The many ways to skin a cat

I am quite an opinionated person, and in my youth, I may have been accused of having an “I am right and everyone else is wrong” attitude to life. 50 odd years down the track, I have finally realised that this is a pretty ineffective approach as in reality, I am rarely right, but at the same time neither is anyone else!  Accepting that there is no right way to approach a problem has made life much easier and made me, I believe, more effective in most things I do.

Understanding the team

I have done a few psychometric tests in my time and used other tools to try to understand how to work more effectively. But the one that has stuck in my mind is Meredith Belbin’s study on team dynamics. In short, it categorises people into one of 9 roles within a team and suggests that to be effective, a team should contain all 9. I am now of the opinion that whilst useful, the idea that people fit into neat pigeon holes does not play out in reality. That said, the idea that having a mix of approaches when tackling a task does have significant merit.

Recognising the value of different

In managing a team, whether formally or informally when approaching a task. The real skill is not in knowing how to succeed on your own, it’s more about teasing out the ideas of the team, and focussing these into a strategy and plan that will complete the task.

Coming back to my original point about no one being 100% right about anything. In a team, different people will approach the task in different ways, the skill of a team manager is to identify which elements add value, and to combine these into a whole solution, whilst at the same time uniting the team behind a common approach.

The folly of focussing on your own approach.

Why, if this is the best way to approach an issue, is so much energy expended by leaders trying to convince everyone to do it their way? Persuading people to do it your way may seem like a fulfilling way to approach a problem, but as the saying goes “No man is an island”.  Understanding this and accepting other ideas may be as valid, or, perish the thought, BETTER, than yours, is a good place to start.

Effective results – efficiently

Achieving effective results should be at the heart of every business – whatever this means!

We have been looking at ‘achieving results‘ from two different viewpoints which, taken together, present an interesting dichotomy….

  • In this post, Duncan looks at the value of getting input from all members of a team
  • In the Marketing Matters Podcast, we talk about the challenges of getting your project ‘over the line’

Each of the above makes sense on its own merits. However, taken together they present a conflict. The more people involved in setting and achieving a goal, the more chance of inconsistency and slippage. Either of these can threaten a successful outcome.

As a consequence, many SME business owners find themselves backed into a corner where ultimately, all responsibility comes back to them. Hard work! The team may be willing but they do what they are told!

Give real responsibility to the team – but keep the focus on getting the job done. This can be challenging!

Resolving the conflict…

It is a common mantra at BSA, but it undoubtedly, at the heart of every effective business process is an agreed plan with clear SMART* objectives

*SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed – more information here

If you want to get the benefit of input to your business drawing on the experience of your team members but not risk your plans slipping and failing, a clear plan is the best way to communicate your ideas to others and give them the context in which to add their own suggestions.

Ownership, review and leadership

Having a plan is a great starting point but every member of the team must take ownership of the plan and acknowledge/accept the responsibility for their part in delivering the results. It is important that every element of the plan is ‘owned’ by a member of the team.

The best way to avoid slippage is regular review. These can be formal or informal though at least some more formal review is sensible. Any issues can be picked up, discussed and resolved before they get to big. Reviews can also make sure that actions and target dates are clear and acknowledged by everyone.

As a business owner, aiming for effective results, it may be that your most effcicient approach is to drive the overall process while team members take ownership and responsibility for the elements of the plan that suit their individual experience and skillset.

It isn’t necessary that, as a business owner, you have to do everything.  It is much better to effectively involve your team. Your one essential  contribution to achieving effective results is Leadership.

Analytics – the key to an effective marketing process

Recently we have been focussing on the value of partnership as a platform for an effective marketing process.

A challenge with partnerships is that many SME business owners like to do their own thing – indeed this can be one of the real freedoms of self-employment

Doing your own thing is great – but this isn’t the same as making it up as you go along. An effective, sustainable marketing process needs a plan. You can share a plan with others who can then support you to achieve your goals.

Sure, plans can be (indeed should be) reviewed and evolved but this process needs to have some structure (particularly if more than one person is involved in delivering on the plan.) No one can mind-read. It isn’t reasonable for one person, even a business owner, to simply change her mind and expect everyone to follow. There needs to be a process.

Why does a plan need to change?

Actually, I think it is better to say that a plan evolves rather than changes because the change comes about through growing experience.

Typically a plan will evolve for one of 2 reasons:

  1. It becomes clear that the plan is going to fall short of delivering on the goals we have set.
  2. A better option comes up, either a better way to achieve our set goals or a way to achieve better goals.

In both of these cases, you need to have some idea of where you are up to. Are you making progress? To know this, you need to be measuring.

It is nearly a year since I last took a look at analytics (not just in terms of Google Analytics but the whole process of measuring where your business is up to) but over recent months we have seen stark evidence of the power (and danger!) of data as much government policy through the pandemic has been driven by very clear goals (reduce transmission, minimise infection, minimise mortality while protecting both the NHS and the economy). All of these goals have been managed by data. the challenge is that, in a world where people are looking for certainty, the data is incomplete, yet decisions still must be made and acted upon.

This is the same as in business. With the (possible) exception of e-commerce order data, analytics aren’t definitive, they are indicative. Analytics suggest trends. They don’t deliver certainty. Even with e-commerce, just because it happened last week/last month doesn’t mean to say it will happen next week/next month. Instead, you should use the indications of the data in conjunction with your own knowledge and experience to make definitive decisions. The data will not normally give you the answer but it can improve your decision making by narrowing meaningful choice. By making decisions from a narrower field of realistic options, it is likely that those decisions will be better.

Using analytics to guide your decision-making process can make that process more effective. More effective decisions are more likely to improve your marketing process.

Analytics in the real world.

I’ll finish with 3 practical tips to help you use analytics in your business to drive a more effective marketing process:

  1. Keep it simple.Analytics systems generate unimaginable quantities of data every day. Don’t get caught into seeing your own data as the be-all and end-all of your business. Analytics is merely a tool (albeit a useful tool!) which should help you run your real business. Keep your analytics goals simple and relevant. It is better to focus on a handful of key metrics that really benefit your business over time, than to blind yourself with data overload in the hope that you might just uncover some ‘magic-wand‘ of information
  2. Use a dashboardThere are numerous dashboard tools out there that can really help keep you focussed on your key metrics. They can take a bit of effort to set up correctly but it is worth it as you can end up with a valuable and practical business management tool. We look at dashboards in more detail in this article.
  3. Remember, business is a process, not an event.When you look at your data dashboard, avoid knee-jerk reactions. The success of your processes become more visible over time – and often in hindsight rather than as you are going along. I regularly find that it is only when I look back over 6-12 months that I really appreciate the progress we have made.

And finally, never forget that running your own SME business is a big commitment of time and effort, so try to enjoy yourself – at least some of the time!

The Power of Dashboards

In the latest edition of our podcast, we talk about the importance of focusing on your business objectives, and using data to inform your decisions, but marketing data is everywhere these days and whilst it 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.

As a result, it can be tempting to simply pick the east to access datasets like traffic to your site, or number of shares on your social media, but often these will not be the right metrics to inform your real business decisions. To avoid this we need a way of organising and filtering the data to give you the information you need.

It is this that I explore in this post; looking at how a marketing dashboard can go a long way turning your data into actionable and valuable information.

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 gauges 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 gauge 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. Dashboards let you to pull out the data you need to inform your decisions, and to present it in an accessible and easy to find format, it will also make it much easier to look at the same dataset over time, allowing you to spot and act on trends that may appear, rather than randomly looking around in Google analytics, unsure if you are looking at the same dataset that you reviewed previously.

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

 

 

Partnership for Performance-Case Study

Where clients and suppliers can work in partnership, there is the opportunity to grow a relationship built on confidence and understanding which allows more flexibility. This is the type of relationship that we thrive on. It is based, not particularly on commercial transactions (although being paid for what we do is important!) but more on having a clear understanding of what we are working to achieve with our client and then focussing on realising on these objectives. In this way, our emphasis is squarely on delivering real benefit – as this case study demonstrates.

Covid-19 Lockdown – An opportunity for evolution

Background

Longmark Tax Conferences have been organising and running professional conferences for specialist tax lawyers and accountants around the UK for nearly 15 years. They have built an enviable reputation for delivering high-quality speakers (predominantly barristers and QCs working in dedicated tax practices) presenting on a varied and relevant range of topics.

We were already marketing ith the conference programme for Spring and Summer 2020 already. The Coronavirus Lockdown came as a significant blow.  Consequently, the Longmark management team took the difficult decision to postpone all conferences from the 2020 programme. Recognising that there was likely to be no quick resolution to the pandemic, the decision was taken to explore the possibility of offering a webcast.

Content for the event was not a problem. Longmark has strong relationships with a number of highly knowledgeable technical speakers. As a result, a presenter and topic for the webcast had already been agreed.

Having run conferences for many years, Longmark is well-known amongst legal and accountancy practices across the UK. They have a valuable contact database so, in principle, marketing the webcast should not be an issue. However, there were some challenges….

The problem

Longmark has a well-established process in place for delivering regular conferences. Typical the lead time for this process to run is 3-4 months from setting the conference date, venue, speakers and content to the conference itself.  The established marketing approach included brochure design and print and direct mail.

For the planned webcast, we had only 6 weeks from initial discussions until the date of the webcast. We knew that we needed at least 4 weeks to market the event. There was no time to use print & direct mail. All marketing would be on-line by email.

Furthermore, we had no established webcast delivery infrastructure

To deliver the programme cost-effectively, it was essential that we automate booking, payment processing and delegate access to the webcast. These all needed to be handled online.  We had no systems established for any of these.

What we did have was a strong working relationship established over many years. As a result, we all had the confidence that we could, and would, deliver.

The solution

Webcast delivery

An undoubted feature of the pandemic has been the rises and rise of Zoom video conferencing. Despite an exponential increase in users placing significant demands, the Zoom infrastructure has proved itself up to the task. We agreed that Zoom would be a reliable platform for the webcast delivery, however, it was felt that the webcast offering from Zoom did not meet our needs. Through a partnership with an online webcast specialist, we were able to develop a way of delivering the webcast reliably to the Longmark website. From here we would be able to manage regulated access to the webcast. It was important to ensure that only paid-up delegates were able to watch the webcast.

Joining it all together

BSA combines technical competence with a thorough understanding of marketing and practical business processes

We have been working with Longmark for 10 years. Over this time, we have built a good working relationship with a solid understanding of their processes – and the technology used to deliver these processes. We already host the Longmark website and manage much of the booking administration for the regular conference programme.

Thanks to our existing partnership and knowledge-base, we were able to focus immediately on the webcast challenges. Additionally, using our combination of technical and practical business competences we were able to develop a technical specification for the online booking, payment processing and delegate management systems and how these might be quickly and effectively implemented to allow the marketing for the webcast to go ahead quickly.

We built, tested and launched the online booking and delegate management systems within 2 weeks. Furthermore, within hours of the launch, we received the first bookings.

BSA promoted the webcast through an e-mail marketing programme supported by social media – primarily LinkedIn

The outcome

The systems we had set up ran effectively. BSA’s end-to-end involvement in the technical, marketing and admin processes meant that the inevitable tweaks that were required as the new processes became established were developed and implemented seamlessly to ensure that the marketing and delegate3 registration processes could continue unimpeded.

By the time of the broadcast, we had over 230 registered delegates. The event went out without a hitch and the feedback rated the overall experience at over 95%.

Undoubtedly, the fact that there was an effective partnership between Longmark, the speaker, the broadcast manager and BSA was key to bringing this event in on-plan. It really was thsi partnership that delivered the performance

The long-term benefits

Undoubtedly, the webcast was a success, even as a stand-alone. However, delivering the webcast has also driven longer-term benefits:

Although we expect physical conferences to return as soon as is realistic, this project has shown that webcasts are deliverable and practical for Longmark. Online presentations may offer an additional option for the Longmark business going forward,

The technical systems and processes are now in place. Running future webcasts will be straightforward.

Physical conferences can benefit from the automated booking and registration systems set up by BSA. The new systems can streamline the delegate administration for future conferences. This will prove significantly more cost-effective, reducing event administration costs into the future.

Let Mike Longman of Longmark have the final word….

We have worked closely with BSA Marketing since 2010. During that time they have gained a deep understanding
of our business aims and processes. BSA has become an integrated part of our marketing function. We discussed
our plans with David and the need for us to re-engineer the back end of our website and facilitate online
bookings/payments and host the broadcasting of the online lectures. 

We set the BSA team a tight deadline to devise, test and implement the new system and they went above and beyond to not
only meet the deadline but also offer much needed hands-on support with our delegate queries as our first live webcast took place.

The webcast was a great success, and it was reassuring to have BSA partnering with us on this new venture. 

We couldn’t have done it without them.

Contact us to discuss how a partnership with BSA can help your performance

The Power of Partnership

It’s is often stated that in business, you should look to surround yourself with people who have knowledge and talents in areas where you might not be so well versed. This is a great philosophy, and one that people running small businesses would be well advised follow.

We all have a skillset, and the combined skillset of those you employ creates the skillset for the business. Using the above philosophy internally should create a strong offering. But what about those times when you are asked to do things peripheral to that core offering?  Whether you are bringing in experts like accounting, marketing or legal to help you run your business, or , accessing complementary skills that allow you to offer broader services to your clients, partnerships become a powerful tool.

But I can do that!

Sometimes an opportunity arises that requires a skill that is not central to your offering. When it does, thinking “I can do that” and looking to fulfil your clients request directly is tempting. However that can be a dangerous approach. It’s dangerous because it is likely to:

  1. Lead to your delivering a sub optimal solution to your client
  2. Create additional stress and take a disproportionate level of resource to deliver

Combine these, and whilst generating extra income, you risk negatively impacting both your reputation and your profitability.

Focus on what you are good at

I am sure I have said this before, but I make no apology for repeating myself. You should focus on your core strengths and not aim to be all things to everyone. That way you can avoid the issues outlined above.

But in focusing on your strengths, you are likely to expose gaps in your offering. Reducing your ability to offer a joined up approach for your clients. This is where partnerships are powerful. By identifying other individuals or organisations who’s core strengths plug theses gaps, you can provide a full service to clients without getting bogged down in areas where you are not so strong.

Partnerships can deliver revenue too

Its true, moving to the use of partners rather than direct delivery for these peripheral services, can impact revenues as some of the revenue that you would have earned is now going to your partners. However, it is also likely that their clients will have need for services which are at your core, and peripheral to theirs. I these instances, it would make sense for them to pass these over to you. Whilst this should never be the main reason for working with a partner (That should be their ability to deliver for your clients). It is a great bonus when it happens. And its surprising how often it does.

Three Steps to Good Partnerships

I would just like to finish with 3 steps that will point you in the right direction to working with partners

  1. Identify your core strengths and more importantly, the things you are asked for that are outside of this.
  2. On the back of this identify areas where partnerships could be valuable
  3. Create a process to find and develop relationships with others who are better than you in these areas

If you are into networking, this last step can really breath life into networking sessions, as it moves the focus away from Sales – Who in the room can I sell to? and onto building relationships – Who in the room could I work with to enhance my business offering and help me deliver benefit to my clients?

But that’s another post!

 

 

Just do it! – The value of (effective) implementation

The COVID pandemic has turned the economy upside down. As in any period of major upheaval, some businesses  (Zoom and Amazon spring to mind!) that do very well, while others (most small businesses and certainly those operating in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors) have seen turnover fall off a cliff. For both Zoom and Amazon, they were fortunate. Their existing business models happen to be well suited to delivering services to people and markets in lockdown.

What is more interesting is the way that some businesses, faced with a huge decline, or even effective closure, of their existing business models, have used their capabilities, resources and market knowledge to adapt to the new economic environment. Additionally, given the speed with which lockdown was imposed, it has tended to me SME businesses who have the potential to be most agile, who have reacted most quickly,  and are starting to see the benefit.

Agility with a short or long term view?

Many business owners recognise the need for change. Facing the reality of the pandemic, they are coming up with new ideas. Furthermore, they have acted. They have implemented their new ideas.

This said, I have seen businesses adapt in 2 distinct ways:

  1. Switch to a model simply to stay viable.
  2. Use lockdown as the incentive to develop a business which works in the short term but can have real benefit long into the future.

People in the first group are really just hanging on, waiting for things to return to ‘normal’. The problem is that no-one knows how long this might be. Certainly, all the indicators are looking encouraging at the moment but even so, the easing of the lockdown comes with warnings of the importance of continuing to maintain social distancing and quarantine for those who can’t. All this, and a spike in COVID cases could see lockdown being reimposed overnight.

I suspect that elements of lockdown will be with us for some time yet. It could be a long wait for normality.

Moving your business into the future

For other businesses, the lockdown has been a catalyst for real change. By embracing the challenges of the current climate and using them to ‘think differently’ some business owners are evolving their businesses in ways that mean they will never look back. Implementing changes effectively and sustainably can be made easier by working with reliable partners. We are proud to have supported numerous clients moving their businesses forward into the future. Let’s have a look at a few:-

1. The Retailer

Our client runs a retail business. Part of the business is a farm shop which means they were allowed to remain open during lockdown. However, in practice, business turnover dropped dramatically and footfall to eth shop was not sufficient. The business had a website which included a modest e-commerce facility but this was always an add-on to the main retail business. Up to the start of lockdown, online orders were running at only 1 or 2 per day. Look what happened in March….

From a ‘norm’ of 30-40 orders per month in January & February, order levels rocketed to 400 in March and nearly 600 per month since then. June is on track to sustain this jump inactivity.

The 10-fold increase in on-line orders created significant logistical challenges across the business. By providing effective website hosting and technical support, we were able to ensure that the website absorbed the huge growth in traffic and continued to perform effectively.

We are now looking forward to developing and implementing new marketing programmes over the coming months to continue the benefit to the business of a new online customer base.

2. The Conference Organiser

As an organiser of specialist technical conferences around the UK attracting up to 150 professional delegates, our client faced particular challenges to their business. Events arranged for the Spring had to be postponed. Also, it is looking increasingly likely that it will be impractical to host any further regional events before next year. Faced with potentially zero income for 2020, the owners decided to take their business online. Following initial discussions in mid-May, we set 25th June as the date for the first live webcast. We are working closely with our client and within 4 weeks we have delivered:

  • A complete online delegate booking & payment management system
  • Secure management of delegate registration
  • Secure, controlled access to the webcast feed
  • Ongoing technical support for the registration booking & payment system
  • Ongoing marketing management and support for the event

All of the above is seamlessly integrated into the existing website. This is a real testament to the power and flexibility of WordPress.

Proof of the pudding

From the initial marketing launch of the event, there are now over 180 delegates registered, including people attending from as far away as Australia! While our support has helped deliver effective systems facilitating the event, we mustn’t forget that the key is top quality content. The webcast is being delivered by a highly respected leader in his field, our input is to make the online management system straightforward and effective so that it almost appears invisible. Read more about invisible technology here.

Into the future

The switch to online webcasts is undoubtedly a direct outcome of the lockdown. However, there are significant differences between a webcast and a ‘live’ event where there are valuable networking opportunities as well as the technical presentations. The plan is to restart the regional events as soon as practical but webcasts are likely to offer an additional service (and revenue!) channel into the future.

A couple of others….

The engineering service

Our client wanted to take his service offering into Europe. He saw the relative quiet of lockdown as the ideal opportunity to work with us. As a result, we have updated his website to deliver full multi-lingual capability and translated the site into German as a first step into Europe. The plan is to add more languages in due course. This staged approach allows planned expansion in a managed way.

B2B E-commerce

Our client has developed a range of high-quality workbenches and CNC tool storage systems designed for engineering businesses and specialist hobbyists. We have worked with them to build and launch a full e-commerce website from the ground up.

Just do it! The value of effective implementation

The above are just some examples of how we work closely with clients to make things happen. Our goal is to help clients make their businesses better and easier.

We work with our clients to understand their business ideas and objectives. We then design, implement and deliver effective marketing and technical solutions to meet these objectives. Our services are the means, not the end.

We help make implementation happen. It is making it happen that gets results.

Please get in touch to discuss how we can help make sure your business development happens

The best technology is effectively invisible

Technology is everywhere! During the past few weeks, it has been the main way that we have been able to stay in contact with one another, yet I’d like to think that actually, the best technology is effectively invisible.

This isn’t to say that we can’t see it, more that we don’t notice it. It is effective. It just works.

Even so, people do normally ‘notice’ technology in the first instance. Top technology companies have turned ‘unboxing’ into an art form. The look and touch of the latest iPhone are carefully designed to make us feel good! This is all very well but ultimately it is what you can do with the phone that matters. A handset is just a tool that allows you to communicate, surf, photograph, or whatever?  The look and feel may be important to start with but, at the end of the day, you just want it to work. It is what you do that matters.

The same is true when it comes to the technology you use in marketing your business. It may be nice to have all the bells and whistles but what really matters is that your customers and prospects, who engage with you, are fully focussed on your marketing message rather than the technology you use to deliver it. You want the technology to be so good that people don’t notice it!

UX is the key – but stay focussed on your goals

User eXperience (UX) is a significant and growing field in the world of marketing. However, like so many aspects of technology in marketing, it is being sold as a design solution rather than a practical solution. Talk of the psychology of colours and the positioning of key elements on forms and web-pages can lead to an expensive bill but (IMHO) is of limited practical value for the majority of SME businesses and websites.

Use your own experience of your business, customers and markets. You know what you want to offer and what people are looking for. Make sure you deliver in a straightforward way. This sentiment applies equally to your marketing.

For most of us, we should be focussing on a clear message with well laid out, straightforward navigation to our web content – and no dead ends! You can test this yourself, or ask friends & colleagues to take a look.  There will always be someone who can offer another tweak or refinement but ask yourself if these make any significant improvement. Incremental/marginal gains in UX can be expensively unnecessary.  Don’t try to make your marketing technology perfect. It never will be! What is important is that it works seamlessly.

Website Speed – Fast enough is fast enough

Some people are fixated by website speed tests. Whatever speed-score their website delivers, they want it to be faster. It becomes irrelevant whether the real-world performance of the website delivers a good and positive experience for their site visitors. It becomes all about making the numbers better – even if this delivers no real value or benefit. Are marginal gains in site speed really worth it if?

If I had to pick, I would say that speed isn’t everything – fixation on speed tests isn’t as important as UX – fast enough is fast enough. A slightly slower, well flowing site is better than a fast site with poor logic/navigation that frustrates visitors or leads them to dead ends.

Focus on effective functionality

If users can find a way to break your website, they will!  Better that you break it first. If you have tried to break your new web system, and failed, you can be confident that it is OK to launch on your market.

Even if you have failed to find the flaws in functionality and flow of your website, those flaws will still be there – and the chances are someone will find them, even if they are extremes!

Unless you are anticipating very high traffic on your site from the start (in which case it should be worth investing in some careful and comprehensive testing and a phased roll-out of a new site), I recommend that you make sure that you are ready to handle the process failures and bugs manually in the first instance.

This process has benefit for most businesses:

    1. It is more cost-effective
    2. No need to second guess every single possibility (and programme in solutions from the start that will rarely, if ever, be used)
    3. If you have a good, flexible system, you can always add functionality

Accepting that you will need to keep a close eye on your new system for a while and be ready to jump in and sort any problems that visitors experience, quickly.

I reckon that good system that is live and working for you and your business is more use than waiting until you have perfection before launch. Even if some visitors do experience the odd glitch, helping them quickly with backup and support can send a strong and positive message about your business

…and finally

My tips for effective marketing technology for your business…

  1. Never forget that marketing technology and websites are the means, not the end to achieving your marketing and business objectives.
  2. Start the process then evolve with experience. With development platforms such as WordPress, it is easy to add functionality based on real-world experience.
  3. You can start with a simple system and, over time, evolve it into a sophisticated, yet practical, web-application to help drive your business.
  4. The best technology for your business is invisible to your customers. It just works. It is your business that they see and remember.
  5. Get support from someone who understands both business process and technology. Someone who can support you in achieving your business goals, not just someone who does what you tell them.

Get in touch if you would like to chat.

Are Webcasts a good marketing tool?

During the Lockdown, web meetings, and webinars have definitely come of age, and the number of people selling them as the next big marketing thing has also increased!

Talk to any of these people and they will tell you that they are a must have in your marketing kit bag. But are they?

The simple answer is, as with any marketing tool, “It Depends”. It depends on whether your marketing message would be enhanced by the webinar format and whether your market is likely to engage with the webinars.

Content is King

First lets look at content. The question here is do you have expertise, or access to expertise that people in your market would value. If you do then providing access to this expertise could be a great marketing tool, or in some cases a potential revenue earner via paid webcasts.

Most of the marketing strategies that we use with clients assume that they are experts in their fields, and the marketing is largely about communicating this expertise to the marketplace. So in our world, and in that of many businesses working in niche markets, this means that you can deliver value through your marketing messages. As such webinars may be relevant.

For many niche businesses, this “Expert in your Field” concept should be appropriate, and as such the the webcast as a marketing tool could well have merit. For other businesses, its about asking the question “what value would a webcast add to my marketing?”

What about your audience

So you have material that suits the webcast format. The next question is “What about your market? will they engage with a webcast?” I think that in most cases, if the content is interesting and relevant, then yes they will. The real question is will they believe you when you tell them you have something valuable to say!

I was speaking to a client last week, and this topic came up. He recounted a story about a webinar (yes this was a webinar) which on the face of it seemed valuable, but in fact it turned out simply to be a sales pitch for a paid course. The experience has led him to be wary of the marketing hype surrounding the format. The reality is that this is an issue. The use of webinars as a sales tool in this way has devalued them in many peoples eyes. One reason we talk about “webcasts” rather than “webinars” as this puts the focus on the content. Delivering great content, and getting a reputation for doing so has to be part of your strategy in this area.

Protect your Brand

The final thing I would like to cover is how the use of webcasts sits with your brand image & values.

There are many aspect to delivering a webcast:

  • The webcast itself, including technology, branding, and the quality/production values for the feed delivered
  • The sign up process, and how you manage access to the webcast
  • The interaction with attendees during the Webcast including how you handle things like Q&A and Chat
  • The lists goes on

All of these things will impact how the webcast reflects your brand, and all need to be considered. It might be a very easy solution to simply use a tool like Zoom for the whole process, but is that right for your brand?

To give an example; In a recent project for a client, we chose not to use Zoom to deliver the webcast as it was felt that the reported security issues for the system might reflect badly on them, and prevent some people from being able to take part. Whilst security may, in reality, not be much of an issue anymore for Zoom, the perception is there. This coupled with other factors around branding and the signup process led to us not using Zoom. As a result we used a number of technologies & platforms to deliver the webcast rather than a single platform end to end. Whilst more complex, the result was totally in line with their high quality brand. Something that could not necessarily be said of Zoom.

I am not saying that you should never use an out of the box solution. (In some cases it would be highly appropriate). What I am saying is that when selecting how to deliver your webcast, making sure it accurately reflects your brand should be a key factor.

So Are Webcasts a good marketing tool?

Consider all the factors above. If on balance they add value to your marketing, and can be done cost effectively in a way that fits your brand, then yes they are a good tool.

If on the other hand, the conclusion in that they don’t add significant value, or are not a cost effective part of the mix, then maybe they should be avoided. But at least you will have an answer for those trying to sell the concept!

 

Marketing comms: A process, not event

Over recent weeks we have been talking about Business Philosophy,  a potentially esoteric subject yet, as with most things in business, philosophy only takes us so far. Clearly defining your Business Philosophy can be useful to help clarify what a business stands for and what you are trying to achieve but it stops short of setting out the practical steps of how you plan to achieve your goal.

Driving your Business Philosophy needs action. Navel-gazing isn’t enough!

Marketing communications is key to letting your prospects and markets know about your business. It is not something you do once, it is ongoing.

Getting your consistent marketing message out as widely as possible is a process, not an event,

The problem with a process is that someone needs to set it up and getting running in the first place. If you run your own business, that person is most likely you!

However, as is evident in the current pandemic situation, the default position for most people is to look for direction from others.

It is easy to sit back and pick holes in the decisions of others and explain, after the event, how they could have done it differently. Yet the simple fact is that, as a starting point, somebody has to decide to do something – and then make it happen!

If it is your business, and your marketing, you have to start the process.

There should be time for subsequent review and refinement. This is the process. But you must start somewhere!

In summary, developing any process has 5 steps:

  1. Know what you are trying to achieve
  2. Know where you are starting from
  3. Understand factors that can influence your process
  4. Plan and implement your process
  5. Stick at it!

Let’s take this summary and apply it to marcomms….

The Marketing Communications Process

    1. Know what you are trying to achieve – What do you want to communicate, to whom and what outcome are you hoping for?

      • Take time to clearly define and understand your business proposition – As we have discussed before, it is easy to skirt around this and launch straight into ‘doing something‘.
      • Action without a plan puts focus on being busy rather than focusing on achieving results – a risky approach.
      • If you truly understand your business proposition, it makes planning easier as you have a framework to apply.
      • Who do you want to communicate with?
    2. Know where you are starting from – What do you have to work with?

      • What resources (typically time and/or money) do you have available to invest in your process – be realistic!
      • Do you have knowledge/experience of previous marketing activity that you can learn from?
      • What do you want to say?
    3. Understand factors that can influence your process

      • Your Business Philosophy is a key element here. Your philosophy will constrain the options you have available. You should only do what is right for you and your business.
      • How does your target audience communicate?  Knowing your market will help define the most suitable communication channels.
      • Will your message engage, inform and resonate with your target audience?
      • Will people be motivated to act on your message to help you achieve your goal?
    4. Plan and implement your process

      • Select your communication channels and set out a plan for relevant messages over time – Build a content calendar
      • I recommend using your website as your core message platform then use 2 or 3 channels (email/social media etc.) to spread the word.
      • Don’t forget offline. In this digital world, mail, telephone and face to face can all be powerful options
      • Build messages that reflect your philosophy and goals that are designed to resonate with your target audience
      • Do it and stick at it
    5. Stick at it!

      • Objectively review and analyse progress, and refine the process as you proceed.
      • Be realistic.
      • Avoid knee-jerk reactions
      • Be ready to give your process time.

Finally, in a single sentence…

The right message through the right channels to the right audience, consistently = success!