The following is a transcript and some paraphrasing of my answers to questions I was asked at the great YENA event in Bristol last night. It was a pleasure speaking to so many of you. Thanks for listening.
What did you learn from your early career that you now use in your work as a marketing consultant and business owner?
“In the last 15 years I have used the first 15 years of my career to do all the good stuff, but for my clients. My marketing consultancy based out of Bristol has helped clients with digital planning and strategy as well as the delivery of ‘stuff’.
Most people come to me looking for ‘stuff’ when what they actually needs is a plan. I spent most of my time helping people to cut through the chaos and understand their purpose and take a breather from their business.
They could be a start-up with a great idea… they launch a website and think the world will come flocking to them… we do a few blogs… and then the tumbleweed rolls past and nothing happens.
Many people do have some good ideas but not the building blocks to put these ideas in place. So I have a lot of fun helping them to cut through the chaos.”
“There was a lot of chaos back in the day when I was part of the team setting up Orange. The penny really dropped when we didn’t go head to head with the established players. Someone in the team said could we be completely different and reinvent the entire marketplace. Could we reinvent the marketplace and then be number one on our first day? Back in those days it was a ground shift in how the business was perceived. It was all about calling places not people… that’s what mobile enables. We know this now, but at the time it was a real shift, a disruption of the market.
So I am always on the look out for not necessarily disrupting the marketplace but looking at how a potential customer could be interested in me, my products and services. Not the same as the competitor down the road but could I reinvent how the customer perceives what I offer.”
What is the biggest difference you see now in marketing compared to the early stages in your career?
“The huge transition since my early days in marketing, is the ownership of content. That’s the one, the biggest change in marketing and communications in decades. Even 10 years ago, content was owned by media houses, newspapers, production companies. It wasn’t us, unless you worked for the BBC. Whereas today, we have shifted that through 180 degrees and we all own content. With the beauty of mobility, we can publish or we can curate, or we can document (the three elements of content) and communicate and be connectable any time, any place anywhere, 24 hours a day. That’s been the biggest shift in power of how you can scale a business.
Back in the day you couldn’t scale like this. You had to go out and make sales. Whereas now you can leverage your content to encourage people to buy without the need to go and sell to them. That’s been a massive different in the marketing environment.”
How do you prioritise a diverse, wide portfolio?
“It’s certainly not easy and I can’t say I have fully mastered time management! But someone early in the life of Viper Marketing told me I should religiously have a monthly meeting with myself and it would be the best day of each month. It was some of the best advice I have ever had. It’s invaluable. One day a month to reflect, re-position, strategise the re-prioritise.
I always practice the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule. I know that whatever you focus on (80% of your revenue comes from your top 20% of customer, 80% of the value of your time comes from the top 20% most important tasks, etc.) you must prioritise the things that really matter.
Each month this means being ruthless and stripping out and eliminating the distractions in the 80% of things that I can do, but probably shouldn’t do, because these are not the things delivering the 80% of what I need. You might want to apply this rule to an MVP (minimum viable product) if you are in a start-up situation.”
How do you fund a showcase brand that doesn’t generate revenue?
“Yes as you know, with my partner, I am developing an online art gallery which includes pop-up exhibitions. To do this on a commission-free basis for our artists (another market disruption!) we are creating three revenue pillars underneath that create the profits required to support the showcase gallery on the top.
The pillars are also within the art industry but totally focused on commerce and revenue generation.”
How do you think the social networks will change in the near future and which one platform is the best one to focus marketing content towards?
“These are two great questions. Firstly I think we’ll see more and more consolidation of the thousands of social networks across the planet. My money has always been on an eventual ‘BIG’ social network that encompasses business, consumers and more.
In the meantime it has to be Facebook and it has to be Facebook advertising. The targeting as we know is so amazingly focused and relevant to defining the audience you are targeting. And with video so accessible now, in the palm of our hands… It has to be video advertising on Facebook.”
Where do I begin understanding my customers?
“It’s all about seeing them as personas, not a crowd. Are they male or female? How old are they? Where do they live? What car do they drive? Which supermarket do they use? Where do they go on holiday? You have to know them at this level so you create professional intimacy. If they were to walk in the door you should recognise them.
When you see your customers as different personas you can turn yourself through 180 degrees and view your marketing and the journey you are taking them on, through their eyes, from their perspective. This is where to begin.”
Some people like Gary Vaynerchuk say audio is the next big thing. Do you agree?
“It has to be significant because it’s so accessible. It’s in the palm of your hand. Just click on your voice recorder and start creating or documenting. So yes audio and podcasts, which are nothing new, may well continue to grow.
From my perspective I see video as still the under-utilised heavy gun in the armoury. Most of us have just dabbled with vlogging as we create, curate and document. There’s much more potential in here if we devote the time and attention it deserves.”
You talk about creating, curating and documenting? Do you have to do all three?
“In an ideal world yes, but there is something more important, my Rule of Thirds (and not coincidently the subject of my upcoming new book!).
Personal, Point, Promote. One third of everything you publish should be Personal, getting to know you. One third is Point, signposting to third party content (curating) of interest to your customer personas. One third is Promote, and we know what that means.
If anyone tells you that you should sell through social media (and they often say that about Linkedin) then it’s fine to do so as long as you have already added the value with the other two thirds. Personal, Point, Promote… the Rule of Thirds.”
More details about my upcoming book will be shared very soon. In the meantime please get in touch if you’d like to discuss any of the subjects covered in this interview.