Smart Directions: the imperative to change in the Print Industry

Smart Directions Conference May 2017 : Better Business – Invaluable Insights for Printers

The focus of this year’s Smart Directions Conference 2017 was on seeking out ideas and inspiration that can help print businesses to prosper and grow.

  • How can you diversify to strengthen your product offering?
  • How can you get the best out of your staff?
  • What benefits could the fast evolving trade printing
    sector deliver?
  • Could it be that your own body language holds the key to growing sales and profitability?

Expert speakers at the The Smart Directions Conference provided the answers to these questions and more.

Digital transformation – the imperative to change

While printers may see opportunities in the way consumers are delivering a backlash against digital advertising, they are also coming under pressure to embrace digital through their technology and processes, as well as their service offering.

In this presentation I looked at what digital transformation means for printers and how they should respond.

“Digital transformation” was explored by marketing consultant Roger Christiansen, who described digital print as a “quiet revolution” – with virtual stock, faster time to market, printing locally and on-demand services continuing to see off the threat of e-books.  Digital Printer Magazine

 

Roger at Smart Directions Conf 2017 4

If you can’t beat them, join them – reaching your MVP in Social Media

If you can’t beat them, join them – reaching your MVP in Social Media

I hear a lot from senior managers of a certain age that Social Media isn’t for them. They feel that they should participate but Social Media seems to be an alien world, for the under 25s only.

So here’s my advice on how you adopt some of the practices of Growth Hacking and the Social Media world to build your own presence and take advantage of Social Media tools.

Why MVP ?

Growth hacking is the new approach to development. It’s all about fearlessly getting to market and growing as quickly as you can using whatever methods you can (some not so legal!).  Fail fast, then fail better..

The idea of an Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is that you get to market with just enough so that you can launch, and establish the market opportunity.  If you are successful, you then develop as you go to meet market demand.

You can use the same approach to Social Media.  You don’t need to invest lots of money to build a presence. You can get started very cheaply and easily, and build from there. Provided you follow some key principles.

Don’t underestimate the power of Social Media

Whatever your views on Social Media, no one can deny that it has incredible power. Take, for example, the Champions League Match between Dortmund and Monaco. The match had to be rescheduled due to a bomb attack on the Dortmund bus, and there were thousands of Monaco fans needing accommodation in Dortmund.

German fans turned to Twitter to offer accommodation to Monaco fans.  What was amazing was not just that Monaco fans could find accommodation but the goodwill generated by the many shares on Social Media of Dortmund and Monaco fans together.

Don’t over-estimate Social Media

But, there’s also a lot of hype about Social Media…   Not everyone uses Social Media. And the world of Social Media – like much in the Digital World – is highly fragmented.

Im alot cooler on the internet
This T shirt says it all !

Even in the UK, where we have a relatively high level of literacy (above the European average according to Digital Economy and Society Index DESI 2017 )  there are 5.3 million people who have never used the internet. (Office of National Statistics)

There is also a dark side to the internet. Millions of accounts on the leading platforms are actually fake accounts – and nearly 77% of all internet activity in Europe is “dark social”;  untracked and off the radar. (eConsultancy, Feb 2016)

In the UK, there are 5.3 million people who have never used the internet. (Office of National Statistics)

The Key point is that it is highly unlikely that 100% of your customers and prospects will use Social Media. And it is extremely unlikely that they will use Social exclusively as a channel to find out about your company or your products.

Social Media is a channel not a strategy

So you have to include Social Media in your strategy, but don’t make Social Media the strategy. Social Media platforms provide great communication channels to your target audiences.

But remember that Social Media platforms are highly fragmented and tribalised. So my advice is:

  • Link your messages on Social Media to all of your other channels. Don’t treat each channel (and this applies as well to email newsletters, campaigns, website, PR) as a silo. Link everything together. This will probably save you work too !
  • Consistent messaging – have consistent messages which you deliver across all of your channels.
  • Adapt for different audiences: different audiences have different expectations on the various Social Media channels (and this also applies to email, web sites and so on). For instance, platforms like Snapchat and Instagram tend to be highly image orientated. LinkedIN tends to be more thoughtful and business-like.

However beware of generalisations… because…

Rules – what rules ?

You see a lot of articles setting out rules for how to maximise use of platforms like LinkedIN, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter etc.

However in reality there are no hard and fast rules. Twitter didn’t even invent the Hashtag:  end-users created this. But this is exactly how these platforms develop and innovate…

rules what rules

Social Media is still relatively new. Most of the major platforms are under 10 years old and there is a lot of change going on in this sector.Facebook owns WhatsApp

  • Facebook introducing new Business features
  • Facebook owns Instagram and is introducing new features to counter the rise of Snapchat
  • Microsoft owns LinkedIN
  • Twitter may charge for Premium membership

Content – quality not quantity

According to Marketing Week, nearly 60% of all corporate content is clutter.  To be fair this doesn’t just apply to Digital content (how many people actually read brochures ?) however Social Media makes it deceptively easy to create and distribute content, without any of the usual balances and controls you would normally apply to a printed piece, or content for your website.

Unintegrated marcomms

People say that the average life of a Tweet is 18 minutes – so, if you add it all up, the vast majority of digital content has no impact, and is quite possibly never read.

So, my advice is as follows,..

  • Quality not quantity – If it isn’t worth saying then don’t say it !!  (Be honest, who actually reads #Mondaymotivation tweets ?)
  • Be consistent – each Social network is a Communications channel… have a clearly defined objective for your messages and adapt them for each channel.
  • Cut and paste blogs for each separate channel

Play the game – when you get to your MVP you can be selective over who follows you

If you are going to participate then you need a Minimum Viable Presence – this means a credible number of followers.

  • So, for LinkedIN, this means at least 200 followers, preferable over 1000 to become an All-star Profile.
  • For Twitter and Facebook, at least 500 followers

There are a number of simple techniques to do this. Contact me to find out more.

This means that you will have to accept a lot of poor quality followers … people who have no business value… but I would say that you can be fussy about your followers once you’ve got to your MVP…

So, my advice is that, to get the best out of Social Media you need to put it in its place.  It’s a valuable communications channel, which can really add value and reach new people in new ways.

Just don’t put too much effort into using Social Media.  No more, no less.

I’m a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world.

Revinventing the eNewsletter for the Twitter Age

Revinventing the eNewsletter for the Twitter Age

Isn’t it surprising that, in an age of instant news, AI and increasing automation the humble eNewsletter still persists as a staple of Marketing Communications ?

Newsletters have been around as long as printing – in fact historians believe the first recorded print newsletter appeared in 1538. And eNewsletters have been around as long as email – the late 1990s.

They may not be the trendiest of Marketing Tactics, but I believe eNewsletters just need a revamp to bring them into the modern age.

Here are my 6 steps to reinvent your eNewsletter…

Step 1: it starts with the strategy

Just like any other Marketing Tactic, you should be clear about what you are trying to do – i.e. Who are you trying to target, when you want to say it and what you want to say.

How you reach your target audience is another matter. So it’s important to separate the medium from the message.

Step 2: sort out your database

This may be really really obvious but to send out an eNewsletter you need – err – a database. Yet, all too often I have found that data quality can be a major problem.

In one of my email campaigns I was given a spreadsheet of 30,000 contacts – all it contained were email addresses… So we had no idea who these people were, whether or not they were the right target audience. And we didn’t know if we had their permission for us to contact them.

So, before you start your eNewsletter planning, get your data into shape. It’s always worth cleaning your data, even if it comes from your CRM system and Sales Teams. Remember that your customers will expect you to know their details. And, if you want to do any personalisation or targetting you’ll need information like firstname, Job title, company name etc…

There are a number of ways of cleaning your data, including:

  • Telephone your contacts
  • Self-cleaning – ask your contacts to confirm their information
  • Progressive profiling – use automation tools to request missing information

And the new GDPR regulation is a great method for cleaning data as well. The regulation is based on the German Double Option, in which works as follows..

  1. You ask someone for their permission to market to them – they fill out a form and provide an email address
  2. You send an email to them requesting them to confirm that they want to optin (hence the double optin)

In my experience the end result is that every email on your database has been confirmed as current and accurate.

Step 3: get creative – ditch “Sign up for our Newsletter”

When it comes to getting new contacts for your eNewsletter, then you have to be a bit creative. “Sign up for our Newsletter” is one of the least successful ways of gaining subscribers.

Designing effective Calls to Action is a special art and there’s lots of great advice available such as https://boagworld.com/design/10-techniques-for-an-effective-call-to-action/ .

It’s best to be a specific as possible, such as:

  • Focus on the value your call to action provides: e.g. register for insights into the world of XX
  • Address the user’s questions about the call to action
  • Have a small number of distinct calls to action
  • Use scarcity to encourage action: e.g. limited offers
google-sign-up
Great example of a sign up form from Google

 

Step 4: content is king / the importance of the contract

A very long time ago Permission Marketing was all the rage. The basic idea was that it was a reciprocal deal. I’ll give you my details If you tell me about stuff I’m interested in.

Nowadays the contract seems to be broken – I find a lot of digital content is one-way traffic based on your transactional or browsing behaviour.

Interestingly there are now signs that Permission Marketing could be on its way back..

“So in 2017, if you haven’t already done so, ditch the newsletter for an automated email series full of value, teaching your audience about something specific that they actually want to learn about.” Sumo 13 Email Marketing Trends to Follow in 2017: A Sumo-Sized Guide

So it’s worth taking the time to understand your target audience, and their interests. There are many studies that show that personalised content gets a much higher response rate than non-personalised.

Just – please – avoid the “one size fits all approach”

Step 5: timing is everything

The original print Newsletters were designed around print production schedules. Yet the design and concept of the vast majority of eNewsletters that I see have changed little from their print forefathers.

In a world of 24/7 instant news, does anyone actually sit by their phone or desktop eagerly anticipating your eNewsletter so they can get up to date with the latest information ?

But packaging content together does have value and I think there’s a lot to be learned from Media organisations.

For example take the BBC. They distribute their content via a multitude of channels: TV, web sites, Apps and Social Media. The key thing is that they have different types of content for different purposes, such as:

  • Breaking News alerts
  • Short articles
  • Long, in depth articles

Your content may be much simpler than the BBC, but you could still implement a hybrid approach to provide your audience with a range of content to interest and inform them. And, of course, like many Media companies you could even charge for premium content.

Step 6: expand your reach – think beyond email

It’s important to reach your audience WHERE they are. And this means you should not just rely on email, especially as,  according to the latest stats, most emails are now opened on mobile devices.  

mobile-email-june-2016-600w

 

So be careful not to design eNewsletters that look beautiful on the iMac Retina 4K displays used by your Marketing Department or Agency but which are not optimised for mobile devices.. 

71,6% of consumers will delete emails if they don’t look good on mobile, while an average of 10% will read it anyway. – Adestra “Consumer Adoption & Usage Study” (2016)

Finally don’t forget print. Print is a very powerful medium. It’s much more likely to reach its destination and more likely to be read.

In general, 80% of traditional mail is opened while 80% of emails is disregarded (just 20% is read). B2C Print

Final thoughts…take advantage of your key advantage

You know your audience and you could know their details & interests !

This is your key advantage. Use the information you have from CRM systems and other sources to create compelling content that is relevant and interesting to your audience.

So what could an eNewsletter look like in the digital age ? This is what I’d recommend..

  • Redesign your eNewsletter to make it short and sweet – like a Twitter feed
  • Send out information multiple times across multiple channels
  • Throw away the publication schedule – if you’ve got important information to get out to your audience, send it out ASAP
  • Use blogs for your news stories. That way you are not communicating key information you are building a knowledgebase (great for long term SEO)

This way your eNewsletter will be fit for modern age.

I’m a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world.

Growth Hacking for Corporates – Too Young to Rock n Roll, Too Old to Die

Growth Hacking for Corporates – Too Young to Rock n Roll, Too Old to Die

Grow fast or die slow (Samir Patel) is the mantra of Growth Hacking. But, for corporate long timers like me, Jethro Tull’s Too old to Rock ‘n Roll, Too Young to Die sums things up more accurately.   We feel that we are missing out on something exciting but we are not entirely sure what we are missing out on.

Not any more.  Recently I went to an excellent seminar on Growth hacking by Vincent Dignan . (If you get the chance – go and see him!).  I found it very inspiring and also full of great tips and advice to growth traffic and users and build your social media presence rapidly.

But what really stuck me was that, although, Growth Hacking is seen as mainly for startups there is a lot that Corporate marketing teams can learn.

So here’s my advice on Corporates could deploy these techniques..

It starts with the strategy

It was great to see that, even in the fast moving and murky world of growth-hacking,  some universal truths apply.   Namely that if you don’t have a clear strategy of who you are targeting, with what products and offerings, and know which channels to use … then you are likely to fail.  Likewise if your products or services don’t deliver what your target customers want, then you are not going to be successful.

Or as Vincent put it in millenial-speak: “you need to know who your target is, where they hang out and what problems they have.”

Yet how often do organisations start with the tactics and then try to retro-fit a strategy ?

Plan to succeed but learn from your mistakes

One of the great things about the Growth Hacking movement is speed to market, and risk taking.  In my earlier career I have been involved in guerilla marketing projects (we didn’t call it “growth hacking” back then) – these are great fun.

However for someone trained in the traditional CIM values of Segment / Target / Positioning it was reassuring to have so much emphasis in the seminar on planning.  This came through in a number of ways..

  • Plan your approach to your target audience
  • Plan your onboarding strategy
  • Plan how you will grow your traffic, through identifying which channels to use

I think the key thing here for Corporates is that you can manage the risk of trying new techniques and approaches, provided you have clear objectives of what you are trying to achieve.  You have to be bold enough not just to try new things but also – the difficult bit – to admit to failures.  I’ve certainly found in my career that I’ve learned a lot through mistakes..   As the old saying goes “nothing ventured, nothing gained”

And, when you find something that works – keep doing it:  rinse and repeat !

Digital isn’t the only way to reach your audience

Digital may be what captures the attention of Corporate Marketers, but it’s not the only way to reach your audience. Remember that you need to get your messages to your target audience “where they hang out” – which may well mean offline.

So it’s no surprise that the leading digital brands are using more and more traditional – ie offline – media. In 2016  TV advertising revenue hit record levels of £5.27bn in 2015 as digital brands including Facebook, Google and Netflix become the second biggest investors in the medium.[Marketing Week]

facebook-outdoor-campaign
Facebook launched a big campaign to promote Live Video in October 2016 using Tradtional Media

Or a well crafted Direct Mail piece is a proven way to get attention and drive people on line.

Keep it simple: it’s the invisible things that will make a difference

OK you may have a fabulous website but how easy is it for your target audience to do the bread-and-butter things?

The key thing for me was that it’s not just about the website / app etc. The back-end processes – the ones that aren’t visible –  that are just as important.

For instance, how easy is it find where to sign up,  what happens when someone signs up – do they get a thank-you email ?  Have you thought through the whole process of onboarding ?

I’m constantly surprised at how simple (and dare I say it obvious) things really make a difference… Like moving a paper-based system to an online one. Or using simple Marketing Automation to ensure that every new user or interaction gets a thank you.

Content: Weddings and Babies

It goes without saying that content is a key component of any Marketing activity. However in the crowded, fragmented world of the internet, it’s even more important to make your content stand out. As Vincent Dignan said, you need to make your content as interesting as Weddings or Babies.

Although the typical Corporate launching your  new Widget 3000 isn’t trying to outcompete weddings and babies, the content still needs to be relevant, interesting and – ideally, depending on what you are selling – compelling.

Yet, according to the Havas’ latest Meaningful Brands survey, “60% of the content created by the world’s leading 1,500 brands is ‘just clutter’ that has little impact on consumers’ lives or business results”. [Marketing Week].

So here are some techniques for improving content…

Personalise your messages to your target segments. Again this may seem obvious but how often do you see Press Releases sent out as-is ?  In my view Press Releases are formal documents, intended  for Journalists and can very dull…   If you’ve done your homework, you’ve identified your target market and their wants and needs. Use this information to point out to your audience WHY the content of the Press Release is relevant to them..

Call to action.  Think what you want people to do when they read your content. When I was working in Marketing Communications in IBM we used to call it the “So What?” Test. In particular choose buttons for your website which actively encourage your users to take action…

@Vincentdignan
@Vincentdignan

And no, “Sign up for our Newsletter” does not appear !

And, last but not, least ..

“Don’t sweat the small things on day ONE”.  In other words, it’s better to get your content out, than worry too much about presentation and design.

Innovate but don’t go over to the Dark Side

It’s not for nothing that it’s called Growth Hacking as some of the techniques that are used by Growth Hackers are, frankly, of questionable legality !  Scraping a competitor’s site to extract key information or gathering emails  is probably a big no no for Corporates with a reputation to uphold.

However there’s nothing wrong with seeking out great models (including your competitors), and copying the best bits. Rather than reverse engineering growth (as the Growth Hackers say) or simply copying, I would find ways of improving on what your competitors are doing.

Which brings me on to my final point.

Growth Hacking is a state of mind

For me, Growth Hacking isn’t about techniques or strategies: it’s really a state of mind.

Vincent Dignan said in his seminar that, to be a good Growth Hacker, you need to be a “be a mixture of Mad Men and Math-Men”. What I took this to mean is a combination of the risk taking, can-do attitude of Mad Mean, with the level-headedness and focus of a strategic planner.

That’s why, for me, Growth Hacking and Social Media don’t have to be the Wild West anymore, even for Corporates.

Gone are the days of Social Not-working….  bring on the days of Sustainable Growth Hacking !

I’m a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world.