Archive for the marketing strategy Category

Platform, simplicity and involvement: Keys to developing the perfect app

Posted in creativity, marketing strategy, social media with tags , on March 8, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image: M Bartosch

If you want to get closer to your customers, you can’t get closer than their ever-present mobile phones.

Packaging up your brand, service or product in a mobile or tablet-friendly app ensures that customers stay close, no matter where they are, and can enjoy a enhanced and personalised version of the brand experience. If you get it right. And when you do, greater loyalty and increased spend are just some of the benefits.

But developing an app which delights – and not to mention justifies the investment – is not straightforward. There is a whole host of considerations to take into account, and this will only expand as mobile technologies and operating systems continue to evolve.

I asked two experts in app development about what it takes to build a brilliant app.

Mark Rock is founder of audio-sharing platform Audioboo, where sound is social. Launched in 2009, Audioboo sees around 100 000 individual audio plays per day – and mobile has played a huge part in establishing this reach.  It’s available via iPhone, Android and now Nokia apps.  Gilbert Hill is business development director at Governor Technology, a web development agency with a specialism in app development.

iPhone, Blackberry, Android, WP7…. How do you decide where to place your bets?

For Mark Rock, it was a fairly easy choice: “iPhone has by far the most integrated development environment and because iPad and iPhone share the same OS, then your app will work on both, he explained. “In terms of market size, Android is the king but it’s harder to maintain (as a platform). Blackberry is a pain, simply because of the sheer number and different shapes handsets come in. WP7 looks good but has only a very small market share at present”. Gilbert Hill sees opportunity in WP7 for this exact reason. “We’re getting more and more enquiries about WP7 development as clients update their mobile app strategies to include more than just one platform.  There are now about 350,000 apps available in the Apple ecosystem – that is a huge pond in which to command attention.  By contrast, other platforms like WP7 are less populated which means each app has a real chance of making a splash”.

So, once you’ve figured that out, do you go for in-house development or with a dev shop?

Our experts represent either sides of the development fence, and both offer compelling arguments.  Hill argues that “compared with straight web dev, mobile development now means dealing with multiple platforms, each with own quirks and capabilities.  Add to that the fact that each handset also has its own challenges”. Not only that, he explains, but there’s a talent issue too – agency devs are up on a broad spectrum of technologies and can represent cost savings too. On the other hand, Rock explains that in-house has been perfect for Audioboo. “Our development process has been quite iterative, so it’s given us flexibility to have a developer in-house.” But sometimes a blend of the two is needed. “We build Audioboo’s iPhone app in house and then show that to our Android developer as a design to emulate”.

So far, so good. Now for the crux of it – user experience (UX). What matters most?

Both Rock and Hill agree that simplicity is the number one attribute to which to aspire. As Hill points out, “Familiarity of experience can trump novelty”. Mark Rock also cites user journey (is it intuitive? will the user get lost?) and useful error messages as critical UX considerations.

Launch time!  But how can you ensure great uptake?

Well, it seems it’s all about the app selling itself – so, getting the technology and experience right in the first place.  High profile users help, of course. Mark Rock explains: “We were lucky to have been taken up by some big media players in the first 3 months – Guardian, BBC, FT. We also engage with users on Twitter and our user forums a lot, which leads to a network effort, particularly as we allow autoposting to Facebook and Twitter – so it becomes part of that mainstream”.

For Hill, it’s about engaging users early on – in some cases before you even start development. “It always depresses me when someone proudly informs us of an App they have already commissioned based on an idea brewed up in an internal ‘team-think’ session, and the end user has been left out of the process”.  Understanding what users want first, engaging them in the development process (consultation, Beta test groups etc) and keeping close to those users is key.

And it doesn’t end there.  All apps need to be updated, to keep them fresh, fast and functionality-rich. But when?

It’s clearly a balance.  On one hand, updates prolong the shelf life of an app, but too much turns users off.  “We update maybe twice a year and only when we have significant new features to add or a major bug that many users have complained about, says Rock. “But you do see companies using updates to push their app up in the download charts. We just don’t think that’s a compelling user experience”.

As with concept and development, Hill suggests that updates can provide an opportunity for loyalty-building: “If you start the process by polling users for what they want they will love you for it, and become advocates rather than just consumers.”

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London, a communications consultancy with a focus on new and emerging technologies and their application for outstanding communications.

Social Media Audit: Gaining Essential Clarity

Posted in marketing strategy, social media with tags on March 3, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image credit: M Bartosch

Whether you’re just starting your social media journey, or are fully underway, such is the pace of technological and behavioural change that constant assessment and reassessment is a must.  Social media does not stand still, and neither should your thinking.

Quick and meaningful

One of the tools we use to assess in a quick yet meaningful way is the Social Media Audit.  It sounds pretty unsexy, doesn’t it? But it’s an exercise which provides a genuine insight into what is happening and not happening, what much be done, and where that sits within your industry and alongside your competitors.  We often use this as a pre-strategy phase, to allow us to present a clear view of the “as-is” situation from a very objective standpoint, and to pave the way for defining future direction, opportunity and action.

How it looks

You can pretty easily audit yourself, but even better is to have a third party do it for you, for genuine objectivity.  At a very high level it addresses:

  • Current use of platforms – where, how, who, when
  • Notable results to date
  • What’s working, what’s not, what needs to happen next
  • Internal factors, such as buy-in, engagement and knowledge levels
  • An assessment of available resource (time, people and money)
  • Benchmarking against competitors and across relevant industries

Clear vision

What you get at the end of it is a clear view of where you are in social media terms, which you can then hold up against objectives.  Is current activity working? Where is it not? Which areas need more or less focus?  In addition, it will provide you with a list of immediate remedial work to be done – whether it’s tweaking a process to allow you to respond better, updating profiles, linking platforms or dealing with unmoderated comments. Sometimes these quick fixes can make a big difference.

As with most good social media activity, it’s as much about good planning and process as it about ideas and creativity. Making an audit a regular priority, whether quarterly, six-monthly or yearly, is simply good practice. How else can you be sure that your strategy is working, can be practically managed and is succeeding in setting you apart from the crowd?

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London, a communications consultancy with a pragmatic approach to social media. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Online Competitions: Essential Considerations for Marketers

Posted in brand, marketing strategy, social media with tags , , on February 17, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image credit: Felixco Inc.

For many brands, online competitions are a great way of engaging existing audiences and customers, as well as building awareness further afield and driving inbound traffic.

But competitions aren’t necessarily simple. Trial and error is often the best teacher, but here are some pointers for the thought process you need to work through, when designing and running an online competition:

1. Objectives are all

Be clear about what you want to achieve, or you can’t accurately measure success. Do you want more newsletter sign-ups? To build awareness of a new service or product? Referrals? Or – equally important but trickier to quantify – to build brand loyalty and engage customers?

Once you’ve defined your overall objective, you can then agree some basic measures and design the competition accordingly.

2. The prize is right

You need a compelling reason for people to enter a competition. Let’s face it, we can get what we want pretty easily these days, so make it worthwhile.  The prize or reward should also be commensurate to the effort required of the entrant to participate – lots of effort should equal pretty damn magnificent prize.

Which leads to…

3. User experience can make it or break it

To make a competition really fly, barriers to entering need to be as low as possible.  The mechanism for winning needs to be thought out well, and should be informed by your objectives.

For example, if you’re building awareness and driving traffic, asking people simply to sign up at a dedicated space online to enter works best.  And fortunately, this is quick and easy for the user.

To engage is a little more complex. You might be asking people to generate content (post pictures of customers using the product in question, write something, share something, make something). Again, keep it simple and keep the UX at the forefront: Are instructions clear? Is the platform for sharing up to the job? Are you asking too much?

4. Work your channels

Decide wisely where the competition should live. Facebook works well for engagement style competitions, as you can drive discussion and it’s a ready-made platform for sharing – posting comments, pictures etc is intuitive.

If it’s awareness you need, a blend of online channels works well. An e-newsletter could launch the competition, driving traffic to a dedicated webpage, which has sharing and bookmarking buttons. Announce it on Facebook and Twitter too.

Working with a partner for the competition increases your audience (and might give you access to a whole new audience), and can increase your punching weight when it comes to the prize, so it’s worth considering.

5. Rules is rules…

There are rules guiding online competitions and you must be aware of them. Factors such as timezones and jurisdictions (for closing dates), the Gambling Act 2005 (which demands that competitions should not be “illegal lotteries” – so skill should be involved and no payment asked) and the CAP code need to be adhered to.

Law firm Pinsent Mason LLP has created a great guide here.

6. Data! Data! Data!

A competition is a prime opportunity to collect data – don’t miss it.  Think about which details you ask for in a sign-up style entry and consider an extra question, which might provide you with vital insight into consumer behaviour. But keep it light-touch – this should not compromise the UX.

Basic monitoring for competitions on social media platforms can provide good insights into key influencers and brand advocates.

And, of course, keep a close eye on your analytics, to observe traffic spikes, entry patterns and user behaviours – then work that knowledge when designing your next competition.

Kate Spiers is Director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency. Follow Kate on Twitter here and contact Wisdom London here.

Virality Is For B2Bs Too: How To Create Shareable Content

Posted in marketing strategy, social media, thought leadership with tags , on February 11, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image: Graur Codrin

What makes content shareable?

A key outcome of social media engagement is amplification of messages – that is, broadening reach and getting your name   / brand / message / expertise in front of a potentially huge audience. Critical if you’re building a brand, marketing with a specific message or building awareness of a particular cause.

Whether or not something goes viral is a tough one to predict (and can look pretty try hard if it fails), but what we can control is the shareability of our content or assets, and optimise them for sharing and WOM (word-of-mouth).

We have numerous examples of shared content gaining viral status in the consumer field (Old SpiceTippex Shoot the Bear etc) yet, as with many social media approaches, this can be harder to pull off in the B2B sphere. But not impossible.

What kind of assets are we talking about?

Video is almost synonymous with virality – not least because most end up on YouTube, the worlds 2nd largest search engine, and where they are most easily shared. However, with corporate firewalls sometimes making ubiquitous YouTube inaccessible, we need to think about about other assets, too – blog posts, data charts, guides, infographics, reports, images, statistic sets, apps, tools and animations.

Assets are in their very nature of some value, whether informative, humourous or simply useful. But that in itself does not necessarily make them shareable. So what does?

Making assets shareable

When you think about stuff you’ve shared online recently, whether via a Twitter retweet, a link on Facebook or LinkedIn, or even an old-school attachment  on an email, what made you share it?

Most likely was that it provoked some kind of emotional response. It fulfilled some kind of need that you recognised others may also have. That asset might have:

  • Made you laugh
  • Taught you something you didn’t know
  • Presented information in a brilliant way
  • Made your life easier
  • Applied to something happening in the world right now
  • Reminded you of something important
  • Provided inspiration
  • Surprised you with stand-out statistics
  • Made you feel good (happiness, belonging, nostalgia)
  • Made your life in some way better

It’s these emotional responses that make us want to share, and it’s sharing that creates virality.   Get people to share en-masse, with passion and with those who have reach, and you win.

B2B virality

To achieve some sense of virality in the B2B sphere, you obviously need to make content shareable, but you also need to think along slightly different lines. Buying cycles in B2B are fundamentally different. After all, even if you could get 100, 000 views of your video on YouTube, does that get you closer to closing a consulting deal or software sale? Not necessarily. The measures are different, and in recognising that we can identify meaningful ways to make content shareable in the B2B world:

Relevance: Is the content relevant beyond a niche market or specific management layer? (although niche can work too)

Promise: Does your asset promise something new and valuable? People do not share same old, same old. It’s bad for our street cred.

Human factor: Will sharing this make you feel good, look good, be seen as forward-thinking, help you connect to someone? Ben the Bodyguard is a really handy service in an essentially dull field (online security) but a cutting-edge website and sharp humour made it eminently shareable and created huge buzz before launch. In B2B humour needs to be smart. Would a professional share this with another professional without crossing boundaries?

Usability: Is the asset in a format that’s easily shared? A quick download or view, a link which requires no sign up to view, a platform that can deal with high volumes. But think in terms of parameters too. Banned platforms, over-large attachments and links that don’s specify where you’re directed can leave the asset dead in the water.

What people share in b2b, with a few examples:

– Validated facts and stats (quote the sources!)

– Killer quotes and soundbites

– Methodologies, analysis and hypothesis (like Gartner’s Technology Hype Cycle)

– Diagrams and process models (such as B Solis’ Conversation Prism)

– Hot off the press content that’s totally new – there’s kudos in being the first with breaking news

– Great apps, services and tools

– Reports, surveys and points of view

– How to guides (we did our own very successful Twitter clients guide)

– Insightful interviews (TED’s YouTube channel has seen over 58 million upload views to date)

– Games and challenges (Sage did this very effectively within LinkedIn a few years ago)

Virality for B2Bs is completely achievable, but to make it work we must first realise that consumer virality and B2B virality are two different beasts. The B2B world has a whole set of nuances, expectations, parameters and behaviours to navigate. It’s hard to benchmark the two – measures will be different, as will outcomes.

Thanks to Graeme Fraser for his help with the Sage example.

Kate Spiers is Director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a track record in supporting B2B communication.

Social Media and PR: Are the “blurred lines” an opportunity or a threat?

Posted in marketing strategy, social media with tags , on December 1, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Sarah Thomas posted today on the Wallblog about the blurring lines between social media and PR.  She’s right in raising the fact that this is creating a tangible shift in the PR industry, which can present either a huge threat or a massive opportunity, depending on how you look at it.

I’ve weighed in with my view, excerpt here:

It’s a given that now PR agencies should now be equipped to embrace social media as a channel, for the good of their clients – but by equipped, I don’t mean simply a team who know lots about Facebook. I mean that they should demonstrate an all-encompassing understanding of not just how social media works (in conjunction with and in relation to other channels) but also what it means to the business world. It’s about having a social mindset: understanding what a social consumer wants, does, needs and how that impacts the world, then applying that in the most meaningful and effective way possible.

Sadly that’s not always the case now, hence the huge opportunity for social media pure play agencies, social media consultants and specialists. Perhaps the old style of marketing of the last 20 years was too hung up about individual channels – social media is certainly forcing us to re-examine that. Hence the blurry boundaries between PR and social media, social media and advertising, advertising and entertainment… A channel does not look quite like the channels we learned about at CIM any more.

So in general, PR agencies need to up their game – or partner seamlessly with those who have that specialism – but either way, they need a social mindset, to be of strategic value to their clients and to hold their own against growing competition elsewhere.

Read more:

What do you think?  Can PR handle the task of social media adequately? Or only a part of it? Should PR agencies even get involved?  And in terms of cutting the pie, who’s best placed to manage what (when you think about SM pure play agencies, social PR agencies, digital comms etc)? What is the agency of the future like?

Kate Spiers is director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a pragmatic approach to social media. Also a great believer in the social mindset.

If you’d like to talk more about the social mindset, or how social media is best integrated into your communications planning, get in touch here!

Building A Rock-Solid Community Offline

Posted in brand, marketing strategy with tags , , , on September 5, 2010 by wisdomlondon

By Kate Spiers

Flat White is a Mecca for caffeine-obsessed Soho types. Not only does Flat White serve the best coffee in town (the original New Zealand Flat White – a thing of beauty in itself).  It has an authentic vibe. Cool people, the best music, palpable energy.

But their digital footprint is minimal. They have a website (currently not live for some reason) and enthusiasts blog about them but there’s no Twitter account, no Facebook fan page, no YouTube channel or blog. And – shock – I don’t think they need it.

Because Flat White has one of the most loyal followings in town, it’s de facto cool, and rarely empty. They even opened up a sister venue, Milkbar, just a few streets away, which should technically cannibalise their trade, but doesn’t.

To me, it’s a great reminder that social technology is not for everyone right now, and that good old-fashioned marketing principles of brand, service, promise and experience count.

So how’d they do it? And how can we learn from their success?

1. It’s about people

Visit Flat White and running the show most of the time is Cameron, the slightly wired-looking barista (he sinks a lot of espressos a day). He is a bundle of energy, easy going and super friendly. He talks to everyone about pretty much anything and generally makes you feel good to be there.  The rest of the team echo Cam’s style – it all feels right.  You can’t fake this stuff.

2. It’s about passion

This is a place where great things happen. Dare ask Cameron about the coffee and he’ll tell you about the beans, the roaster, the machine, the settings, etc. Ask him about the food and they’ll describe it in as much detail as you want.  They’re bothered about being as good as they possibly can be, and about serving their faithful public brilliantly.  The passion and enthusiasm for what they do is clear.

3. It’s about belonging

Flat White is not for everyone. At worst, it’s loud, small, the coffee takes way longer to arrive than at Starbucks, and there’s no toilet and no WiFi. It’s also not cheap. But these “mass barriers” serve a purpose. You come here because you don’t want Starbucks, because the coffee is worth the wait and the money, because the music is insanely good and because you know you’ll be in good company. With people like you.  In a market consumed by standardized brand experiences, this is worth something.

4. It’s about word of mouth

This is probably the closest that Flat White gets to  social media – location check-ins via FourSquare and Gowalla, Twitter mentions, blog posts and the fervour of the faithful contribute to spreading the word. But take a look at it – this is all actively driven by committed customers, not Flat White themselves. They just concentrate on doing a great job and the rest takes care of itself.

And I genuinely believe that so long as they continue to maintain the passion, commitment and feelgood factor, Flat White will prosper.

This can’t work across the board, of course.  But where there is a physical experience, particularly an emotive one (comfort, belonging, pleasure, stimulation), it’s interesting that offline rules.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

Are you practicing what you preach?

Posted in marketing strategy, wisdom with tags , , , on September 3, 2010 by wisdomlondon

I am really delighted to be a Marketing Donut expert – it’s an amazing resource for marketers. My first blog post for the Donut looks at whether we are practicing what we preach, and examines our true business values beliefs and convictions: Are You Practicing What You Preach?

My Innovation Confession

Posted in brand, creativity, marketing strategy, wisdom with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2010 by wisdomlondon

I presented this morning to about 50 business directors at who are members of London’s Partnership.  Usually, I’d be talking about social media or engagement at this kind of thing, but today’s topic was business innovation. Out of the comfort zone I went.  But it felt good.  Here’s my take:

I have a confession about the term ‘innovation’: It conflicts me.  In so many cases it feels like a label. I’m not crazy about it. To me, It’s a simple enough concept: Doing something differently, to effect positive change. But that’s not everyone’s view.

Over-doing it

What bothers me is that the very word has been over-used, over-processed, intellectualised.  Made complicated, made abstract and conceptual, made elitist….

I probably owe you an explanation.  In a previous life I worked for a consulting firm. They had an innovation practice, a VP of innovation, they ran innovation events. To me, it wasn’t real enough.  Not to me as an employee, or the clients and projects I engaged with.  There, it remained a concept. I still couldn’t see it, or experience it.

But I know and understand that innovation is important. Move beyond concept, make it tangible and it’s a tool for business.  It can help us keep up, overtake, break new ground and make the most of new technology and developments.

It’s a vital mindset in the quest for continual improvement.  That’s my definition.

Reality bites

But we have to make it mean something ‘real’ to our business.  We all need a workable definition of innovation in the context of your business, my business, the world that we all operate in – our reality.

Reality-based innovation, if you will, could pay dividends and make the difference between a good marketing approach and an outstanding one, a strong brand and an emotive one, a content, functioning workforce and a highly-motivated, dynamic team of ambassadors.

So where do we begin? Take a look around – innovation exists in myriad areas of business and often not through planning, just through mindset.

Brewed Boy: Rob uses the core of what he does to add value in terms of community and like minds: book swap, coaching sessions, informal meet ups.  I suspect he doesn’t actively seek to innovate.  He just does.

Etsy: Using the power of community / shared passions / a major trend to open up a new market

Groupon: Game changer for consumers and retailers alike – win-win

Shutl: Quest to change the way we shop – responding to a consumer frustration

Innocent: people at the heart of everything / massive community focus

Audioboo: Harnessing technology to help us do things more smartly

What’s the common denominator?  Passion.  Wanting to make things better. Not wanting to stand still.  These businesses change and evolve rapidly, they’re geared up to be flexible.  They can (and will) try something new tomorrow

Clue: think about where pockets exist for your organisation to innovate

The big/small rule

Don’t let a big concept put you off.  Define first of all what innovation can mean to you and your business.

Innovation can be a baby step, just a small thing you do differently that can change the course of something, make it better, to encourage people to act differently.

That’s the big rule:  Innovation doesn’t have to be big

Doesn’t have to be a cumbersome process.  For example, for Wisdom London, it’s a case of wrapping value around our brand – moving slightly beyond our core offer to add something useful, desirable and thoughtful (resources, tips, thoughts, tools, even cake).  Human.  Personal.

For your reality, some considerations….

  • Actively observe.  Be a tourist.  In your own organization. Throw out your preconceptions. Get your head up and look around.
  • Reality check: Check out everyone’s reality: yours, your teams’ your clients, stakeholders, target market.  You need to understand this REALLY well. Innovation can happen anywhere. It’s just a question of identifying where it’s most ripe.
  • Question the status quo. Innovation is not about doing things the same way they’ve always been done.  Ask why, why not, ask again
  • Dare to dream: Hypothesise.  What if x, y or z was used differently?  Repackaged? What if the concept was expanded?  Extra value wrapped around it? What’s the risk attached to that?
  • Try it, review and try again – don’t let it remain a concept
  • Don’t stand still

What it all boils down to:

I don’t see innovation as a process that should be overlaid on a business, or a stand-alone activity.  I am deeply sceptical about the need to assign responsibility for innovation to one person or team.

Here’s my view.  Innovation is simply an opportunity. Either in or you’re out. Thinking innovatively or not.

It’s a mindset that should be engaged when you think about your business in the context of marketing, productivity and improvement.  It’s an opportunity to do things differently.  To move away from conventional wisdom, to be bold, to differentiate.

This is not everyone’s view.  The academic view is more along the lines of “creativity is a mindset, innovation is a process”.  In an academic scenario, I accept that I may be wrong or at least off beam.

But we’re not academics.  We’re business people in the real world.  I don’t think we should get caught up in semantics.

We should simply aspire to create, do things differently, better, responsively and in a way that genuinely meets the needs of people and business – and innovation or not – we can call it what we want.

Kate Spiers is director and founder of Wisdom London. She believes in action, not semantic debate.

Slides here: Business Innovation Wisdom London

Follow Kate on Twitter

Guesting on Cow Bell: The Digital Footprint Audit

Posted in marketing strategy, social media, wisdom with tags , , , on August 26, 2010 by wisdomlondon

We were very proud this week to guest post on the always-brilliant Cow Bell blog. Subject: Your Digital Footprint.  Not a bad read, though we say so ourselves:

Take a look!