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Make international trade shows a success

Carolyn Bentley – trade show and export consultant

Having recently returned from supporting a client at a trade show in Germany, it seems a good time to dwell briefly on the benefits of exhibiting, share some tips and good advice on exhibiting.

Whilst  international trade shows have dwindled in importance in some sectors, there are still a large number that are well supported and worthwhile. They give companies a chance to show off their latest products or services, reach new customers, and as a great meeting point for people from all over the world in the sector, and a chance to share ideas and learn about latest innovations.

Trade shows are a big investment both of time and money, so it is worth ensuring you get the most out of them. It may seem obvious, but the first thing to do is sit down with your team and work out your objectives in exhibiting at a particular show. Is it because you need to be there because otherwise all your competitors will be and you will be forgotten, is it that it is a great environment in which to find new agents and distributors, do you have new products/service that you want to announce to the world?

If the trade show you’re considering is new to you, then why not just visit the first time and check it out to see if it’s right for you before committing to a stand the next. A lot of information is online, who is exhibiting, the profile of exhibitors etc and you can do research without it costing a fortune. Refer back at every stage to your objectives too.

So let’s say you have decided to exhibit next year at a big trade show in Europe. You need a project plan and someone to take ownership of that. There will be deadlines to meet, such as booking stand space, the catalogue entry, booking accommodation and transport.

Some years ago I remember a colleague exhibiting in Munich. He left it rather late to book his accommodation and had nearly an hour’s drive every day to the exhibition centre. It also meant that it was not as easy to get together with potential clients in the evenings.

So do plenty of research on contacts you want to meet, and set up some appointments in advance. Also, make sure that you leave time for those opportunities that will inevitably come up during the show.

The key questions you should be asking

  • Are all your team on board with your trade show?
  • Do they understand the purpose of you exhibiting?
  • Are they briefed on how to handle stand visitors?
  • Do they know how to politely see off timewasters?

This will depend on the location of the show, but do you have marketing materials in languages other than English – you may get by, but you won’t come across as a serious international business if you don’t. Do you have anyone with foreign language skills on your stand to speak to visitors with limited English.

Ensure you have sufficient manpower on the stand to allow for breaks and for individuals to look round the exhibition – it is great for market research, meeting people and getting ideas. Take photos of particularly striking stands and anything else of interest.

And plan in time when you get back to respond quickly to promising leads. You will no doubt have a stack of business cards and lead sheets, so it’s essential to categorise them by importance so you don’t delay contacting the most promising ones.

Create your B2B SME marketing plan

Marketing is all about selling more stuff to more people, more often, for more money. Much of the marketing methods that might work for B2C products and services can completely miss the point for B2B. 

In business to business you need to have a clear idea of who we’re talking to and why, how to best find and target them, and then to hone the particular messages that will resonate with them, in order to convert them into paying customers. And it’s only through gaining new customers and retaining current ones that B2B revenues can be increased.

You can gain more insight into our who are current customers are and what they want by using tools like Google Analytics on your website, or using social media analytics to review customer engagement and profiles in order to hone what you offer online and offline.

When it comes down to questions like ‘which is the best fleet car for a business?’, ‘which pipe is best for the deep water oil and gas industry?’ or ‘who can provide the best quality widgets fastest, with the lowest reject rate?’ or ‘which local boatyard can fit a new engine in my sports boat?’, then you need to focus on all the basics of good marketing and product and service messaging. Think of the questions your customers might ask when you are creating your marketing plan, which should contain these elements:

  1. Company vision and mission – why does your business exist and where do you want to get to in the future?
  2. Brand – a distinctive identity that your target clients can relate to
  3. USP – a unique selling point or tagline that appeals directly to your clients
  4. SWOT – business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats vs. competitors
  5. Market understanding – analysis of the sectors you work in and customers you want to target
  6. Messaging – statements about what you make and provide that resonate with your target customers
  7. Customer personas – examples of the type of roles you want to target and what makes them tick
  8. Strategy – how are you best going to reach your target customers with your marketing messages?
  9. Campaigns – what campaigns are you going to run to engage with customers to encourage them to buy?
  10. Delivery – what marketing methods are you going to use to get your marketing campaign message across most cost-effectively?

So deciding on which delivery method to use to get your marketing message across comes in last, at number 10.

Think carefully about your marketing campaign delivery

Many SMEs focus on social media marketing, as it’s quick, cheap and relatively easy. Bear in mind most people spend their time using social media for browsing friends, seeing what they’re doing, taking pictures of their own life and sharing and commenting.  And it’s true that people are certainly influenced by their own peers , and they’ll often be guided by their friends who recommend the best mobile or clothes for them to get on social media. The trouble is, in the B2B world, using social media as the main base of your SME marketing may not shift a lot of product off the shelves .

In B2B. no matter how many social media likes, smiley faces, comments, shares and site visitors your business gets, none of it really matters if it doesn’t directly drive your company revenue and profit. So, when it comes down to trying to get your customers to think meaningfully about your product or service, deciding what marketing mix and delivery platforms to use is critical.

So, once you’ve got your product or service messaging and campaigns sorted, then  create a list of all of the campaign delivery methods you might use and rank them based on their likely success for your marketing campaign aims:

  • Website, news and blogs
  • Email and social media
  • Television, web TV & radio
  • Trade press & magazines
  • Automated marketing
  • Newspapers
  • Direct mail
  • Public relations
  • Banner advertising
  • Partner programmes
  • Events and conferences
  • Workshops & webinars
  • Customer entertainment

Conclusion

With all of our tech gadgets we might like to think we’re a lot more advanced now as a species, and it’s true the world now certainly seems a lot smaller and more interconnected than ever before. But we shouldn’t forget that at heart we’re still just evolved apes. We buy based on emotion and from people we’ve met and like, or that our friends like, or think we should like. Soichiro Honda, the Japanese bike and car creator, said of our all too brief existence,

‘Life is measured by the number of times your soul is deeply stirred’.

And that means that the things that make us tick are human interactions, emotions and more visceral experiences, even if we don’t like to admit it. And your marketing plan and marketing campaigns should take account of that.

People usually buy from people they respect, so if your business is not just selling online then, at some future point, make sure your clients make a positive emotional judgement about your marketing, your business and your products or services.

And remember that, often, a lot of new business ultimately comes from people who have had a recommendation to contact you, had a positive communication with you, know you or trust your products and services.

And for that, you’re going to need a cunning marketing plan….

Want to know more about how to create a marketing plan or to improve your marketing for better business growth? Contact GET Consultants.

Social media for B2B business SMEs

When we first go in to meet the owner of an SME business to discuss how best to grow their organisation, a question we’re commonly asked is ‘what do I say on social media?’ The answer quite rightly is, of course, it depends.

Whilst most business owners understand things like TV advertising and the importance of having a website that resizes itself depending on what device you’re looking at it on, many get perplexed about social media.

Apparently there are 92% of CEOs registered on social media, but less than a third who contribute anything to it regularly. In a busy business world, where so many days are spent fire-fighting, social media is one of those areas many owners feel slightly overwhelmed about. And the issue for SME owners, those smaller businesses with maybe 5 to 50 staff, is they feel they never have enough time to think about marketing at all, let alone social media. And that means few spare moments to consider their overall marketing strategy and direction, or what message to say, or where and how social media or other marketing delivery methods best fits into their marketing plans.

And that brings us on to the crux of the issue. Our research shows most SME owners have a business plan, even if it’s only a basic one. However, few SMEs create enough time to develop a detailed marketing plan, something which is usually much farther down their list of priorities.

So, without a detailed marketing strategy or plan, how do you decide on the relative importance of social media in a B2B world, or any other marketing method come to that? One of the biggest challenges revealed from our research is that many business owners run their businesses instinctively, and they do a pretty good job of it too to be honest. However, a significant proportion of SME owners don’t have a formal business education, and naturally rely on subject matter experts in their organisations to advise them on their best course of action. And when that expertise is in the area of finance or factory production then that makes complete sense. That’s because these function still work similarly to the way they did twenty years ago, even though legislation and technology may have changed.

So, if you asked a fifty year old and a twenty five year old accountant or engineer what was important to an SME business in doing their job, their answers probably wouldn’t differ much. OK, the twenty five year old would likely know better how to use complex accounting software, or might be able to program the latest CNC machine to make widgets, but their business contribution would likely be similar, with a useful balance between these two generations of accountants and engineers of experience, skills and technical expertise.

Why social media is such a big part of the SME marketing mix

We hear all the time about how technology has disrupted the marketing industry, resulting in techniques that look nothing like they did ten years ago. If you rewind even further back to twenty years ago, there’s a good chance that the new marketers of today wouldn’t even recognise what we referred to as marketing. And that’s half the problem.

The issue with marketing is that it has seen faster change in customer targeting techniques, technologies and devices than any other area of business. In the last 20 years we’ve seen an explosion of messaging, sharing, video and other social media platforms, as well as web connected smart TVs and multiple portable handheld internet devices. All of which, within less than a decade, we’ve become so used to being contacted on and marketed to with.

Here’s just a few examples of the seismic changes for B2B marketing in the last 20 years, with a tongue in cheek look at the world launches of social media platforms and web-connected devices:

  • 1999 MSN and Yahoo messenger services launch, so we can talk to connected PCs or over the internet
  • 2002 LinkedIn launches, fast becoming the B2B platform of choice. But we can’t use it on the move yet…
  • 2003 Skype is launched, the first video calling service, to let us talk to talk to racist grannie in South Africa
  • 2004 Facebook starts, and by 2005 we have features to tag our drunk friends in photos taken at parties
  • 2005 YouTube launches, giving us endless opportunities to watch videos of cats playing the piano
  • 2006 Twitter starts, popular in Brazil and India before becoming the platform of choice for US presidents
  • 2007, just 12 years ago, the first smartphones start to appear on the market, to exercise our fingers
  • 2008 Samsung launches the first smart TV, to watch films and binge box-sets online for the first time
  • 2010, less than ten years ago, the first tablet devices appear, to help our children to play games on
  • 2011 snapchat launches, so the world begins to understand exactly what ‘dick pic’ really means
  • 2012-2018, lots of social media platforms go public, lots shut down, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal

So when SME businesses start to really focus on marketing for the first time, they often focus on social media marketing, because it looks like the fastest return for the smallest effort. And that’s perhaps the biggest benefit and the biggest issue with social media. There’s no doubt social media is great for brand awareness for one simple reason, the number of people that you can potentially reach for a smallish amount of effort.

Unlike a phone call or email or other direct one-to-one contact systems, social media offers a tantalising one to many relationship. So if everyone has the average number of LinkedIn contacts, around 300, the number of people you can potentially reach with your social media messages is 300 x 300 x 300, an amazing 27 million! The trouble is, it’s only those first 300 people that actually know you that you usually influence. How much the other 26,999,700 value your thoughts and opinions is debatable, especially when they’re viewing your post from the other side of the world.

The second reason many SMEs focus on using social media is a bit more obvious, and that’s because many SME business owners don’t employ anyone in marketing until their business gets to a certain scale. Then, the new marketers they employ, perhaps not on the highest salary, are likely to tell them that social media is the answer to their business marketing needs. This is often simply because any young marketer has had the most experience in this one marketing tool, rather than a thorough grounding in other core marketing techniques. To be fair though, when you consider that Millennials have only ever known a world of smartphones, smart TVs and social media, it’s no wonder that their perception of what marketing is focuses mostly on what can be communicated on social media in the online world.

We’re not anti-social media, not at all. Social media platform do offer clear benefits in targeting new customers you want to reach, especially if you have no way of directly approaching them or finding them to get their details onto your business contact database. Both LinkedIn and Facebook offer very sophisticated advertising systems, albeit at a cost, that can target very specific geographies, demographics or interest groups to sell products and services to them.

So social media does have a place in all modern SME marketing, but bear in mind that the B2C and B2B marketing worlds should be treated very differently. We should also accept that all social media, whether personal or business, is a careful fabrication of what we want people to think. Most people take all content that’s shared on social media, whether business or personal, and however well crafted, with a large pinch of salt. And that’s why you should make sure social media is not the ‘be all and end all’ of your marketing communication strategy.

Also remember that what you say to that target audience on social media, to influence them buying from you, will only be as good as your understanding of why people need your product or service, and what triggers they have that make them buy from you. Its only then you can create and develop a good, persuasive, well-thought out marketing campaign, with strong messaging that resonates logically and emotionally with your current and future customers.

Conclusion

Whilst we might think we’re a lot more advanced now as a species with our tech gadgets, and it’s true the world now certainly seems a lot smaller and more interconnected than ever before, we shouldn’t forget that we’re still just apes at heart. Soichiro Honda, the Japanese bike and car creator, said of our existence, ‘Life is measured by the number of times your soul is deeply stirred’. And that means that the things that make us tick are human interactions, emotions and more visceral experiences, even if we don’t like to admit it.

People ultimately buy from people they know, so if your business is not just selling online, then at some point it will need your future clients to make an emotional judgement about you, your business and your products and services. And, ultimately, your new business will ultimately come from people who have met you, know you and trust you.

So work on your marketing plan first, and get it clear in your own mind what it is you can offer, why people might want it, and how best to put that across. Then, and only then, can you decide how you get your message across to your target audience, whether you do it through your website, social media, email, advertising, partners or events.

And to respond to that other question we’re asked by younger SME business owners, ‘how did you do marketing before the internet?’ Well people forget that we’ve always had direct mail, letters, newspapers, trade press magazines, public transport, posters, conferences, sports events, client entertainment and even TV for eighty years. We’ve also had business partners, satisfied customers and networking. But, best of all, we could call people up and arrange for a good old fashioned face to face meeting. And, if it’s a big B2B purchase, let’s face it that’s still often the way the biggest business is done.

2019 top 20 business trends

If 2018 left you breathless and exhausted, then brace yourself as, sorry to say, things aren’t likely to slow down in 2019. Business leaders, authors, journalists and academics foresee a shaky economy, a troubled world order and continued global anxiety. But on the good side there’s a likely renewed focus on caring for ourselves, for each other and for generally doing the right thing. Here’s a look at the year ahead for 2019.

1. Generation Z reaches the workplace. During 2019 Generation Z, which Pew Research Center defines as those born from 1997 onward, will outnumber Millennials. “Generation Z is now heading into the workforce in meaningful numbers and for the first time in modern history five generations will be working side-by-side,” says Michael Dell, CEO and chairman of Dell Technologies. Gen Z will be about one-third of the global population and one-fifth of its workers. But what is this new generation’s work ethic? “My experience is that they lean in and lean hard,” says best-selling author Brené Brown. About half of her staff is now Gen Z. “They are all very different people, but as a group I experience them as curious, hopeful, always learning, painfully attuned to the suffering in the world, and anxious to do something about it.” And there are other trends too, with the young generation Z shying away from credit cards and debt and declining to own homes, this will undoubtedly make them better placed to cope with any future downturn in the global economy or business fortunes.

2. The economy will slow down, again. Economists are split on when exactly but they know one thing for sure, a downturn is coming. “There is a confluence of deep-seated, structural headwinds that threaten to upend the global economy,” warns economist Dambisa Moyo, among them growing inequality, a workforce ill-adapted to rapid technological change, political instability and a massive debt burden on governments, corporations and individuals. “The US has historically been the leader, and the US is probably going to slow down this year,” adds CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger. China is already cooling. “World growth is much more likely to slow down in 2019, and it really looks like 2020 could be the year of a global recession,” she predicts. And, of course, there’s Brexit in the UK…

3. Companies will prepare for a downturn with pre-emptive layoffs. Executives know the good times won’t last and many will reduce their workforce pre-emptively to preserve profits through a coming recession, warns Danielle DiMartino Booth, author of ‘Fed Up.’ General Motors announced 14,000 strategic layoffs in November, after 2,250 had already taken buyouts. Meanwhile, Verizon will let go of 10,400 employees via voluntary severance, the company announced Monday. These won’t be the last. “I guarantee you right now, consultants across the country are convening and discussing with executive teams at many companies what they also can do to get in front of the next recession,” Booth says. “Companies are taking unusual steps because they know how very long in the tooth this expansion is and they know what’s to come.”

4. We are finally going to spend more time online than watching TV. The lines will cross some time in 2019: Around the world, people will start spending more hours a day on the Internet than watching television. The glass-half-empty way to look at it is people are turning away from legacy media, says Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish. The glass-half-full vision: “There is more content being consumed today than ever before in history,” he adds. For Viacom, that has meant expanding its intellectual property across many platforms or creating shows for third-party streaming sites. “We do work with folks that maybe didn’t exist 10 years ago, and started getting into the media business five years ago,” he says. “It’s a year of a mixed economy and a mixed ecosystem. And that’s the world of the future.”

5. Brexit will continue to consume the European political scene. Brexit should have been the most predictable geopolitical event of 2019, as we’ve known for two years the clock runs out at the end of March 2019. Instead, it continues to defy predictions. Negotiations will be uncertain to the very last minute, Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, warns. “Prime Minister Theresa May now needs to be thinking about plan B, since she’s lost so many members of parliament,” he says. A revamped “Norway plus” deal is becoming the most likely outcome, but the tail risks of a no deal Brexit or a second referendum are also increasing, he adds. “It is really, really hard to come to terms to negotiate something this complicated with one of the most challenging supranational institutions in the world, the EU, and one of the most dysfunctional developed governments in the world today, the UK.” Writing any more about Brexit at this point would just be handing over the stick we’ll all be beating each other with in the next three months.

6. CEOs will work hard to become more inclusive leaders.  The new generation of younger workers expects a different kind of leadership and has now reached the critical mass where their opinion is corporate law. The interesting challenge for the business workplace is that workers are now less tolerant of poor management, staying in what they perceive as uninteresting roles for long periods, or working for companies that don’t in some way do their bit for the planet and other people. “We were primarily led by ‘my way or the highway’ type leaders and that does not work with this environment,” says Carla Harris, vice chairman and managing director at Morgan Stanley. “I think you’re going to see more leaders looking for leadership development or leadership guidance on how to be more collaborative, how to spur innovation, how to teach people how to fail and how to innovate. I think you’re going to see far more money spent on speakers and resources around that.” Not immediately, but over time executives who don’t make that effort and pivot will be pushed out, she warns.

7. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be in every industry and every job. When 200 LinkedIn Top Voices were asked about their Big Idea for 2019, one in four mentioned some application of AI, from parsing evidence in medical research to helping surfers spot the best wave. Six of the 15 hot emerging jobs of the past year, relate to AI, while AI skills are the fastest-growing on our platform, up 190% globally from 2015 to 2017. “While 2018 was the year of AI hype, it feels like we’re at an inflection point where these technologies are being incorporated into more of the tools we use everyday,” says Sharon O’Dea, co-founder of communications consultancy Lithos Partners. “It’s when technology trends start to become invisible that they really make a major impact.”

8. Silicon Valley in no longer the golden child it was. “The ire progressives once felt toward the 1% on Wall Street is turning on Silicon Valley,” says Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman. “Where tech leaders were once hailed as the visionaries of a brave new world, viewed as a breed apart from financiers and other plutocrats, we’re now finding ourselves mired in debates over taxes, housing and affordability.” Not everyone will camp outside headquarters in Mountain View or Menlo Park, but users will vote with their feet, deleting accounts and refusing to play their part in those companies’ business models, warns customer experience expert Don Peppers. “More people than ever will install and use ad blockers, decline surveys and opt out of cookies as 2019 develops into a banner year for privacy protection apps, data blockers and other security services,” says Peppers.

9. Governments will seize the opportunity to regulate Big Tech. Local and national authorities are seeking to impose new taxes and regulations on the industry. After years of failing to get them to pay their way on the business they actually do in Europe and frustration on the lack of unification of digital taxes, the EU is keen to bring in taxation on Silicon Valley. Traditional companies pay on average 23% tax in the EU, yet digital companies pay only 8% or 9%. Many governments plan to introduce a ‘digital tax’ of a percentage of tech companies’ revenue in their own countries, fighting back against US tech giants that evade taxes by domiciling their profits in Ireland or the Netherlands. During 2018 the EU wasn’t able to agree the tax level on turnover, so now individual member states are pushing forward with their own digital taxes. Five European countries have, or plan to have, a 2% to 6% tax on digital company turnover before 2020. It’s interesting that France already has the tax in place and Google is complying with it, as well as France and Germany taxing digital aids, aimed at Facebook and Google. India, South Korea, Mexico, Chile and others are all working on a similar tax based on the same idea, following the OECD promise of global taxation reform. European governments are also likely to turn to antitrust, predicts Emily Taylor, CEO of Oxford Information Labs. “We will rediscover competition law and regulation as a way of combating over-concentration of power and distortions in the market,” she says. It’s something the US has shied away from, not wanting to stifle its own innovative companies, but Europe has fewer giants and freer hands. “Smarter companies will help shape regulation rather than obstinately oppose it”, says Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans.

10. Automation will disproportionately impact women’s jobs. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund said, “New technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing the way work gets done all over the world. The automation trend is especially challenging for women because they tend to be employed in more routine tasks than men across all sectors and occupations, making them more prone to automation. New IMF research estimates that 26 million women’s jobs in 30 countries are at high risk of being displaced by technology in the next 20 years. This means 180 million women’s jobs globally! We don’t have much time to act, so 2019 is the year to make important inroads in tackling this challenge. How? We must help women get the skills they need to succeed. Education and training will be key — including greater emphasis on lifelong learning and STEM. Think, in particular, of coding programs like Girls Who Code in the US or developing tax deductions for training as they do in the Netherlands. We also need to close gender gaps in leadership positions across all sectors, while doing more to help men and women combine work and family life. Finally, we need to do a better job at bridging the digital divide and ensure women have equal access to finance, bank accounts and connectivity. 2019 is the year we should take a leap forward in levelling the playing field between men and women.”

11. The high street will band together. The story is repeating itself in every country, from the high street chains of the UK to the famed big box stores of America, where  physical retailers buckle as they face deep-pocketed online disruptors, many paying ultra-low taxes. “Things have never been more competitive,” says entrepreneur Naomi Simson, CEO of the Big Red Group in Australia, where Amazon launched with fanfare just a year ago. But smaller players are starting to band together to stand up to the giants, she says. “It might be through buying groups, marketplaces, associations, movements such as ‘buy local’. There will also be M&A,” she predicts. “The difference now is mind-set. Business owners used to think the shop next door was competition. Now they know that there is safety in numbers.”

12. The battle against extreme poverty will heat up. Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is at its lowest level in recorded history. However, that trend may not continue into 2019 due to increasing poverty concentrations in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa, says Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We can’t always change the circumstances a child is born into, but we can invest in that child’s potential to thrive in spite of them by investing in their health and education,” says Gates. “Economists call health and education ‘human capital,’ because they’re proven to be the twin engines of economic growth.” Especially important, she argues, is investing in the health and education of women and girls. “Healthy, economically-empowered women are some of development’s best allies,” says Gates. “If the number of people trapped in poverty continues to decline, these women will be a big reason why.”

13. A US / China cold war will be fought on a technology front. Despite current tensions, the US and Chinese economy are too interlinked for a trade war to truly escalate in the short term, says Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer. A cold war is more likely in five or 10 years, he adds, when an economic downturn and sustained animosity have undone those ties. But for 2019, the fight is on the technology front: “There you do have a cold war. There you have the Chinese with their AI model, the Americans with our AI model. The Chinese with their internet, the Americans with our internet,” he says. He echoes former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who warned in September that our online world risked a “bifurcation” into Chinese-led and U.S.-led internets. “They’re not playing nice at all,” Bremmer adds. “I do think that longer term we’re heading for big trouble between the Americans and the Chinese.”

14. What will matter at work is your humanity. When robots take all our jobs, what do humans have left? Precisely that, our humanity. Creativity and so-called soft skills are becoming all the more important to your career because that’s what can’t be automated. In fact, LinkedIn data shows the fastest-growing skills gaps, the difference between what employers seek and what workers bring to the table, are related to soft skills. Oral communication tops the list, followed by people management, time management or leadership. Employers who want to make the most of their human employees make sure to look after them as whole people, not just task performers, says Susan Cain, author of “Quiet” and CEO of Quiet Revolution. “I’m increasingly seeing employers having a goal of facilitating the entire life of an employee,” Cain says. “I don’t mean it in a Big Brother type of way, but being an aid in the entire life of an employee as opposed to just the part that shows up to make wages.”

15. The combustion engine will get smarter before it goes away. Going green doesn’t have to be reserved for the wealthy who can afford to switch to an electric car, says Bertrand Piccard, chairman and pilot of Solar Impulse, who flew a solar plane around the planet. For middle class people struggling to fill up the tank, given the Yellow Vest protests in France, there are solutions. He points to an anti-smog device installed on the engine for a few hundred pounds that reduces fuel consumption by 20% and particles by 80%. Built-in AI in your car can help you drive greener and cut another 20% off the bill. “Today, half the energy we use is wasted because we have inefficient systems,” Piccard says. “There will be more carbon taxes because we can’t afford to keep wasting fossil fuels. But we can put systems in place to be less wasteful, to consume less, and in the end we’ll save money.”

16. Uber and Lyft will lead a wave of IPOs. Ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber just filed papers on the same day to go public in early 2019. This could be a banner year for tech IPOs, with total proceeds forecast north of $100 billion. “According to the Chinese calendar, 2019 rings in the Year of the Pig…and boy is that apt for the IPO market!” says CBS News’s Jill Schlesinger. “Uber, Lyft, Palantir, Slack, Airbnb all could take the plunge in 2019. With the tech sector taking a bit of a hit recently, the C-suite execs and their bankers are trying to carefully weigh the old Wall Street mantra: ‘Bulls and bears make money; pigs get slaughtered!’” Despite a shaky market, they may still pull the trigger this year to avoid running into a downturn and an election cycle in 2020.

17. Companies will speed up workforce diversification. Some will even be made to. Nearly five years after they started publishing diversity reports, few companies have actually made material progress in hiring and retaining a more diverse workforce. That’s because besides being more open about their shortcomings, they’ve mostly kept recruiting the same old way, says Jopwell CEO Porter Braswell. Now’s the time employers humble themselves and ask for help, he says: “They’ll be recruiting with a different mind-set, not looking to check every item off a list.” That’s driven by two factors: short term, the labour market is tight and talent at a premium. Companies that don’t change will become irrelevant to workers and customers, and they may not even get the option either. In the UK, after the success of mandatory gender pay gap disclosures that started in 2018, the government is considering forcing companies to reveal their ethnic pay gap as well, and their action plans to close it.

18. The office will empty out. Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin says, “With cities filling up and housing prices rising, employers will have to pay more for employees to afford an urban life. Some businesses will open an office in a smaller town; more will embrace employees’ working from home. The whole point of an office weakened years ago with the disastrous open floor-plan, a warren of people wearing headphones and messaging their brains out, together in name only. More recently, the movement to give working parents more flexibility has made managers hesitant to grade on attendance. And now, Slack, Github, Jira and other tools for virtual teams are being co-opted by workers of all stripes. “A gradual process will, in 2019, reach a tipping point: The office will empty out. Working from home will change the most basic rhythm of industrial life. People will have more time to work, and also to play. What we’ll lose is the water cooler, which alongside the pub and the school entrance, was a place for us to connect with new people. Offices are also one of the last spots in an increasingly secular society for all of us to get a sense of community and purpose. I’ll be sorry to see them so diminished.”

19. #MeToo enters Phase Two. More than a year after #MeToo exploded onto the public scene, and 13 years after Tarana Burke first launched the movement, the stream of executives undone by their own bad behaviour flows unabated. After sweeping the media and entertainment industries, it will spread to mid-level leaders and less visible industries, predicts Ross Martin, CEO of marketing firm Blackbird. “You won’t know all of their names, but you’ll certainly know the brands that they lead or work for,” Martin says. Deloitte just admitted to firing 20 UK partners, and KPMG seven, in the last four years over sexual harassment complaints.

20. You’ll have better access to your medical data. Apple’s move to make medical records available on the iPhone is likely to be the first domino in a move to democratise access to, and control of, patients’ health data. People who live in countries where health care is decentralized know that if they change doctors, their medical records typically don’t follow them. And the entities that do have access to health care data, such as hospitals and insurance companies, typically don’t share it, more for competitive reasons than patient-centric ones. But a behemoth like Apple could change the stakes. “I’d like us to get to the point where data is not seen as intellectual property,” said Dr Doug Fridsma, president and CEO of the American Medical Informatics Association. “If we don’t have the ability to share data, you’re going to stifle innovation.” It’s notable, he adds, that Apple, a company that does everything on its own terms, from operating systems to headphone jacks, is using the international FHIR standards for its Health app.

What makes startups a success or failure?

The startup organisation is one of the greatest business formats to help make the world a better place, and startups can take many forms. Take a group of people with the right goals and equity incentives and organise them in a startup, then you can unlock human potential in ways never before possible, and get them to achieve amazing things.

But, if startups are so great, why do so many fail? If fact, as many as three out of four venture backed startups will fail within five years (Harvard Business School 2017).

Anyone who has built companies has had both successes and failures, and many people who instigate startups have had both. The key is that they likely learnt just as much from their failures as their successes.

To be analytic about startups, you have to avoid some of the instincts and misperceptions people have from the stories of the many successes and failures that have hit the mainstream news and that they’ve seen over the years.

The factors that most influence startup company success

There are, generally speaking, five factors. First is the idea, and many people think that a good idea is everything.

But then, once you go from idea to building something, you need people. So second is the team, their execution and adaptability, and often that can matter more than the idea.

The third factor is the business model. The route the company has and that clear path to generate customer revenues. Even though there are many billion pound companies with minimal profit, the key to real success is making a reasonable level of profit all the time. Without any profits, then companies can’t really call themselves a success.

Fourth there’s funding. Companies that have a good idea often receive large amounts of early funding, but often it’s because they presented their idea and business model to funders clearly and succinctly.

Finally, there’s timing. If the idea is too early for its target customers then, whilst it may be great, if the world just isn’t ready for it then it can fail. Go too early and you have to spend time and money educating the world about what your new thing is and exactly why they might need it. The timing could be perfect, of course, or it could also be too late, in which case there might be too many people who already have your thing to make money, or too many competitors to gain market share.

If you look very carefully at all of these five factors across lots of companies, there are trends. Many wildly successful billion-pound companies and organisations that flopped both had intense funding and good business models, but some succeeded and some failed. There are lots of factors at play, of course. But one that stands out. The number one success factor is timing.

Timing accounts for a third to a half of the difference between success and failure, depending on the market sector. Team and execution came second, and differentiability and uniqueness of the idea came third. Part of timing is launching a new product when there’s no main competition. So that means you get majority market share early, and also get the opportunity to set a market price that makes money.

Obviously this isn’t definitive. It’s not to say that the business idea isn’t important, but what matters most for business success is that the idea gets into the market at just the right time.

The last two factors, business model and funding, make sense being fourth and fifth, because you can start out without a business model and add one later if your customers demand what you’re creating. The same goes with funding. If you’re underfunded at first but gain traction with customers, it’s relatively easy to get the funding.

An example of timing success is Airbnb. This company was passed over by many investors because they thought, ‘No-one is going to rent out any space in their home to a complete stranger.’ But a key reason Airbnb succeeded, apart from having a good business model, a good idea and execution, was the timing. The company started during an economic recession when people needed extra money, which helped the people renting out their homes overcome their normal objection to rent out their own home to someone they didn’t know.

The same is true of Uber, a good company and business model, with great execution. But their timing was again perfect, matching their need to get drivers and their own cars into the Uber system matching drivers on the hunt for extra money.

So what about failures? Z.com was an online entertainment company. It had raised enough money, had a great business model, and even had good Hollywood talent signed up to join the company. But broadband penetration was too low in 1999 to make it work for its customers. It was simply too hard to try and watch video content online, you had to put codecs in your browser, and do other technical things to make it work, so the company eventually went out of business in 2003.

Two years later, YouTube had a minimal business model at its start, so it wasn’t certain it would work out. But, at launch, the codec problem was solved by Adobe Flash, just as home broadband penetration crossed 50 percent in the US and Europe. So the launch of YouTube was perfectly timed. A great idea, combined with beautiful timing.

Summary

Start ups can change the world and make it a better place. Insights into what works help create a higher success ratio, and enable something great to be launched in the world that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Execution definitely matters a lot, as does the business idea, but timing often matters a lot more. The best way to really assess timing is to really look at whether your target consumers are really ready for what you have to offer them.

Even if you create a business around something you really love, and you want to push it forward, you have to be very honest about assessing its launch timing. Be really truthful to yourself about it, research the market and don’t be in denial about any poor results that you see. Of course you can always change your product, positioning or marketing. After all, everyone wants to be in the twenty percent that succeed, rather than a startup that fails.

GDPR bites and mail bounces back

It’s been less than three months now since the GDPR came into force. We look at what has happened to organisations caught out by GDPR, what you can do to comply, and some surprising trends with businesses cashing in on its implementation across the EU.

The GDPR is actually good news, coming into being as a response to unscrupulous marketing and data analysis firms  harvesting and selling user data and distributing and spamming EU citizens with unprompted emails, mail and phone calls, without explicit user consent.

  • The General Data Protection Regulation came in 25th May 2018
  • EU wide Data Protection Rules that streamline the way all personal data, of all types, is stored and handled across all EU member states
  • In force in European Union (EU) & European Economic Area (EEA)
  • Addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and EEA

Previous UK data laws, the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and EU Data Protection Directive, didn’t really have much in the way of fines for infringement. In drafting the GDPR, the EU recognised that it needed much stronger legal ‘teeth’, and financial penalties for non-compliance have changed radically with the GDPR, now enshrined in the UK’s own Data Protection Act 2018.

“Fines can be invoked of up to 20 million Euros or 4% of organisation total global turnover, whichever is the greater.”

How does GDPR work to benefit EU citizens?

Let’s take an example. If Joe Bloggs opens an unsolicited email from you that he objects to and hasn’t opted in to receive, he could report you under GDPR regulations. That’s a similar situation as before, but the difference under the GDPR is that far more power now resides with each citizen inside the EU on how their personal data can be stored, handled and processed . The enterprise sending Joe the email is liable for a caution or a fine under GDPR legislation.

In another example, Joe hears in the news that the EU based online dating site he has signed up to has been hacked, and that his personal data may have been stolen. Under the GDPR this report likely hit the news because all enterprises must report any data breach of user data within 72 hours, if they are likely to have an adverse effect on user privacy. Again, the enterprise handling Joe’s data may be cautioned or fined.

What are the fines so far for GDPR breaches?

It was initially thought that the approach of authorities monitoring GDPR compliance would be as it has been in the past, which was to ensure you’re at least working on compliance, and to gently push you in the right direction, rather than impose big fines at the outset.

That’s why everyone is watching the Dixons Carphone data breach reported in June. Even though the breach happened before GDPR came into effect, the data breach was later discovered to have affected a lot more personal records than initially thought. Under previous data protection rules the maximum imposable fine would have been £500,000, whereas under the new GDPA Dixons Carphone could face fines of up to £17.6m (€20m).

The Information Commissioner’s Office, in charge in the UK of looking into GDPR compliance related to data breaches said:

“Dixons Carphone reported a data breach to the ICO in June. The company has now confirmed that the incident affected the personal data of 10 million records, which is significantly higher than initially stated. Our investigation into the incident is ongoing and we will take time to assess this new information. In the meantime, we would expect the company to alert all those affected in the UK as soon as possible and to take all steps necessary to reduce any potential harm to consumers. We will look at when the incident happened and when it was discovered as part of our work and this will inform whether it is dealt with under the 1998 or 2018 Data Protection Acts.”

The market reacted predictably to the news, with Dixon’s shares having fallen almost 8% since mid June.

But it’s not just about organisations directly hit by data breaches under GDPR regulations. Just ten days after the GDPR came into force, some companies felt the pinch of its effects on their future business. Publisher Johnston Press was one of the first media organisations to take a GDPR related hit, after the group at their June AGM cited the impact of more onerous European privacy restrictions as a contributory factor to a decline in their digital ad revenues. Their overall revenues fell 9% over the first half year.

Apart from the large potential fines, the requirement to disclose any user data breach is a key aspect for all organisations handling data, and where the GDPR is aided in ensuring it has a good chance of getting taken seriously and implemented right across the EU.

What’s ‘personal data’ and who needs to comply with GDPR?

Whilst GDPR requirements might appear onerous for many businesses, it conveniently provides just one set of regulations to comply with. Before GDPR, there were actually 28 sets of rules in place in different EU countries regarding personal data.

The GDPR contains provisions and requirements relating to processing of personally identifiable information (personal data) of individuals inside the European Union. It applies to the processing of the personal data of any person inside the EU by any enterprise established in the EU, regardless of the data subjects’ citizenship, and regardless of the enterprise’s location or even its size.

The GDPR applies as much to sole traders as it does to large corporates. Controllers of personal data within any enterprise must put in place appropriate technical and organisational measures to implement the GDPR data protection principles.

The GDPR assumes data protection by design and by default, which means each process handling personal data must be designed and built with consideration of GDPR principles, as well as providing safeguards to protect that data. For example, ideally all user data should be anonymised, as well as having the highest-possible privacy settings by default. This means that the user data is secure and not available publicly without explicit, informed consent, and cannot be used to identify a subject without additional information stored separately.

The GDPR also says no personal data may be processed unless it is done under a lawful basis specified by the regulation, or unless the enterprises’ data controller or processor has received an unambiguous and individualised affirmation of consent from the data subject. Any person in the UE or EEA (data subject) also has the right to revoke this consent at any time in the future.

Any processor of personal data must clearly disclose any data that has been collected, declare the lawful basis and purpose for the data processing, and state how long the data is being retained, and also if it is being shared with any third parties or outside of the EU.

Data subjects have the right to request a portable copy of the data collected by a processor in a common format, and the right to have their data erased under certain circumstances. All public authorities, and businesses whose core activities centre around regular or systematic processing of personal data, are required to employ a data protection officer (DPO). The DPO is directly responsible for managing compliance with the GDPR. Matthew Lea, Data Protection Expert, Herrington Carmichael Solicitors, said:

“Where you collect personal data of an individual, you are required to provide information such as who you are, how you can be contacted, details of your organisation’s Data Protection Officer (DPO) if you have appointed one, why you are processing their personal data, who you are sending it to, and if you are transferring their data abroad. You also need to provide information on their rights as data subjects, and say how long you intend to keep their personal data for.”

The six legal grounds for data processing under GDPR
  1. Consent has been given by the data subject
  2. Processing is necessary for the performance of a contract with the data subject, or to take steps to enter into a contract
  3. Processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation
  4. Processing is necessary to protect the vital interests of a data subject or another person
  5. Processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller
  6. Necessary for the purposes of ‘legitimate interests’ pursued by the controller or a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests, rights or freedoms of the data subject.

Regarding point 6, you may be OK if you hold and process user data based on ‘legitimate interest’. To see whether this is the case with your data the best way is to assess this using ICO guidance – click here.

What do you need to do to get GDPR compliant?

There are many aspects of business that you need to look at. Most UK organisations have a website and user or customer specific data of some type stored somewhere, whether website or email newsletter registrations, or user data in financial, telephone, email, CRM, sales or marketing systems. Basically anything than can identify a user.

The simple first things you can do relate to your website and any user data you hold. Your website privacy notice can be amended to indicate how your organisation complies with GDPR requirements, as well as the text that goes with websites forms used to collect personal data, such as the ‘Contact us’ forms that many websites have. Another recommendation is to mention that you hold and manage user data in a GDPR compliant way.

You could do this by adding a link to your website privacy notice in your organisation’s standard email footer, which ensures all the people you communicate with directly have access to it.

Here’s a more detailed list of things to be fully GDPR compliant:

  1. Inform your organisation internally about GDPR
  2. Website privacy notice – create or update your page(s)
  3. Cookies – sort out your website cookie control and policy
  4. Forms – update client enquiry, email news and lead capture
  5. Records – record the user ‘opt-in’ process
  6. Campaign pages – GDPR compliant landing pages
  7. Improve your security around all your user data
  8. Consider GDPR compliance software and data insurance

Cashing in on GDPR

On the flip side, companies are also legitimately capitalising on the GDPR, sometimes in surprising and interesting areas.

Confidential waste specialist Russell Richardson has geared up to make life easier for businesses beefing up their data protection processes in line with GDPR. As shredding, archiving and recycling experts, they brought in a  multi-tasking mobile shredding truck which they have taken out on the road. Their massive mobile shredder can deal with up to 2.5 tonnes of confidential paperwork an hour at a client’s premises, and can destroy data-packed computer hard drives, CDs and memory sticks in seconds.

“Some companies used to throw whole computers in a skip with the hard-drive still in place. Now GDPR has imposed tighter rules, we scaled up to help companies who have to take extra care of their data. We’re seeing an increase in customers who prefer to witness on-site the certified destruction of data stored on computers and tech devices.”

Most enterprises with big customer and partner email databases have sent out individual special ‘opt-in’ emails to all of their users, to make sure they are GDPR compliant. Other smaller companies have just ditched their email or CRM contact databases, deciding that filtering them all for GDPR compliance is just not worth the hassle, or that continuing to send emails out to their whole contact database is now just too risky.

One interesting aspect of GDPR relates to mail, which may have an advantage versus electronic communications in meet conditions for what the GDPR calls ‘legitimate interest’. In this case you don’t need specific user consent for future postal marketing. This means that, despite higher mail costs versus email and electronic communication, many enterprises are now seriously reconsidering the option to post selected information direct to their customers.

Direct mail and print companies are also beginning to benefit from GDPR for the same reason and, after decades of decline in mail volumes and as we don’t now get much mail, it is likely to become very attractive to marketers to use mail to gain awareness of company products and services to customers.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that the GDPR is here to stay, and isn’t going to go away. “What about Brexit?” you might ask. Well, even though the UK voted to leave the EU, the Government decided we would still comply with the GDPR, and you have to follow the regulations.

So, instead of hoping to get around it, if you really haven’t yet got to grips with your obligations under the GDPR, see it for what it is. An opportunity to tidy up all of your customer data and mailing lists, consolidate them all into one secure system or location, and to implement systems and processes to ensure that all of your data related to individuals is stored, managed and processed in line with GDPR requirements.

The good news is GDPR means a lot of the spam emails and unsolicited calls and mail you used to get will disappear. You’ll also likely start getting targeted mail through the letterbox too, that is better designed, more interesting and useful to its recipients. As this happens, consumer confidence in communications from organisations will steadily rise, email open rates and click rates will improve and mail response will increase, as people only receiving information and offers from the companies they like and trust.

That can only mean that being part of the GDPR solution, rather than against it, is good news for future business communication.

Supercharging the speed of business

What if you could have your own motorway lane to get to work and then drive at whatever speed you wanted, rather than fighting with all of the other commuters for lane space and suffering all the usual speed restrictions.  You’d probably jump at the chance.

Fighting for space, what you experience going in to work every day, is what it’s like for millions of business users, employees and partners with poor internet speeds.

Internet speed is holding back British business

Let’s be honest, what was fast internet access a few years ago is pretty slow today. We’re all used to our new mobile moving to the latest ‘G’ when we upgrade every two years or so, and then suddenly we can see live streamed footage of our favorite sports team, seamlessly, in high resolution. So why hasn’t business kept up with high speed internet at the same pace?

These days high speed exchanges feed broadband internet into most UK towns and cities, and the UK now has 95% coverage for broadband with speeds of 24 Megabits per second or higher.  However, many  businesses are stuck at the mercy of the rickety old telephone wires that are limited in the speeds they can support. If it’s copper wires that link a business premise to the high speed exchange cabinet, which might even be miles away, then this can create grindingly slow broadband connections for staff.

For fast, reliable business broadband,  a full fibre optic cable connection is required. Fibre is capable of delivering Gigabit speeds, and one Gigabit is 1,000 Megabits, so it’s a big leap forward in connection speeds that could benefit you and your business into the future. But the key challenge for most smaller businesses has not so much been the cost of Gigabit speed line rental, but the high cost of installation of this type of high speed line to their premises.

UK Government Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS)

Launched in March 2018 the GBVS is a £67m UK government fund that currently runs until March 2019. GBVS is a grant contribution to pay towards upgrading broadband to a high-speed Gigabit capable connection. To put it in context, to stream an HD movie you would need a connection speed of about 5 Megabits per second (Mbps), so with a 1 Gbps line up to 200 people could watch an HD movie simultaneously . Full fibre also supports symmetrical connections – meaning your upload and download speeds can be the same.

Most UK small and medium sized organisations, in all sectors, with 1 to 250 employees and less than £50m turnover, could be eligible for a GBVS grant of up to £3,000. This grant can be used to help pay for a high speed broadband connection as part of a group project, or directly to a single business premises.

This is how the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme works, managed by the UK Government Department for Culture Media and Sport.

UK Government GBVS Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme

  • Find out if you are eligible for the GBVS scheme – click here
  • Find out how NUCO International has benefited – click here

Why high speed Internet is crucial for your business

Mobile devices are actually part of the problem many businesses now have. New faster mobiles and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs, supporting workers’ own and business smartphones and tablets, incrementally grow the demand for Internet bandwidth. More people and more high speed Internet-linked devices in your company simply soaks up your limited bandwidth, and also the speed that bandwidth can deliver when accessed almost all the time. And it’s the same effect whether people are connected to your internet by cable, or using company Wi-Fi to manage business requirements on a PC or mobile.

At home, the lack of a high speed internet connection may be frustrating, with occasional breaks in your movie or the ‘spinning wheel of death’ as content buffers. But, with your business, slow internet speed is a potential future killer. It’s not just the lost productivity, when your staff can’t upload and download files they’ve been sent on email quickly, it’s the lack of options you then have to make your staff more productive, and to collaborate with each other more easily.

Don’t despair, here are just five of the opportunities that businesses with high speed Internet can make the most of straight away, today:

Cloud computing applications

Most people have heard of this and examples of cloud computing are things like mobile email, social media and Spotify that we all use at home. But, in business, growth in cloud computing services and resources can keep your employees more focused and more productive. For example they could use products like Microsoft’s Office 365 to access meeting details, contacts or emails on their laptop or mobile, or contribute to a team conversation via an online project site. And all of this information and data is synchronised in real time in the cloud, inevitably requiring a consistently fast connection to the internet. The longer the response time from an outside resource, like a cloud based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, the more that users can waste time and lose focus on their business task at hand. Since the number of applications hosted by cloud providers have jumped a hundredfold in the last five years, companies need to upgrade their Internet connections urgently to maintain quick response times, and so their staff can interact and contribute rapidly, and remain constantly productive.

Big emails and multimedia websites

These days businesses rarely send the two or three line emails of old. Email has become a lot more visual, and photos and graphics have become part of almost every message, helping to share ideas and better explain the wider concepts of projects. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, but a 500 page document written in Microsoft Word is about the same size as one email picture attachment. Not only that, but modern websites have abandoned pages of text for shiny new websites with photos, logos, banners and, increasingly, high resolution videos. All of these inevitably require far more bandwidth, in order to avoid longer load times to view them. Video streaming takes even more bandwidth. Few will notice the speed loss when one or two staff click on the latest video on YouTube. But when you’re talking about streaming business webinars, as well as streaming instructional videos or online courses, your bandwidth can disappear in a hurry and other important work using the internet can very soon slow to a crawl.

VoIP telephones

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It has become the dominant technology as businesses have brought in new VoIP phones to replace older landline systems. There are many great reasons to switch to VoIP, including things like caller recognition, but each VoIP conversation takes about 100Kb of bandwidth each and every second. If your company has just a few employees then that’s rarely a problem, but if you have 20 staff on the phone at any one time, you could easily max out all of your upstream speeds on most common business Internet plans. Without the right speed connection, call quality and data traffic also both suffer. A high speed Internet connection requires an ample supply of upstream bandwidth to maintain high-quality, real-time VoIP conversations, but high speed fibre connection services will have carrier service level agreements in place to provide and guarantee these high quality voice connections.

Video conferencing

When every company is looking for ways to increase the pace of their business by improving collaboration, whilst at the same time reducing travel time and costs, it is no surprise that video conferencing has become a lot more popular. With many low cost video conferencing products now available, the lure to push a button rather than book a flight for business meetings is very strong for both business team managers and accountants. It’s easy to understand why more businesses are moving to video conferencing every day, and high speed Internet service means better video meetings and increased staff productivity. But since images require a lot more bandwidth than text, streaming video consequently demands plenty of Internet bandwidth. Slow Internet speeds mean bad meetings, broken connections and frustrated staff, especially if some contributors  in a different global location have got up specially to attend the video meeting.

Protecting your valuable data and files

Beyond basic local file backup, all companies recognise that backing up data offsite simplifies business continuity and disaster recovery planning. With more high resolution video, photos and diagrams, the amount of data backed up is constantly growing. Backing up their data using a slow Internet connection creates lots of problems, even if backup is scheduled to run overnight. High-speed Internet connections make rapid, complete backups possible, protecting your critical data and ensuring your business can continue, even if you suffer a data loss due to equipment failure, disaster or data theft. As of May 2018 there’s also the GDPR regulations to consider, where you need to make sure that any data that you hold on individuals is securely held, processed and backed up in line with stringent regulations that apply to all sizes of organisation.

Conclusion

Few of us would also have guessed at half of the devices that have arrived over the last ten years that use an Internet connection. Who knows what web-enabled bit of kit might hit the market next, especially with the Internet of Things?

Wouldn’t it be a crime if you couldn’t download that critical business email attachment simply because your Internet-enabled fridge was doing the drinks stock-up order at an online supermarket?

But, seriously, if you want to remain technologically fit for the future then the lack of high speed broadband could become a life threatening barrier to your business efficiency, or it could drastically limit your planned growth and success.

Get Gigabit speed connected. Find out about the GBVS today here.

Advertise with LinkedIn video

You may have seen company videos appearing on LinkedIn recently. With the right video content, brands can now use sight, sound and motion to tell compelling stories, and drive deeper engagement on LinkedIn feeds and individual and company updates.


LinkedIn update results tracking, introduced in May 2015, allowed marketers to track how their LinkedIn updates matched with their website traffic. Video was the obvious next step, and video for individuals launched on LinkedIn in August 2017, and the results achieved by early adopters of video on the popular business social media platform have been very encouraging.

As of July 2018, LinkedIn launched video for their Sponsored Content and Company Pages. This is no surprise because, in a busy world, we’d all rather watch an interesting video rather than read through even a short amount of text and then click on a link to find out more.

In 2017 there was a 17% growth in the use of video by businesses globally, and that’s not a huge revelation given how easy it is to create sharp, high resolution video these days. We’ve all seen those adverts during the World Cup encouraging us to be film producers on our iPhones (other phones with video facilities are available).

The barrier for entry when it comes to video creation has been dramatically lowered by the advent of these high-res smartphone cameras, inexpensive accessories and simplified mobile, laptop or cloud editing software.

Creating LinkedIn video ads

81% of businesses are now using video as a primary marketing tool, and marketing departments in all sizes of business can now create quality video content without needing the sort of specialised resources and post production video editing that was once required.

With the cost to entry being so low, it’s almost a question of ‘why wouldn’t you?’ rather than the other way around. However, independent filmmaker C. Mason Wells hit the nail on the head when he was asked about the greatest challenges in cinema today. He said:

“The act of making movies has never been easier, but getting people to care about them has never been harder.”

This is certainly a lament that rings true in the world of video marketing. But, as with any type of content in our highly saturated digital environment, the struggle is to both find and captivate the right audience for your products or services. This has been especially true for B2B marketers, who haven’t had an ideal platform for sharing and amplifying their business-related videos. Whilst most marketers use YouTube or Vimeo to host their B2B videos, they rely on search for these on the video channels to drive traffic to their website and to encourage customers to buy what they sell.

Until now. There is no doubt that all B2B marketers see LinkedIn as a primary social media tool to reach a business audience, whether through the carefully developed networks they’ve honed since LinkedIn launched in 2003, or through the company channels that they manage.

The jury is still out on what types of video will ultimately work best on LinkedIn, as all new features on social media platforms often involve some level of experimentation and guesswork.

But there are some relatively straightforward guidelines to follow to help your brand and company succeed with LinkedIn video ads.

  • Choose a campaign objective tied it to your video marketing approach
  • Consider your ROI and measure progress against that objective
  • Follow best practice for social video (length, sound, structure etc.)
  • Find a ‘sweet spot’ in terms of audience target and campaign budget
  • Drive follow-up action with a clear and enticing Call To Action (CTA)
  • Test and optimise your campaign videos for continual improvement

LinkedIn video features

Native video ads represent an evolution of LinkedIn Sponsored Content, letting you engage with business decision makers throughout their buying journey on LinkedIn. Unlike pre-roll or post-roll video ads, video for Sponsored Content lives directly in the news feed as a standalone post.

Video for Sponsored Content helps you achieve your marketing objectives by:

  • Building brand awareness – telling rich, visual stories via social media
  • Driving qualified traffic direct to desktop or mobile website pages
  • Collect high-quality leads with a persistent “call to action” button
  • Utilise LinkedIn’s integrated Lead Gen Forms product for leads

But without accurate targeting, your ads won’t be seen by the right audiences. With LinkedIn’s suite of B2B targeting capabilities available for video for Sponsored Content, you can find your audience by traits like job title, seniority, company name, industry, skills etc. What’s more, the integration with Matched Audiences ensures you can target your Sales team’s highest-priority accounts with account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns.

Since LinkedIn launched the private beta in October 2017, over 700 advertisers including GE, Philips and Audi Canada have tested video for Sponsored Content to highlight not only their products and services, but also their company mission, customer success stories and thought leadership content. These videos are helping marketers deepen brand engagement as, on average, LinkedIn members spend almost 3x more time watching video ads compared to time spent with static Sponsored Content.

“Video content is crucial for our brand, allowing LinkedIn’s professional community to more easily derive value from the content we are producing. While our videos can be up to 3 minutes, we are seeing deep engagement at a great value.”
Kaydee Bridges, Vice President, Digital & Social Media Strategy, Goldman Sachs.

All marketers understand that everything hinges on delivering greater ROI. With video for Sponsored Content, you can measure campaign success through insights and detailed breakdowns about the types of professionals watching, engaging with and even converting on your video ads. LinkedIn’s proprietary Conversion Tracking tool is also integrated, enabling you to measure the number of leads, sign-ups, website visits, and other valuable actions that your video content generates.

“Video stands out because it doesn’t tell, but it shows. On a platform where there’s more business content, a video stands out more, especially on LinkedIn.”
Renske Siersema, Social Media Manager at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines


Conclusion

When it comes to creating your great B2B video content, well that’s entirely down to you. But when it comes to getting the right people to notice and care about those videos, there’s no doubt that LinkedIn can now help your brand get your products, benefits and values across more easily to your target audience.

  • Download the LinkedIn advert video guide – click here

Digital marketing top 10

The range of marketing options to promote products and services has increased radically over the last ten years. We look at our predicted top 10 biggest influencers on B2B product and service clients for 2018.

1. Video – In 2017 there was 17% total growth in video usage. 81% of all businesses now use video as a marketing tool. 78% of marketers say video generates a good return on investment and the ideal video is 90 seconds to 3 minutes long, with interesting, engaging and thought provoking content. 50% of web users look for videos before they buy a product and 4x as many customers watch a video than read about a product. Video on websites is responsible for a 64% increase in product purchase, it increases average website visit time and increases sales conversions on the site by 20%. Almost twice as many people say they will purchase a product after seeing a video versus non-viewers. Last year YouTube reached 1 billion views of posted videos and it is the second biggest search engine after Google. Vimeo is another option.

2. Social media –Key to engage a target audience in real-time. Facebook group has suffered from negative press in 2018 regarding data trust, but is still core for B2C. In a B2B environment, LinkedIn is still the most important while Google+ remains good for SEO. Other options are Twitter and Instagram. Bear in mind that you should aim to get contributions from those 3% to 5% that have active engagement (share and click on content), rather than people who have more click-jerk passive engagement (liking something).

3. Thought leadership – this can take many forms such as broadcast media interviews, video interviews, trade press interviews, online blogs or fact sheets. The key is delivering content that gets the target audience to challenge their own and their peer’s views of the status quo on products and services.

4. Blog articles – These offer the ideal way to establish thought leadership, if placed in the right trade press and online publications. They allow you to promote the company and products and help with SEO. Whilst most other online media has become briefer, blogs have consistently got longer (around 1,300 words average), showing that there is an audience out there that enjoys a good read on popular topics.

5. Pictures, graphics and infographics – A picture is worth a thousand words as they say, particularly if you want to convince target clients to buy a manufactured product that sells itself visually. Pictures of products in motion or from unusual angles engage interest, and graphs and infographics promote understanding of more difficult or esoterically dry, data driven concepts.

6. Email – Crafting compelling direct marketing campaigns via email is still very important for direct one to one engagement with a target audience. Getting your audience to click from a newsletter/email content to your website is a highly effective driver of traffic to the website. Not surprisingly the key is in ensuring the content is engaging and click worthy, predominantly good quality news items and blogs. However, with GDPR now in place across Europe, it is essential to view this as an in-house activity, with opt-in email contact data directly fed from a CRM system, or integrated as part of your chosen email system.

7. White papers – Perfect for communicating complicated information about products and deployment applications, without clouding the issue with sales messages that might turn a more technical audience off. They still include a strong call to action to draw readers to the website or engage with the sales team.

8. 3D and VR – Virtual reality walk-arounds and fly-throughs are becoming increasingly useful for delivering complex information about products and how they may benefit prospective customers. They are also especially useful if the products they are selling are particularly large, so you can have a 3D animation or walkthrough on a portable tablet. They are also of benefit for demonstrating motion, movement or a cutaway of a product to illustrate advantages that could not be achieved any other way.

9. Podcasts and webinars – Broadcasting content to a selected audience is effective to engage target contacts with more complex messages and / or those on the move using mobile devices with limited time to assimilate information. Webinars can deliver complex presentations online and enable visitors from disparate locations to engage at the same time, as well as allowing interaction between the presenters and audience using filtered questions and answers. A recorded version of the webinar for those that missed it can also be made available on a video channel and can also serve to drive more website traffic.

10. Landing pages – Unlike standard web pages, these are designed to include product information and specific, strong calls to action. These are useful for product or service offers, seasonal specials or events, all of which have a time-based element. They can also be hidden away from the main website to provide a home for specific campaigns that allow you to track who visits a campaign page and its effectiveness over time.

Conclusion

The biggest challenges for board members and marketing professionals is keeping abreast of all of these technological changes and being able to select the best combination to create awareness, interest, trial and adoption of B2B products and services.

If you would like to know how GET Consultants can help you in developing a more effective marketing mix for your business, please contact us here.