Another Blog Post With Donald Trump In The Title

The purpose of this blog post is not to test the lengths to which a blogger, who works in digital marketing or communications in general, will go to in order to get clicks to his page. Or is it? Whilst getting lost surfing the Internet is all too easy, it has also been noted how many websites have been built up regurgitating news and opinion about this guy, often with no other purpose than to repurpose existing news in the hope that you will read it through their website and they can use your eyeballs to be paid for carrying random advertising.

Something I have never explored, as someone who believes in organic search engine optimisation and the power of blogging for the sake of putting your own message down, and coming from someone who very rarely looks at print adverts never mind clicking on such Google Ads, but what about you?

If you saw such a site (and I found this Donald Trump-related site earlier today, brand new but hoping to reel you in by jumping on what will hopefully not be a 4 year long hot trend) would you even touch it? In an era of fake news and alternative facts, we must continue to search for believable sources of information, something the Internet itself has made it both harder and easier to do at the same time.

Harder by commercialising your attention.

Easier by democratising the very method of finding information.

Ladies and gentlemen, Google and Bing and Yahoo, and the add-on discovery options offered by Facebook, Twitter and their ilk, have skewed everything in their favour, we the consumer merely encouraged to consume.

Perhaps we can simply bypass this, tear it up and start again.

Back To School

September is approaching fast, companies who are more consumer-facing will be thinking about how to cater their needs and the needs of their offspring’s educational journey. This may manifest itself in the form of discounts on products or third-party incentives such as day trips or tickets for events. All perfectly good and something that should encourage brand participation to a certain point. But does it go far enough? You have done the hard work of identifying your target already so why not make that relationship much more fruitful for both parties?

Let’s assume you have spent resources already on your social media advertising to increase the target audience in your fanbase, a group of people already interested in your product or service. How much do you know about them in order to properly incentivise them? Referring back to the title of this post, do you know if they have children, or perhaps are teachers? You have to tailor your message to their exact needs for the best response, something that a social CRM facilitates. Keeping track of interests and interactions informs every turn of your marketing tactics, making delighting the customer with useful and relevant content and CTAs all the easier.

The very best part is, here at Ashton and Ashton, we take the stress out of your customer relationships. We handle everything for you at every step of the journey, from benchmarking (so you know your competition and context), audience segmentation (know your target), content and channel recommendations (how to reach them), through to building your social capital and building loyalty.

We might even walk your children to school if you ask nicely 😉

Fleshing Out The Best Mix For You

Although here in the Middle East, things tend to quieten down on most fronts during the holy month of Ramadan, here at Ashton & Ashton we have been busy pulling together an increasingly useful capability set for you. What we have noticed has been lacking from previous project experience we have striven to plug those gaps and essentially have the resources ready as they are required so each brief is answered exactly and efficiently.

Clear, practical strategic planning to achieve your business objectives is the paramount reason we exist, so we added a brain trained at one of the world’s leading business schools; one of our directors studied at ESSEC Business School in Paris and recently attained an Executive MBA in Strategy & Management of International Business.

Quality, well-priced digital production facilities have been hard to lay a hand on of late too. Whether we ultimately decide on Facebook Connect video experiences, mobile applications or all manner of other immersive creative solutions, we have the answer. From a team with experience delivering for Yahoo, Nissan, Kawasaki to name a few if we brief it they can produce it, enhancing the broader content strategies.

Additionally last week I struck up a working relationship with a team that deliver all manner of social media CRM solutions. This answers directly a number of previous clients who were looking for that magic bullet that converts Facebook followers into sales. The tools and resources at your disposal from this team mean that the journey from increasing your Facebook fanbase then converting them into engaged brand advocates that continue down the funnel to perform whatever action you define is a smooth and enjoyable journey. Gold dust.

Just in case a launch event of some description was needed, we will shortly be finalising with a hardworking team who regularly work with mass or niche, luxury brands alike and have the knack of booking the perfect talent to attend. Think Tori Amos or Lenny Kravitz.

Get in touch immediately so we can start shaping your communication architecture at the earliest.

Benchmarking

One thing that drew me into the world of digital marketing, and remains one of the drivers of this area for all marketers, is the ability to see exactly what is working in realtime. Gone are the days when you would simply have an idea that something might work with your target audience and then pump some budget into a pretty design, buy a billboard for a week or hire a poor chap wearing a sandwich board to walk around town with your message on his chest. Now we can activate and evaluate within the time it takes to glance at a Google Analytics or Facebook Insights report and either edit, stop or adjust budget accordingly. The immediacy and transparency is fantastic and perhaps even makes you question why people might still spend so much on the dark arts of mass marketing on TV channels. Perhaps.

But it all starts from a level playing field. We specialise in benchmarking and auditing your existing communications against the industry and direct competitors, then optimising your efforts and focusing your resources directly at your business objectives. At the end of the day if your marketing doesn’t answer your business needs, it is irrelevant fluff.

All About You – The Customer

Reading up on different techniques and advice on how best to work in an ever-changing marketing landscape is a habit I am trying to form. Knowledge is power and all that. I have been driven down a very interesting route of late that leans heavily towards customer-centricity, the idea that everything a company does should be for and about the customer. This makes a lot of sense.

If you don’t serve the needs of your customer, existing or potential, who pays the bills? If you decide to deliver something your customer doesn’t want because your work colleague thought they should try and sell a special premium service that serves no purpose then it can only serve the company interests and will quite possibly turn the customer off from taking your advice in the future as you will only “recommend” services that add to your bottom line. The relationship can easily deteriorate from this point and take a very long time to rebuild.

Two books have proved very interesting to date for me, and maybe for you too. Customer Centric Selling by Michael T Bosworth and chums, then a quick two-day  (if you are a slow reader like myself) practical tip session from Jeffrey J Fox. Both put the customer at the heart of sales and marketing activity to highly beneficial outcomes. The basic premise being to know your customer needs and objectives inside out by asking the right questions in the first instance. One of my favourite sections from Bosworth covers the bidding process – essentially if you don’t approach the customer in the first instance the chances are low you will win the contract as you are making up numbers so they can fairly award to a company they already have in mind. Painful truth.

Let me know your thoughts on customer centricity and if you have read these books already. I can see it now, the beginnings of a Marketing Book club – let’s call it Rainmaker Readings.

This article first appeared as a LinkedIn blog posts – follow Jonathan here

Tidying Up Broken Windows

Perhaps a little behind on the reading list, but a good halfway through Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, I wanted to make reference to the Broken Windows Theory he promotes. This is in fact the topic that pushed him to create a whole book around epidemiology, inspired by the sudden drop in crime in New York City and a theory to explain it. Instead of focusing on more visible police presence, the idea was to appeal to human nature by essentially tidying up and making mugging, graffiti and other criminal activity out of place. Direct action began on the NYC subway system by removing graffiti from 1984 onwards, removing vandalised wagons from service until they were cleaned up and once one was cleaned making sure it stayed that way.

Apart from deterring criminals from thinking they can take over uncared-for areas of the city this cleaning up also provided a real psychological boost for the residents, the people who just wanted to go about their everyday lives without threat. My favourite part describes how the police force used to let delinquents spend three days finalising their graffiti artworks on train carriages (day one preparing the canvas, day two outlining the “art”, day three adding the colour and details) before arriving with paints and other materials to completely eradicate it. Quite demoralising for the disaffected, but hey.

It made me think about some of the basic practices we put in place for clients when they embark on any project with us. After auditing the existing digital estate, we work together to decide on the essentials and focus on those channels and that content, anything off-message or off-target gets removed and all energy spent on sharpening and optimising the important components. This is a great exercise that leads to a massive simplification and makes conversations about starting a Facebook page much more meaningful – does it fit your marketing strategy, product, audience?

Over 6 months ago now Ashton x Ashton went through a major personal tidying up process, inspired by a joint reading of The Art of Tidying Up, definitely recommended for those of you looking to declutter in any way. Never mind subway carriages and petty crime in New York, do those 5-year-old misshapen socks still make you happy? Get rid. Twenty bin bags later, we were feeling much more streamlined and refined at #Minyhome.

Spreading Wings

Believed to be on it’s way down, I still like to pander to Google+ on occasion, especially enjoying the great Photos software. Shame it never took off outside the tech geek crowd because the UI, transparency and linking together of all things Google should have had more impact. Possibly the lateness of launch, losing out to ongoing upgrades from Facebook, Twitter and the myriad other startup niche channels.