Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The beauty of basic business principles

This week I had the pleasure of hosting the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce “be better online” conference. Around 100 delegates from businesses across Norfolk and from numerous market segments descended to the Forum. All with the aim of learning some new tips and techniques that would help them improve what they were doing online and give them what all businesses want: an edge over their competitors.

As well as being an honour to host these events, I too sat with the rest of the delegates writing notes and picking up ideas that I could bring back to Archant towers and implement. I was not unduly surprised that from the varied speakers talking about such subjects as content marketing, search, social and email marketing there emerged some common but essential principles.

Too often companies undertake activities, especially online, without any goals or KPIs to check against. “We do social because we ought to” is not a reason. Have a proper plan with targets and goals and measure yourself against them and don’t be afraid to change if you don’t hit them.

Make sure you understand what your customers are doing on your own sites. For example it could be that your audience arrive on your site not on the homepage but a different landing page but unless you check your analytics data you cannot use that knowledge to your advantage. While you are doing that you should also make a point of understanding what your competitors are doing and see if you can do it better or differently!

Use content in its different forms to show people how great you are, don’t tell them. Use your own product and market experience to set yourself apart from your competitors. Finally a theme across all the day was my old favourite that applies to everything: test, learn and refine.

These simple rules may seem like common sense but are often forgotten by businesses. The value of a conference is not always in what is said but the chance to remove you from the rush of modern working and remind yourself that basic principles apply just as much to the digital world as to the offline world and arguably more so.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Microsoft and Nokia - a new dawn or an inevitable sunset?

The recent announcement of Microsoft acquiring Nokia’s devices business for £3.12bn did not generate anyway near the level of hype and coverage if it had happened 10 years ago.

Why? Well four years ago Nokia’s smartphone market share was 30%, now it’s 8%. Right now 90% of all mobiles work on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS platforms, Microsoft’s windows share is 4%.

Although Microsoft also bought the right to licence Nokia patents and the Lumina phone brand. Nokia will continue to operate as a network and tech company and still owns the Nokia brand.

It’s that brand point which is the most interesting thing to me. From nowhere Apple launched a mobile phone and within a few years dominated the market. It was quickly joined by other manufacturers using Google’s Andriod system such as HTC and most notably Samsung.

These handsets sold not just because of the technology, as much as how they were marketed. Apple made the iPhone aspirational, desirable, you had to have one. Samsung has taken that mantle over, especially to the under 25 market who now view the iPhone as the phone owned by the older generation and so not cool. Even Blackberry had some status driven by its BBM messaging system and its use by celebrities. Nokia phones were just functional and that positioning does not sell in the millions.

Technologists would have you believe that you need the next phone because of all the cool things it will do. The reality is that phones became an accessory like a handbag or a watch. When they did, they moved from selling based on functionality to selling based on desire. Those companies with marketers who know how to create that emotion through marketing and brand messaging won. Those with no track record lost.

If you want proof that marketing is something all companies should take seriously it was noted that Samsung and Apple were estimated to have made £3.2bn profit on their mobile sales in the second quarter of this year alone. That just short of the total paid for Nokia, that’s a lesson in itself.

Tim Youngman is Director of Marketing for Archant