit but there are a couple of things to bear in mind. First, the Free Trial period may be quite short so, unless you are using the software regularly, you won’t really have time to properly assess it. Second, it can take a while to set up and get used to some systems so you might find the free trial is over before you are ready to make a decision.

  2. The Free version

    This time, the free version is not time-limited but it is functionality limited. The software app comes in multiple versions with only the paid options having more sophisticated functionality. In my experience, the functionality in eth free version is always too restrictive and there is a key feature that I need which I have to pay to get!

    Sometimes Try before you buy software might have full functionality for a limited period then drop back to more limited functionality. If the limited functionality works for you then this type of software can be a great option.

    Bear in mind that free software normally includes little or no technical support.

  3. Open-source software

    The Open Source movement is an altruistic band of programmers who believe software should be free for all. they will write applications then release them for anyone to download, use and adapt. There many, highly sophisticated software applications available as open-source (Linux and WordPress to name 2). The main catch with open-source software is that the support tends to be technically based (tech support for techies!). If you can work with this, open-source software has some great opportunities.   By its very nature, open-source software evolves and can even simply stop being developed. To address this, some key open source code has been commercialised where a company will take free code and develop it into their own commercial software which they sell and support.

  4. They want something from you!

    OK, you might not be paying money to use an application but you are paying in another way – with your data! It looks free but it isn’t. Search engines and social media are the biggest players here. If you want to know more, take a look at The Great Hack – a Netflix documentary investigating the story around Cambridge Analytica. It’s fascinating but a little disturbing.

The internet thrives on monopoly

The fundamental nature of the internet is as a data communication platform. It thrives on everyone being able to talk to everyone else. Inevitably if you are developing software applications, the chances are you want as many people as possible to actively use it. In fact, there is normally a minimum critical mass of users that you must reach if you are to be successful.

To achieve this critical mass it can make commercial sense so long as you are confident your app really delivers value.  To keep your software free encourages people to use it. Once you have built your user base (and got people committed!) you can then start the process of monetising.  I have also seen situations where lots of different companies launch different apps into a particular market only to find a single company buying them all up to create a monopoly. In these circumstances, the service to customers can often decline, and/or prices increase.

Using Free Apps in your business

In general, free apps can be a great asset to your business but my best advice is that you should assume that if you are using an app as a key tool in your business, that sooner or later you will be paying for it. And let’s face it, this is no bad thing. Businesses are commercial operations. If you are getting value from another business’s software then it is only reasonable that you pay them for this value. Pay them and you will have a commercial relationship that you both benefit from. You should also see regular updates and proper technical support – both help to keep your own systems running efficiently.

I often come across small businesses where the owner will adapt the way they work to keep within the limitations of ‘free‘ software. In my experience, this is normally a false economy. Invest in a proper, supported software solution. It is much more efficient. You can focus on running your business rather than spending time adapting to stay free. Most software fees are really quite modest. If you feel it is too expensive, are you really getting good value from that app?

In summary, free software can be a great benefit to a business – particularly in the early days. However, it is important that you understand the possible implications of ‘Free’

…and don’t expect it to be free forever!

What if…..

We are regularly posting about the dangers of relying on a single resources (Facebook, SEO etc) for your marketing. But there is a brainstorming game doing the rounds at the moment – “What if elements of your business model became illegal”. That made me think about this subject again.

The aim of the game is to think about how to develop your model in a rapidly changing environment. Whilst this may be extreme, The idea of asking “What if something changed and had a significant impact on my business?” is sound. And it’s not just about things being shut down or made illegal, its about recognising that businesses need to evolve to survive.

Look at the recent Thomas Cook collapse. This was blamed in part on their inability to recognise that their marketplace was changing. People had many more options, and booking a traditional package holiday was becoming less attractive.

But lets focus on Marketing

Lots of people rely on Facebook for marketing, or on Ebay and Amazon for e-commerce. Its unlikely that these will shut down overnight, but their environment is constantly shifting.

Adicted to…
Likes

Much marketing measurement is focused on engagement, and often the level of likes and shares is one driver for others amplifying your message, but there is now a move to remove this metric. Facebook have already trailed this on Instagram and are now considering rolling it out to the main Facebook platform.

If Facebook (or any other social media platform) no longer published Likes & Shares Metrics how would this affect the way you encourage people to share your marketing messages?

Amazon

Amazon recently changed its strategy in relation to First Party Sellers. The shift meant that many sellers who where First Party Sellers were notified that they were being shifted to Third Party Seller status, and would no longer receive wholsale orders from Amazon.

Whilst this would not mean loosing access to Amazon as a Channel, it could potentially have an impact on your ability to handle demand, and the way you relate to and fulfil customer orders.

The fact is that as a marketer you have no control over decisions made by these platforms. On this basis, considering what you might do if the ground shifts is not a bad idea.

Ask What if… when the pressure is off

It can also, strangely, be quite fun to think about these things when the pressure is off, and potentially make life much less stressful when things come out of left field to affect your business:

So what sort of questions could I be asking? “What if….:

  1. I could no longer Market on Facebook?
  2. My Google ad bids increased by 50%
  3. I could no longer send marketing emails to my current list (This one basically became a reality for many consumer focusing businesses on 25th May last year with the implementation of the GDPR regulations)
  4. Delivery costs doubled – would I still be competitive
  5. Google changed its algorithms and all my search listing disappeared

The aim is to look at your business model, and think what could have a serious impact on this, and what you would do in response.

All the examples I have used above are overnight changes. However more likely is that things will change gradually. This can be even more dangerous, as you may not notice the changes until its too late!

Maybe if Thomas Cook had done this 10 years ago asking the question “What if the internet changes the way people buy holidays?” we would not have the CAA needing to repatriate 150,000 British holiday makers!

Another name for this process is Scenario Planning. A tool used by big organisations to model and build strategic plans for the future. But even in smaller businesses, the tool can be a useful part of the long term planning process.

Balancing Agility & Process

If you start a new business, ultimately the goal is probably to turn a profit. This requires growth in turnover, whilst at the same time controlling costs.

The best way to maximise profitability is to run a lean business model driven by efficient processes. But in reality, this tends not to deliver growth.

The Balancing Act

In small businesses, success comes from innovation and agility. You can have an idea on Monday and be on the way to implementing it by the end of the week. Whilst big organisations have more resources and can outspend you, the same process would take months or even years for them.

This agility leads to great competitive advantage and through that, to growth. So for small businesses, agility is often the key to growth. But there is a cost. Being agile means that your efficiency will suffer and ultimately it will restrict the ability to scale your business model. So agility on its own is not a recipe for long term success.

To be efficient, you need to install processes to manage your business. These will bring down costs and improve profitability, but rigid process can stifle significant growth.

The value of process is another post entirely. Here, I want to focus on how to balance agility and process to deliver manageable, sustained profitable growth.

Planning for the future

The key is long term planning and the acceptance that the development profile of a business is not going to be linear.

Growth at the cost of profitability

In the early days, the priority will be growth, and the focus should be on agility. The aim is to work with the market to hone your offering to deliver maximum impact. This is likely to involve being willing to quickly change the way you do things in light of your developing a better understanding of the market.

But even here, the aim is not an unplanned free for all. In an earlier post, I talked about the planning philosophy of “Do stuff and iterate“.

Yes, I do see the irony. To be agile, you need a structure to manage things. The issue is where the focus lies. The process should create an environment where development and growth are planned, but where the process supports and drives activity rather than controlling and stifling it. Without this structure, the danger is that activity will be either erratic and ineffective, or worse still will not happen at all as the day to day takes over.

Show me the money

The approach above should allow an organisation to identify and quickly transform to meet the needs of the market, and through this agility, to grow. However, it is likely that this will be at a price; and that price will be profitability.

So at some point, the focus needs to shift to building processes that put structure into the organisation, making it more efficient and thus more profitable. Whilst this step in the planning cycle is likely to stifle growth, it is a necessary step, but one that does not need to be open-ended.

Time to repeat

Focus on process should bring costs under control, and improve the manageability of the organisation. This will then allow scope to “give the organisation its head”, focusing again on growth. And thus the cycle repeats.

The result is a classic saw-tooth growth curve which in the long term delivers both growth and profitability.

The key to this process is planning. To manage it effectively, you need to understand where in the cycle your organisation is and manage your way forward accordingly. The irony continues. Even when focused on agility rather than processes, you need a process to manage your agility! The trick is:

Make sure the process works for you and not you for the process.

WordPress Gets a Major Update

In early December, WordPress moved from Version 4.9.9 to Version 5.

WordPress V5 is a major release, most significantly for the inclusion of a new post editor – Gutenberg

Named after Johannes Gutenberg – the inventor of the printing press, the new editor introduces Drag & Drop block editing to WordPress posts.

Over the weeks before the Christmas break, we have been updating sites to WP version 5 so here are our initial thoughts on the new release.

One of the issues with the existing WordPress editor was that it was a long way from the ‘What You See Is What You Get’ (WYSIWYG) intuitive editor that many people are looking for. Consequently, adding structure and style to the content of your post article while you are writing it within the editor has been a challenge. The ‘old’ editor was very simple and great for writing paragraphs of prose, and maybe adding the odd image, but anything more was pretty much impossible without resorting to plugins or HTML coding.

More Layout Flexibility

With Gutenberg – layout flexibility is addressed through the idea of blocks. You build up your content using separate blocks with different block available for different content types & layouts.

Let’s take the example of images, and the desire to layout several images next to each other in a single row. Pre Gutenberg, this was (remarkably) tricky, requiring the use of PHP or HTML code. With WP5 and the new editor, it is simply a case of selecting a “Gallery” block, choosing the images, and setting a few parameters (e.g. how many images you want per row).

Here’s an example, all point-and-click with no coding:

These flags are in-fact from our recent Christmas Quiz – If you missed it, you will find it here 

Gutenberg includes a number of basic block types by default, ready to insert:

  • Images
  • Media files (Video/Audio)
  • Lists
  • Tables
  • Etc..

This is all through Gutenberg with no code.

Furthermore, as is the nature of WordPress, third-party plugins are already starting to become available, extending Gutenberg’s capabilities.

Examples include:

These add many new ‘block options’ to Gutenberg and I am sure there will be many more in the coming months.

Gutenberg is not a Page Builder

Whilst Gutenberg is a step up in terms of functionality from the classic WP editor, it is not a fully-fledged page builder. Gutenberg focuses on the core content of your website. Making wider changes to the structure of a page (Header, footer, sidebar etc), remains outside the scope of the new editor – for now at any rate.

There is no question that omitting this enhanced functionality does make Gutenberg easier to use, with a shorter learning-curve.

If you do want more extensive page building and structure-editing capabilities, there are some great, dedicated page-builder plugins. Our favourite is Elementor (which has been downloaded by WordPress users over 1 million times)

Gutenberg may not be for everyone

Let’s face it, change is rarely popular. While Gutenberg does deliver some great new functionality, it does have a bit of a learning curve. With this in mind, Gutenberg developers have been sensible enough to allow users to switch off the new editor

The Classic Editor plugin – produced by the main WordPress development team, will allow you to hide the new editor and re-instate the classic post editing functionality.

The other way is a bit more technical – by adding a piece of code to the theme functions file functions.php:


add_filter('use_block_editor_for_post', '__return_false', 10);

The second is certainly the more permanent approach though perhaps outside the comfort zone of many.

On to the future

Whilst we are by default disabling Gutenberg on clients sites when we update to WordPress 5, simply because it is a big change, and we want to manage the switch at our pace. I think it is a good step forward, and I am sure once the dust settles, we will quickly start to wonder how we ever lived without it. 

Undoubtedly, Gutenberg is a good step forward and I am sure that, once the dust settles, we will quickly start to wonder how we ever lived without it.

If you would like to find out more about Gutenberg and what it means for your WordPress website, do get in touch.

Funding for Growth

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

There have been a number of reports recently focusing on the issue of growth in the SME arena – i.e. businesses up to 250 employees First a few statistics (start of 2014):

  • There are 5.2 million companies in the UK, and over 99% are in the SME Category
  • Combined SME Turnover in 2013 was £1.3 Trillion
  • Growth within this sector last year was 7.4% (compared with overall economic growth of 2.7%)
  • 25% of UK SME have no formal growth plan (The true figure is probably much higher!)

So the SME sector is seeing good growth even though many businesses (and I reckon a majority) have no structured plan for growth. What could be achieved with more planning….More working ON the business rather than IN the business? There is no doubt, there is huge potential for growth within the SME sector, and the government is supporting this opportunity through grant funding for growth to support strategic planning.

g_v ga mas

There are numerous funding sources available and the leading programmes include:

  • Growth Accelerator/leadership & management
  • Growth Vouchers
  • MAS strategic development support
  • Co-Investment funding

BSA Marketing is accredited to work in all of these programmes Although different in their approach, all of these schemes offer support to companies who are looking to develop growth plans, and typically offer 50% contribution to the external costs of developing the plan on a matched funding basis. Growth Accelerator can offer up to 80% funding in some cases. Programmes do tend to be timed and have a specific total funding pot so they do run out sooner or later. This said, there are new programmes launched regularly so it is always worth exploring the options Some people feel these government schemes are more trouble than they are worth but, in our experience, the application process is normally quite straightforward and when the payment of up to £3000 (or more!) arrives, it is all worthwhile! BSA understands the application processes and we are happy to help you.

Don’t forget the action plan

An action plan is a central element of most strategic planning but all to often, with the funding focus on planning, there is the danger that plans are not consistently actioned – yet this is the only way the planned growth results can be achieved! BSA Marketing focusses on both planning AND implementation. We work with you to ensure that things happen – and keep happening! In our experience:

  1. Business development results are significantly improved when a formal plan is in place
  2. The costs of sustaining effective marketing activity are not prohibitive
  3. The up front cost of developing a plan can be prohibitive

This is where the funding comes in. As we are accredited to deliver all of the above schemes, we can access funding to significantly reduce the cost of doing the initial planning. We then have the proven skills and resources to work with you to implement this plan in a consistent and sustainable way, delivering long terms results and growth. If you would like to investigate how we can use these funding schemes to help develop growth plans for your company, Get in touch,  We would love to talk to you

Planning and action – getting the right balance

In business, especially in smaller businesses, getting the balance right between planning and action is always a challenge. The default position is often, “That’s a good idea, let’s just get on with it”. Whilst this leads to a good deal of action, it is often disjointed, and its effectiveness limited. However, there is a saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail” – Interesting aside: This quote is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. In reality, there is no evidence to support he ever said it. but whoever coined the phrase, they are wise words. However, take these words to their extreme and you spend the whole time trying to create the perfect plan. As a result, you never actually get around to doing anything! The answer has to be a balance between planning and action. The trick is getting that balance right.

Planning

Planning is an important process but it needs to have a purpose. Furthermore, your plan must ultimately lead to action or it is meaningless. Here are 3 tips for good planning

  • Use a framework. Using a structured framework allows you to take whatever is in your head and get it down “on paper” with some structure. There are many tried & tested planning frameworks out there – Here are some that have stood the test of time.
  • Run your plan by someone else. When working on a plan (especially if you are working on it alone), you can get too close to it. A good way to address this is to pass it by someone else. The concept of a “Critical friend” will help to test your plan. This should be someone you trust to be honest and not just tell you what you want to hear nor just make comment for comment sake. The role of a critical friend is to ask the questions that you either avoided or overlooked when creating the plan.
  • Allocate resources. Setting a realistic and appropriate budget (time, money, or a combination) is important. There is no point in creating an all-encompassing business marketing plan to then realise you don’t have the resources to implement it. At this point, it is also useful to incorporate the concept of S.M.A.R.T. Goals into your planning

Planning is an important first step but the best plan will get you nowhere without proper implementation. Don’t forget, marketing is creative. You have to be responsive, versatile and occasionally willing to go off-piste. A plan gives you structure and guidance but don’t forget you’re working in the real world. If you stick to it blindly, you may miss opportunities, or end up going down ultimately unproductive tracks. Planning needs to lead to action.

Action

Like planning, actions need to be purposeful and focused. Here are 3 tips for making the most of your actions.

  • Be clear. Make sure the people who are involved know their roles and have the knowledge skill and resources to carry them out. Make sure that everyone is clear about the S.M.A.R.T. objectives that were set out during the planning phase.
  • Be versatile. If, whilst in the midst of a marketing programme, you see that an element of your plan isn’t working so well, don’t be afraid to modify it so as to better suit the situation. There is another famous quote stating “NO plan survives the first contact with the enemy”. In reality, when a plan is implemented, something in the real world will not behave as expected. You need to be ready and willing to respond when this happens.
  • Focus on quality. Don’t skimp. If you cut corners or regularly choose the cheap option, it is highly likely you will be less successful. One quality action will normally deliver better than three weaker actions.

If I had to make a choice between planning and action, I would always choose action. Setting off on a journey gives you more chance of reaching your destination than sitting poring over a map – but maybe having a look at the map before you start, deciding the best route and ensuring you have the kit you will need on your travels might not be a bad idea – or even just buy in some expertise and make sure you have programmed the satnav!

I will leave you with my ultimate philosophy of the subject of planning and activity, which is:

"Do stuff and iterate"