Businesses that aren’t growing don’t stay still; they shrink. And every business leader focused on growth must therefore, necessarily, be focused on marketing.
Big data is still big news. The likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft, with its acquisition of LinkedIn, are undertaking digital land grabs to hoover up large quantities of data, be it medical or social, to feed their need for information. With these companies building millions of data points to nourish their machine-learning algorithms, what does big data now mean for the rest of us?
When Google launched in the late nineties, it was a simple search engine designed to make the internet easier to navigate. In 2016, Google is unapologetically an ad platform, with the Adwords pay-per-click (PPC) service generating a whopping 97% of its $73 billion sales in 2015.
For many businesses, PPC is an addiction; their sole means of generating web referrals, because they’ve turned off all other marketing activities.
It’s a risky game to play. While PPC is certainly making Google a lot of money, it doesn’t work well for all businesses. Cost-per-click may be as low as £0.04 in some areas, but the highest ranking keywords – those which attract the highest number of searches and clicks – can command fees in excess of £35. So, while PPC definitely can work for some, it can be an ineffective, expensive drain on resources for others.
Which leads to the question, when should a business adopt PPC, and when should they leave it well alone?
What is a brand?
It’s a simple enough question, but now and then we meet someone who has to ask it; someone who isn’t sure if their business has a brand, or whether it should have one at all.
Just as every person has a personality, the fact is every business has a brand – whether it accepts the fact or not. The practical question for owners and managers is “what is my brand, and how do I manage it?”
Facebook surprised the world in July 2014 by paying $2 billion for Oculus, a start-up that has taken virtual reality from a futuristic dream to a practical technology. The move was a shrewd one; Facebook is betting that it will change the way we consume media. Virtual reality technology has improved exponentially in the last 18 months and is finally living up to its promise of genuinely immersive experiences. In fact, it's already changing the way marketing is done.
Virtual reality is simple. First, grab a headset – they look like a ski visor welded to a Stormtrooper mask. Press a button and you’ll find yourself in hyper-realistic 3D environments, from futurist malls to ancient plains populated with dinosaurs to enormous movie theatres. The experience truly is like being there – you will forget you’re still in the office.
I really like podcasts and one of my favourites is BBC Radio 4’s The Bottom Line. I was recently listening to one of the episodes on customer service, Evan Davis was talking to some European heavy hitters about what customer service meant in their businesses. It’s hard for small and mid-tier businesses to compare themselves to the likes of Ryan Air, Dixons Carphone and Scottish Power. However, the three panellists gave some interesting insights as to how their organisations had succeeded and, more importantly, failed with their customer service strategies.
The three businesses had very different definitions of customer service; they talked about how technology played a part in the engagement with their customer and the role their staff members played.
I recently saw an article by Fiona Smith on '6 ways to boost your word-of-mouth'. The title in itself grabbed me – why? Because when we ask business leaders the key question ‘How do your customers find you?’ and they don’t know the answer, they always say ‘word-of-mouth’.
I know they are trying to dodge the question, or if they are not dodging the question they typically don’t have the data to back up the answers to the next two questions:
• Who are your best referrers?
• How much business did they introduce to you last year?
Pixar is an amazing business. Built on imagination and creativity, it harnesses the potential of digital technologies to create the most engaging characters and films.
In 1979 Star Wars creator George Lucas and computer scientist Ed Catmull established the foundations of what was initially a digitally-enabled special effects business. Seven years later Steve Jobs acquired the studio, renamed it Pixar, and gave birth to some of the most successful animated films - like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. Today it is the creative heartbeat of the Disney empire, and one of the world’s most innovative businesses.
Pixar is a digital content business, and in many ways that’s what brands are today. Beyond the products and services which they support, brands are about ideas, stories, relationships and communities, and the capturing and sharing of them increasingly digitally, virtual experiences which become reality.
Sometimes when you think you are in a conversation with your clients, you really aren’t. We often ask our clients, “When did you last speak to your clients or key stakeholders outside of any project engagement or sales conversations – you know, just general business-as-usual conversations?” The answer is it rarely happens.
Every business needs a mechanism to speak to their key stakeholders on a regular basis. They also need to provide a channel where their clients can be brutally honest. There are times when no one likes to be on the receiving end of complete honesty; however, such frankness is where the opportunity sits for your business to improve.
Getting a new customer might feel more glamorous than retaining one, but your chance of making a new sale with an existing customer is 60-70%. That same statistic for a new prospect is just 5-20%. And yet, the never-ceasing search for the secret that will see your marketing connect to an ever increasing group of new customers is the ultimate goal for some.
What is the right way to prioritise?
Your existing customers have already bought into you to some degree, marketing to them is not only more likely to succeed, but you’re also increasing buy-in and trust: building fans. Too often, companies either assume that the new business marketing is enough for existing customers or just ignore them completely.