This is a guest blog post contributed by Brian Maher of WebAgency.
Choosing the right digital agency has never been more important. Digital marketing offers the potential to track ROI much more accurately than is possible with offline media. Plus, the digital revolution is not going away; more users are engaging online more often and with more brands than ever before. Simply put, few brands can afford to be without an effective digital marketing strategy.
If you want to embrace this “new” industry and benefit from the advantages that it presents, you must work with a company that understands your unique marketing and communication requirements.
In this article I’ll present 5 elements that will help you choose the right digital partner for your business.
The first question you should ask is: What services does the company offer? Your digital agency should offer digital marketing as well as web design services. When your web designer understands digital marketing they will be able to build your site to incorporate your marketing objectives; this means that they’ll design with consideration for search engine accessibility and usability (this is sometimes called SEO web design).
Working with a single, full serviced digital marketing company also means less work for you as you won’t have to source multiples agencies or manage communication between each of the people providing different digital elements.
A full serviced company should offer:
• Web design and development
• Web strategy and planning
• Search engine optimisation
• Search engine marketing
• Online advertising
• Social media marketing
• Copy writing
• Mobile web solutions
• Email marketing
These days, it’s usual that most of the above services will be delivered as standard by one agency, but the agency may also work closely with preferred partners to deliver specific technologies, like mobile or social media applications. This is the norm and you can feel comfortable working with agencies that operate like this as long as they have an established relationship with their partner vendor and they will stand over the quality of the finished work.
2. New technologies
Online marketing is evolving faster than any marketing medium that came before it. Just a few years ago, companies including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter did not even exist. Now, some of their sites boast user numbers as high as 800 million.
Digital marketing moves quickly, so you should work with an agency that values research. Seek out an agency populated by people who are geeks for trends and who enjoy learning about and trialing new technologies. They will ensure that your brand remains at the crest of the digital wave. Make them your new best friends.
An experienced agency should have an extensive portfolio of work. Review this and familiarise yourself with it. This portfolio will give you a good sense of an agency’s capabilities and will help you to make better sense of references and testimonials.
However, there’s always a pinch of salt. When you’re viewing an agency’s portfolio remember that the agency is only as creative as their client and that the work that the agency does is tailored to that client’s marketing and communication objectives (and the specifics of the brief).
It’s particularly valuable to review work completed for clients in an industry or sector similar to your own. This said, avoid partnering with an agency that currently works with one of your direct competitors as this can create a conflict of interest.
4. Meet key people
People drive ideas and people rather than technology will determine whether your project is a success or a failure. With this in mind, always take the time to meet the key people within an agency. This will help you to ascertain whether the company has the values and work ethic that you are looking for.
I usually request an initial meeting at their offices. This helps me to gauge their work environment and get a feel for their operation. You might also request a presentation on their services and existing clients.
5. Do they practice what they preach?
It’s not unusual to meet an agency and walk away with a positive feeling, only to find out that they have no digital strategy for their own business – or worse, that they appear beside negative comments in reviews or on board sites.
Personally, I don’t feel 100% comfortable giving my SEO account to a company that has a low search engine presence, particularly for really closely related terms or for their company name.
It’s important that the agency you choose to work with believes in the services they are selling to the point they are implementing them themselves.
Finally, when you’ve narrowed down your search and are selecting between a handful of agencies, remember that you should choose an agency on the basis of quality rather than price. All too often clients are fixated on the price tag and think that the lowest fee will guarantee them a good return on investment. This is rarely the case. High quality, effective and efficient service will always win in the long run.
Choosing an agency should never be about the first date, but rather about the potential for a meaningful, long-term relationship (yep, digital marketing just got soppy). Choosing the right agency can be the beginning of something beautiful.
This is a guest post by Robert Purcell. Robert is a member of the IIA Social Media Working Group which seeks to support businesses in the development of strategies for engaging with social media. As Marketing Manager for Post Consult International Ltd. (PCI), Robert’s main focus is developing the marketing and product strategy for the company’s Security Solutions offered under the corporate brand, Post.Trust. Post.Trust is a national-level Certificate Authority, wholly owned by An Post, providing security solutions that enable organisations to communicate with one another more securely and confidently in a trusted environment. You can find him on LinkedIn or @robgerard on Twitter.
Engage! Revised and Updated: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web
Brian Solis (Author), Ashton Kutcher (Foreword)
The second edition of Engage! written by social media thought leader Brian Solis really is a fascinating read. I haven’t read the first edition, but this instalment focuses more on enabling you to design a new media engagement program specific to your business and your customers. It empowers you to develop metrics and KPIs to measure the success of your activities and translate that data into bottom-line benefits. As anyone who has ever tried to champion a social media program within their organisation knows; the first question you are asked is, What’s the ROI of social media? This book will help you answer that question.
A word of warning though – Engage! is not a book you can pick up and read from cover to cover. Sections of the book are quite dense and academic – but then isn’t that what you would expect a Complete Guide to be? The book doesn’t define its target audience but whether you are new to social media or experienced in social media marketing, this book has plenty of substance and will serve as a source of reference in your social media activities. As Solis says, this is an opportunity to “hit ctrl-alt-del and restart with a fresh perspective”.
The book starts by defining social media and introducing the arsenal of social media tools available for creating touchpoints across the Social Web. It explores building a framework to amplify the visibility of your social objects, extending the reach of your online presence to new audiences, and defining the end game, ultimately guiding people to action through participating, listening and engagement.
Solis reminds us that understanding the rules of engagement is critical in this new world of socialised media. It’s about training and putting the necessary policies and guidelines in place to ensure everyone is singing from the same hymn book. The latter part of the book looks at the realignment and restructuring the organisation as part of this socialisation process. Finally, it focuses on the management of this social media activity; how to track, measure and translate that social data into tangible value for the business.
Solis discusses the concept of unmarketing as one of the most effective forms of marketing in this new genre of socialised media and really unmarketing underpins the ‘How’ organisations should use Social Media. Marketing is no longer about broadcasting brand messages – it’s about embodying the characteristics of your brand, being an active participant in the conversation, contributing value to earn relevance, build influence and create brand advocacy and loyalty toward a desired outcome.
At times, reading the book was a bit of a slog and I found myself going back over passages each time I picked it up because there was a lot to absorb. But on the whole, I found it uplifting and insightful, reaffirming my understanding of the real power of Social Media – so stick with it. Solis’s voice comes through the words on the page, inspiring the reader to embrace the social web, to champion new media engagement and become the expert to drive change within the organisation. The book is ‘peppered’ with frameworks, methodologies and tools to assist you in your journey towards building a two-way information bridge between the organisation and the online communities in those networks you choose to participate.
As Solis says, “The future of business is social”. Social Media cannot be confined to one person or department. The entire business must socialise. Organisations must embrace and ride the social wave or risk being engulfed by it.
“The greatest advantages of social media reside in its ability for worthy individuals and companies to shape perception, steer activity, incite action, and adapt to the communities that establish the market. Engage or die.”
Today is my last working day as Membership, Marketing and Communications Manager with the Irish Internet Association. I’m going to work with one of our member companies Prosperity and looking forward to the change.
But I think I will miss working with members a lot too. I know sometimes it may have seemed to you that I needed a lot of “reminding” to help you but there was also times when my thrice named role was a job for three people! However over the last three and a bit years I got into the habit of referring to myself as simply IIA Membership Manager. Another individual taking on this role that was newly created in 2008 might have found themselves focussing on the marketing or the communications but for me it was always about the members.
So a bit of advice for all members based on how I have seen some of our members really make the most of their IIA Membership:
- Get involved: share content, write a guest blog post, volunteer in our working groups.
- Come to events: the discount for members on two to three paid events will easily cover the cost of your membership.
- Share your views here on the blog, in our LinkedIn DISCUSSION (ahem!) group, on our Facebook page and even now in our Digital Digest.
- Network online: see point 3 above.
- Network offline: come to Meetball or better still present at it (especially those of you who want to tender to be an IIA Training Partner: gives us a chance to get an idea of your unique presentation skills)
- Email us or pick up the phone and ask us to help. Honestly two heads are better than one, especiallywhen one of them who isn’t stuck right in your problem. Consider us a sounding board for your online business.
The more the IIA knows about what you are up to the better we can connect, promote and inform!
The hallowed day has arrived. Actually it arrived on 27th June but I have been busy training my new colleague Vicki in advance of my departure from the IIA so apologies for not noting this sooner on the blog.
But before you dash off I thought I would draw your attention to our new categories.
We have done away with a few (sorry!), updated three (mobile app developer, social media & digital marketing) and created 4 entirely new categories:
- Best Open Data Initiative
- Best Breakthrough Brick to Click
- Best Cloud Service
- Best Rookie
We’re particularly excited about these 4 categories (yes, yes, of course, you’re all winners to us) because they reflect changing technologies, society and practices. We devised Best Breakthrough Brick to Click to recognise some of the amazing cases we’ve heard about over the last year and a half or so while running our 8 Ways series for Online Retailers (although nominees don’t have to be just retailers!). Best Rookie was devised to recognise not only graduates who are making a splash in online business but also those who have made a change to their career to get involved in any aspect of online business.
After the success of Open for Business it made perfect sense for us to celebrate Open Data Initiatives and we’re hoping the shortlist will be an inspiration to many other initiatives in the future. Best Cloud Service acknowledges some of the fabulous and innovative cloud projects that have grown up, many of them wholly Irish, in the last few years.
So now you are dismissed to go and nominate to your heart’s content. Nominations close 29 July 2011.
Here in IIA HQ we are very excited about a new event on our calendar for 2011. For the first time ever we are running an Internet Expo! It’s the first trade exhbition for the internet industry in Ireland and we are delighted to be partnering with Ireland’s premier exhibition company Irish Services Ltd. on this project. They know a truck load about exhibitions and I, for one, have learned lots from them.
I’ve worked on our own stand on a number of occasions at conferences all over the country and it’s something that I have always enjoyed and at which we achieved great results whether it be new members, new newsletter subscribers, referrals for our members or event registrations. I’ve always attended these conferences with a specific aim in mind, not least of these being exposure at a grassroots level. Much of the time I spend answering industry related queries where I can or as mentioned I refer the visitor to a member who might be able to help them. Every time we’ve taken a stand at conferences like this we have usually invited members along to join us.
Trade shows and expos can be big business not least of all in the states and I found stacks of videos on YouTube offering advice to the sales and business development teams who look after the stand on the day. To summarize them very swiftly it seems to be important to
- make sure exhibiting fits with your marketing and sales plan and
- once that’s decided it is essential to have an pre-, during and post-exhibition plan,
- have definite goals and activities,
- measure the team’s success and
- follow up on leads and connections developed at the exhibition (and that should be the really easy bit for all you geeks with your email marketing, eh?).
Many of the videos I came across give ideas for attracting more traffic (free coffee or other treats, discount vouchers on business cards, demos etc.); some of them talk about the success killers and there’s even a sample from an Association of Events Organisers training video with Jack Dee sharing some of their 30 Trade Show Secrets (and I thought the sellout Rick Spleen in Lead Balloon was based on fiction. Apparently not…!) This video is well worth a watch whether you’ve already booked your place at our Internet Expo or are thinking about it. And it’s funny too! You’ll also find other tips and tricks in the How To Secion of their Facetime website.
The video below is simple but I think this chap, Sam Manfer, sums up the experience of taking care of business at your company stand with five tips to make the most of your investment in an exhibition stand.
If you think you’d like to discuss the idea of exhibiting at this cool event get in touch with Roseanne or Vicki in the IIA offices today at 01 5424154 or email@example.com
I have been intrigued by sugru and how it achieved so much in a short period of time since seeing them in Time magazine and buying/testing some of its products over Christmas.
Company founder Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh from Kilkenny shared some insights into the company and how it has made great strides in getting and harnessing user generated content in its social media platforms and achieved worldwide word of mouth exposure.
Sugru (www.sugru.com) is a UK based company that has invented a silicone based modelling clay that helps people fix or improve everyday items. The product itself is a new development in this class and has some unique properties in that it cures at room temperature, is very self-adhesive, heat resistant, waterproof, flexible and dishwasher proof. The company has one core product with 5 colours and has shifted over 40,000 units in its first few months.
How did the idea come about?
The idea came from a process of material experimentation and an observation of the development of the open source community. Jane has an active interest in how additional life can be given to products and giving people an ability to ‘hack’ and personalise products.
She felt that traditional product design was very static in that once a product emerged from the factory, there was very little interaction where focus should be on discovering and finding out how people use it at home and other areas. This could lead to better products and also connects the company with its user base.
How did the idea come into fruition?
Jane’s story reflects many other SMEs as they build their brand but some initial kick starts have really helped. Jane’s product came from research she did when studying at the Royal College of Design in London, following previous study at NCAD in Dublin. One of the big lifts she received was when the British Airways inflight magazine featured the product in a column which sparked off lots queries from consumers and people in industry.
With help of the innovation department in the college she set up sugru with business partner Roger Ashby and after six years of development and initial grant and investment funding of £350,000, with a modest investment of £100,000 they converted their lab into a production facility. Their initial production of 1,000 packs sold out in 6 hours following their launch and they knew they had a viable business but needed to scale up production.
How do you go to market?
sugru is mainly sold from its website and also through some shops in Ireland/UK and is now in the process of setting up in the US.
- 25% of its orders come from UK,
- 45% from US with
- Ireland and Germany accounting for much of the remaining sales.
Initially they have focused on shipping small single orders and reacting to who wanted to buy it from the website but are now scaling to additional retail distribution.
What marketing do you deploy?
sugru defied much of the text book approach to marketing in that it spends very little on traditional marketing.
Most of sugru’s growth has come from word of mouth which has led to some high profile articles on the company also the inclusion in Time Magazine’s Top 50 Inventions and features in the Irish Times amongst others.
Its website, blog, email and social media platforms are still the key drivers of the business and Jane manages these directly. The company also organises and facilitates ‘Hack It Sessions’ such as a recent one in 091 labs in Galway.
Social Media Presence
According to Jane
“the Blog has been brilliant in terms of articulating our mission. This is not just a product. It was invented to reduce waste and give people an easy way to improve stuff”.
This is where sugru really excels. The company and product has plugged in to a growing movement of people fixing and repairing items and is an enabler of this movement. Rather than just looking at social media channels to push company news it sees the community as central. Most of the content on the channel tap into how people are using the product. Jane receives a lot of emails and correspondence from users who take the time to document what they have fixed/improved and even supply photos showing the degree of connection that the company has with users.
The company rewards and encourages this and as Jane puts it
“all of our marketing comes from customers in the form of hundreds of photo, stories and videos”.
The Hack of the Month profiles how innovative users have been in the use of the product which ranges from fixing medical devices to protecting school bags. sugru also asks for suggestions on who they should send sugru packs to and this recently resulted in packs being sent to scientists working on the largest bore holes in the world based in Antarctica. They featured stories on how they used it to repair diverse items from glasses to knives.
The outreach and investment in the online community now means they have a large gallery of photos and stories of customers documenting their use of the product.
User generated content is the nirvana for a lot of companies and getting customers to tell their stories can be notoriously difficult. Even if people really enjoyed the product getting them to invest the time and allowing you use their stories is rarely successful. Although there is no doubt that this is a very innovative and good product, the subtle difference having the ethos of the company – to reduce waste and allow people to personalise and improve stuff - central in all they do is key to their success. It’s not about sugru but rather what people do with it and how it helps their lives. This approach means people are happier to contribute as it plugs into their lives and the sugru community feels like a grouping of like-minded people rather than a community website. Even the website itself clearly positions it as being about the user and not the product itself. You get a clear impression that much as sugru benefits from user engagement people are learning, teaching and educating each other how it could be used.
Jane is the first to admit that although they do a lot with communities that there is more to do and she feel they are only scratching the surface on what could be done. Similar to most companies, measurement is evolving and difficult to quantify. Easy to measure items such as ‘likes’ are less a concern than the quality of interaction such as conversations and comments. Key is seeing if people are getting the message and spreading it. Twitter is also another active daily channel with most activity taken up by answering queries and interacting than pushing company messages. Jane herself still manages these channels directly herself showing the level of commitment to the users.
One of the other positive aspects of so much user generated content is that now the company can see recurring uses and this can be fed back in to product research, design and marketing. This translates as possible future iPhone cable and adapter products/packs as the company has seen lots of examples of sugru being utilised to fix or improve these.
Real World Interaction
As with much social media activity it’s important to have a real world footprint also. The ‘Hack It’ Sessions facilitate this and are almost a real world reflection of what goes on in the online world. sugru sometimes organises these itself or facilitates them by sending product to users who want to create a shared experience of using the product. People learning from each other and being creative opens up new views on the product that sugru could never do by itself.
Much could be learnt from the sugru experience online and according to Jane companies could really improve their online presence with some simple philosophies including:
- Have a clear mission that is people/users focused and not company centric
- Tweet and interact with people the same as if over a shop counter
- Don’t be frightened of people or interaction
- Don’t be overly promotion
- Remember people are not interested in you but rather what you can do for them
- Have conversations
- Facilitate, reward, and respect the input from people who contact you
sugru is now working on expanding its US presence directly through stores and setting up shipping locally. They are also talking to hardware chains in Ireland to extend its reach and easy of buying.
sugru has achieved a worldwide presence after only 9 months in operation and sold over 40,000 packs. Its marketing is mainly word of mouth and customer based. It has made huge progress into cracking the ‘user generated content’ nut and has built a very strong online brand by having a mission driven and customer centric approach.
This case study is part of the IIA Social Media Working Group‘s series of studies on how companies are using social media to achieve their business aims and objectives. This study was written by Eoin Kennedy of Slattery Communications, chair of IIA Social Media Working Group.
This free event brings you the best of Microsoft’s premier web & devices conference (MIX) at no cost to you. All you need to do is register and get yourself down to the RDS in Ballsbridge on June 9th!
Join the conversation at reMIX Dublin – see the latest tools and technologies and draw inspiration from a professional community of your peers and experts.
The morning session from 9am to 1pm focuses on tools and technologies for developers: developing for Windows 7, the Cloud, what’s coming up with Windows 7.5 and Kinect Hackables.
The afternoon will be focusing on UX (User eXperience) especially multitouch and Miscrosoft’s Surface device including a look at the future of user interaction and designing infographics for Web Applications with Des Traynor from Contrast.
The final session of the day is a set of lightning talks by some well known designers and developers from Microsoft and beyond covering topics such as storytelling for user experience and the lost art of simplicity.
Now I really wish I was a UX designer or developer…
This review is part of a series of reviews that you can expect to see over the next while from the Social Media Working Group. This first one is by Eamonn O’Brien, Founder of The Reluctant Speakers Club. Here he reviews The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media, by Joan Curtis and Barbara Giamanco:
This book offers an introductory guide for people who need to figure out how to both understand and harness social media in a world where traditional sales techniques may have had their day. As such, it probably won’t serve as more than light reading for seasoned social media pros.
The authors spend the first half of the book outlining the revolution that has occurred in the way businesses and customers/consumers communicate – and why companies need to learn how to adapt to a new sales era, dubbed Sales 2.0. They argue that since customers are now more in control of what they buy, and have instant access to more information prior to when they make purchase decisions, that a modern form of consultative selling (which integrates the power of social media to develop better relationships, trust and customer collaboration) needs to be used as a replacement for traditional push based selling techniques.
While there are many nuggets to be found in the first 8 chapters, including author observations, examples of how politicians and companies are adapting to/benefiting from communication changes plus a quite interesting potted history lesson on the evolution of selling approaches from the 19th to the 21st century, much of the information provided at the outset of the book appears to be rehashing of stories and observations that have been doing the rounds for some time (online and offline). Also, many of the points made in the first half of the books seemed be endless variations of a single theme; “Embrace the new technology… move away from old sales approaches, they won’t work any longer with the 21st century buyer”.
That said, the second half of the book (when the authors get into a more ‘how to’ mode) is likely to prove both interesting and genuinely useful to anyone who needs practical suggestions on how to harness social media for sales and marketing purposes. The authors did an especially good job on how Sales meets LinkedIn and Sales meets Twitter, including really helpful ‘do’s and don’ts’ tips.
Also, their observations on how to use blogging to drive better Google site rankings together with their suggested ‘rules of engagement for bloggers’ are spot on. But the real value in this book comes at the end, with a case study style 30 day social media sales challenge. This blow by blow demonstration of how social media can be used and why – together with suggestions re goal setting and performance measuring – sold me on this book, all on its own.
My Overall Book Rating: 4 out of 5
Thanks a million Eamonn! More from the authors on their website.
Okay this is (probably) the last post about Open for Business Thanks to MerrionStreetNews for this video of Minister Richard Bruton TD speaking at our annual conference on May 12th last
Dublin City University Business School – free digital marketing mini-conference in the Gallery Theatre in the Helix.
Tomorrow DCU Business School with the DCU LINK Research Centre’s Techspectations Initiative is holding a free digital marketing mini-conference in the Gallery Theatre in the Helix. Techspectations Summer Hospitality & Tourism Digital Marketing Summit is supported by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association of Ireland.
The Summer Summit programme is designed to introduce Irish hospitality professionals to SEO tools and resources, Pay Per Click advertising, Social Media Marketing and more. To coincide with President Obama’s visit to Ireland and #irlday, their theme will focus on marketing Ireland, Irish food and hospitality however the content will have general applicability.
All the details can be found on the Techspectations website.