Illustration woman looking at man on smart phone

Marketing in the Black Mirror: Our industry’s sci-fi (near) future

I’m a massive, unashamed sci-fi geek. I went to the Blade Runner Secret Cinema, I just got a replica (replicant?) of Deckard’s whiskey glass, I can’t wait to see Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s Akira in pin-sharp 4K, and if any technological development that’s vaguely cyberpunk turns up in the news, I’ll be the first to exclaim ‘William Gibson predicted that!’. I love this stuff.  

So, I often look at the world through the lens of speculative fiction (the ‘literature of cognitive estrangement’, as academic Darko Suvin put it) and apply this kind of speculation and extrapolation to all kinds of things in everyday life. That includes aspects of my work, our industry, and so on. ‘What do you mean by that?’, you may rightly ask.

Recently, I was creating a marketing persona for a project, inventing an imaginary sales lead from the clay of research and experience, and something struck me:  One day, AI will be doing this for me. What will that be like?

And that thought led me down the rabbit-hole.


Making fake people from real data 

We live in a time when more data is created and recorded, covering more aspects of our lives, than ever before. It’s already being used in all manners of ways – from the recommendation systems of Amazon and Netflix to deciding whether you’re a safe bet to borrow money.  

And, as our burgeoning digital lives increasingly blur with our physical onesalongside the growth of the Internet of Things and devices like Alexa, this big data is only going to become bigger. That will provide those that hold it with deeper and more intricate insights into who we are. What once may have been a relatively shallow and generic impression of a customer now has the potential to become really nuanced – to the extent that a buyer persona becomes a buyer simulation. But why does that interest me so much? 

It’s alive!  

As a marketing writer, there’s a tendency to become attached to the personas you createIt’s an imaginative act, after all, and imaginative acts are inherently interesting and enjoyable. When you’re inventing a person, with their name, professional and educational history, along with numerous other incidental details, they begin to take on a life of their own. You could be forgiven for thinking things like Ah, classic Persona! Of course they’d do that. When you start inventing significant others, families and pets for them, it’s time to click ‘Save’ and step away from the computer. In every marketing persona, there’s the seed of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (the first sci-fi novel of alland, before that, the Prometheus myth: “It’s alive!”. 

But devising comprehensive personas and delving into the lives and mindsets of possible customers isn’t only an enjoyable part of marketing work – it’s vital for engaging and connecting with your audienceAnd who knows how much more valuable it can be when AI (our digital Igoris using today’s data goldmine to help with the creationThe possibilities are strange, maybe a little unnerving at times, but ultimately highly intriguing. 

Fact is quickly catching up with fiction 

In an early episode of Black Mirror (season two, episode one: ‘Be Right Back’)Domhnall Gleeson’s character Ash is killed in a car accident. OK, this article’s taken a dark turn, but stay with me. His grieving partner Martha, played by the excellent Hayley Atwell, signs up for an online service that builds a new virtual Ash out of all the data floating around, including social posts and other digital communications. He/it is very, very accurate.  

I won’t spoil what happens next (apologies if I’ve already revealed too much) as it’s a bloody good episode. But you see where I’m going with this. What could marketers do with this kind of technology? And the central idea behind the story – building a synthetic person out of all the data they emit simply through existing today – isn’t just science fiction. It’s closer than you think.  

Be Right Back aired in 2013, and as I always say, tech years are like dog years. The previous decade might as well be 50 years ago, and as we hurtle toward the singularity at ever-increasing breakneck speed, what was once a strange future is quickly becoming our strange now.  

 Do synthetic personas dream of electric sheep? 

Development of synthetic buyer personas is already well underway, with some companies already mooting market-ready solutions. Such is the depth of the data and sophistication of systems that there are even elements of personality-based marketing entering the equation. This has the potential to provide even richer insight into how customers really 'tick'. How risk adverse is Persona as an individualWhich psychological motivators are at work here? What would Persona’s instinctual reaction be to X or Y? Would Persona respond more positively to this analogy or design choice as opposed to that one?  

Personally, I’m eager to see what will happen when today’s highly advanced chatbot technologies, such as Pandorabots’ Mitsuki, are thrown into the mix. Imagine having a full-blown conversation with a buyer persona – on their virtual lunchbreakperhaps (insert old tech joke about ‘having a byte to eat’). What would a focus group be like, conducted with a (chat)room full of synthetic subjects? These are questions that I think (and hope) will probably be answered soon enough.  

The machines have been busy  

This is only one area of marketing where AI is making itself useful. For some time now, it’s also been helping to manage and optimise pay-per-click (PPC) advertisingpersonalise website experiences and email marketing, and predict customer churn – which is extremely valuable for Software-as-a-Service companies, among others 

If you can think of an aspect of marketing, chances are ‘there’s an AI for that’, able to help us make better choices, speed up processes, and do what we do more effectively. There is even the prospect that one day, design and content may become SUPER responsive, personalised and dynamic – to the extent that no two people see the same website. Or even the same website twice. Everything from the style and tone to the user experience would be perfectly curated for you and you alone, at that moment in time, by a very smart machine.  

AI can already write (to an extentand assist with designWhat’s further down that road? Will writers like me someday become AI’s editors? Will designers and developers become their art/technical directors? Could you one day even engage the services of a digital agency that’s literally a digital agency?  These are all pretty dizzying concepts for someone who cut their copywriting teeth on old-school banner ads and still hasn’completely gotten over the death of FlashBut, again, they’re very intriguing thoughts – for me, for Fifty Five and Five, for our clients, and for the industry as a whole 

The spark of human creativity 

With the universe of possibilities around synthetic buyer personas, and the growth of AI-powered marketing in general, you’d think I'd be little worried about someday becoming obsolete. “Hire a human marketing writer? That’s so 2020...” Replaced by the Machine in the Grey Flannel SuitBut I’m a firm believer in the spark of human creativity and ingenuity. So, at the risk of coming across like Neo or John Connor: I believe we’ll triumph over the machines. 

Machines can gather the data. They can collect and corral it in huge quantities, analyse it and make it available in a form we can comprehend. But they’re not yet able to make the intuitive connections and creative decisions, the subtle leaps of understanding and insight, that make great marketing that really resonates with other humans. Ultimately, we know us better than computers do – even with all the data in the worldBut AI certainly can – and will – give us a lot of help

If you’d like to discuss how Fifty Five and Five can help you target your audience more effectively and ensure your digital marketing is firing on all cylinders, get in touch with the team today.  


Illustration SEO in Google colour palette

What is a Google core algorithm update – and why should you care?

Every so often the world’s content creators and SEO specialists become suddenly impassioned by what’s known as a ‘core algorithm update’. These happen a few times a year and can have a significant effect on a web page’s Google rankings. But what is a core algorithm update? And more importantly – is it really something you should care about?

Algorithms, updates and rankings 

An algorithm update means Google has made a significant tweak to the way they determine search engine result rankings. Admittedly, these can be quite small. But for the world’s biggest search engine, small changes can make a big difference to people who rely on their search engine results pages (SERPs) to generate leads.  

Google algorithm updates happen all the time. In fact, even referring to the Google algorithm in the singular it a bit disingenuous – the truth is it’s a complicated web of loosely related algorithms which has been in a near constant state of flux since Google first got going. Keeping track of all that is a fairly tall order, because updates happen virtually every day. Luckily for SEO professionals, most of these are relatively minor and no cause for alarm 


OK, so what’s
 a core algorithm update? 
 

Core updates aren’t just your run-of-the-mill minor adjustments. As the name would suggest, this is a change to the fundamental algorithm that powers the Google search engine. It’s easy to see why these updates happen - if you’re in charge of the world’s most popular search engine, you’re going to want to make sure it responds to changes in how people write, post and read content over time. So far, so understandable.  

The problem is, algorithm updates are a bit like dropping a large fishing net into the middle of an ocean - there's no clear cut line between the content you want to catch and the stuff you'd rather leave where it is 

That means whenever one of these core algorithms turns up, several well-meaning bystanders tend to get caught in the net. Virtually every core algorithm update comes complete with horror stories of businesses whose rankings change dramatically overnight. It’s also why these updates tend to make SEO folks pretty stressed.  

But how can we tell when a core algorithm update has happened – or even better, when it’s on the way? 

 

How to spot a wild core algorithm update 

Unlike the smaller everyday updates, core algorithm updates tend to get a lot of attention. Sometimes Google announces them in advance, sometimes they announce it on the day (generally via Twitter), and sometimes they keep it to themselves. The bigger the bombshell, the bigger the publicity and the bigger the splash it’ll make throughout the SEO world.   

If you want to find out what’s changing, it’s helpful to follow the Google Search Liaison account on Twitter, as well as paying attention to blogs like Hubspot and SearchMetrics – (and, of course, Fifty Five and Five…) who are generally pretty quick to spot these changes. 

Sometimes, Google will publish guidance on who these changes are likely to effect and what the ramifications are likely to be. Other times, they prefer to keep tight lipped and see if anyone notices. Their search engine, their rules. Naturally, this makes it pretty difficult to keep up of what changes are coming and when.  

The only definite way to limit the damage of such changes is through regular and thorough SEO auditing. That way, if there’s a big change to the SEO rankings of your content you can quickly see what’s affected, identify the trends and take positive steps to mitigate any damage. But as well as this, the type of content you create makes a huge difference.  

 

What pandas can teach us about SEO 

About a decade ago, Google decided that they'd had enough of 'content farms'. Such website were filled with realms of low value, keyword-stuffed content that made it onto page one of the search results through black hat SEO trickery - without providing much value to their readers. Google described such content as being "as close as possible to being spam, without actually being spam". An update was clearly in order.  

The idea behind the update, known as Panda, was to make search results better match the intent of their users. But what does that mean in practice? And what can we learn from that almost a decade later? 

Well, imagine you want to find out more about a topic such as, for example, Google core algorithm updates, and type “What is a core algorithm update?” into the search engine. Which of the two following articles would you say best matches your search intent? 

  • A detailed breakdown of the context and background to Google core algorithm updates, as well as an explanation as to what it means to you. 
  • An article with virtually no relevant informationwhich just happens to have the words “what is a core algorithm update” strategically placed all over the page to game the SEO rankings.  

Well I hope it’s the first one, anyway.  

The point is, the low-value, keyword-stuffed content might have been successful at gaining a temporary SEO boost, but it wasn’t really what readers were looking when they typed in the search term. Eventually, the rules were always going to catch up.  

 

Content that stands the test of time 

This game of cat and mouse has been going on since the earliest days of search – and isn’t likely to change any time soon. As long as search engines exist, there will always be people looking to game the system. But content that seeks to fulfill the user’s search intent has consistently managed to stay on the right side of the fishing net, for the clear and obvious reason that it’s precisely the kind of content that Google is trying to promote.  

If you’re writing content that’s genuinely valuable and satisfies the search intent of the people reading it, it’s highly likely you’ll be able to handle whatever spanners the gods of search throw in the worksSo, if you want to avoid getting caught out by the latest core update, the one helpful piece of advice is the only thing you can rely on Google to tell you every time an update happens: Write good content.  


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6 digital marketing technologies to help you raise your game

Technology has permeated every aspect of our lives, from the way we communicate to the way we shop. Marketing has become an art that’s primarily digital. No matter what you’re selling, and to whom, technology can improve the quality of your marketing output and, ultimately, help you generate more leads. In this post, we’re going to examine the current state of six digital marketing technologies, and how you can use them to raise your game. 

  • Social media 
  • Paid media 
  • SEO 
  • Email 
  • Reporting 
  • Training 

You already use all of these technologies, right? Well, let us blow your mind.  

1.  Social media  

Social media can be used to build your brand identity, to reach out to your existing customers and to find new audiences. It can be used for thought leadership, to enhance your SEO rankings and as a direct channel for people to interact with your brand. Most organisations already know this, but they invest hours in social media management without having a good idea of how to get return on investment.  

The key to using social media is knowing what you’re using it for. Are you looking to create brand awareness? Then that goal needs to inform the way you use social media - you need to target your audience, create relevant content and maintain a strong brand.  

What tools to use and why? 

If you’re looking for greater visibility over your social channels, detailed insights about what is does or doesn’t work or greater control over publishing posts through automation and scheduling, these tools can transform what’s possible with social media. If you want to produce quality posts that engage and grow your social following across multiple channels, then these tools are exactly what you need. 

Hootsuite is one of the most popular tools for enhancing your social media output. It supports over 150 integrations, allowing users to update multiple networks in one step. It’s also capable of analysing over 200 metrics, so you can create a dashboard that perfectly tracks your business’s goals . It’s the perfect first tool to get started when you’re investing in your social media management. 

Hootsuite’s dashboard 

Sprout Social is a social media scheduling, monitoring and reporting platform that offers a customer relationship manager (CRM) feature. This enables you to create profiles of your customers, which will lead to stronger relationships. When it comes to social media followers, it’s about quality over quantity: having many followers who don’t interact with your channel is less valuable than a few followers who do.   

Sprout Social’s CRM platform 

Revive Old Post is an excellent tool to get maximum impact from your content. It helps you schedule new and old content that can be automatically posted in regular intervals that targets your audience. Many businesses make the mistake of never reposting their content, but it’s essential to reshare content in order to improve its performance. This tool will help you create a schedule that works for you.  

Revive Old Post PRO 

Loomly isn’t just a social media management tool – it’s also an idea generation platform to help you create ideas that will resonate with your audience and tie in to current trends. It suggests ideas related to your industry, any holidays or national days that are close, trending hashtags, and more. You can even integrate it with Zapier so that your content generation and publication processes are entirely streamlined.  

Loomly’s post builder 

Having a social media channel is an excellent way of reaching new audiences and creating a recognisable brand. These social media tools represent just a fraction of what’s available on the market to help you make the most of your content and your social channels. Brands are going to be expected to keep up with social media and be present on an increasing amount of channels as times go on – best get started sooner rather than later.  

2. Paid media 

Paid media is an external marketing effort that involves a paid placement. This can include PPC advertising, branded content and display ads. It’s a crucial part of any marketing strategy: by picking the right platform and targeting the right demographic, paid media can ensure your message reaches the right audience. However, to do this you need the correct tools to track your campaigns. There are also great tools to help you develop a competitive strategy.  

What tools to use and why? 

Using a third party platform means you can extend visibility of your advert placements and find a larger audience. Your ROI needs to be optimal, which means a lot of planning and overseeing your long term strategy. A management platform simplifies the process, allowing you to target your audience more effectively and reduce your overall spend.  

There’s a great tool called SpyFu, which enables you to carry out PPC competitor research. Whether it’s a competitor’s estimated monthly spend, the keywords that they are targeting or how well their ads are ranking, SpyFu gives you insights to help put together a highly competitive campaign strategy . 

SEMrush is a popular paid media tool that offers an extensive keyword database. It makes building ads simple -using information about the ads posted by your competitors to ensure that they have the best chance of ROI. This chance for better audience targeting means your PPC campaigns will be more likely to succeed. 

SEMrush’s dashboard 

Leadpages is a tool that’s suited for smaller businesses who are looking to engage with their core audience on social media channels. It acts as a funnel, sending your target audience to a specific landing page designed for them. When it comes to social media followers it’s a case of quality over quantity – if you can engage with a small selection of more interested followers, your content is more likely to see conversions. It’s integrates with with Google Ads and Facebook Ads, so you can capture leads effectively and quickly.  

Leadpages’ dashboard 

PPC is an investment that takes research and precision to get right. Before intelligent digital marketing tools, it was simply a case of buying ads in places you thought your audience would see them and hoping for success. But now, with the amount of research and segmentation that’s possible, your business stands a much better chance of getting seen by the right people. 

3. SEO 

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is all about staying visible on search engine results pages. It feels like an arcane art sometimes because Google is forever changing its algorithms. Staying on top of these changes is hard enough but being able to adapt your SEO to these changes and stay ahead of competitors is the real challenge.  

What tools to use and why? 

Moz is a great bet for continued SEO success. Not only does it offer useful educational resources to keep on top of SEO best practice, but the Moz all-in-one SEO toolset provides the full range of capabilities that you need. It tracks desktop and mobile keyword ranking, allowing users to easily keep tabs on any and all active keywords. This intelligent keyword analysis is supported by other features like link building and opportunities, site audits, search visibility score and page insights. 

Moz’s dashboard 

DeepCrawl is a unique website crawling tool. It provides SEO auditing that shows you a deep dive of your site issues to assess your overall site health. With features like backlink tracking, device breakdowns, ad hoc keyword research and more, DeepCrawl puts you in a great position to begin improving your SEO from. It’s not a tool for keyword research or position monitoring, so it’s perfect for SEO newbies.  

Deepcrawl’s dashboard 

In today’s competitive online world, it’s not enough just to use SEO practices and hope you rank above competitors. You need to use the right tools to find the right online niches to occupy. Long tail keywords, in particular, have become a beacon of hope for small businesses hoping to rank on results pages. Taking SEO seriously means doing your digital research and picking the perfect keywords.  

4. Email 

Our email inboxes are awash with communications competing for our attention. With so much competition, you need to make sure you optimise your emails so they stand out from the crowd. Great email marketing isn’t just about open-rates but click-throughs and conversions. It’s not just about getting people to open your emails; you need to offer actual value.  

What tools to use and why? 

MailChimp is our tool of choice for sending out emails. MailChimp allows you to automate your email marketing with simple A/B testing, ready-to-use campaign templates and a simple email designer, so you can focus on the strategy to guarantee that your emails add value to the target audience. ‘MailChimp reports’ make it easy to track how successful your emails are at engaging with your audience, using advanced segmentation for precise targeting, distribution by time zone and comparative data reporting. 

Mailchimp’s dashboard 

SendinBlue is a digital marketing suite that includes an email marketing platform. It’s easy to build emails with a drag and drop editor, and it offers personalisation, data list segmentation, automation and analytics. The free version is more than enough to keep a small business going, offering unlimited contacts and up to 300 emails a day, so this is an ideal way to get started with email campaigns.  

Omnisend, as the name suggests, is an email marketing tools with omni-channel capacity. Within the automation workflow, you can add additional functions like push notifications and social media messages alongside your email campaigns. This is a wider approach to email marketing, incorporating it into targeted workflows that reach your audience using multiple personalised methods. It’s ideal if your marketing resources are stretched, giving you a single tool with plenty of functionality.  

Omnisend’s automation dashboard 

Email marketing is one of the core tools for a marketing team for a reason; it’s excellent at nurturing leads into customers. It also offers an opportunity to create a dialogue with your audience, sending them targeted updates and offers that’ll pique your interest. It’s a more one-on-one dynamic, and that means gauging the tone and the relationship between you and your audience correctly. The name of the game here is personalisation. 

5.  Reporting 

40% of marketers said that demonstrating the ROI of their marketing activities is one of their greatest priorities. Marketing professionals are under pressure to prove that their campaigns are creating business value. These days, marketing is very much a numbers game. You need to be able to report back to the C-Suite with hard evidence that your campaigns are working – otherwise the budget for your next social campaign will dry up. 

What tools to use and why? 

Most tools and platforms – from the social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to the dedicated-marketing tools like Hootsuite – offer in-depth analytics. Google Data Studio collects real-time data from YouTube, Google Ads and Google Analytics to help you create dynamic, interactive dashboards. It’s also compatible with multiple third party data sources like Twitter, MailChimp and Salesforce. Google Data Studio helps users put together reports that are fully customisable, easy to filter and easy to share.   

Google Data Studio’s dashboard 

However, for that added bit of magic to pull everything together, Google Analytics stands head and shoulders above the rest as a tool for measuring the bigger picture – particularly by monitoring traffic arriving on your website and how site users are behaving. Google’s machine learning capabilities mean that Google Analytics can generate insights you just can’t get anywhere else.  

Google Analytics dashboard 

Cyfe is a popular tool for marketers because of its comprehensive reporting. It tracks just about everything within your business, from social media to analytics, and sales to KPIs. There are more than 250 metrics available to measure, and it’s easy to integrate with other services like Google and Salesforce. The dashboard is fully configurable with pre-populated widgets that can be tailored to each marketer’s need. The reporting is all-encompassing across your business, so this is a great tool for businesses without much room for new tools.  

Cyfe’s dashboard 

Instead of thinking of reporting as the culmination of your efforts, you need to think about it as the way that you justify future investment in your marketing efforts. After all, management want to see results and return on investment – this is the best way to show that the tactics you’re using are successful, and that you have ideas about how to improve in future. Digital reporting tools are your best friend when it comes to innovation in your marketing efforts.  

 6.  Training 

In a sector where change is almost always constant – SEO is a great example of this – it is essential to keep on top of the latest marketing platforms. In this respect, to succeed in marketing you need to be a life-long learner. You need to be open to change and ready to pick up new skills all the time. 

What tools to use and why? 

There are several tools that can help you keep up with the latest digital marketing platforms and skills. LinkedIn Learning is a great example – with a wide range of professional courses and tutorial videos. There are courses for every level from beginner to expert, and even over 16,000 entirely free courses. From the technical aspects of PPC to the writing skills you need for engaging content, there’s a course here for everything.  

LinkedIn learning  

Another great example is the Top 50 Microsoft Partners benchmarking tool; a tool created by our team at Fifty Five and Five. Using a wide variety of metrics, you can rank your company’s marketing efforts across its social output, website and blog. See where you rank today.

The Top 50 Microsoft Partners dashboard

Google Digital Garage also offers a fundamentals of digital marketing course that’s extensive enough for any beginner. After all, a lot of digital marketing is about working with Google, so why not go directly to the source for more information? It’s self-directed, with 26 modules coming in at around 40 hours, so it’s a handy way to get started for free. 

Keeping on top of your marketing education is essential – things are always going to change, and if you don’t keep up then you’ll get left behind. We like to think of training in marketing as a way of investing in the success of our future efforts.  

Why are digital marketing technologies important? 

There’s now such a wide range of applications to help B2B marketers that it can be hard to decide what your team requires. A recent BrightTALK study found that lack of resources such as staff, funding and time remains the biggest obstacle to successful B2B lead generation for 61% of respondents’. With that in mind, more marketers are going to rely on digital tools to streamline their marketing efforts. 

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer variety in the market, but the key is remembering what your business is trying to accomplish. Create a strategy and set goals – this will make it easier to identify features in tools that will be most beneficial to you. There are thousands of tools available, so make sure to create a list of the most beneficial services your business needs before you get started researching. 

We hope this guide can point you in the right direction to find the technology that your marketing team requires.  

 

At Fifty Five and Five, our expert marketing team use a variety of digital marketing technologies to help them deliver the best results for our clients. To find out more about our team, what we do, and the technologies we use, get in touch with us today.


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How to write for email campaign success and actually get results

When it comes to email campaign success, starting from scratch can be daunting. It’s predicted that we will be sending and receiving upwards of 347 billion daily emails by 2022. With all this noise, how could your emails even be noticed – never mind opened?

But there is a way. It’s about being simple, engaging and consistent. We’re going to share some straight-forward steps you can use right now to bring your email campaigns to life and enjoy actual results—and good ones too.

Identify the goals for your email campaign 

The first step in this process is identifying exactly why email should be your preferred option. The clearer your goal, the easier it will be to measure progress and results once the campaign has been executed.  

For example, goals for your campaign could include persuading recipients to: 

  • Download an eBook 
  • Sign up to a webinar 
  • Buy a specific product or service 

As well as provoking actions like these, campaign goals could also include: 

  • Getting recipients interested in your offerings 
  • Raising brand awareness for your business 
  • Re-engaging or nurturing current subscribers  

Once your goal is established, you can get started on defining your audience.  

Who’s reading these emails, anyway? 

Now, before diving into copy, you must first outline exactly who your emails will be seen by. If you’ve been doing email marketing for a while, you’ll no doubt already know who your audience is. But if you’re new to the scene, you’ll probably need to make a few educated guesses so you can tailor your content effectively.

Use Google Analytics

To do this, you can use Google Analytics to access data on demographics, interests, locations and so on. This will provide a snapshot of who your customers are and what they are interested in. 

The trick with successful emails is to make them personal. By segmenting your audience, it’s easier to send emails that at least feel personalised.

Curate effective emailfor your audience 

With your purpose and audience in mind, you’re all set to begin writingHere are a few simple pointers to keep in mind:  

  • Keep it short and sweet 

When taking into account the sheer volume of emails sent and received every day, it’s important that your copy is engaging. Avoid wafflekeep to the subject and add value 

  • Provide clear and obvious value 

If you only send promotional emails, your readers will likely lose interest. Keep them interested by outlining how your business or product can benefit themSeems too obvious but make use of bullet points and bold text so that the important parts of an email are easy to find.  

  • Stay relevant  

When writing your emails, always keep your audience in mind. What is it that they want and need? How can you address their pain points? Rather than focus on what you’re trying to sell, you should focus on what your readers need.  

  • Include a clear CTA 

What is the overall objective of your email? The call to action you include needs to be immediately obvious and move the recipient towards your goal. So, if you’re looking to encourage sign-ups for a free trial, your CTA might read ‘Sign up now!’  

  • Check, check...and check again 

Once the email is written get a second or third opinion, proofread and ensure you’ve ticked off every point in this list. When sending out an email to a large mailing list, you really don’t want to make any avoidable mistakes.  

Add the finishing touches 

When it comes to selecting imagery for your emails, we’d recommend avoiding stock photos – or at least the most obvious and artificially-posed ones – as these can deter readersAdding a few interesting images can boost the click-through rate but be mindful of the file size – as images that are too big can trigger spam filters, sending your email to the junk folder. 

Your email campaign also provides a good opportunity to highlight your website and social media platforms. Add links where possible to drive people to your site. This shouldn’t distract from the overall objective of your email, but it certainly can’t hurt to include a few inbound links where relevant.   

Create your email template  

Fortunately, there are plenty of email providers (we use Mailchimp) that will allow you to set up and schedule emails with no need for coding.  

A crucial consideration here is responsive design. This ensures that your email looks great on every device and will improve your click-through rate (CTR). If you’re using an automated email platform then this will be taken care of for you. If not, there are lots of tips out there for responsive design best practices!  

Set up tracking devices  

Before sending your emails out into the world, you’ll need to track them. This is the best way to quantify the success of your campaigns, and it can be executed with relative ease by using a tracking pixel.  

The gist of it is that a tracking pixel is added right before the closing body tag of the email. Then, when this image is loaded by the reader, the image request is logged by the server. This information is then collected by your chosen analytics service and you can access statistics on click-through rates, open rates and more. 

Testing! Testing! 123 

With all of the above in place, you’re ready to test your email. This should involve sending it out to multiple email accounts (accessed from a variety of devices) so that you can ensure everything looks as you want it to. Different email providers tend to display emails differently, so you need to check that yours works across the board.  

This stage is vital as it gives you the chance to iron out any creases before your email is sent. Any issues that you spot should be addressed, and the testing process repeated 

What are you waiting for? It’s time to push the button 

Sending mid-morning during working day seems effective in terms of open rates. To find your optimal time, it’s best to trial a few different times and analyse which gets the highest engagement.  

Let the data do the talking 

Hopefully, you will gain lots of useful insights from the data your campaign accumulates. Understanding this data is vital to understand what works and identify areas for improvement. We suggest looking at:   

  • The success of your CTA – does it need tweaking next time? 
  • How many readers are using mobile devices? If you have lots of mobile users, you’ll want to focus on mobile-friendly design. 
  • Who is least engaged with your emails? You can segment these contacts out and then try to retarget them with tailored content in the future.  

Pick a partner to do all the grafting for you 

We hope this article has provided helpful insights to get your email campaigns off the ground and produce fantastic results. However, if you don’t have the time, resources or knowledge to achieve this by yourself, we have heaps of email marketing experience and would love to lend a helping hand.  

 

If you’d like further help with email marketing, get in touch with a member of our team today. You can also check out our website for more information. 


Illustration men shaking hands

It’s time to reinvigorate your best lead generation strategies

What your marketing can learn from Rocky IV 

(Please bear with me while I relate lead generation strategies to a boxing film from 1985...) 

Remember that training scene in Rocky IV? Sylvester Stallone goes to a Russian farm in the dead of winter to get in shape for his bout with Ivan Drago. While his opponent uses state-of-the-art equipment, Rocky trains by hacking at trees with an axe, lifting logs, sawing wood, pulling sleds, crawling face first through the snow.  

What’s my point? Well, who won the fight? (Spoiler alert: it was Rocky) Cutting edge technology can provide an advantage but it doesn’t replace good old-fashioned grit and determination.   

Let’s move from the boxing ring to the marketing gauntlet - 61% of marketers say generating leads and site traffic is their top challenge. 85% of marketers say lead generation is their most important goal. Lead generation is hard. Almost as hard as defeating a giant Russian boxer surrounded by his comrades.  

It can be tempting to look for the ‘silver bullet’ that claims to boost your leads. in reality, it’s a result of consistent marketing efforts, ongoing relationships, interactions and everything else happening in a business’s day-to-day. 

Below we’re going to run through some old lead generation strategies and introduce some new ones too. But to generate those leads, just like defeating Ivan Drago, it’s going to come down to good old-fashioned hard work and staying persistent.  

#1 - Microsurveys 

Microsurveys are extremely short surveys, made up of a handful of questions that take a couple of minutes to complete.   

This has a variety of benefits over regular surveys. The short nature naturally brings a higher participation rate and, in terms of lead gen, you can approach people at a specific point in the customer journey. Sometimes, without them even leaving the page.   

Lead generation strategies in practice 

Let’s say you’re an IT consultancy targeting the top end of the sales funnel. By locating and focusing on customer pain points (pre-identified through marketing personas), you could create a microsurvey on the challenges they want to solve with your services. Embed this microsurvey on a webpage with high traffic and watch the responses roll in.   

A little further down the funnel, you could embed a microsurvey into the top of your email newsletter. Here, you’ve got a more engaged audience than your website and you can use that to your advantage. Adding a one or two question microsurvey in your newsletters is a great way to gather consistent, unique insights. Ask your subscribers what content they’d like to see and include it in your next newsletter!  

#2 - B2B influencer and word of mouth marketing 

Influencer marketing is where you encourage, persuade or pay market influencers to promote your product or services. This can encourage word of mouth marketing (even if those words are said over the internet) which can result in 500% more sales than a paid media impression.   

People listen to their peers. An individual is far more relatable than a brand. A shoutout from an influencer in your sphere can provide a big recognition boost, they can also add authenticity and credibility to your business through thought leadership content.

 

Lead generation strategies in practice 

Now, let’s say you’re an ISV. The first step is to build a pool of potential influencers. Tools like Audiense andFollowerWonk are great for this, helping you find and rank leaders in your industry or niche. Even something as simple as looking at the ‘most popular’ social accounts that follow your brand can net surprising results.   

Why not combine microsurveys and influencer marketing by asking current customers who (in your field) they like to listen to, read and watch?

It’s important to remember that building relationships with influencers is a gradual process. B2B purchases usually involve multiple decision makers, giving the ultimate decision more nuance than in the B2C space. The good news is, the average B2B purchase dwarfs that in the B2C market, giving successful referrals a huge impact.   

Aim to start small. Thought leadership content is a good first step and can be a gentle introduction to your product and brand. Once they’re on board, educate them on your product. Despite being experts in their field, the more they know about your product and brand, the more genuine their marketing will be.   

#3 - Lead magnets 

Also known as gated content, lead magnets offer a long-form resource, such as an eBook or whitepaper, in exchange for contact information. Essentially providing information for free, this can be hugely tempting for the reader.   

This might be number one on the list of lead generation strategies, but one lead magnet stands tall in terms of success rate: webinars. Adobe Connect found a 51% average registration conversion on their webinars, leading to 36% live attendance and a further 55% viewing the recording post-event. This opens the door to a series of polls and further communication during the webinar as well.  

Lead generation strategies in practice 

Start a webinar! Or other content that involves the ‘human’ element, like podcasts or a video series. If these are live events, signing up will feel like a natural step of the process. Even if visitors are getting pre-recorded content, knowing that they’ll see or hear from a real person - not just read some text - helps usher form filling.   

#4 - Never underestimate the power of a landing page 

The landing page is the step between lead magnets and form filling - the dedicated space where a visitor becomes a lead.  

This might seem obvious, but that’s because it’s proven to work, time and again. It’s also because we still see companies link CTAs to their homepage. A call-to-action should always drive a visitor to a place designed to convert them into a lead.   

So, you know that landing pages are critical to success. How do you make sure they actually convert your visitors into leads? We’ve got a step-by-step guide that explains exactly how. 

Lead generation strategies in practice 

This time, you’re a marketing agency offering best practice advice and content marketing for B2B tech companies. You’ve got an avid reader approaching the end of your blog (sound familiar at all?) and there’s some relevant, in-depth content that could help them further.     

Lead generation is an uphill battle, but every great training montage features a rise to the top. Rather than reaching for the next advanced piece of technology, change your mindset. Go back to basics, thinking of ways to improve and optimise what you’ve already learned. Yes, it’s hard work. But as Rocky said: “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change.”  


Illustration people with thumbs thought balloons

Our team’s top tips for B2B marketing automation

It might be an unpopular opinion, but sometimes I do wish the robots would take some of my jobs. When it comes to tedious and repetitive tasks like creating targeted mailing lists, or personalising individual user journeys, actually, you know what? Take it away, robot friends.  

Bill Gates is widely credited with saying that lazy people will find an easy way to do things. I think Mr. Gates has it slightly wrong here – sorry, Bill. It’s actually smart people that find an easy way to do things. That’s why we have the amazing tools that we have today – very smart people built incredibly complicated software and algorithms so that computers can automate tasks or analyse data so that we don’t have to. That’s brilliant, and I want to get in on it. 

In this blog, I’m going to tell you how you can use B2B marketing automation effectively to make marketing jobs easier and our work a lot more impactful. There will also be insights from some other members of the team who use automation regularly in their work for our clients. Let’s start with that classic mainstay of digital marketing: the email.   

Smart, responsive email marketing 

Many businesses use email marketing to communicate with leads and existing customers. It’s one of the oldest, most established, tried and tested formats. Automated email marketing usually comes under one of the following categories:

  • Event-based emails that are triggered by pre-defined events or user behaviour 
  • Drip-feed email content that’s scheduled to be deployed at specific times 

Trigger events include when someone joins your email list, clicks a link in an email, fills out a form or visits a page on your website. When these things happen, you can pre-define an email to be sent out to them. This is a great way to follow up from previous points of contact and nudge a prospect along the path to a sale.  

Drip-feed email content is a series of automated emails to subscribers sent out at pre-determined intervals, usually forming the bulk of your email campaign and taking prospects on your lead nurture journey. These emails are perfect opportunities to provide leads with content that will support your sales pitch – links to blog articles, eBooks and more.   

Here at Fifty Five and Five, we often use Marketo and Mailchimp for our email marketing automation. As well as scheduling emails, today’s sophisticated B2B marketing automation tools often allow you to make use of your customer contact lists in clever ways, and they can also provide valuable data on how your email campaigns are performing.  

I asked our marketing executive Maria about how she uses Mailchimp. Here’s what she said: Mailchimp helps you to build an email campaign by sorting your audience based on some specific characteristics (such as where they're based, what they signed up to before, etc.) and it pulls them into the campaign. Then, once you launch the campaign, it sends the email to who you choose to be part of the pool and it gives you useful insights, such as open rate, drop rate, etc. that help you to shape up your campaign.  

In summary, Maria also added: “Email automation is a great help in reaching out to leads and providing them with "richer" information on your product or servicesAnd, when it comes to managing large amounts amount of data – thousands of emails or more – these tools can save a lot of time and reduce the chances of making mistakes. 

Optimised paid media advertising  

B2B marketing automation can also be highly valuable in the world of pay-per-click advertising. Running successful paid media campaigns is a skill, and it requires an awful lot of time, in the prep and planning stages, through to creative design and execution. However, once the strategy and assets are agreed, it's time to be smart in order to achieve the best results possible. That’s where automation and machine learning can help. 

For example, if you're running a Google Ads campaign and not using 'Responsive Search ads', you're missing a trick. These ads use Google's algorithms to serve potential customers with the most personalised combination of copy you have provided. That means the user sees something more relevant to them, and you can benefit from better results and performance. 

Bidding algorithms are also hugely helpful in the paid media world, as our Head of Client Services Aidan Danaher explains: “Almost every platform provides this functionality, along with traditional methods like manual cost per clicks, or maximum CPC. What's great about this approach is it will optimise based on the objectives you've set, improving that ever-important customer journey, and ultimately the conversions for your campaign. 

As Aidan says, functionality like Responsive Search ads and bidding algorithms are now a vital part of the paid media toolbox. Businesses today should definitely be harnessing them across their pay-per-click marketing.  

Scheduling your social media campaigns 

Social media marketing is another area where B2B marketing automation can offer serious benefits. Scheduling and automating your social media marketing means whoever’s managing your social media accounts doesn’t have to concern themselves with remembering to post this or that post at a particular time – which may be when they’re sitting down to eat lunch or getting settled for a night of TV.  

Our writer and social media executive Megan explains the benefits: Social media automation allows me to keep a clear view of all our upcoming content. It's important to post consistently on social channels, and the tools we use allow me to plan ahead of time – so we never miss a day or an opportunity to engage our audience! 

Fifty Five and Five marketing executive Laura also had this to say on the subject: “To ensure the success of your campaigns in social media, timing is crucial. That means finding out at what time of the day your audience is going to be most receptive to your message. But we're all human – and sometimes very busy ones – so it's easy to forget to post. That’s where social automation becomes a game changer.” 

Top tips for making the most of social media automation  

No more grappling with time-zones 

This ability to schedule social media activity at any time of day or night is especially useful if your team want to post in different time-zones. They don’t have to be awake at 2am to post because it’s midday somewhere else in the world. With social media automation, they don’t have to be.  

Keep a healthy balance  

This isn’t to say that all your social posts should be automated. Social media is, by its very nature, supposed to be dynamic and personal – there’s no substitute for posting in the moment.  Ad-hoc social activity capitalising on recent events, news stories and trends ensures your followers stay engaged, and don’t feel like they’re just following a bot.  

Be careful with your responses 

On a similar note, think carefully before using automated responses to social media interactions – this can easily come across as lazy and impersonal. We’ve all received an automated “Thanks for following!” DM and thought, “OK, great, but so what?” A good rule of thumb is to automate your campaigns and use real-time personal interaction for the rest.  

Choose the right tool for the job 

Hootsuite is the social media automation tool of choice for organisations all around the globe, including our own. It’s simple to set up and use, with an intuitive dashboard interface and support for all the most important social networks including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. 

I asked Laura about the benefits of using Hootsuite for B2B marketing automation. Here’s her reply: “From my experience with Hootsuite, I can say that it helped me a lot in previous campaigns to get the right message across to the right audience while making sure that my campaign execution was following the strategy thoroughly". She’s summed it up well.  

Ready to get started with B2B marketing automation? 

I hope this blog has been useful in illustrating some of the many marketing automation benefits. Automation is addictive: once you start using it, you’ll soon be finding new ways to apply it to your role and across your whole business, making life easier for everyone and achieving some pretty impressive marketing results. You’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.  


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Win new work. Save your business. Cheer wildly. 

We all know the score. Trying to win new work is tough. Sourcing prospects, tailoring your marketing, arranging meetings and keeping potential clients happy whilst they are courted by numerous competitors all takes a lot of effort. And, in the current climate, it’s harder than ever.

In light of this, we thought it would be useful to share some insights around what we’ve found works when it comes to selling ourselves to prospective clients, and the vital steps we take in the sales cycle journey. We’ll showcase our current approach to finding leads, outlining our sales processes and how our teams contribute – and how you can do the same.

We may be biased, but we like to think we’re quite good at what we do – so we’ve collated our key findings here. We hope that, by following this structure, you’ll be well equipped to perform a full health check on your business and uncover new ways for gaining leads and driving sales.

How do you currently win new work? 

To kick things off, we suggest taking a high-level view of the ways your business currently wins new work. This provides a super helpful insight into areas where you do well, and where there is room for improvement.  

It helps to organise this exercise into the following categories:   

Main channels for new work 

The likelihood is that there are already multiple facets to your business that have the potential to bring in new work. This may include: 

  • Existing clients. For many businesses, a high proportion of their revenue will come from work with current clients.  
  • Referrals. Former clients and current employees can be brilliant sources of new work. Never underestimate the power of a recommendation! 
  • Your website. Take a look at your website visits, content downloads and website leads – how do these elements contribute to your overall revenue? 
  • Social media. The potential for social media to bring in new leads is huge. Are your channels bringing in new work? If not, it may be time for a strategy overhaul.  

Website leads   

Your website should be set up with targeted keywords that address the services you provide. Keeping these keywords up to date and optimised is an ongoing process – and one that’s very important in bringing in leads. To assess how well your website is performing in converting leads, it’s worth looking at: 

  • The content you produce that surfaces on Google. For us, this is largely blog content – so we understand the necessity of putting out regular posts on topics our audience will find valuable. But whatever kind of marketing content you produce, now’s the time that it needs to shine.  
  • Traffic from social media. How many visits to your website come from your social channels? If certain channels already perform well, it could be time to put more effort into social media marketing there in order to fast-track new opportunities.  
  • Email content. Do you send out regular updates to your mailing list? If not, maybe it’s time to step up your email marketingKeeping in touch with current contacts is a great means of keeping your brand at the forefront of their mind – should they realise they need your services.

Keywords

How your team can help win new work

Aside from the pointers listed above, it’s worth remembering another valuable resource at your disposal: your people! Your team is comprised of individuals who could all prove to be great assets for business growth. This can take on many forms:  

  • Referrals. Everyone’s on LinkedIn these days, which means we all have large networks comprised of individuals and businesses who may benefit from your offerings. Tapping into this resource is never a waste of time.  
  • Employee advocacy. This simply refers to the promotion of a business by its workforce. This could involve getting your employees to share company information on their social media channels to boost engagement and brand awareness.  
  • Upselling on existing projects. The employees working on specific projects will be well placed to identify scope for more work. Encourage your team to strike up conversations with clients about new ideas for work, and to keep thinking about more ways to address their needs.  

It would be a mistake to overlook your employees’ potential for bringing in new work. Start conversations and get the ball rolling – once you’re all on the same page, you may be pleasantly surprised by the leads that could follow.  

What does your sales process look like? 

Of course, when new leads come in, it’s important that your whole organisation is ready to deal with them efficiently. For guidance, our process looks a little something like this: 

  1. New work appears as a case or an opportunity 
  2. For opportunities, we begin to plan appropriate resourcing to ensure we have the means to handle the workload 
  3. The pipeline and future opportunities are then managed by relevant account directors 
  4. Work orders are issued to clients and the entire process is signed off 
  5. Work commences and the whole team pitches in where necessary 

Finetuning your sales process will not only provide a better, more streamlined experience for new prospects (and keep them coming back for more!), but it will also put you in good stead for handling multiple opportunities as and when they arise. 

Spoiler: the best sales pitch is simply doing a good job 

We truly believe that being good at what you do, exceeding expectations, and consistently delivering good work is the best sales tactic out there. Every single piece of content you produce, whether it’s billable client work or internal marketing, needs to add value and showcase the very best of your expertise.  

At Fifty Five and Five, we’re always asking ourselves (and each other!) if we are offering value and producing work that will make clients want to work with us again. This is how we build relationships that have lasted as long as we’ve been around.  

If you need help getting your marketing on track so that you’re better placed to win new work, we’d love to talk through your options. Get in touch with a member of our team today to learn more about how we can work together to realise your full business potential.  


Report cover Digital top 50

Our all new Digital Top 50 Report

We’ve received many enquiries about our Top 50 Report in the last 12 months. Of course, COVID-19 and a virtual Microsoft Inspire have impacted us all somewhat, but we took the circumstances as an opportunity to fast-forward our plans for an all new Digital Top 50. You can find it at https://top50.live or read on to find out more. 

Top 50 goes digital 

So, we’re excited to announce that we will soon be launching the 2020/2021 Microsoft Partner Top 50 – in a brand-new digital form. For the first time, you can: Browse and navigate the Top 50 online, benchmark yourself against competitors, gain even more insights into your digital marketing efforts 

 

“We’ve always prided ourselves on the quality of the data and the rigour of our analysis. Now we’re giving everyone the ability to run their company through our analytics tool and not only find out their scores but also benchmark themselves against their competitors. In real time. For free!” 

 Chris Wright, Founder

Access real data in real time 

And that’s not all. The new Top 50 website will be running in real time, meaning data will be updated on a regular basis. We're also taking this chance to hone our scoring system even further this year. The brain behind our data is smarter, as our analytics engine has been updated to better understand what makes great content – and thus great content marketing. 

 

"The excitement and build up to the final reveal at Inspire grew year on year - Partners eagerly visiting our stand or visiting our website to get their hands on a copy of the Report and find out their position. Now you won't have to wait. Not only can you find out your score but you'll see how that compares to your peers and competitors."

Barnaby Ellis, Head of Creative

Stay competitive and ahead of the curve 

In our current climate, it’s more important than ever before to strategically plan your marketing output. To do this, you need a clear overview of your own strengths and weaknesses – alongside those of competitors in your field. By benchmarking yourself against competitors and accessing our data-driven insights, you’ll be able to track your marketing progress and ultimately improve it. We can help you to stay ahead of the curve and realise your full potential. 


Microsoft Inspire 2020 Satya Nadella highlights

To follow on from our blog about Gavriella Schuster’s opening keynote speech, this post will provide a quick round-up of the topics discussed at Inspire 2020 by Satya Nadella.

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, presented a half-hour keynote address at Inspire 2020, the virtual event, before making another appearance in an interview with Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster.

Here we will cover the highlights of his address, including:

  • Microsoft’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • How the partner network will navigate response and recovery
  • The value in Microsoft Teams for remote collaboration
  • The growing need for end-to-end security solutions

"We've been confronted by something unprecedented"

At Inspire 2020, Satya Nadella opened his keynote speech by celebrating the diversity of “our community of partners [and] global sales team.” He paid tribute to every business function, from sales and marketing to finance and operations – thanking them for all their contributions to Microsoft’s ecosystem and its customers.

He reflected upon how we, on a global scale, have been “confronted by something unprecedented” with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic issues of racial injustice and inequity in society. These issues, he stated, require a global response.

Nadella went on to commend the partner network, who he said have shown leadership amid such challenges – helping customers to become more resilient during this time of acute crisis.

“You’ve acted as digital first responders to the first responders, supporting those on the front lines of this pandemic, from healthcare to education to public sector, to critical manufacturing in grocery and retail.”

He continued to explain that, as we navigate the response, recovery and reimagine phases, we all have a collective opportunity and responsibility to define what comes next.

“It won’t be business as usual”

Nadella told his virtual audience how important it was to develop an acute sense of what should be rebuilt, and what needs reimagining. He also stated that the pandemic had accelerated a shift to the cloud – with 89% of CIO’s claiming they would hasten their public cloud investments. This figure, he went on, was at 54% prior to the pandemic.

The Microsoft Partner Network, Nadella explained, can build more successful businesses across fast growing areas like Teams, security and Azure.

“For Microsoft to do well, you all as partners have to do well. That’s ingrained in our business model...that’s why I always talk about us being a partner led company.”

“The hub of teamwork in Microsoft 365”

A key tenet of Nadella’s message at Inspire this year focused on Microsoft Teams. He outlined new and forthcoming updates for the app, including the Together Mode, due to launch this month. This new functionality, he explained, uses AI to digitally place participants in a shared background – making users feel as though they are sitting in the same room while reducing background distractions and making it easier to pick up on non-verbal cues often missed on video call.

“Our research shows that the brain exerts less effort when participating in a meeting using the Together Mode, compared to the standard grid view.”

“Businesses of all sizes depend on partners to provide critical security and compliance”

Nadella highlighted how Microsoft is helping customers protect sensitive information and meet compliance requirements. He referenced the new Endpoint Data Loss Prevention in Microsoft 365 which helps businesses to identify and protect information and data across all endpoints.

He discussed how security is a strategic priority for every organisation and that the shift to remote work only increases the need for an integrated zero trust security architecture that reduces complexity and cost.

“We’re the only company that offers integrated end-to-end capabilities across security compliance as well as identity powered by cloud intelligence.”

Nadella explained that Microsoft received eight trillion threat signals each day, and that COVID-19 has made the situation much more acute. Cybercriminals, he said, have exploited the fear and vulnerability created by the pandemic to scam people and organisations for personal information.

It's up to the partner network, he continued, to provide the end-to-end security solutions that are so crucial and essential for business across all industries.

"Microsoft is innovating to address customer needs across the cloud and edge”

Nadella turned to Azure and pointed to its AI and responsible machine-learning capabilities, which can help customers better understand, control and protect data and models. He referenced the multiple functionalities of Azure that make AI accessible and allow companies of all sizes to automate solutions and improve productivity.

“We are the only cloud that extends to the edge, from Azure edge zones for 5G to Azure Sphere for secure IoT – and we’re removing barriers for anyone who wants to migrate to the cloud by addressing their data sovereignty and regulatory needs.”

He concluded this point by highlighting how Microsoft are using such technology to make a positive impact in the world – encouraged by the “enormous potential for partners to have a local impact that ultimately has a profound global impact.”

Inspired by our Inspire 2020 Satya Nadella roundup?

Nadella’s key takeaways shine a positive light on the work being done by the Microsoft Partner Network. He highlighted the need for continual growth, innovation and the importance of staying connected so that communities around the world can build business resilience in these trying times.

Everyday innovation, from COVID-19 symptom checking bots to remote assistance working, has helped businesses, services and communities round the world adapt faster than ever to business continuity and resilience.

We learn about exciting developments in the Microsoft Partner Network each year at Inspire. With these insights, we help companies to realise their ambitions and achieve more through their digital marketing efforts. If you’d like to improve your marketing, drop us a line today.


Inspire 2020: The future of remote work takes centre stage

Like much of what’s happened this year, Inspire 2020 turned out a little differently from what we originally expected. Since 2018, the annual event has taken place in Las Vegas. This year, however, it took place in our homes, transmitted via laptop screens, phones and other portable devices. It was perhaps fitting therefore that the theme of this year’s conference was the future of remote work – and how Microsoft is supporting businesses in their remote working journey.

In this blog, we take a look through some of the key takeaways from the Inspire 2020 conference and consider how that will affect the direction of travel for the Microsoft Partner Network over the next year.

The rise of Microsoft Teams

No conversation about the future of remote work could be complete without a mention of Microsoft Teams. Before 2020, Microsoft Teams was already one of the most popular pieces of Microsoft software. Since the global lockdown, however, it’s only risen in popularity, with companies now relying on the software as a vital part of their business continuity plans.

In his keynote speech, Nadella acknowledged the significant rise in the popularity of the software, giving examples of businesses as diverse as a Miami based florist, L’Oreal, and the University of Texas now relying on it to keep going during the pandemic. The latter of this group have moved around 13,000 classes online since the going into lockdown.

Nadella also announced several new features to Teams, including ‘together mode’. This feature uses AI to digitally recreate the impression of being in a shared space with colleagues, reducing background distractions and making it easier for people to communicate. At a time when, for many, physical collaboration is impossible, Teams is working to bring people closer together.

Focus on: The Power Platform

We’ve heard plenty about how Microsoft Teams and similar software has helped countless businesses keep going during the pandemic. But it’s not the only Microsoft technology that’s featured prominently in the Inspire chatter over the last few weeks. The Power Platform, and in particular PowerApps, has enabled businesses everywhere to transfer more complicated processes into the remote working world.

Much of enabling remote work involves installing the right videoconferencing software and scheduling the right meetings. But not everything is quite this simple, as Nadella outlined when discussing the case of T-Mobile. After having been designated an essential service, they realized they’d need a way to share information about which employees were willing to work and where.

PowerApps: the unsung hero
Within 48 hours, PowerApps allowed the mobile communications company to build an app that encouraged employees to give information about their availability, location and willingness to work. This meant that the company had the information to complete this complicated re-allocation of staff, allowing the maximum number of employees to stay working, and enabling business continuity for T-Mobile.

All over the world, PowerApps is allowing companies to solve complex problems that would have otherwise made remote working either difficult or impossible. One of the vital takeaways of the Inspire 2020 conference is the emphasis that Microsoft is placing on those unsung heroes like PowerApps that have helped keep businesses afloat during this time.

The future of security and compliance

Earlier this year, companies were forced to facilitate remote working in the space of just a few short weeks. That means security, access and compliance has been top of every IT or network managers’ list of concerns ever since. As remote working is almost certain to be a fixture of working for the foreseeable future, this year’s Inspire conference featured a renewed focus on how companies can enable this safely. As Nadella said:

“The shift to remote working only increases the need for an integrated zero trust security architecture that reduces both the cost as well as complexity”.

Relying on people to remember information or maintain best practices is an inherently risky way of staying secure, which is why it’s so much more effective to build a security system that doesn’t require this. Using AI-powered risk-based, and multi-factor authentication, technology companies can start to build a truly secure IT system.

Planning for the future of remote work

For some time, enabling better mobility and remote work has been consistently discussed as vital trends in the partner network and wider technology world. The events of 2020 haven’t forced a drastic change in direction but they have provided a fresh stimulus, meaning the need for change is now more important than ever.

It’s clear that for Microsoft the future of remote work lies in supporting as many businesses as possible through their transition to a new way of working. And for partners, there is clearly vast business potential in helping transmit this ambition and direction directly to the customers that it will benefit.

If you need help communicating your message and direction to your customers, get in touch. We help technology providers of all shapes and sizes realise their ambitions.