Affino gets asked a lot to recommend and advise on Digital Business Personnel. Even though for most businesses the digital side is growing in significance - both in terms of business impact and revenue generation - very few companies have a dedicated digital department or division. Most companies re-utilise existing staff to a large degree, but only very loosely write new responsibilities into existing job descriptions. The digital realm is often designated as ’additional duties’, and frequently takes a secondary level of importance. Most companies are also relying on part-time, 3rd party and contract staff to fulfil those new / additional roles, which can lead to a number of operational problems - including poor levels of service and unresponsiveness.
Most companies need to get better at writing the new roles into job descriptions and allocating dedicated personnel and resources into that side of their business. Here follows a list of the 10 key roles which are needed to run most digital businesses successfully:
Webmaster / Web Manager
This is the one person primarily in charge of your digital business/es - they are responsible for defining the overall customer experience and managing customer access. They are also responsible for ensuring that all the functional aspects of the sites are maintained, keeping the sites up and fully functional.
Person/s responsible for tone of voice, content and context of sites / digital business.
Person/s responsible for selecting / providing / formatting site imagery - usually some degree of Photoshop skill required here at the minimum.
Contributor / Copywriter
Person/s who create / originate all text elements for sites.
For smaller businesses the above roles may be handled by as few as 1-3 staff members. For larger businesses, the following additional roles may be required also:
Person in charge of key commercial activities - Advertising, Promotions and principal connected revenue streams
Person in charge of sales revenue streams - selling products and services, occasional overlap with Commercial Manager
Community / Customer / CRM / Contact Manager
The Customer Experience manager for larger sites. Responsible for
Let me start once more by stating that I am an extremely dedicated music fan, who consumes music globally and at high volumes on a weekly basis, and equally importantly pretty much totally legitimately (paid-for). I subscribe to both Spotify and Apple Music, occasionally using Deezer too, and buy from iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, Juno / Download, Traxsource, Bandcamp, 7 Digital, Phonica, Sister Ray, Rough Trade, Discogs and even HMV. In short, I am a very good customer, upper echelon and ongoing supporter of the music industry at large for 35 odd years - first proper record purchased incididentally, was the Pale Shelter 7" by Tears for Fears.
It is obvious to all bar a few music industry execs that music is a truly universal and adaptable commodity, art-form and experience. Very varied and different peoples from all the world’s 196 countries formalised and otherwise readily cross territorial boundaries in search of listening pleasures. The earliest days of popular music saw listeners tuning in on ’the wireless’ to catch radio services broadcast from far outside their local territories. Next the Gramophone / vinyl records took off, then reel-to-reel and 4/8-track, then the compact cassette and CD, we’ll skip over the MiniDisc (even though I have a number of those too) and end up currently with today’s pre-eminent format - the very portable universal MP3s.
In the past, to satisfy my tastes, I imported records from far and wide - Italo Disco and House, Detroit Techno, Chicago House, New Jersey Garage, Belgian, Dutch and German Techno and French House to name a few categories. All of this was available to me, and still is to a large degree via the remaining record stores and modern music marketplaces like Discogs.
In some ways the current state of music has never been better - never has there been greater access to such a large variety of music - YouTube harbours an enormous musical library, and with Internet Radio and a variety of streaming services, the typical listener has pretty much unprecedented access to music. Yet within all of this, there are some significant peculiarities and some quite underhanded means being employed be the music industry.
We have lived through ’Home Taping is Killing Music’, ’Video Killed the Radio Star’, ’Napster is Killing Music’
Back in May, The Media Briefing published a piece on Publishers prioritising digital development over paywalls. Obviously there is an increased risk from both Cookie Armageddon and Mobilegeddon, and both offer a significant threat to revenues. Many commentators have also noted the recent porous nature of The Sun paywall-protected website - which seems to be allowing more and more content outside its paywall.
The optimal approach is really the gateway / metering system which allows publishers to run on a well moderated freemium model - giving potential subscribers a healthy preview of the experience without being overtly pushy or greedy.
To our mind the FT was the first site to popularise this sort of metered gateway access - where unregistered users could view a certain small number of articles each month - before registration or further fees kicked in. I’m pretty sure that initially on the FT, you did not have to register straight-away like you do now, but could view a few articles before the restrictions kicked in. Currently on the FT, you get no unadulterated preview access - all interested parties must at least register to gain access to the minimal 3 free articles per month. When we Affino rolled out the new FG Insight site, it was delivered on the original FT model - i.e. on proper freemium terms - giving all site visitors access to 5 ’free’ articles - before they need to register for further access. The free registration gives you access to most of the content, but there are 2 further fee-paying membership levels which give access to more specialist content, reports and services.
I still feel the web is blighted with an over-abundance of irritating banner ads, which interrupt and lower the customer experience - the membership fees should be sufficient to off-set banner advertising revenues - which should in fact really be replaced by co-authored Native Advertising, Area / Topic / Page Sponsorship and unobtrusive product placement.
The whole point about the free in freemium is to offer some form of trial and preview - or demo if you wish - of the larger experience. Which is why the paywall / metered gateway usually offers a glimpse of some of the higher level paid-for content too.
The other key service that customers are happy to pay for is summary news digests / industry and sector
I will preface this article by saying that I am a long term music fanatic - having amassed some circa 10,000 12" records over the years, as well as a considerable volume of CDs - music is a constant in my every waking moment. Over the past 10 years I have gradually and almost fully transitioned to digital. I’ve been using iTunes since 2010, and am an early adopter of Spotify. I buy between 2 and 10 albums worth of music on roughly a weekly basis - this comes from a variety of sources - including iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, Traxsource, Juno Download, Bandcamp, 7 Digital, and still some vinyl and the occasional CD. I am still disappointed that a great part of music has yet to be converted to digital and still can only be consumed on an analogue basis. To which ends I have a USB turntable and optical drive to convert my analogue music sources to MP3 format - so that I can listen to them on the go. When you encounter me in public you will almost always see me with a pair of headphones on - either in use or wrapped around my neck in standby mode (Bluetooth!).
I rely on an iPhone 6 Plus 128GB paired with a Philips Fidelio M1BT headset - which combination is my daily musical companion / jukebox. The vast majority of the iPhone’s memory is occupied by music - currently in excess of 11,000 songs (circa 50% of my total iTunes library). As I said previously, this music soundtracks most of my daily activities, and is with me while I work and on every journey. Cloud-streamed music will never be fully reliable for me though, as there will always be some sort of reception black spots and occasions for Signal drop-out. The most significant part really, is that no single source can or could ever fulfil the broad spectrum of music I like to listen to.
Spotify I use mostly for music discovery / exploration and to help me to decide whether it is worth adding a particular collection of songs to my own collection / library. As the 30 seconds to 2 minutes song previews on iTunes etc. are usually inadequate to properly gauge the character of an entire album. For ease of use I buy most of my MP3s through iTunes, then Beatport, Juno Download etc. for more specialist tracks which aren’t available from Apple.
Before and while upgrading iTunes and iOS to the latest versions (i.e. featuring Apple Music), I had fairly familiar memories of Apple&
It really does not matter what type of business you have, these days the most likely contact you will have with your customers is via their smartphones. People already order more pizza through their phone; movie, theatre and concert tickets; read news feeds, digests and updates; order a taxi, post a picture, rent a room, save their place in a queue, pre-order their sandwich, and conduct a hundred different services and purchases generally within a typical day.
Here are the key headline criteria:
100 Glances per Day
As reported by Pew Research - the average person glances at their smartphone circa 100 times each day, it is the only device they have which is always typically within reach. If you want to reach out and connect with your customers more regularly, it has to be via and through their mobiles / smartphones.
60% of current news views
More-and-more news is currently being consumed on mobile - usually via a myriad of mobile apps, be it newspapers, news delivery services, or smart apps like the Yahoo News Digest or The Economist’s Espresso. News print is still dwindling, and every week / month still sees more casualties on the news stand. Whether you like it or not, in the future, the vast majority of news media will be accessed via mobile technologies.
Ghostery, Adblock Plus and soon Apple’s Safari 9.0 Browser will add to the already 200+ million users who nullify / disable 3rd party cookie-served ads, content and services - using ad blockers and privacy protectors. Many traditional ad-supported businesses are already down 20% on revenue year-on-year, and it’s only going to get worse.
First Google, and then Bing started giving preference to mobile-optimised sites in search results. Since all of the traffic growth is on mobile, this is hardly surprising.
Ecommerce figures for desktop / laptop are static - i.e. showing little variation between years. As IMRG keeps telling us, all the Ecommerce growth is on mobile formats - if you have a shop or retail operation of any kind - you really need to make sure your mobile experience is a great one.
Page load speed
For mobile formats, page loading speeds are paramount. 3rd party cookie services significantly slow down page speeds
This was far from a vintage year for Glastonbury - none of the headline sets were really up to previous memorable performances. There was little musical or stage show innovation here, and nothing too much to write home about. Florence and the Machine on the first night was just like every other performance we have seen of theirs, Kanye was too minimalist, a little disjointed and woefully out of tune on the Bohemian Rhapsody Kanye-Oke, and The Who looked somewhat tired.
Headline sets are supposed to be things of wonder which reveal depths of musical richness not witnessed before, or a proper show with surprise superstar cameos, pyrotechnics and Hollywood-level production values. Of everything I saw, I enjoyed Mark Ronson’s, Pharrell’s and Lionel Richie’s sets the best, all 3 were packed with moments of pure listening pleasure - and Pharrell’s new track ’Freedom’ went over amazingly well for something so new. Nothing though came close to personal all-time highlight - the Radiohead headline set from 1997. I thought that last year’s performers and performances were by-and-large preferable to this year’s lot - bar a few notable exceptions.
Yet the BBC digital coverage goes from strength to strength though, and the actual live iPlayer broadcast was pretty flawless this year. The major innovation was the new ’Timeline Navigation Bar’ which allowed you to rewind the stream to watch earlier sets - something that YouTube has been doing for years for their Coachella coverage. The BBC innovation is that the the relevant slots are named on the timeline and you can simply click on a band name to be taken to the start of that set - versus YouTube’s Coachella where you need to kind of guess and then manually adjust backwards or forwards.
The BBC Glastonbury site is still generally poor for social media, and switching the stream between stages was clunky - while for YouTube’s Coachella you just have a tabbed menu to switch across - so still plenty of room for improvement on the BBC side.
If the YouTube Coachella interface had the band names superimposed on the timeline tracker (like the BBC) it would be the perfect live-streaming experience. YouTube already has the edge with a longer timespan timeline, better switching between stages /acts, and better ’what&
I am often asked for advice on writing promotional mailings - targeted emails to be specific. I have long thought that there must be some simple formula to refer people to, and for such purposes, I have come up with the following H.O.P.P.A. acronym:
H = Hook
This is really your email subject or title, and should consist of an appealing offer or contain a promise of some degree of enlightenment if the recipient reads further. Many professional people receive 100’s of emails each day, so you have to project something which stands out and seems worthy of their time.
O = Occasion
With hundreds of emails received, they obviously need to be prioritised in some fashion - messages with near due dates usually take priority. Which is why it’s important to include some degree of urgency / time limit / immediacy into your body copy, frame it as an event - or else the email may never be prioritised to be read or dealt with.
P = Personalisation
I pretty much delete immediately anything which is not addressed to me personally. ’Dear Stefan’ or ’Hello Stefan’ is the absolute minimum. If I see ’Dear Member’ or similar - it’s straight in the bin. It’s also best practice to have the email be signed off by a real person - it’s much friendlier to know who you are dealing with, and being able to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media sites.
P = Persuasion
Once you’ve hooked someone in with an enticing offer, you need to back up that offer with sound rationale - it needs to contain just the pertinent details and be quick to the point (inverted pyramid) ... naturally drawing the reader towards the actionable part of the mailing. Too little text looks insubstantial, and too much simply won’t be read - normally 2-3 short paragraphs are optimal.
A = Action
All proper marketing assets must have an actionable function - that is to say a singular call-to-action. Even if it is just ’contact me personally for further insights and information’. You should offer multiple contact options so that the recipients can get back you via their preferred means. As I mentioned above, some sort of event / briefing with a near due date increases the importance of your mailing. The more singular your purpose,
Upon recently advising my older brother on marketing strategy, I realised the obvious parallels with military planning - in terms of how you set objectives, gather intelligence, select targets and deploy assets with laser-guided precision. I advocate the scientific approach to marketing which simply means following up measurable objectives with progress reports and final analysis.
Here follows the analogy:
The starting point is of course setting the goals and defining the aims of the campaign - what are you trying to achieve and how do you know when you have reached those objectives.
This is what you are intending to aim your cross-hairs at, or specifically the ’target audience’ in marketing terms. For the mission to be succesfull you need to know exactly whom you are targeting, their motivations, movements, and key modes of behaviour.
You need to know your targets really well to have a good chance of success. Some further field work or research may be necessary to supply the full operations intelligence you need in order to precisely calibrate your plan of attack.
Field of Engagement
Where will you most reliably encounter your targets and where can you strike with the most impact. In marketing we need to know where our targets gather in significant numbers - whether this is on certain websites, membership associations, publications or communities, TV spots or even passing by placements of certain billboard ads.
Joint Strike Force
To strike with full force and achieve maximum penetration as it were, you probably need a multi-level approach. In military operations you may combine air, sea and land forces to hit the target with the best chance of success. For marketing you need to use typically more than one channel too - be it direct mail / email, banner advertising, editorial, sponsorship, call-backs and otherwise. You need to maximise your likely contact points and multiply the ’opportunities to view’ - for in order to achieve any degree of lasting effect requires multiple impacts.
Assets & Ordnance
Your weapons of mass distraction are your marketing materials - ad copy, literature and other forms of promotion. Each asset has a different purpose and is suited to a particular task
’New and improved’, ’Transformative’, ’This changes everything’, ’Younger and more supple’... These are several phrases that are more likely to make us sit up and listen, some slightly tired now and over-used, but others which are still successful in hammering home a definitive competitive advantage for those that make use of them. Yet there are still far too many copywriters that do not take benefit from setting themselves a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Framework when composing their functional prose.
At Affino we always encourage our Clients to create a full Brand Profile, where they list the various Brand Values, Keywords and Phrases that the company / product / brand stands for. Much like with SEO work - where there should be a degree of repetition and reinforcement, so should be the case with marketing communications - that is to say you use component words and phrases repetitively to drive home a positive association for your potential, intended and current customers.
It’s an advanced form of word association and context. The idea is that positive words or words which inspire positive values, will help your consumers develop a positive image of your company. The aim is to steer wholly clear of any negative words, as consumers focus on differnt things, and may grasp the wrong meaning, may recall the negative rather than the postitive, or simply just see the words in isolation and wrongly associate them with your brand.
Affino’s current positional strapline is ’Collaboration. Solution. Success.’ - in effect encapsulating what we do and what our ’offer’ as such is to our customers.
In our articles and communications, we frequently mention current hot potatoes - ’Unified Platform’, ’Complete digital front-end solution’, ’Seamless customer journeys’ and ’Single customer views’. We also talk significantly about digital business transformation, evolution and innovation. We also touch on improving commercial activities and generating new sources of revenue. All these form a positive image of what we are about and connect those positive actions and activities directly with our brand and our work.
There’s another significant element that needs to be mentioned too - which is
There are some who still aren’t fully au fait with the different types of advertising available, so we will start with a brief introduction before explaining the merits of each. Anyone who has bid for Google AdWords will have some degree of understanding of the basics of Programmatic Advertising. Even though Google AdWords is not exactly display advertising, rather text-only search results advertising, it is still the same basic automated mechanic which gives advertisers / media buyers direct access to buy ad-space. In traditional advertising you have the clients negotiating with their agency / media buying teams, who in turn deal with people working for an ad sales department of a publication / broadcaster / digital property. Programmatic Advertising in effect cuts out all / most of the middlemen and additional commissions allocations and gives those wanting to advertise direct access to the ad-buying process, in theory at more favourable rates too.
In the above visual, I have pictured the most advanced form of Programmatic Advertising - where a signed-in ad-buyer can see the ad slots available on-site and bid for whichever ones are deemed positionally and topically appropriate. With this most advanced version, a would-be advertiser can buy a slot and upload their artwork through a fully-automated process. In most cases though there is a separation between ad-buying and slot allocation. A lot of Programmatic Advertising is very much about Real-time Bidding (RTB), which should be familiar to users of eBay - where you have several buyers bidding to get the best slots / positions available to them. Depending on how the automation works, ad-buyers can buy the placement slot outright, or secure a priority / first-view placement on the rotation, and those who pay less appear further down the rotation. In most cases of Programmatic Advertising there is usually some degree of human involvement needed, even if it is just to approve the artwork for suitability for display.
If you look again at the visual, then you can see that the News Article in the bottom left hand corner has a ’----- Sponsored Article -----’ label appearing underneath it, which is currently considered best practice for displaying / identifying Native Advertising. For Native Advertising, think Advertorials of old - often articles which have been written by the