So I was both a little bit surprised and – I’ve got to say – impressed last week by a class at Abingdon and Witney College.
Let me explain… I’m training as a part-time Lecturer at the College, and I volunteered to set an activity for a class of Higher Education level Management students.
The Twitter challenge
The idea of the activity was to set a Strategic challenge. So I chose Twitter. Twitter, to me, seem to be very much at a strategic crossroads. After years of growth, suddenly they have a major challenge – their user base isn’t as growing as fast as it was, and they are losing advertising revenue, partly due to the association with Donald Trump (the “Trump effect”).
So, the challenge was – if the students were running Twitter, what would they do next ?
Like a keen, newly inducted, earnest teacher I had a complete timed plan for activity ready, along with help if the students needed some inspiration…. I even had some “late breaking news” lined up to mix things up half-way through..
They didn’t need any of it..
Creative solutions from tomorrows leaders
They weren’t daunted by the challenge. What folowed was a lively and wide-ranging dicussion covering celebrities to bots.
Some students brushed off the current woes relating to Trump with a very mature assessment that, if their model is based on growth, and they are growing then they don’t have a problem longer term.
Others came up with ideas to target new celebrities and drive growth (and improve Twitter’s image).
Others suggested focusing on driving live events through Twitter ..
Rising to the occasion
Personally I learned a lot by this activity. Principally not to underestimate the potential of students. Give them an interesting challenge and they will rise to the occasion.
Isn’t this just what we want from our future leaders ?
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..
You ask someone for their permission to market to them – they fill out a form and provide an email address
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.
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
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.
Yesterday I attended an excellent seminar by Andy Street, ex MD of John Lewis. Although the topic was about Ethical business, for me it was really another fascinating transformation story.
What was most interesting for me was how JLP’s ethical approach helped them to respond to, and transform their business in response to the double whammy of digital disruption and the Credit Crunch.
Back in 2007, JLP were just starting their foray into multi-channel and had purchased buy.com to to establish their online business. However soon after, the credit crunch hit and their revenues declined dramatically.
This required a major restructure of their business, but it was impressive to hear how they stuck to their guns and continued to focus on their future growth – their online business. They were one of the pioneers of click and collect and at a time when their competitors were reducing investments, they also opened more stores as they realised that, in order to compete in the online world, they had to have more points of presence.
The results ?
Online sales grew from 12% in 2008/9 to 36% in 2015/6
JLP has evolved from a Multichannel to an Omnichannel model: stores run as local businesses
Last, but not least, JLP’s business is still based around bricks and mortar (I look forward to the new JLP shop opening in Oxford) . It t seems to have successfully weathered the storm and come out of the digital / credit crunch stronger and fitter for the future…
I’m a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world.
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]
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…
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.
There’s a lot of talk nowadays about Digital Transformation, with a number of people pushing the need to innovate and transform. So here is my advice for business leaders.
The e-business story: a lesson from history ?
Remember back in 2000 ? This was the time when the internet was really starting to take off. There were many people very excited about the opportunities that this new thing called the internet could bring for organisations – hence “e-business”.
There were even a number of trade magazines devoted to e-business.
At the time I was working in IBM, as Global Marketing Communications Manager. My key focus was to launch IBM’s new e-learning solution globally. Except we weren’t allowed to use the term “e-learning” because, the IBM CEO Lou Gerstner (with amazing foresight) dictated that “e-business” was really a passing phase. And he was completely right (although we all complained at the time of having to talk about Distributed Learning Solutions when our competitors and customers were talking about e-learning).
e-business was not, in the long term, a revolutionary change. It was just a new way of doing business which, after a few years has become business as usual. (And, not surprisingly, the e-business magazines are no more).
So what’s different about Digital Transformation in 2017 ?
Roll forward to 2017. The vast majority of businesses have a digital presence, they have websites, social media etc and they may even have eCommerce capability.
So why the interest in digital transformation ? In my experience, I think the focus on digital transformation is really about fundamental changes in business models. Let me give you an example.
Digital transformation in the Publishing Industry: Brave New World
When I started my project at Ricoh Europe to target the Publishing Industry in 2014, I was genuinely surprised how much people were much concerned about digital transformation. I was told that this was all due to consumers buying eBooks instead of printed books. The key symptoms were:
print book sales were falling
new technologies (ie ebooks) were growing rapidly
Publishers were losing money and asking serious questions about their business models
However in just a few years the situation seemed to settle down, and the mood changed from pessimisim to optimism.
book sales have stabilised and have even started to increase in some categories
ebook sales had reached a plateau and stabilised
And, last but not least, many Publishers have started to make money again.
So what has happened ? Well, this is how I interpret it.
Consumer behaviour has been changing…:
People’s buying habits have been changing. There are many things competing with books: music, film, and other entertainments. Publishers have had to respond to this new situation.
An inefficient supply chain model has been made more efficient
The traditional supply chain was organised around buying books in bulk from China, and storing in large warehouses. It was not uncommon for up to 30% of stock to remain unsold. This was OK so long as Publishers were making money….
However the adoption of the latest digital print technologies has meant that Publishers can now almost print to order. As a result, they have significantly reduced inventory (and costs), speeded up time to market and opened up new revenue opportunities from backlist titles.
eBooks have carved out a niche
The launch of the Kindle and other ebook platforms, along with subsidised prices for eBooks created an accelerated demand for ebooks. Initially this caused significant disruption for Publishers. However, as soon as the subsidies ended, eBook sales have reached a plateau.
The new normal
I think it was the MD of HarperCollins at the Futurebook Conference in 2015 who coined the phrase “The new normal” – a great expression ! What has happened is actually not digital transformation – it’s far more profound than that.
To me, the new normal isn’t about transforming the business to make it more digital: no more than mainstream businesses became e-Businesses after 2000. Rather it’s about responding to market changes, and adapting the business model. It’s also about taking advantage of all innovations such as digital print – not just IT.
The book publishers of 2014 still make most of their money selling books. Now they can expand their revenues by selling a wider range of books, printed more cost-effectively using digital print technologies. They can offer a wider choice of formats to their readers – print and ebooks. And they can reach their end-users directly using Social Media.
What’s not to like ?
I’m looking to build a business as a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world.