Our thoughts, opinions and ideas on a variety of subjects close to our heart. These include design, development, marketing, running a business and more.

What I learned at the B2B Magazine Annual Marketing Conference

NOV 12
The great and the good from the world of B2B Marketing gathered in London yesterday as B2B Marketing Magazine hosted its annual conference: 'A Brave New World: Digital Marketing in the 21st Century' 'I was also there as part of my relentless quest to seek knowledge, learn a thing or two and enjoy a fancy lunch served in a box. As always there were some excellent presentations and some valuable insights gained into digital marketing and beyond. Here's a few of my favourite nuggets mined from yesterday's event. Be passionate and curious Marketing and Creative people should be both. Not one or the other - and if you are neither then you're not reading this anyway. Getting better There are a lot of people in our organisations and amongst clients who want things to get better but not to change. We should be passionate and curious (see above) and encourage experimentation. It's not about our products It's about those people we are targeting. The prospects and the customers - we must have their interests at heart and focus on crafting high quality and relevant communications that offer something of value to them. Better beats more Simple but true. Doing more and more average stuff means you're just contributing to the junkyard. So don't. Seth Godin recently blogged about this from a management and leadership perspective. Pictures are stupid in an email Well, they are for some it seems and it's a long-held position of mine too. Isn't good email marketing about compelling and relevant words? Pictures can just get in the way, that's if they are seen at all. Or to look at it another way bad content won't be any better because you added some nice images. Don't dive in to online communities and start selling Would you turn up at an event like yesterday's and hand out flyers to people you had never met? Get to know people. Join the conversation and start engaging. Soon everyone will know everything Merlin Stone is a Professor. He knows a lot about B2B Marketing. That amount is a heck of a lot more than me. And probably a heck of lot more than those people who know a heck of lot more than me. The Prof is always good value and keeps his fascinating presentations short and sweet. Yesterday he closed the conference with a keynote about 'Brand Transparency' and used the phrase 'open book marketing'. He sort of predicted a world in 5 years time where your competitors, channels, customers and business partners---- will know everything about you from your online presence with some judicious use of the right search terms. A Brave New World indeed. We as marketers don't have control and it's not coming back, deal with it. Just so we're all clear on that! Powerpoint is a bit rubbish I know this to be true. Well for me anyway. And so does Andrew Buckley of American Express now, whose otherwise fine (and refreshingly candid) presentation was blighted by this accursed product. If you don't want to use a Keynote on a Mac then what about Sliderocket? A marvellous cloud app for creating and sharing lovely presentations. You say you want a revolution? Would you like industrial or digital? The former started in about 1760, the latter, when it gets a Wikipedia entry. With thanks for their knowledge imparted to Pete Jakob, John Watton, Richard Evans, Gifford Morley-Fletcher, Andrew Buckley, Bryony Thomas, Professor Merlin Stone and others.

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Got a goal? Stay focussed!

JUL 29
Client to me recently: I've seen this amazing software that'd be great for the site. Me: OK, sounds interesting. Client: Yeah, it's like an animated shop assistant... Me: But I thought your site is for lead generation...? Client: ...that prompts you by asking if you need any help... Me: ...but you don't sell anything online. Client: ...then this 'virtual assistant' guides you through the site... Me: I think maybe we should get some visitors to come to the site, let's sketch out a strategy for that first. Client: maybe we could take a look at it... Me: OK The point is it's easy to get seduced by shiny moving things sometimes. Keep it simple. Channel your efforts into the things that are going to help achieve the specific goals you've set for your website (transactional, engagement, whatever) and don't get sidetracked.

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Who's creating the content?

JAN 22
I recently gave a presentation on content marketing to a team of B2B marketeers which thankfully had people nodding appreciatively and in broad agreement about the benefits such a strategy can bring: earn trust, build your reputation and people are more likely to do business with you. I made the (hardly insightful) observation that there were product managers and specialists within the organisation who are experts in their field and have built up years of experience. They can offer valuable insight and help on the issues that really affect their customers and prospects. Talk with them, not at them. Yep, everyone looked around the room and nodded sagely again. Just one question. Who's going to 'produce' this content? It's a very good question. Just because you know more than there is to know about Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (it's a method of respiratory ventilation!) doesn't mean you can write about it in a compelling and interesting way. Believe me, I know. But that's what copywriters are for right? But it's not traditional copy is it? Just about anyone can create and write a blog  - and anyone can put paint on canvas, but it doesn't make them Picasso! Should such marketing professionals extend their skill set to include things like writing good articles for blogs? It's clearly not the same as writing traditional 'push' style product information sheets. Is there a job in the marketing department for a specialist blog-writing, content creating social engagement evangelist? How do those who learned their trade 20 years ago learn the language of engagement in an age of the 'social web'? Somebody told me the other day that they 'couldn't do informal'! I said it's easy, you know when you get talking with that person at a trade fair or conference during the coffee break? That's a good start. OK, I'm simplifying things, but the point is that for many organisations the exciting possibilities of this new age of digital and social marketing require a rethink in strategy, tactics and resources. One that involves ensuring the right people with the requisite skills are in place so that the strategy is carried out successfully.

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Time management tips for effective business

DEC 09
Beat the time stealers! At time when competition is fierce and small businesses are finding it ever harder to differentiate themselves, effective time management is a vital component in any successful business strategy. There are constant demands on us and we need to be able to use our valuable time wisely and to maximum effect. Here’s a few simple tips to help you as you go about your everyday business - and some ideas on how to avoid those ‘time stealers’! Prioritise Ever asked yourself ‘How important is this to the business?’. Prioritising is hugely important so that not only can we do the thing right, but we do the right thing. Small-scale tasks with low impact on the business can often simply be done in what I call ‘dead time’, and of course small-scale tasks with a high impact on the business should be done as soon as possible. Large-scale tasks with a significant impact on the business require careful planning, and large-scale tasks with a low impact? It's worth asking if they actually need to be done at all! Tidy your space How frustrating is it when you can’t find something? It can eat up precious minutes in your day, and those minutes add up. Wherever you keep your business items, documents and tools make sure you have a clearly defined system that works for you. This means good housekeeping in your work space, both online and offline. To-do lists Simply put, lists work. Maybe it’s on a piece of paper, maybe it’s using your calendar or email application of choice. This allows you to see clearly what you need to focus on in one defined place. Set the agenda Meetings that overrun or have no set objective can be a big time stealer, so it’s important to have a clear agenda before you start. A meeting should always begin with a setting of the scene. Explain the goal of the meeting and what will happen. When concluding a meeting it’s crucial you explain what should happen next so that individuals understand what’s expected of them once they leave the meeting. And, of course, be punctual - not only is it courteous but do the maths, if you have six people in a meeting and this overruns by 10 minutes that adds up to an hour of time potentially lost! Email etiquette Many businesses now use email as the hub of all their communications, both internally and externally. Poor use of email can be a problem. Be concise, keep it relevant and avoid copying everybody in unless you really have to. Email applications like Outlook allow you to filter emails by subject, sender, cc, date and so on - this can be a really useful tool to ensure you don’t spend valuable time reading and answering emails that aren’t particularly important. Procrastination? I'll put it off thanks “It is the job that is never started that takes longest to finish- JRR Tolkien. Enough said. Do what works best for you Above all you need to find a system that works best for you, and sometimes this is simply a matter of trial and error. Hopefully this will give you a few ideas on how you can begin to manage your time rather than letting your time manage you.

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Three steps to effective campaigns

NOV 07
I try to remind myself of this simple mantra and make it the basis for all our marketing communications. It goes something like this: 1. Did it work? 2. Why did or didn't it work? 3. How can we make it work (or improve it) next time? Simple but effective. You'd be surprised how many people simply do the same thing over and over again without huge success. Sometimes people say 'It's the way we've always done it'. Oh dear. No wonder the results are poor. If it's not compelling or relevant or remarkable it doesn't matter how many times you do it, it ain't gonna work too well. If an email campaign didn't get the results you set out to achieve you need to found out why. Why does that landing page have a high bounce rate? Analyse and find out. If you don't you're going to enter a groundhog day scenario: same results over and over again. There are plenty of tools to help you analyse your campaigns, use them and make sure you know why things worked - or why they didn't. If you don't, as Bill Murray said, it's going to be a VERY long day.

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Test your site and remove the guesswork

NOV 06
Your web site has an objective, right? Of course it does. And furthermore it'll have a clear goal that you can measure. If you are selling products or services online then that's easy to define - you need to convert those visitors into sales. Maybe your web site is for lead generation? OK, you have a contact form, you want visitors to fill in that form. Goal! Or subscribe to your email newsletter? You need to make sure your web pages lead people to that goal with a clearly communicated and defined call to action. That's where design, layout, content and usability all meet. If they are all in harmony there's a good chance  you'll convert those visitors into sales, leads or sign-ups. Remove the guesswork - know what works If you're a small business just starting out you can't afford to leave it to guesswork. You need to know what works best. Testing is an important part of optimising your site to achieve those business goals. Fortunately Google offers a free tool called Website Optimiser that allows you to set up simple A/B and 'multivariate' testing experiments. A/B testing Test two or more versions of your page, with different graphics, content and layout. Visitors will land randomly at one of the pages then you can analyse the results to see what works best to maximise your goal conversions. Multivariate Many different combinations of layout, graphics and content can be tried within different pages. Essentially your visitors are voting with their clicks for what they prefer. Testing, testing Used in conjunction with Google Analytics it's an invaluable tool to gain insight into what is working on your site. Your money goes into your online marketing so you need to know what's working and what isn't. Testing is important in understanding what your customers are responding to and what is the most effective way you can ensure that you achieve those goals.

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E-mail marketing is dead (again)

NOV 03
Every week someone makes a headline-grabbing proclamation about the future of email marketing. So much so that you'd be forgiven for thinking sending marketing communications by electronic mail was on its last legs. Not quite. Clearly there's been a move away from the mass-mailing 'blunderpuss' style approach of the early days. That's going to get you (at the very least) a reputation as a spammer as quick as you like. Personalised highly-targetted email messages can still be very successful. A campaign for a B2B client we ran recently proved to be the most successful we've ever run. The message was simple and answered a very specific question which was a highlighted issue within this target audience. Virtually no graphics and two short paragraphs of copy, with a clear call to action offering a simple solution to a known problem. Response rates were excellent and proved that it's not just about the creative, but about timing, content and providing customers with something relevant and appealing.

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Perfect landing page?

OCT 29
I'm a fan of Dyson products. We've got an Airblade at work: it solves a problem, looks good and uses less energy. The new 'bladeless' fan or 'Air Multiplier' looks very interesting too. The web site is quite good, clean and well-designed, but this landing page is great. Big images, clear graphics and a well-communicated message with an explicit (but not in-your-face) call to action. All things we've tried to do with this page.

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