Inbound Smarketeers

If you are in the market for a communication agency, you could do a lot worse than enquire as to their credentials in terms of Inbound Methodology. All communication rockstars worth their salt work within these parameters, paying mindful attention to today’s consumer who is seriously fed up of traditional approaches – ad blockers are on the rise, spam mail is a massive concern, and who today consumes media in the same way as 5 years ago (think YouTube, iPads, SnapChat, NetFlix)?

Do not fear, as of today I am the proud recipient of a refreshed Hubspot’s Inbound Sales Certification, yet another of their excellent online training courses. The excellence is not just in the price either, but free is definitely a bonus – the value is in the content itself. Inbound is all about customer-centricity and being mindful of the key role the internet plays in arming potential buyers with the information they need to compare and contrast competing services. And I say “refreshed” as these courses are updated annually to ensure we stay on top of latest developments in the digital space.

Essentially, those of us who operate in a sales environment need to tailor and personalize our approach to a customer who has already made certain decisions before you even get the opportunity to present your wares. To rephrase something I have been previously guilty of:

A salesman who assumes his buyer knows nothing makes an ass out of u and me.

The logic behind Hubspot creating such an insightful course is clear – by equipping sales teams with an effective inbound methodology the company will solve your entire sales and marketing – or smarketing if you prefer – needs, reducing friction across departments in the process. The Inbound Marketing team generate the useful content in the form of blog posts, social media content, ebooks, webinars and white papers that the buyer is looking at before the Inbound Sales team step in.

The opportunity to roll this sophisticated and logical communication approach out for clients and see the success in terms of ROI and improved bottom line is incredibly satisfying and, although not a fully signed-up Hubspot afficionado at this stage, here at Ashton and Ashton we are fully commited to Inbound Methodology and content marketing.

Certification as it now stands, July 2016:

Hubspot Inbound Certification 2016

Hubspot Inbound Sales Certificate 2016

To follow: Email Marketing and Growth-Driven Design Hubspot courses – watch this space. And make sure you check your agency or in-house team are up to speed too 🙂

Digital audits are sexy

I think everyone in communications probably had a double-take when they read this headline and are now shaking their head in disbelief. But, like many other things in life, a digital audit is a necessary process to carry out in order to progress to greater things. Like doing your laundry and cleaning your fingernails. From a brand perspective, it is an essential way to keep your online reputation in check and forms the foundation for a forward-looking strategy.

Ideally carried out in-depth on a quarterly basis, but usually undertaken by a new agency to provide clear starting points for all parties to work from, an proper dig should inform a company exactly where they stand in terms of efficacy of message but also what people are saying about them. Are they having any influence on their target market, and if not what/who is? A decent audit often throws up relevant competition as well as examples of effective campaigns that have “moved the needle”.

A great article I just read on the topic, courtesy of Econsultancy, covers off most of the key points here, but perhaps the most important thing to note is this: audits aren’t really sexy at all, that’s why you need a third party to do your dirty work and tell you what needs fixing, conveniently removed from any potential internal politics.

 

Unearthing Gems

I’ve recently been working through a knowledge nanagement course via the wonderful MOOC that is edX, littered with intriguing modules delivered by Harvard, MIT and other global leaders in education. What drew me to this course was a common concern clients have, which is linked to intellectual capital.

It is remarkable how much company knowledge is held inside the minds of employees, but not recorded anywhere else. The danger here is if you lose the employee, that knowledge is lost forever. Short of inserting a dystopian microchip into employee heads that can easily be extracted as they finish their contract, the only option available is to elicit knowledge through interview or conversation.

This initial knowledge audit can help build out the framework for a knowledge database, because until you have a firm handle on what they know you can’t really start classifying for later accessibility. Perhaps most important in the whole process is how the data is recorded. Clear naming and tagging should enable easy access, with hosting in a shared drive possibly hosted in the cloud. The next step is defining access levels per company member.

Two examples from my five year career in agency spring to mind.

Upon arrival in Dubai, my agency didn’t even have a shared drive, which scared me! Imagine if a laptop broke that stored all aspects of a project, or supplier database goes missing? Wasted time and frustrations would run high, but a shared drive with clear folder structure is a step in the right direction.

The second example was at my last agency, and my excitement when they launched a global knowledge repository and encourage everyone to upload case studies, credentials and best practice. Brilliant innovation and empowered individuals to blow their own trumpets through posting success stories to share with your global colleagues. Although I was somewhat surprised it was only happening in 2015, it was a major step forward in company-wide knowledge sharing.

When the knowledge is accessible, it makes it easier to tell your stories and enhance your business efficacy in a much shorter timeframe. The job of the content creator and strategist is streamlined, always appreciated and something we can put into place for your business as part of our comprehensive communications planning.

August Opportunity!

Cut to the chase. Time is money and all that, and we know you busy business people just want results.

Time to get “sales-y”: Ashton and Ashton are offering special rates on their range of benchmark audits, in order to give your company ammunition when designing marketing strategies. Get in touch to know more about your industry and how to get ahead.

For more information check out this dedicated page today.

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.

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.