The Importance of Content Marketing

I met the Head of Digital at the Met Office today and we talked about Content Marketing. This Vlog explains:

Interview with a Millennial

Interview with a Millennial

The Millennial generation is getting serious. They are serious employees in serious positions of responsibility and serious buyers of our products and services now. At Optix Solutions I’ve been lucky enough to employ a number of this generation and I tell you what, they are different breed. If you don’t recognise the nuances of this generation and how they like to buy/be engaged with you will lose out.

In this blog I interviewed a member of the Optix team – Chris Boyd to get his take on life. I hope you get some interesting insight as I did.

[Interview Starts]

Me: So what drives you?

Chris: Career progression, responsibility and enjoyment more than anything. I think unlike in the past, Money is a secondary goal, as long as your continuously improving and widening your skill set you’ll naturally land better (and higher paid) roles.

Me: What matters to you?

Chris: That I’m ahead of the game, that I have knowledge in all areas of my field and that people see me as the ‘go-to-guy’ when they want objective and helpful advice. I also want acknowledgement of my good work. It’s happened too many times previously where my work has been passed off as someone else’s. Sometimes you just have to accept    that your not going to get recognition, but being a bit outspoken when it comes down to it does help – and if that bothers the other person: so be it. Likewise I won’t accept acknowledgement for other people’s work.

Me: What sites/apps do you and your friends interact with on a daily basis?

Chris: Facebook and Twitter is where I go to learn about current affairs. Snapchat, whatsapp and Instagram are the main channels I use to actually interact with my friends.

Me: How long do you spend online each day?

Chris: I’m online for my job and my downtime. I’m constantly connected, even down to my entertainment, it’s all streamed through Netflix, Now TV or Catch up channels. When I’m awake: I’m connected.

Me: Can you imagine a world without the internet?

Chris: I can imagine it, but it would be a struggle!

Me: Who do you look up to?

Chris: I look up to those around me that hold more knowledge and have gained success through that knowledge. I think it’s important to not overly idolise the likes of Mark Zuckerberg where luck has played a major role in their success. I have colleagues and clients close by that I look up to as successful and intelligent business people.

Me: What do you want from a job?

Chris: As cheesy as it sounds, I want to be happy. If you’re spending upwards of 9 hours a day doing something, it has to be enjoyable and worthwhile. I want to see results. I want to know that I’m making a difference. Whether that’s someone complimenting you on your service when watering in a restaurant or seeing a clients eyes light up when there’s been a major increase in traffic to their site.

Me: What do you want from an employer, any advice?

Chris: Flexibility and trust are a big driver for me; I know that I’ll always go the extra mile to ensure work is complete and in most cases I’ll try and exceed expectations. With this in mind, employers need to be flexible, if I’ve worked 2 hours overtime yesterday I don’t expect to be penalised for turning up 2 minutes late the next day – you’ll only deter me from sticking around. If you value your millennial employees – pick and choose your battles and ask yourself, “is what I’m about to say Trivial in the grand scheme.”

Me: Why is being a millennial in the workplace today different to previous generations?

Chris: I think today establishing yourself and finding a career path is much easier, you have a lot more support and resource, and university is very accessible. That being said, everything is much more competitive. In order to succeed nowadays  you need to go the extra mile and allocate some of your free time to educating yourself. When in the workplace you’re constantly playing catch up to your more experienced counterparts, so you have to be out to impress.

My personal (and perhaps slightly controversial) opinion; is that having a degree nowadays isn’t anything special. If we all drove Ferraris and Lamborghinis they wouldn’t be considered a luxury car; it’s exactly the same. Without the additional time investment, shelling out for courses, reading blogs and listening to podcasts – getting ahead will be a struggle.

Me: Where will you be in 10 years time?

Chris: No matter the industry I think it’s important to aim for the top, when I worked in hotels I worked everyday with the end goal to be general manager. Now I’m in Marketing I aim for director/CMO or agency/business owner. I’m not sure where I’ll be, but wherever it is, I’m confident I’ll be at the top!

So I started a YouTube Channel!

So I started a YouTube Channel!

My first four YouTube Videos are live and I’m loving the feedback I’ve had already – its quite humbling and suggests that its certainly worth persisting with. To bring you upto speed you can check out my channel here: https://www.youtube.com/c/alastairbanks

For ease though, here are the first four videos – please forward on to students with an interest in personal brand or development, business owners and entrepreneurial friends, I will hugely appreciate it as it’s not easy creating content for a small following – you do question if its worthwhile.

My first video was about procrastination:

My second was about the most influential business book Ive ever read:

The third was all about Goal Setting:

And the fourth was about change and how important it is if you want to grow:

Please make sure you subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss anything. I’ll do my very best to make the content as useful as possible.

Thanks again

Al – @banksy6

Eight things that changed my life in 2015

Eight things that changed my life in 2015

Yes folks, its that time of year again. The round up post you’ve all been waiting for 😉

Don’t forget that if you’re interested in my posts from the last few years, you can find them here: ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13,’14

2015 – Its been a big one! Featured here are my first child, an offline tool that’s changed my life and a diet that’s had a dramatic impact on how I’ve felt after 10 years of putting up with stomach pain. All that alongside a few less serious, but still important ones.

1). Coming in at Number 1 there is only one place to have him – it’s Oscar, my first child. There is no doubt about it, having your first child changes you. For the first time in your life someone is completely reliant on you and that re-focuses you. I’ve spent the last 15 years putting everything into my work and while I still have a passion for that, it will sit alongside the newest love of my life – Oscar. I’ve also found a new respect for my wife Lizz who is quite literally the best Mum ever…just incredible.

2). About ten years ago I started to suffer with IBS, one of those hard to diagnose problems that the doctors don’t really do much about or give you much advice on. After hospital inspections and private consultancies which showed up/gave me nothing, I just had to live with it. When Oscar was born I was in so much pain some nights that I couldn’t do his bedtime and that made me realise that something had to change. I persisted with the doctors and found a diet out of Australia called FODMAP. A university there have tested hundreds of food groups against four main triggers and rated them on an app and in a book. The diet has changed my life. After about 6 months of doing it, I’d say that I’m about 75% better than I was and I intend to continue living and coping with this using management of my diet. If you’re an IBS sufferer then you should definitely check it out. I’ve created a Pinterest board to help people find their feet with the diet as its a bit of a minefield of info out there.

3). The passion planner (I know what you’re thinking but don’t worry, I’m not going there) started off as a Kickstarter project. The ultimate organisation tool. It combines goal setting, diary management, reflection time and to-do lists all in one lovely leather bound book you’d be proud to take to any meeting. People know me as the owner of a digital agency and many are poking fun at the fact that despite the plethora of on-line tools (most of which I feel like I’ve tried) I’ve reverted to good old pen and paper. The fact is there is something very real about planning out your week and crossing things off as you complete them which you just don’t get on-line. You have to get these from America but I guarantee you its worth it.

4). Slack. Used by NASA for collaboration and teamwork we’ve rolled this out internally at Optix for our digital marketing team and a group of Sack Savvy clients. Slack’s strap line is ‘Be Less Busy’ which if anyone disagrees with then I’d suggest you’re reading the wrong blog. We share information, useful links and sometimes just shoot the breeze on this channel. Its closed unlike the big social media sites but that works well and if you want to strengthen comms in your organisation you should check out this app today.

5). Whatsapp Web. Did you know you can use WhatsApp from a browser window, opening up the use of this tool to desktop and laptops not just mobile? Well if you’re old skool like me and still use one of these antiquated computer things then maybe you should just get yourself over there to use the web interface. Simply have your phone app open and scan the QR code on the screen and it will link your computer to your phone. Game changer. Genius.

6). My Apple Watch. Ok so it’s questionable as to whether its really changed my life or not. Most days I forget to charge it but when I do remember and wear it I find myself checking my tweets, messages and email with a little smile on my face. These notifications definitely mean I check my phone less which can only be a good thing right? Would I pay the same again for it? Probably not but I’m glad I have it and its certainly a talking point.

7). My Northface Jacket. Yes its one of those weird ribbed jackets people are wearing everywhere. I saw people turning themselves into the Michelin man and couldn’t get my head round it for a year or so….until I tried one. The one I went for is a particularly fetching bright orange one. You can tell I’m an introvert right 😉 So although I might stand out like a sore thumb I’ll be a particularly warm one and I’m unlikely to get lost in the fog. My other reason for getting one was to ensure that I look as stylish as possible on the slopes this year (although my Dad and skiing partner may disagree with that statement)! If you didn’t know, I also run a skiing blog over at http://www.firstlift.co.uk

8). Insights. I’ve always said that if I wasn’t running a digital agency (and I didn’t make it as a ski instructor) that my second favourite job would be something to do with psychology and in particular psychometric profiling. I find it absolutely fascinating. This year we profiled the whole company using the Insights model. A local practitioner, Jack Russell ran a session with us after we’d been profiled and what’s happened since is quite amazing. A common language, a deeper understanding of oneself and others and better communication all round. We’ve enjoyed it so much that my wife and I are in the process of setting up a new business and partnering with Jack so we can share the excitement and success we’ve had at Optix with others. If you’re interested in learning more about what happened with the profiling at Optix, check out the post I wrote here.

So there we go, eight things that changed my life this year, its been big, its been fun and hopefully next year will be just as exciting.

How was your year? Have you taken the time to reflect on it and write down the things that mattered to you?

How to Position Yourself as a Thought Leader Using Social Media

How to Position Yourself as a Thought Leader Using Social Media

Social media used to be optional and strictly personal.  It used to even show generational preference and was something that adolescents and young adults messed around with.  Radical changes have made social media a vital factor for businesses and professionals looking to succeed.   New vocabulary has also come along with this new use of social media – and one of these is “Thought Leader.” Thought leaders are individuals who have captured the attention not only of industries at networking events and conferences, but also of social networks, leading the way in what people should read, do, think, buy, consider and talk about with their friends.  To make it as a thought leader, social media can be an excellent tool used to up your image and popularity.  Below are some tips to help you get started on the do’s and don’ts of using social media to position yourself as a successful thought leader:

Do…

Pick platforms with care – With many social media options coming out and new ones cropping up, be sure you pick ones that are popular among the audience you are looking to reach.  Remember that many social media platforms are a flash in the pan.  Before you sign up for the latest new thing, see if it will be around enough to bother with. 

Listen – Read up on others who promote similar ideas, find new important and relevant information to your industry or cause.  Then share it.  To gain credibility and interest, you must show that you know what leading experts are saying and what the studies show.

Start conversations – Begin new lines of thought for your area of interest by asking good questions and initiating new interpretations or explanations.  Ask for other’s input.

Provide useful information – Make what you post useful and relevant.   You can start by answering questions that people often ask you.  Provide links to your research and blogs that elaborate and provide longer answers to these questions.  Depending on your focus, you can also post information on how to use your product, or tell your own story of how your research has helped you. 

Don’t…

Abandon your blog – If you have a blog, maintain it.  Nothing shows that you’re not taking care of your audience like a blog that hasn’t been updated in months (I fall foul of this myself quite often).  Also, avoid turning your blog into an advertising platform.  People are tired of seeing ads all day long – a blog should provide useful and relevant information related to your product, but not sell it.

Advertise – Don’t use your social media accounts to post logos, ads and promotional lines.  Social media is about people, idea, even the news.  People will eventually unfriend you on Facebook and stop following you on Twitter if all they see are ads. 

Spend too much time on it – Social media is important, but you need time for other things as well.  If you think you’ll be able to keep up with numerous social media accounts, forget it.  Doing one or two platforms well is better than five with a mediocre standard.  Set time for working on it and let the rest go.

Got other ideas on positioning yourself? Please share, we’d love to hear.

6 things that changed my life in 2014

6 things that changed my life in 2014
Yes folks its that time of year again. While I’ve been a little light on posts in 2014 there is one that must be written. This one.

2014 has been an interesting year, one which has seen a lot of change in both my personal life and business dealings. In a year that saw Optix Solutions turn 15 and new ventures being started by my business partner and I (hopefully more on those in years to come) we may just have tried to do a little too much. As you probably know I’m a huge fan of change and believe it completely necessary for success however sometimes it can feel like you’re biting off too much and its important in those moments to take stock, remember what you’ve achieved and maybe even take some time out. So in this post I’m taking a moment to look at what happened this year and how it affected my life.

Don’t forget that if you’re interested in my posts from the last few years, you can find them here: ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13:

So let’s do the run down then…

1). Baby Banks on the way – Well this absolutely has to be at the top doesn’t it :)

I’ll be a father for the first time in Feb this year (well maybe a little earlier if you look at the size of Lizz!). I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time which is an unusual feeling. With everything in business, things are generally within my control. I can make decisions and live by them but here we’re talking about another life, one which I can only hope to guide without pushing too hard. I’m pretty sure I’ll be a good Dad but there are a few moments when I question if I have the skills and knowledge for what’s going to be the biggest change to my life so far.  I’m sure there will be more about fatherhood on this blog throughout the year so watch this space.

2). Re-Focusing is important however big the decisions

Three years ago our business was split about 75% design and build to 25% digital marketing. Now its almost flipped and that’s been a conscious decision based on goals and a vision we set out a few years ago. Steering a company with 15 people in it is not like a startup where decisions can be made quickly. If you get them wrong in the early days its fairly easy to claw back, with a larger company it takes time and effort and you have to get everyone on board taking into account their own individual drivers (which of course may not be totally aligned with your own vision). This year we’ve pushed harder than ever to adapt to the industry and its been an exciting journey which we are starting to reap the rewards for.

3). Ben Corbally

I hope adding Ben in here means he doesn’t get too much stick from the rest of the team. They aren’t those kind of people so I’m sure they won’t give him too much :) So why did Ben make this list? Ben is a young gun who joined Optix in late 2013 in our Digital Marketing team. He now works alongside me in the client facing part of the business and helps build the digital strategy for some of our newer clients. The reason that he makes the list is that he’s pushed me to think differently this year, to take a new perspective on things which I’ve made fundamental business decisions with. We’ve bought in new services (which has attracted new clients) and pushed ourselves more than I think we would have done without him. Ben you’ve been a delight to work with and I look forward to doing more along side you over the next few years. Exciting times ahead.
You can find Ben over on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bencorbally 

4). Vision for 2020

We re-wrote our vision story for Optix this year and delivered it to the team in September. The statement is our second of this type, the last one being done in 2012 and running out in September of 2015. Its written in the format of a story (from a clients perspective of Optix) and outlines some of the goals that James and I have set for the business. This new vision features everything from turnover figures hitting a million to owning our own building. Better get working then!

5). Finally bringing Project Management to Optix

OK so this is an area I’ll put my hands up and say we hung around too long to sort out. This year we’ve recruited Mr James Cassap, a heavyweight recruit for the business from Cambridge University Press who brings 10 years of project management skills to the business. One well known friend of the company has described the change as likely to look like Optix on steroids. I’m looking forward to seeing that next year. :)

6). Bellroy

Ok so a bit of a light-hearted one to throw in here but hey you need to have a bit of fun don’t you. A man’s wallet is a key item to have around his person. The problem with wallets is they are bulky things. They can affect the shape of nice suits and weigh you down. Bellroy know this too well and have invented a set of wallets which solve this problem. I bought one this year and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that everytime I use it, its an absolute pleasure and puts a smile on my face.

So there were six of my year-changers. I’m looking forward to 2015 for personal and business reasons and I’ve got a feeling that next years post will have some pretty special points in it.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a prosperous and healthy 2015

Now Your Thoughts
 
  • So what changed your life this year?
  • Who and what made an impact on your 2014?

Digital Marketing Tips for 2014

Digital Marketing Tips for 2014

Afternoon all. I trust you all had a fantastic start to the year? I’m sure, being driven people, that your goals are set, you know what you want to achieve in 2014 and now its just a case of making it happen.

As the owner of a digital agency in Exeter I want to cover a few ideas for things you should look to implement within your digital strategy this year. If you take on board just a couple of these you’ll be ahead of the majority of the crowd. I know you guys are always looking for the edge, so please enjoy.

Explore the world of Conversion Optimisation (CRO/Split Testing)
Offering up different versions of the same page on your website in order to see which converts the most is an extremely valuable technique to master. Even if you don’t sell online (where huge returns on investment can be seen), you should split test any enquiry forms on your site. Get your agency to do this for you and work with them on the results.

Start practicing Inbound Marketing
Another big trend for the year will see the tracking of customers through your websites, taking a look at what they are downloading, where they spend time and mashing that all up with their social profiles and historic browsing history so you can personalise their journey. Check out industry leaders like Hubspot and Pardot.

Ramp up your Content Marketing..but make it worthwhile
Content marketing is still an important part of your digital strategy and should fuel your Inbound Marketing funnel but it needs to be good. Theres too much content in this world so make sure what you create is better than everyone else in your market. Aim for things that are shareable through social media. Video, best practice guides and content which anticipates and answers your prospects questions should all feature highly.

Setup Email Autoresponders
Its a simple, yet quick win. By linking your website up to a decent email marketing system (MailChimp, OptixMail, Constant Contact etc) you can set a series of automated emails to go out when someone fills out an enquiry form. These are called autoresponders and go out at pre-defined time periods. Obviously you don’t want to spam people but a casual thank you email followed by a top tips email a week later might go down well and make you look switched on.

Get your social policies and strategy in place.
If you don’t want to fall into the same trap as the University Professor who tweeted about Obese doctors last year then make sure your team know what’s expected of them when interacting online. Social provides huge opportunities for your business but its your responsibility to make sure your team know the boundaries.

Fire up your digital presence, enjoy your 2014 and let me know when you get some significant wins.

Oh and Happy Easter :)

Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/jefthomas/ 

What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing?

–Update to Post Mar 2014–

For many years us marketeers have focused on outbound marketing. A one-way message, attempting to buy people’s attention. Think Radio, Think Advertising, Think TV Adverts. With Inbound Marketing the focus switches to ‘earnt’ attention. By providing your prospects with something of value they give you permission to keep marketing to them. For example, giving away tips in a blog article/whitepaper, which your prospect finds via Google is a good form of Inbound Marketing. They like your content, it sounds like you know what you’re talking about, so they subscribe to your blog feed and in turn give you permission to market to them in the future. A powerful way of creating a relationship with someone who was a stranger only minutes before. You’ve ‘earnt’ their attention.

This is the first step.

True inbound companies work on converting these people into customers, taking them on a journey down a sales/marketing funnel (still providing value all the way). This is called lead nurturing. This can consist of email auto-responders; automated emails which keep giving you more information/help/advice, conversion optimisation; different formats for the same pages on a website, tested constantly for the best results and even dynamic content; if I know you’ve downloaded a document before from my site and you’ve given me your name, I might put a personal message for you on my site the next time you return.

The first step to becoming an inbound organisation is to work out your customer personas. You may have two or three for your business depending on audience types/number of products etc. In my business, one of our personas is Bob. Bob is the managing director of a successful business turning over more than a million pounds a year. He has built the business from scratch and is fascinated by marketing. He’s a true salesman and sells his business better than anyone else. Bob is interested in marketing because he recognises that it’s the route to take his business to the next level. He’s an enthusiastic chap who knows what he wants and looks to employ the best people for the job. He doesn’t try and drive people down on price because he appreciates quality. He calls his suppliers partners.

Now when we create marketing material we think of Bob. Would this blog article be of interest to him, would this letter we’re sending out get through his PA? Is this whitepaper going to be something he prints out and takes home to read at night? Your focus on marketing becomes more defined and less time is wasted trying to appeal to all.

As clichéd as it might sound, sharing is caring in this world. Create remarkable content that people want to talk about and tell their friends to check out. This is the way of an inbound organisation, is it the way of your organisation?

If you’re practising Inbound marketing I’d love to hear your stories in the comments. How is it working for you?

p.s. Hat-tip to Hubspot who are the masters of this world and coined the term back in 05/06. Love your work guys.

3 Simple Ways to Keep up-to-date with Social Media Changes

3 Simple Ways to Keep up-to-date with Social Media Changes

A statement I often hear is, ‘you can keep ahead of things because you live in this industry’. In many ways this is true. Things are changing so quickly and I have a great team around me who often pick up the latest changes way before me. However, there are a few quick tips I can give to help you stay ahead of the curve and learn about what’s new in the world of digital marketing.

1). Use Google Alerts: You may be using these already for your company name/competitors but its also great for keeping an eye on when changes happen in the industry. For example setting up a google alert for the term ‘LinkedIn Updates’ will then email you each time there is a mention of this term online. You can then decide whether you check it out or not.

You can setup alerts here: http://www.google.com/alerts

2). Blogs: The big tech blogs often break info on updates before others. Here are a couple of good ones (you can subscribe to them by RSS meaning you receive the info in your inbox the minute they update their sites – Guide to doing so can be found here)

http://techcrunch.com/tag/linkedin/ (links to the ‘LinkedIn tag’ within Techcrunch)

http://mashable.com/category/linkedin/ (Links to the LinkedIn Category within Mashable)

3). Social Dashboards: If you really want to take it to the next level then you could consider using social dashboards to track pretty much everything – here are a couple of good free ones.

http://www.netvibes.com/

http://topsy.com/s?q=linkedin+updates

So there you have it, a few easy ways of keeping uptodate with the latest changes in the industry. Please feel free to add more and make this a really useful resource for people.

Photo Courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonahowie/

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Wow – firstly just need to say this is my 100th post! Boom! It makes writing to thin air in the early days seem worthwhile when you hit milestones like this. Thanks to Dave at Optix for pointing this out to me!

So last week I attended Inbound Marketing 2013 in London with my digital marketing team at Optix Solutions. A great day put on by Deeply Digital and Hubspot. The various speakers covered everything from the basic principles of Inbound Marketing (more on that to follow), to how your sales team needs to adapt to an inbound world, to an excellent presentation on conversion rate optimisation by Will Critchlow of Distilled.

As with all these events, they often leave your mind whirring and if you’re not careful you can write down so many things you want to implement, that you don’t end up doing anything. In order that I don’t fall into that trap myself I thought it may be useful to share a few key takeaways with you.

1). Inbound Marketing is more of a philosophy than I’d realised. It all starts with working out your buyer personas (you can have a few). These are not generally demographics but behaviours of your buyers. What makes this persona tick, how do they feel about working with you, what problems do they have that you can solve. The next stage is to create your content plan based on these personas. The next and possibly most technical stage is bringing context into play. Inbound marketers are constantly learning about their users and offering up different experiences online depending on these. A user viewing a website for the first time will see different landing pages than one who has perhaps already downloaded your latest ‘best practice guide’. According to one of the speakers a great example of this was demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal who were able to work out their influencers, lower the pay wall for this group and in turn drive more traffic to their site. True Inbound Marketing at work.

2). Sales (and in fact your entire team) must engage very differently in an inbound world. Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot believes that in today’s social world, prospects of B2B companies are anywhere upto 70% down the purchasing funnel before they even pick up the phone to you. They’ve done their research on your company and products. They’ve read reviews, looked at your social media presences and probably looked up your staff. By the time they pick up the phone to call you they’ve made up their mind about the type of company you are so it’s vital your sales team understand this and treat them with the respect they deserve as an informed buyer. This needs to cascade down the entire ‘inbound organisation’ says Brian. Once the sale is made, the whole team need to be consistent in the type of relationship your company has built with them. The message was clear: Sell with integrity, sell with trust, listen more than talk.

3).  My final takeaway was around how much management of staff has changed in the last 40 years and how this impacts anyone who employs a team. Brian showed us this fascinating table of his take on culture change in the last 40 years.

Culture 1973 1993 2013
Mantra Management Leadership Inspiration
Desire Pension Salary Learning
Mentality OCD Anxiety Disorder ADD
Hours 9-5 9-6 Whenever
Workplace 4 walls Openplan Wherever
Tenure Whole Career 6 Years 18 Months

 

 

 

 

 

For people who have lived their lives managing employees from one of the other generations (probably a large proportion of board level directors I’d guess) this leaves an interesting challenge. They must seek to understand their younger workforce and consider the overall makeup of their business if they are to continue getting the most from their team. So what does your staff benefit list look like? Does it impact across the company or just one sub-set of your team? When was the last time you even looked at it? I’m off to look at mine now!

Some great takeaways, some of which I have action points on already. If you can make it to next year’s conference I’d wholeheartedly recommend it.