Mark Wright, Director of Climb Online discusses the importance of speaking the right business language when operating in a crowded digital marketing sector…

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Mark Wright, Director of Climb Online and a successful entrepreneur with a passion for business and a love of digital marketing (and the winner of Apprentice UK back in 2014) discusses the importance of speaking the right business language when operating in a crowded digital marketing sector. We also explore how, as long as you have the passion, the drive, the knowledge and a brutal honesty, then you have what it takes to succeed.

Marketing is something that everyone thinks they’re an expert on, so how do you cut through that? 

It’s an excellent question. It comes back to understanding the customer’s industry and business that you’re dealing with. No digital marketing campaign is ever the same, and that’s because no business is ever the same. The fundamental flaw most digital marketers make, or most people in the online world, is taking a cookie cutter approach, treating every business like the same, and every campaign should be the same, when every business needs to be displayed and understood differently. What I did very, very well early on is personally get to know the individual that I’m dealing with, and their personalities and the personalities of their business to understand which marketing strategy would be most appropriate for this business.

For example, if you’re working with a plumber that’s got a great personality, looks great on camera, something like YouTube ads or social media marketing ads with video of that guy talking about his products and services could be phenomenal because he’s got something his competition doesn’t, which is him, his personality. Then, you might have someone that’s shy or hates being in front of the camera, but is very creative, and that person could do great testimonials, great imagery, and case studies on their website and boost it out through blogs or whatever it might be, their way.

It’s understanding what’s going to work for the customer and what works best for that industry. That’s why these cheap, outsourcing it to India, cookie cutter approach businesses don’t work. 99 times out of 100, I go and meet a business and they tell me, “I tried marketing. It didn’t work,” but they’ve tried marketing that’s worked for everyone else, but hasn’t had anyone understand what they should be doing.

You work with clients, for example, Emirates, but also the local dentist. That’s going to be different conversations but both are wanting the same outcome, so how do you communicate with them?

Well, I am a very direct person. A was very upset with me because she didn’t feel the marketing approach I was displaying for her business was right for her business. I said to her; “You’ve been with other marketing companies before, and you failed every single time. Now, if I presented you the same strategy and the same approach that you’ve done over, and over again, we will fail again.

“You have come to me and paid me very hard-earned money to come to me to let me do your marketing. Then, you’re going to ring me up and tell me how to do your marketing. Then, if I listen to you, we’ll fail, because I am the expert. I am the person that is the best marketer, is the best company to go to, and I’m charging you. Now, if I was to listen to you and do your strategy, why would you pay me good money to do that for you? You must listen to me.”

I don’t ring you up, if you’re a dentist, and tell you how to fit a crown, or whiten my teeth, or do this, because I don’t really know. I might have watched a couple of YouTube videos or heard about it down at the pub, but I don’t really know what I’m doing because I haven’t got the experience, I haven’t got the expertise. The funny thing about marketing is everyone is a bit of a bedroom DJ. They think they know their onions, so to speak, but the truth is that I’ve worked 11 years every day, as you say, day-in, day-out, working with thousands of companies. I get it. I understand what to do.

I have to be quite blunt with people sometimes and just say, “Just leave me to it.” Because you don’t put your car in the garage with the mechanics and stand over him and tell him which wrench to use and which filters to change. You understand that that person has experience, qualifications, and the understanding of what to do. Generally, the biggest problems I’ve ever seen in marketing campaigns is owner-operators dipping their wick in, and going in and making changes and putting their two bucks worth in, or not spending enough money. Then, they tell us that marketing doesn’t work.

If you hire experts, if you work with people, you’ve got to let them do their jobs and not tell them how to do their jobs. Because Steve Jobs was a great advocate for if you hire A-players, you need them to let them be A-players. Let them be creative. Let them do the things that you hired them for, and that’s when you get the best results. 

Forgive me if I’m wrong, there are thousands of marketing companies that could say and promise the world to clients, but what do you do to ensure that you stay ahead of them?

Yeah, there’s thousands of companies that do. This is the million pound question. Any company, any entrepreneur or any business person that stops innovating starts dying. The day you start standing still, you start moving backwards, so you’ve got to constantly challenge yourself to stay ahead of the market. That’s listening to your customers, that’s listening to technology. Understanding what the next Facebook’s going to be, what the next video content’s going to be. Is it going to be augmented reality? Is it going to be VR? Is it going to be UX? What is it going to be that’s going to be the next Google AdWords for our sector?

Our job is constantly investing in research, constantly investing in new products and new markets to make sure that we’re ahead of every other marketing agency out there. Once upon a time, you used to walk into a phone shop and there were hundreds of phones on the wall. You’d go into a carphone warehouse, and you could pick up to 150 phones off the wall to be your handset. Now, you walk into the shop, there’s three. You’ve probably got a Galaxy, you’ve got an iPhone, and maybe whatever the third-party of the day is. There have been people that have come into that market, that their products have been so good, it killed the other competitors.

My job at Climb Online is making sure that our product and our technology gets our customers such good results that there’s no other option than to go with us, and it kills those other thousand competitors. That’s what I think about every day as I’m getting up and I’m going into work; “What am I doing today for my customers that’s going to make me so essential to their business that everyone has to use me?”

What are some of the current trends you are seeing in the industry?

We’re living in just the most fascinating time in human history. The advances in technology that we’re seeing are just unbelievable. You go back 70 years ago, they didn’t have the TV. We now have the Internet. I still remember, in my time, when we had dial-up Internet, and you would have to sit there for 10 minutes while the box made all that noise, and it’d take five minutes for a website to sort of click down the browser. We’re living in a time where machine learning, algorithms, analytics are just changing the game.

Some of the stuff I’m seeing in analytics, things are being done online using data and analytics that we cannot even dream of. I’m seeing technology, that just blows your mind in terms of data prediction and output that is just breathtaking. The stuff that the companies are collecting in terms of data, and using to segment audiences, supply advertising data, but also control what we’re seeing, and feeling through the media that we’re consuming, is just really intelligent stuff.

I think we’re moving really quickly, and the thing that I’d want to back is being on top of analytics and data. That’s the thing that I’ve seen over the last couple of years that’s really impressed me, and the thing that I think is going to be the big game changer moving forward. If you’re in business right now, understanding your customers and what they want to see, what they’re feeling, how to talk to them is really important. There is technology out there to do that much better than you’re doing it right now. It’s the customers that are understanding that technology and how important analytics are that are the ones that are going to be successful over the next few years.

What have you seen in terms of the impact of COVID on the business landscape?

 It’s been a very challenging period. At the same time, when I’ve reflected on it recently, I’m very grateful for where we are and what we’ve learned. I mean, for example, the amount of money that we’ve discovered we were wasting on going to face-to-face meetings all around the country, getting on a plane here, a train here, a hotel there, when our sales process is now improved. It’s now shorter. We’re doing more things by Teams, Zoom, et cetera, like this, saving the company money. We’re closing bigger deals. We’re closing them faster, all using technology.

COVID has changed the world. Now, the health side of it is terrible. The business side has really sorted out the men from the boys, shall we say. It’s sorted out the skilled sailors from the people that were just floating around on a wooden door. There’s businesses that are going under right now, and they’re saying it’s because of coronavirus. Jamie’s Italian went under about a year ago, 12 months ago, right before coronavirus. If they went bankrupt right now, they would blame coronavirus. They didn’t go bad because of coronavirus. They were just a bad business. There are many companies that were over-leveraged, that had poor market share, that had too many employees, that had bad technology, and now they’re blaming coronavirus.

On the flip side, there are some companies like airlines that are just affected, holiday companies that are really affected by coronavirus, and I get that. Our job, as business people, is to understand who it is affecting and who it isn’t. At the start of this, it did affect my business a little bit, but we’ve improved our processes, we’ve learned from it, and we’ve understood what we can do better through technology, through working with different industries, different niches, to make sure that we’re more protected for the future. We’ve also understood that there was wastage in our business that we could improve on.

Tough times are always going to be around. This year, it’s coronavirus. In the future, it will be something else. We can either sit back, furlough ourselves, furlough our employees and blame the environment for failure, or you can tackle it head-on and you can learn from it. If you can run a business right now, if you can thrive right now, you’ve got an incredible business. If your business makes it through this, you have something for the future. If it doesn’t, you probably didn’t have a great business anyway, and your job is to be serious. It comes back to that honesty.

Look at yourself and say, “Is this coronavirus, or is this a bad business? Is this a bad employee, or is this a coronavirus problem?” I think this period has been a great time for really true reflection. Looking at yourself, looking at your business in the mirror and understanding what is good and what is bad. What do I want to change, and what do I want to keep? There’s been a lot of natural cleansing in this period. I think a lot of people, whilst right now it feels really ugly, in 12 months time, they’re going to have made some decisions or be in a totally different business or career, and be really happy and glad this happened because sometimes, things always have a natural way of working themselves out.

Mark Wright
Mark Wright

What is your key to success? 

Find whatever it is you love to do, and then get obsessed with it. If you want to be successful, you have to be obsessed with being successful in whatever it is. That’s the best advice I could give anyone. I learned, very early on, what it is I was going to do, and I focused on that, day-in, day-out. I watched You-Tube videos about it at lunchtime. I worked until midnight about it, day-in and day-out. It is really finding something that you enjoy, finding something you’re good at and passionate about, and then just really working at it like crazy. If you do that, it doesn’t matter what tools you have behind you, what mentor you’ve got, this, that, and the other, you’ll get there eventually if you stick at it long enough.

Over half [55%] of SMEs believe that their competitors have a better digital presence than they do, according to new research by leading creative agency, Sparkloop.

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The research, which questioned 500 decision makers from SMEs across the UK on how much time, budget and resource they have invested into their digital brand presence, also revealed that despite believing their competitors had a better brand presence, 45% of respondents had not reviewed the performance of their website in over 18 months. 

In addition, 25% of respondents advised that they rarely, or only annually, make changes to improve the performance of their website to engage potential customers. 

When questioned on the level of investment SMEs made into their digital brand, 46.3% advised they invested under £2,000, 53.7% invested £2,500 plus and 10.9% invested £10,000 plus.

However, a quarter [25.8%] of SMEs haven’t invested in their website and wider digital brand presence in over 2 years. 

Other key take outs from the research include:

  • Only 31% of SMEs believe that they have a stronger digital brand presence than their competitors.
  • 44.3% of SMEs have developed their website using ‘off the shelf’ platforms like Wix, Square Space or WordPress, with 31.6% opting for creative and technical input from an external agency. 
  • A staggering 62.3% of SMEs have not taken advantage of tech features, like chatbots, blogs and feedback to increase stakeholder engagement or improve the performance of their website. 

This new research comes as the majority of UK SMEs are forced to review and pivot their existing growth strategy following the impact of the current situation. 

Gayle Carpenter, Creative Director of Sparkloop, confirmed: “This latest research is incredibly telling and effectively demonstrates that SMEs UK wide do not place enough value into both creating and maintaining a strong brand and digital presence, which could be damaging to their business. 

Currently, SMEs are facing the significant challenge of survival following recent events. Those with the strongest brands, an engaging website and integrated digital presence will instil confidence and drive growth, both during and following this time of uncertainty.

For business owners looking to use this time to disrupt and develop, it doesn’t necessarily mean investing tens of thousands into your website and wider digital presence, but it does mean evaluating your brand by ensuring it represents your business and attracts the right target audiences. This is consistently overlooked by the majority of SMEs, as demonstrated by the research, but could be fundamental to future growth and success as we return to some form of business as usual.”

Established in 2004, Sparkloop has successfully delivered bespoke design and communication strategies for brands and businesses across the UK and overseas, with long-standing clients including Red Bull and HomeServe. 

Founded by design and branding specialist, Gayle Carpenter, the firm is headquartered in Camden, London, with a South West regional office based in Bath, Somerset. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the agency has launched its Virtual ‘Spark-Up Sessions’ initiative, designed to help businesses quickly solve problems and identify achievable outcomes when establishing a clear and effective digital brand presence.

To find out more about this latest research, download a copy of Sparkloop’s SME Digital Brand Presence Report 2020 at www.sparkloop.com.

In today’s market expectations are growing and the stakes are high, with one mistake potentially costing a retailer their reputation….

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In today’s market expectations are growing and the stakes are high, with one mistake potentially costing a retailer their reputation. Due to this level of risk, brands find reducing their hands on approach to processes difficult, but what they don’t realise is that technology such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning could prove to be their hero, not their villain. Entrusting their data and brand values to such technologies may seem like a scary step, but as David Griffiths, Senior Product Marketing & Strategy Manager, Adjuno, discusses, it’s one that will free up retail teams to add value and cut costs.

In AI should we trust?

There are a great deal of obstacles to overcome when it comes to the stigma attached to AI. A key challenge facing the progression of this technology is that individuals simply do not trust it. The fear of the unknown is one concern that pops up most commonly, with people battling a perceived perception that those who use this technology will lack control.

But a new age of retail is approaching and there is now an even greater need for brands to define their processes in order to keep up. Consumers want to receive products that are of a high-quality and they want to receive them now. These expectations are taking us beyond the traditional methods of retailing and leading us into a world immersed in technology, a world that benefits from the helping hand of AI.

Informing key decisions

With AI, retailers will be able to gain valuable insights in warehouse management, logistics and supply chain management, and make more informed and proactive decisions. This technology makes it easier to analyse huge volumes of data in an efficient fashion, helping to detect patterns and providing an endless loop of forecasting. Using this knowledge to identify factors and issues impacting the performance of the supply chain, such as weather events, retailers will be able to take a forward-thinking approach to decision-making. An approach that will lead to reduced costs and delays. 

By extending human efficiency in terms of reach, quality and speed, this technology can also help to eliminate the more mundane and routine work that’s faced by employees across the retail spectrum. From tackling flow management by assessing key products to ensuring there is enough stock available to improving production planning, a more informed use of time will help equip brands to face every consumer request and demand.

This is particularly important for those brands whose product line extends further than apparel wear, and steps into the realm of hardware. With diversity comes a need for more proof points and in turn, an extended volume of data. Retailers will be battling to work across an even greater number of suppliers and distribution centres, and accommodating the expectations of a larger customer base. Considering this, it is fundamental that every last bit of data is refined and utilised to streamline processes. AI is providing retailers with a platform to do this, offering the potential for significant changes across the entire product journey.

A data conundrum  

The benefits of using AI to consolidate data are endless. Traditionally, teams have relied on spreadsheets to collate information, hindering their ability to forward plan. With AI this is no longer the case, a much more accurate picture of the hero products, sizes and colours likely to sell, can be achieved by looking at multiple scenarios in real time and pulling them together.

This doesn’t mean that AI will replace creative buying teams. AI doesn’t forecast trends, it can’t predict what consumers will be buying in 2020, it can only report on the product lines. It can however help buying teams assess partners, analyse stock patterns, track costs, enable capacity planning and help optimise shipments. This data is invaluable to teams, especially for any new buyers who may need extra guidance. 

Conclusion

AI is set to transform the retail scene as we know it. But in order to make implementation a success, there shouldn’t just be a focus on the evolution of data management, there must be an evolution of mindsets too. After all, if a retailer fails to jump on board with AI and embrace a new era of change, then their customers will be the ones who suffer.

The market is crowded and the volume deafening. Customers are pelted with sales and slogans from every device and corner….

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The market is crowded and the volume deafening. Customers are pelted with sales and slogans from every device and corner. To stand out from the crowd you need more than just an excellent business strategy and remarkable product offering. You need an online audience. However, catching the attention of this audience has become an art form – from hashtags to visual campaigns to viral videos to content development you need a dash of experience, a splash of technology and a whole lot of creativity.

These three campaigns took the tools of technology and marketing and content to really capture audience attention and marketshare.

 The experiential campaign:

Experiential marketing isn’t exactly hot news but few people realise exactly how well it works and how it can help a brand build its online presence. According to the 2015 Event & Experiential Marketing Industry Forecast, 65 percent of brands say it has a positive impact on sales. A direct, positive impact. It uses a physical event combined with video, hashtags, and social media, to create a digitally blended experience that gets people talking. After all, people want experiences and they want to share great experiences even more.

One campaign really stands out in this field – Red Bull’s Stratos event. This marketing experience broke records as Felix Baumgartner set the world record for the highest skydive. He jumped from a helium-filled balloon, Red Bull streamed the event online, and the result was the highest viewing traffic of any live stream in YouTube in history.

Key takeaways: Blend the traditional with the digital to create an experience that will pull customers into your brand. By inspiring customers to share your hashtags, your experience and your brand, you are not just connecting with your audience but building it.

The transparent social media campaign

The rules of social media exist for a reason. Many brands have broken them to their detriment. But some, like Wendy’s, have taken the rules, thrown them out the window, and won the day. The company took its social media campaign out of the traditional and into the utterly engaging.

Wendy’s chose to roast its customers. In a smart, sassy, right on brand and tone of voice kind of way. The campaign was a success. Not only did the company rack up significant social media traction as the posts trended, but it also received a ton of free publicity from leading media outlets. The campaign met with positive reviews from critics and customers and the company has just posted an increase in sales for the 17th year running.

Key takeaways: Social media rules can be broken or bent in favour of brand voice, intelligent communication and clear understanding of audience. Wendy’s paid attention to the people that frequented its stores and talked to them in their language.

Intelligent targeting across multiple channels

The audience you want to reach is online but the problem is that not all of your customers are on the same channels or platforms. While their voice and tone and needs may match, their preferences may not. What you need to do is build an online presence that offers multiple touchpoints with the same content. This will ensure your content and brand have reach. By developing a multi-channel, multi-media strategy you can share the same content across every platform to build a cohesive narrative that’s easily found by your prospective audience.

Gucci is an excellent example of a brand that has taken its messaging across various platforms to build its audience. The company has used social media campaigns, viral digital marketing campaigns, interactive instore displays and digital experiences to engage with its customers.