3 important takeaways from LeWeb 2013

LeWeb is a fantastic conference.

All year I get invites to attend conference after conference, but LeWeb is the only one that really interests me. Why? Simply because it has a broader outlook, better speakers, and a more philosophical approach than other events (it even had a session on meditation!)

Where some events focus on the ‘doing’, LeWeb looks at the ‘why’. As a result the content is fresh and invigorating; it actually makes you think.

In London this June, the focus was on Sharing Economies (which I wrote about for Forbes). This time around, in Paris, it was looking at the Next Ten Years. The interesting thing about a conference like this is not in what the individual speakers say, although they are very interesting, but in the feeling that you get from the conference. There’s a sense of it being one giant ‘meta-presentation’, with trends leaking out and pervading the atmosphere around you, and speaker after speaker adding to the big picture. So, in light of this, here are three trends that have emerged from LeWeb 2013 that I want to share with you.

Trend 1: Human experiences, not technology, will rule the next ten years

Just to be clear, technology is still underpinning everything – in fact I can’t think of a more exciting industry to be working in at the moment – but the face of this technology will be human. Technology will be applied to create human experiences and meet human needs, it will not be a goal in itself.

Forrester CEO, George Colony, described the next ten years as ‘The Age of the Customer’ – an age in which enterprises will need to reinvent themselves in order to be successful. This age will require completely frictionless customer experiences to be created, based around the maturing technologies of mobile, sensors, location, social, and data. Products will be highly personalised and anticipatory in nature – knowing what you need based on where you are and what you are doing. Robert Scoble’s ‘Age of Context‘.

Colony, quite fittingly, gave the example of a taking a trip to a conference. In this example the products and services were completely transparent: when entering the airport you would be directed to your gate automatically, your seat would indicate itself when you came near, and when you got to your hotel the lift would take you to the right floor by communicating with your phone, with your door unlocking  itself when you arrived at your room.

The companies that can create these experiences will be the ones that thrive.

Trend 2: You are your product

It’s easy to think of a product as something separate from you, but actually it’s more than this. The best innovations come from the heart, and are linked tightly to things you care about solving. In this respect, you are your product. If the product is central to your purpose, if it isn’t your passion, then the chances of succeeding are much lower. Being able to stay on the path, to believe on your idea, and to have the courage to see it through are the outstanding characteristics that will build the successful products of the future. Ask yourself, why do you do what you do? What is your purpose? What drives you to act? It was no coincidence that the majority of successful entrepreneurs speaking at LeWeb had started their businesses based on a very personal experience. This was exemplified by Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber. Uber was founded at LeWeb in 2008, when Travis was unable to get a taxi to the conference. That frustration, and his sweaty appearance onstage, gave birth to the idea that would disrupt the taxi and ride-sharing industry. It’s a personal crusade for Uber, one that has led to bigger ideas in its wake. Expect big things from the $3.5 billion-valued ‘Urban Logistics’ company over the next few years

Trend 3: In future, all companies will be software companies

This is a trend that is very close to my heart, and very close to my purpose. Products are evolving, customers are evolving. In the next ten years, it will be the company that adds value to its products, be it smoke detectors or tyres, that has the competitive advantage. As a result, all companies will be come software companies, as this will be the primary medium through which companies add value to their products. For example, Nest are disrupting the home safety market through building smoke detectors that communicate with you proactively, that give you warnings that are useful to you. What if a tyre company could produce tyres that told you when they ended to be changed, or informed you – or your car – how to drive more appropriately for the current conditions. the possibilities are endless, and it touches every industry, every product.

What next?

I’m really excited about the possibilities for technology in creating a better user experience for us all, actually, a better life experience for us all. It’s going to be great to watch develop, even better to be a part of. The ability to create new businesses and disrupt existing industries has never been more accessible. Even if some of the predictions don’t turn out to be right, there’s no doubt that things will be a lot different in ten years time.

See you at LeWeb 2014!

Book Review: Content is Currency by Jon Wuebben

Content is Currency by Jon Wuebben - CoverMost book reviews start by telling you about the author and content, and end with telling you whether you should read it. This time I’m going to start by telling you why should you read this book; it’s important.

The reason why you should read this book?

Content Marketing is the hot topic of the moment, and Jon Wuebben’s book is about as comprehensive a guide as you’re going to get currently. Whether you’re a content marketing novice or a have already dabbled, Content is Currency has something for you.

Having said that, we can now get back into the usual swing of things.

Jon Wuebben is CEO of Content Launch and a content strategist. Content is Currency is the follow-up to his 2008 book, Content Rich: Writing Your Way to Wealth on the Web, and in it he takes an in-depth look at the hows and whys of creating content for the web – both desktop and mobile (and about time – things have changed massively since 2008!)

The ability to create engaging content is becoming increasingly important in today’s digital landscape. The prevalence and power of search and the virality of social, means that content is a powerful medium for organisations to spread their messages. Being able to make the most of these channels is good for both your brand and your bottom line.

Content is Currency is set out into three parts:

  1. What is Content Marketing? – in this part Wuebben looks at the basics of content marketing, including analysing your current presence, performing keyword analysis and competitive research, and optimising your content.
  2. Content for the Web – here Wuebben delves into the different sorts of content (from articles to press releases and beyond) and how you can create content that has impact.
  3. Content for Community and Mobile – in this part, which will be the one that I suspect most people will be drawn to initially, Wuebben details best practice around the use of blogging, email, video and audio, including how to make this content work on mobile devices.

Within each part, the subject is broken into a number of chapters, each dealing with a different element of content marketing. The progression through the chapters is logical and they are filled with good examples to help highlight the tips and techniques within, making it easy to absorb. There are also Case Studies at the end of each chapter that reinforce the approach. Although unavoidable, some of these examples and Case Studies will date, especially where screenshots are included, but this is a minor point, and doesn’t significantly detract from the longevity of the book’s use – as I said, it’s impossible not to have this issue where you are using real-life examples

Content is Currency is a book that you could read from cover to cover, if you so wished, but it is equally as useful as a coffee-table style dip-in guide. And although some of the content may date, it is still a comprehensive guide that provides real value to marketers and agencies alike. In a fast moving ever-changing environment like the web, making our content work across multiple channels and devices is so important – the lessons in Content is Currency will help you to make this a reality.

Have you read Content is Currency? What did you think? Have you changed your thinking on content marketing, or implemented changes since reading the book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Disclaimer: This is an independent review based on a proof copy of the book supplied to me. I have no business relationship with Jon Wuebben or Content Launch. I have not received any monetary incentives or payments. I don’t need to write this bit, but I think it’s always good to be completely transparent.

4 reasons why mobile marketing shouldn’t be an afterthought

In the past, many companies tried to graft digital strategies onto existing offline campaigns. The results were uncoordinated campaigns that failed to make the most out of the opportunities that an integrated approach could bring. They were, in effect, two separate campaigns.

The same thing is happening today, but this time it’s regarding mobile strategies. Here are four reasons why mobile marketing shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Reason #1: It will cost you more

While it’s possible to create a separate mobile marketing strategy around your existing marketing, it will cost you more in the long run.

Why?

Because the content and assets required for effective mobile marketing are not the same as for offline, or even digital marketing. Mobile content should be lightweight, adaptable and concise – creating a 200-page PDF whitepaper won’t cut it on a three and a half inch screen.

While content marketing is the new king of the marketing hill, content is expensive and time consuming to create. By creating effective content that can be used across many communication channels and finding multiple applications for it, you’ll use your budget more effectively.

Reason #2: Your campaigns won’t be truly ‘integrated’

Planning campaigns to be multichannel from the start allows the savvy marketer to make the best use of mobile as a communication channel. Marketing synergies can be created by linking offline and online channels through QR codes to drive consumer activity at the point of interaction – be it on packaging, posters, or any other touch point – rather than later on.

The immediacy of mobile marketing increases our ability to influence the customer. In fact, according to the Mobile Marketing Association, 70% of all mobile searches result in action within one hour! Whether that search is driven from offline or digital marketing activity, the opportunity that mobile marketing provides are too great to ignore. An integrated multi-channel approach to marketing will ensure that you capture the broadest possible audience into the sales funnel.

Reason #3: You won’t be taking advantage of the opportunities that mobile makes available

Mobile marketing provides a new set of opportunities to marketers. The hardware capabilities of the mobile devices allow for new approaches to customer interaction.

Not only does the camera on a mobile device enable QR codes, it also allows foraugmented reality experiences, where our message can be overlaid over the real world.

Geo-location is even more exciting. Marketers are now in a position to communicate with consumers at, or close to, the point of sale. Traditional approaches, such as discounts and coupons, can be delivered directly to the consumer as they approach a store, or during the purchasing process.

Reason #4: Purchasing behaviour is changing and mobile is becoming more important

The beauty of a mobile device is that it is with your consumer almost all the time and gives them access to information on the move. As a result, people are changing their browsing habits by accessing information away from the traditional desktop browser.

This change in browsing habits is having an impact on the way people behave offline; consumers are now much more likely to use a smartphone or similar mobile device to inform the purchasing decision. By allowing mobile marketing to be an afterthought, you’re throwing away the opportunity to influence customer behavior at a time that matters most – in-store at the point of purchase.

Not convinced?

If you’re still not sure about the benefits that mobile marketing can bring, consider this: mobile internet usage will outstrip desktop usage by 2015, and in the last year smartphone and tablet sales outstripped desktop PC sales for the first time.

By embracing mobile marketing now, you’re not just getting ready for the future, you’re making the most of now. The mobile era is here already; don’t get left behind.

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Landing Pages – the unforgiveable sin

This article was republished at Unbounce as a different version with a focus on QR codes (it was edited from the original). This article is included here only for the purposes of showing the editorial process – from first submission to published article. As stated in my previous post, I’ll leave it up to you to tell me whether you think the quiz structure works or not.

Image credit to fuzzysaurus on Flickr

There are many ways to get people to your landing page, but it’s not the channels that you use that ultimately drive conversions, it’s something else entirely. And that’s where many marketers go wrong. You see that guy in the picture above; you don’t want your users to feel like that do you, just because of something you did, or didn’t, do?

But all this negativity, it’s a bit heavy. Why don’t we lighten it up a bit by taking a little quiz? You know the type: just read the questions, decide on whether you would A, B or C, then total up the number of A, B and C’s. It’s just like reading Seventeen magazine again. Just promise me you won’t look down the page to see the answers…

Question 1

You’re sitting in your kitchen having breakfast. You’re reading the back of the cereal packet for the third time in the last five minutes, when you see a QR code tucked away next to the ingredients panel. By visiting the site you can find out exactly how many calories are in a single cheerio. Do you:

A.    Immediately start looking elsewhere on the box for a URL, spilling cereal on the table when you look on the bottom of the packet, then, when you find it, run upstairs to your desktop PC to find out more.

B.    Get your Android phone out of your pocket. Scan the code. Go to the Website.

C.    Do nothing. What is this QR code business anyway?

Question 2

You’re at the store. You’ve got a new box of cereal to replace the one you dropped on the floor during breakfast. Standing in the queue you notice a sign on the counter offering discounts for regular customers, with double-discounts at your local store. All you have to do is check in on their Website. Do you:

A.    Steal the sign surreptitiously when the cashier isn’t looking and run home to check in from the comfort of your home. Then realize you left your cereal at the store.

B.    Take out your iPhone. Go to the URL. Check-in. Get a discount.

C.    Do nothing. Who wants to check-in? Check-ins are for airports.

Question 3

You’re home from the store–and slightly out of breath from the run–so you turn on the TV. An advert for a new, even bigger TV catches your eye, and they’ve got deals for their Twitter followers. The links to their offer pages are right there in their Twitter stream. Do you:

A.    Scribble the Twitter name down on a piece of paper, then hunker down in your home office to follow them on your 32″ widescreen monitor.  Yeah baby!

B.    Pick up your brand new Samsung Galaxy. Fire up the Twitter app. Search for the account. Follow it. Click through to their deals landing page right there on your phone.

C.    Twitter? Why would I want to know what the world is having for lunch?

Okay, that’s it. It’s time to tot up those answers.

How did I do?

If you got mostly A’s:

Okay, those who answered mostly As are online, but missing a big piece of the picture. The good news: of anyone out there, marketers have the most to gain from this audience as it moves from desktop-bound activities to mobile converts.

The way people access the Internet is changing. They’re moving away from a reliance on the desktop browser and moving toward the mobile device. And that change in browsing habits is having a knock-on effect in our offline behavior. We’re much more likely to use mobile devices to inform our purchasing choices, either in-store or in our downtime.

The three scenarios outlined above show just a few of the ways in which smart retailers are using these changes in customer behavior to their advantage. The use of QR codes to connect offline printed media with an online presence is rising and they can be an efficient way to drive traffic to your landing page. There’s no fiddly typing of URLs on a tiny keyboard, you simply scan the code and are taken directly to the website. It’s also possible to brand QR codes with a logo for maximum brand impact.

Using advertising at Point of Sale is also a great way to appeal to a captive audience. By catching shoppers at the point of purchase, you have the opportunity to influence the decision-making process. If a customer is already with you, you want to make sure they come back again. The ability to geo-locate customers through their mobile devices can be used effectively to serve local offers and generate customer loyalty. Adidas successfully used geolocation to support six popup stores in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

And finally, there’s good old social media. Social networks, especially Facebook and Twitter, are becoming an integrated part of many companies marketing strategies, with the importance of these channels increasing year over year. It’s also true that the a growing percentage of activity on both these platforms is from mobile devices (55% on Twitter, 33% on Facebook). Chances are that, if you’re driving people to your social media presence, there is a good chance they are doing it on a mobile device.

If you got mostly B’s:

Well, you may be preaching to the converted here. These customers are true mobile surfers. They may be part of a growing demographic that accesses the Internet primarily through a mobile device, but for marketers this doesn’t always translate into best practice for campaigns unless their landing pages are optimized for mobile browsing. Take a look at your company’s web presence, whether it’s a campaign landing page or the main company website. Would they work in the scenarios outlined in the quiz?

If you got mostly C’s:

Well. Those who scored mostly C’s are in need of a digital refresher course. But don’t worry, more and more become converted online shoppers and eventual mobile users everyday. Keep trying to engage them.

But what has all of this got to do with landing pages?

There’s a change taking place. The way that people access the internet is changing, and with it, the way that they are accessing your Web pages. Mobile devices are becoming more and more prevalent and we can no longer predict how and where users interact with our brand, so we must be prepared to support every potential channel and engage prospects wherever they choose to engage with our products.

The unforgivable sin for a landing page is a poor user experience. If you’ve done the hard work and directed people to your page but the user experience is a poor one, you’re simply throwing away time, money and effort. Creating a strong user experience, regardless of how the user accesses your page, is paramount. By making sure your landing pages are mobile-optimized, you’re giving yourself a head-start on the road to conversions and revenue. By making it easy for you users to read and navigate the content on your landing page you will increase conversion rates. Leave them trying to read tiny type on a tiny screen and you’re fighting a losing battle.

Don’t be left out. Engage the customers who choose B.

Unbounce – [Quiz] The Cosmo Guide to Landing Pages & QR Codes – with Infographic

Unbounce - LogoAlthough the name on the post might not be mine, Unbounce published a second article on the 9th March – “The Cosmo Guide to Landing Pages and QR codes – with Infographic”. The article, which was originally written with less of a focus on QR codes and more on multi-channel landing page traffic drivers, was originally titled “Landing Pages: the unforgivable sin” and as an interesting example of the editorial process I’ll publish the original article here shortly.

The idea behind the article was to highlight the different ways in which a landing page could be reached, given that an increasing percentage of web traffic is through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The gimmick to get the reader engaged was to use a magazine-style quiz (did you get mainly A’s, B’s or C’s). I’ll leave it to you to decide whether it works or not.

Stop tweeting, start listening

Image courtesy of dangermain on Flickr

This week I attended the Ogilvy Keynote as part of Social Media Week in London. It was a good keynote, full of valid, open discussion around the topic of ‘Socialising the Enterprise’, with contributions from IBM, Ford and American Express. But that’s not what this post is about.

It’s not about chips either, but bear with me, it will make sense eventually.

At the end of the keynote, I was prompted to tweet the following:

What was it that possessed me to make my feelings known, apart from the bloke next to me who spent the entire hour and a half on his iPhone? Simply the fact that if we are not careful, we will be so distracted by technology that it will become our master, rather than our tool. If we as individuals are to make the most out of these gatherings here’s a few reasons why we should think about not tweeting (or posting, I’m social-media-network-agnostic)

1. Tweeting is a distraction

We like to think that we can multi-task, but it’s really not true. By tweeting your way through a presentation you’re not giving it your full attention. If you’re going to make the effort to attend, make the effort to participate fully.

2. Random quotes with no context have little value

Just because someone said something that sounded good at the time, like “culture eats strategy for lunch”, it doesn’t mean you have to repeat it verbatim (or in text-speak) to your followers. 140 characters is not enough to provide any context to what is being said and it just comes over as a bland statement. If I said “long ones are better than short ones” whilst eating a plate of chips, would you tweet that? Why does culture eat strategy for lunch; that’s what people want to know. Which brings me neatly to…

3. Don’t just repeat, think

If you’re attending an event and you’re lucky enough to be in the audience, and even better, the event is really turning out some valuable learnings, don’t just regale us with quotes, give us your opinion. Step back for a moment and think about how those learnings affected you, or your business, or your understanding of the subject. Think about it and then tell us why it should matter to us. It’s too easy to just take what others say as gospel, especially when they are sitting on a stage – don’t fall for it, you matter just as much.

Don’t miss the opportunity

Social Media gives us the ability to communicate. When people communicate we can achieve amazing things (see the Arab Spring for details). However, it’s good communication that we need, not communication for its own sake. Let’s make sure we think before we speak (or tweet), not just for our benefit, but for those that are listening too.

Money in Mobile Forum 2011

BLN LogoI’m happy to say that I’ll be speaking at the 2011 Money in Mobile forum this June. Alongside Nick Lansley (Head of R&D for Tesco.com), Russell Buckley (Former MD of Admob), Ilja Laurs (Founder & CEO of GetJar) and Andy Smith (Industry Head of Mobile for Google), I’ll be looking at how a great customer experience is central to making money from your mobile channels.

It promises to be a good event, with a wide range of speakers looking at the subject from many different viewpoints, from understanding the underlying business models to front-end user experience challenges. You can find more details about the event at the website: http://moneyinmobile2011.thebln.com. If you’re going to be attending and would like to catch up on the day during one of the networking sessions,  please contact me.