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Content comes before communication 14 October, 2008

Posted by Steve in internet, marketing.
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One of the big themes of our upcoming Summit is going to be the importance of content when it comes to generating leads. My favourite quote on the topic comes from the people over at the advertising giant JWT, who proclaimed when relaunching the agency that we needed to “stop interrupting what people are interested in, and be what people are interested in.” Two years on and it still rings true as a clarion call to our industry. But the fact remains that the bulk of demand generation spending still gets piled in to intrusive, interruptive marketing.

I believe that’s because so many of the principles and thinking driving marketing communications are still derived from the old advertising world. The more attention spans have shortened, the more time we’ve spent agonising over the single ‘killer’ concept that’s going to stick in people’s heads, the arresting visual that’s going to grab their attention, the call to action that’s going to make them click or pick up the phone.

By comparison, most agencies tend to spend very little time thinking about what they’re actually driving people to. Typically, a landing page with a visual and headline that perhaps match the DM piece. A collection of all our analyst white papers and product datasheets. And forms asking customers to tell us everything from their budget to their waist size.

What if we were to channel more of our energy and creativity into developing the content that actually helps people decide whether our product or service is right for them? Better still, help them to get stuff that matters to them done. We are looking at re-writing our creative briefs so that we force ourselves to think about the content before we dive into the communication. The simple logic says if we first make the destination more attractive, then designing the signposts that get people there becomes so much easier.

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The Demand Generation Summit 30 September, 2008

Posted by Steve in internet, marketing, web 2.0.
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We’re really excited about an upcoming event we’re co-hosting with a bunch of like-minded partners. On November 4th we’re launching the European Demand Generation Summit in partnership with Google, Eloqua, BrightTALK and MarketOne. It’s going to be held in London at Altitude, which is on the very top floor of Millbank tower with views across London. Speakers include Amanda Jobbins, Omniture’s Neil Morgan, Jeremy Bevan from Novell and Justin Gale, a senior online marketer from HP.

So why are we doing this? Well we’re really seeing a major change in the way demand generation is moving. More importantly, the way in which prospects and customers are responding to campaigns. The fragmentation of media channels, increasing cynicism and resistance to push ‘marketing’, coupled with empowered customers who search for whatever they need and would sooner be talking to each other than vendors. OK, so this doesn’t necessarily make us marketing visionaries, but at a time when everyone’s beginning to feel the pinch (or waiting to feel it) – it makes it more of a pressing issue than it has been for the last year. Best start planning sooner rather than later.

We figured it would be a good start to gather together some experts from across the industry. Not just our fellow hosts, but some of our customers and their peers who are actually tackling some of the challenges we’re all facing… How to develop content that people want to engage with and map it to the buying cycle; how to target timely, relevant communications to someone whose name you don’t necessarily know; how to harness emerging and social media; and how to turn customers into advocates, either online or face-to-face. Then of course there’s the small matter of measuring return on all these marketing investments.

Over the next couple of weeks in the run-up to the event I’ll be picking up some of these themes and expanding on them. In the meantime you can visit the event site here. It’s open to marketers from technology and telecoms companies, B2B and B2C. A bunch of invitations should be going out in the next day or two so keep an eye on your in-tray and in-box.

Shift happens 10 May, 2007

Posted by Jay Ball in internet.
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We all know that the pace of change today is getting faster and faster. It’s almost incomprehensible to me that going back a couple of decades or so, when I first got into technology, there was for most people no internet and no mobile phones. PCs were just getting started properly (my first PC had no Windows OS, an awesome 30Mb of hard disk space and floppy disks as big as your head). And if you wanted to find something out, your local library was probably the best bet.

To put where we are today into some context, take a look at the following video:

While the predictions will undoubtedly be false as they always are, the existing stats on their own are pretty impressive. The one that got me: if myspace was a country, it would be the 11th largest in the world.

One of the things that this drives home is that flux is a permanent state of affairs. There is no certainty about anything – and all the focus groups in the world will not provide the answers. Everything is in beta and the successful companies of tomorrow will be those that chart their own destination but who also remain flexible about exactly how they get there.

This is the age of plan B.

How popular is your site? 28 March, 2007

Posted by Jay Ball in internet, search, web 2.0.
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popurius.png

Lifehacker points to a handy new site – with yet another ridiculo.us name – popuri.us. Essentially the site aggregates a bunch of sources to give you a picture of how popular your site is. So you get its PageRank, Alexa rank, Technorati links and a bunch more. See the BBC example below:

popurius-bbc.png

While this isn’t rocket science, it does bring it all together in one place. One for the bookmarks.

From text to hypertext and beyond – in style 15 February, 2007

Posted by Jay Ball in internet, web 2.0.
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This is a rather lovely piece of film.

Professor Michael Wesch (who’s Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University) has put together a four and a half minute piece tracing the path from text on paper through hypertext/HTML and on to XML in a really charming and engaging way. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about being in tech.

Source: Another planning blog

Today, Warwick. Tomorrow, Leamington Spa. 18 January, 2007

Posted by Jay Ball in internet, telecoms.
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Pipex has announced its second commercial trial of WiMAX in the UK. This is great news. Well it is if you live in Warwick. Oh and work for Warwick Council. You’ll be able to get an 8meg connection wherever you roam (within Warwick that is). They also plan to roll out the trial to those outside the council as well as to that digital hotbed, Leamington Spa.

WiMAX is often talked about as the holy grail of last mile / ubiquitous connectivity. The ability to have a robust broadband connection wherever, whenever. We’ve already covered Singapore‘s plans to offer full WiMAX coverage to every single person and business by 2015. It’s an ambitious plan and has some way to go (especially if like me, users can’t get speeds over 20 kB/sec when downloading from their site).

What I like about the Singapore approach is that there is a clear vision behind it. A sense of the greater good such a programme can achieve. Pipex’s, by comparison, seems to be all about technical feasibility and commercial viability. These are both good things, of course, and to be expected from a commercial organisation. They’re just not that exciting (and the prospect of the service being promoted eventually by David Hasslehoff frankly makes me a little nauseous).

But, you have to hope the programme is a success and spurs other providers to launch similar plans. And the prospect of high-quality ubiquitous connectivity is exciting. Of course, if you’ve paid out millions on a 3G license, it might be a little less so.

Sources:  Telecoms.com (registration required) and The Register

New news in news 11 September, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in internet, web 2.0.
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It’s an old tenet of the internet, information wants to be free. And for the most part it is. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. The deluge of information that hits our inboxes/feed readers every day is vast. Even when you screen out the messages inviting you to get prescription meds / buy stocks / grow your penis by two inches, there is still more coming in than many of us have time to deal with.

I remember years back first discovering the BBC news site. ‘Great’ I thought, ‘everything I need in one place.’ But there are times you want a different perspective, so you flit around from site to site. Then came Google News which nicely aggregated across sources and NewsNow which updated every 5 minutes.

But, of course, this was all controlled news with an editor deciding what I needed to know. Where’s the fun in that?

Now we have social news, news by the people for the people (well OK for the most part links by some of the people for some of the people). The principle being that collectively, people are pretty smart (a Wisdom of Crowds thing). So we have user-driven sites such as Digg – with it’s current controversy around users burying stories they disagree with – and Newsvine (my personal favourite).

And now we have Spotback which claims to be a new breed of personalised news service. Spotback is tag-based, you set in what you’re interested in when you first go to the site. Then, with a bit of AJAX wizardry, the site generates your personal news page which essentially looks like many others. But, the thing about Spotback is that it learns what you like. You can rate stories, indicating your preferences, what you’d like more of and less of. The theory goes that over time Spotback will deliver just the kind of information you want. It’s a nice interface which can be easily customised and can deliver news in an RSS feed.

Of course, when I have a service that can predict precisely what I want to see, feeding me the kind of news that I’m sure to agree with, the fear is I’ll miss out on the unexpected, the challenging, the downright uncomfortable even.

Maybe it’s time to go back to the BBC.

Getting to grips with click fraud 8 September, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in internet.
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With so many companies joining the rush to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, click fraud is becoming an increasing issue for advertisers. Essentially, click fraud is where a person or PC program repeatedly clicks on a PPC ad to create a false cost for the advertiser. It is also an area where the advertising networks providing PPC services haven’t exactly shined in their attempts to deal with the problem (some speculate that this might have something to do with the fact that they benefit from every click).

Associated Content has a good introductory article on the subject and has some recommendations on how to protect yourself against the problem. Worth a look.

Other useful articles can be found here, here and here.

Internet pioneers on what not to do 6 September, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in internet.
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Business Week has put together an article where 14 pioneers from the likes of Monster.com, Yahoo and craigslist give their advice on getting it right and getting it wrong online.

There are some nice nuggets in there. I like this from Neil Hunt of Netflix,

Don’t believe that you understand the whole business model from the beginning. Plan to fail inexpensively and early.

In an age of research paralysis, waiting for the 100% certainty is just not an option. I’ve seen this many times over the years where companies conduct endless rounds of research and focus testing in the hope that it will give them the answer. It doesn’t of course. As useful as the insights of 8 customers in a room undoubtedly are, customer are reasonably hopeless at predicting their future needs.

The answer is simply to try things. Use your gut. Yes, have your core activity, but leave a little budget aside for play. Then test and invest your way forward without committing the whole budget on a coin toss (but crucially without waiting for an answer that’ll never come and missing the opportunity in the process).

Source: BusinessWeek

Firefox 2.0, beta 2 released 1 September, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in internet, software.
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Ok, install at your own risk but Firefox’s march toward’s a full 2.0 release has taken another step forward. The beta 2 release is available here.

As with any pre-release software, you’ll have to take the rough with the smooth in terms of stability. However, I’ve been using Firefox 2.0 on the Mac since it was in alpha and it’s been remarkably stable and well behaved. One thing to watch out for, the new version is unlikely to play nice with all your themes and extensions.

Now if only they could make it as good as Opera