Illustration man at laptop researching the difference between product and service marketing

The difference between product marketing and service marketing

UPDATE 27th July 2020 - This post has been updated with some additional information and even more advice. Read on to learn more...

  • Want to understand the difference between product marketing and service marketing? Then this post is for you.
  • We will show you the key differences between the two, with a focus on the B2B tech industry.
  • Understand what your audience is looking for.
  • Get top tips and practical advice.

Successful digital marketing is complex, with different strategies needed to help increase leads, boost sales, and promote your brand. And now it’s potentially more important than ever to get right. A starting point for success is understanding the difference between product marketing and service marketing. Let’s look at how they are different.

A report from McKinsey, the business consulting firm, found that B2B companies during this COVID-19 pandemic see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional interactions. What this says is that your business’s digital marketing strategy has an even greater opportunity to meet customers exactly where they are looking and generate and convert leads.

 

The difference between product marketing and service marketing

The obvious difference between product and service marketing is that products are tangible, and services are intangible.

 

Products

Tangible products are often thought to be easier to market as they can be shown, demonstrated, touched, displayed and are easier for your audience to understand in terms of value or whether they are needed. Whether this is true or not is difficult to call, especially when you consider the blurred lines of the B2B technology world, where products and services are becoming more and more entwined.

Regardless, the aim of your marketing strategy should include finding the right market for your product and promoting it in a way that gets the best response from your target audience. It’s important to remember that your product stays the same regardless of who you are targeting and can be returned if the customer is dissatisfied.

 

Services

 Services, being intangible, can be harder to show value. You can’t see or touch a service. Often, then, the goal of marketing services is to create good relationships with your target audience, developing and building trust. You are essentially selling yourself.

 

The traditional differences between product and services

...and how this might affect the marketing decisions around each.

 

Customisation

While products are designed, built and delivered to a range of customers ‘as standard’, services can be tweaked and customised depending on the needs or wants of customers. Your service marketing strategy should reflect this by highlighting the personal touches you provide or how you listen to your customers’ needs.

 

Delivery

When a business sells a product to a customer, the buyer takes it away with them. In the case of a service, the customer must go to the service provider if they want to enjoy or experience it. You cannot separate the service from the provider. For example, if you wanted to buy a DVD from Amazon, you click on the buy button and wait a couple of days for the product to arrive. However, if you want to enjoy the Amazon Prime streaming service, where movies are updated regularly, you need to head to the website and watch the film there.

When selling a service, make the customer experience as smooth and as simple as possible. It means making sure your customer touchpoints are connected and up to date.

 

Ownership

A product can be bought, used and then resold ‘second-hand’, while a service cannot – once it’s been consumed. A product is also a separate entity to the business who creates/sells it. A service, on the other hand, is always connected to the business who provides it. Marketing for services should be all about building the brand and personality of the service provider.

 

Expiration

It’s also important to understand that services are consumed immediately and cannot be returned once carried out. This is where the marketing goal of creating trust comes in.

Remember that if you provide a bad service, your customers cannot return the service, but they may not return as customers. Once a buyer has bought a product, it doesn’t mean they will buy from you again – but if they are happy with it, it’s more likely that they will. Providing a top-quality customer experience whether you’re selling a product or a service, should be priority number one.

 

Time

Usually, services are provided at a specific time for a specific period. After this, the service agreement must be renewed or cancelled. A product can be bought and owned without any time constraints.

Marketing differences here should centre around the value of low-cost monthly subscriptions in the case of services, or a ‘buy once, use forever’ message for a product.

 

An easy comparison

See the chart (source) below for a comparison of the differences between product and service marketing:

 

Product marketing Service marketing
Meaning Product marketing refers to the process in which the marketing activities are aligned to promote and sell a specific product for a particular segment. Service marketing implies the marketing of economic activities, offered by the business to its clients for adequate consideration.
Marketing mix 4 P's: Product, Price, Place, Promotion 7 P's: 4 P's + People, Process, Physical evidence
Sells Value Relationship
Who comes to whom? Products come to customers Customers come to service
Transfer It can be owned and resold to another party. It is neither owned nor transferred to another party.
Returnability Products can be returned. Services cannot be returned after they are rendered.
Tangibility They are tangible, so customer can see and touch it, before coming to the buying decision. They are intangible, so it is difficult to promote services.
Separability Product and the company producing it, are separable. Service cannot be separated from its provider.
Customisation Products cannot be customised as per requirements. Services vary from person to person, they can be customised.
Imagery They are imagery and hence, receive quick response from customers. They are non-imagery and do not receive quick response from customers.
Quality comparison Quality of a product can be easily measured. Quality of service is not measurable.

Bringing product and service marketing together

At Fifty Five and Five we market B2B technology and our clients are IT companies. In this world, companies are dealing much more with a productised offering, rather than simply selling peoples’ time. However, more and more of the products they are selling are sold as services (think Microsoft 365). The cloud has played a big part in this, causing companies to rethink how they offer services to their customers. So if you used to be a purely consultative business it’s important to understand the differences between product and service marketing so you can put in place the right strategy for your company. Our advice when talking about a product such as software which is packaged as a service, is to err on the side of the ‘service marketing’ camp.

 

Finding success in the SaaS boom

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, companies of all sizes, across industries, looking to stay competitive were realising the benefits of running their business with SaaS capabilities. However, just because the market is there, it doesn’t mean IT companies should be complacent about how they market themselves. This is most often to oversight when it comes to differentiation and brand investment

 

Differentiation

In a marketplace where there is a lot of competition, IT companies must find a way to stand out. If you are just another ISV or reseller you’re going to struggle. Through the right marketing strategy, they can do so.

 

Brand investment

Along with the right marketing strategy, you need to turn your company into a brand. Understanding how you are perceived by your audience (and using that knowledge to evolve your brand) is the key to your success.

 

For businesses in the B2B tech world, differentiating themselves in a competitive marketplace is difficult. Understanding the difference between product and service marketing is a crucial first step to success. Check out another of our blogs for advice on how to create a marketing strategy that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Your 4-step guide to creating great content

It’s 2020. You know the deal; effective marketing requires good content, but the internet is crowded with companies competing for clicks, scrolls and views. Creating content that stands out is harder than ever. And yet an effective digital strategy relies on it. So, what’s the solution? How do we create truly great content?

Many have tried to crack the secret to good content. And there’s no single trick to guarantee a piece of content will be truly great. No formula will replace personality, creativity and a strong brand voice. But there are certainly a few things that can help you along that journey.

1. Know your audience

The first key to creating truly good content is to know your audience. It might sound simple, but it’s true; if you’re not sure who you’re talking to, your content will never be able to truly sing. One of the best ways to achieve this is by creating personas before you start planning or writing your content.

A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal target audience, complete with a name, job title and back story. You can find this information by looking through your CRM or website analytics data. The idea is that by giving your ideal character a personality, it becomes easier to target content towards that person; ensuring the resulting piece of content is clearer, more specific and more relevant when the real audience finally reads your piece.

2. Offer a solution

The internet is awash with content. Everywhere you look there are how-to guides, listicles, roundups, recaps, webinars and anything you could possibly think of. Standing out in the crowd is difficult. But it’s not impossible. Good content achieves value by offering a clear solution to a specific problem.

Whenever you plan a piece of content, it’s important to have the audience in mind, and consider what they’re going to take away from the information you provide. Will it explain a tricky concept, will it provide advice, or perhaps simply give a unique opinion or worldview that they might not have encountered? Whatever the case, make sure the value you’re offering is clear, the points you make are concise, and you don’t leave the reader waiting too long to find the real nugget of insight or vital takeaway that you’re offering.

3. Tell a story

Many assume that B2B tech writing is dry, functional and lacking in creativity. That might be sometimes the case, but good content should be eye-catching, compelling and interesting, regardless of whether it’s travel writing or an explainer about Microsoft’s latest productivity update. And the key to that is in storytelling.

Consider, for instance, a company that installs a new productivity app. Which of the following statements is more compelling:

  • “John no longer has to spend two hours each day trawling through emails.”
  • “Productivity in the business has increased 20%”

That’s right; it’s the first one. Humans love a story. We love to meet characters, understand their wants and needs, experience what they experience. And even in the driest, most technical piece of B2B content, stories can be found. A story can be as simple as a character having a problem and finding the solution. It’s much more fascinating to talk about people and lives than it is to talk about abstract business benefits.

But whether you’re talking about software licenses of digital transformation, make sure your content is grounded in the stories of the people and lives that technology will impact.

4. Add value

Here’s a secret about online content; a lot of it isn’t very good - or more specifically, plenty of content fails to add value. It might be coherent, well written, eye-catching or funny – but if you’re stating the blindingly obvious or just repeating information that can be found elsewhere, you’re not creating good content. And chances are, your audience will pick up on that.

The benefit of the internet being awash with bad content is that it’s very easy to learn what not to do. So, when you’re planning content ideas, make sure to do some research into similar pieces of content. See what they’re saying, where they go wrong and where they add value. And then consider how you can make your content different; how you can say something different, give new information, perhaps even challenge a consensus.

Are you content with your content?

Creating good content isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort when done properly. If you offer something that isn’t available elsewhere, the readers will begin to flock in. And by presenting your content as informed, expert and unique, your readers will naturally assume the service or product you are selling is equally unique.

At Fifty Five and Five, we work with technology providers of all shapes and sizes to make sure their content really sings. That involves all of the things we discussed in this blog; finding an angle and telling a story, all underpinned with a detailed understanding of the audience and the subject matter we discuss. But it’s about more than just that; it’s about understanding the unique personality and culture of the companies we work with and finding how to translate that into truly winning content.

If you want to find out how we do that, simply get in touch today.


5 top PPC trends 2020

Whatever you can say about 2020 so far, nobody can claim it’s been uneventful. Businesses, markets, economies – they’ve all been on a rollercoaster ride in the months since the clock struck midnight, the fireworks went off, and this year began. And the world of pay-per-click (PPC) marketing hasn’t been sitting still either. As a digital marketing executive at Fifty Five and Five, I’ve been closely monitoring recent changes in the paid media world and evaluating how they impact the marketing landscape and how new developments allow us to better serve our clients. In this blog, you’ll learn my discoveries and what they mean for your business. Let’s explore the top 5 PPC trends 2020 has seen so far.

1. The rise of automation

Although some marketers have regarded automation with suspicion – and others have outright rejected it – it’s becoming a reality we can’t avoid. And one that’s starting to show significant benefits.

More and more marketers are adopting Google’s responsive ads and Facebook’s automated ads. Facebook’s offering hasn’t yet delivered the results we’re looking for in our tests, but the format is still young, so time will tell if they will improve PPC performance in future.

Google’s responsive ads achieved a click-through rate (CTR) of 5.69% in a recent PPC campaign – compared to a 4.32% CTR via the expanded text ad format. It’s a promising start, which might owe something to the fact the Google’s responsive ads were launched earlier (May ‘18) than Facebook’s (Dec ‘18).

In any case, it’s clear that automation is definitely the way the wind’s blowing. Here are three of the biggest benefits of getting on board with the trend:

  • Higher CTRs: Google’s responsive ads performed 5.75% better than expanded and converted 8.5% better.
  • Easier to understand: the Google Ads interface allows users to see whether their ad’s quality is good enough or need improvement.
  • Saves time: Optimise your ads and achieve better results with less manual tweaking and experimentation.

Now I’ll run through some top tips for making the most of PPC automation:

Be smart when building ads

Now you have a smart tool that tells you whether your ads are good or bad and whether you’ve inserted the keyword enough in the text. Be smart and select the best-performing keywords to implement in the copy so your ads will perform even better.

You’ve got time now. Use it well!

I’ve often faced the challenge of not being able to optimise negative keywords because I don’t have time. In the past, monitoring ads often required going through worse performing ads, analysing what isn’t working and talking to the writing team to improve them. That’s over now, so we can focus on other more important matters like keywords and improving audience targeting. For example, Google Ads provides the option to target a specific audience sector and it offers stats that help you see whether those audiences are performing. Marketers are also able to tweak the bid for each audience, which is an excellent way to use the time that automation is helping you save.

2. SEO and PPC are now a team

This year has also seen search engine optimisation (SEO) and PPC working increasingly closely together. These two disciplines are indispensable to a digital marketer’s toolbox, and their new convergence means that together they offer even more value. This PPC trend 2020 introduced is a victory for joined-up digital marketing: when all the elements fit together and work perfectly.

Here’s how SEO can help to improve PPC performance:

Increased visibility

By running a PPC campaign along with SEO, you’re ensuring your website’s traffic increases considerably and also you’ll give the impression that you are a permanent presence in your market.

More keyword data to analyse

Running SEO and PPC campaigns together means you can see and analyse a wealth of additional data that will enable you to make more informed decisions in your global marketing strategy.

Best-performing PPC ad copy informs organic content strategy

It’s useful to see which of your ads work well and lead to maximum conversions. You can then create title tags, meta description and content using these as your basis, learning from what has worked for PPC.

3. Audience targeting is getting better

More and more businesses are realising the importance of accurate targeting of their digital marketing, and of offering potential customers valuable content. At Fifty Five and Five, we’re already long-time devotees of the art of content marketing, so it’s good to see others are reaching the same conclusions we have.

Here are the most effective ways to reach your target audience via PPC:

Define your audience via personas

Defining your audience involves more than selecting the right keywords or targeting the correct audience in Facebook ads. By creating our own consumer personas, you’ll be able to be more specific and accurate with your targeting and ensure you’re building the right audience across all the different channels.

Offer useful and relevant content

Content isn’t just about getting the client’s offering out there and waiting for leads to come. Don’t just try to trigger clicks: provide content that responds to their needs at that moment. Using the right tone and expressing the intention to help will reach your audience and encourage them not just to click on the ad but go further, completing a lead form or visiting the website the ad links to.

Build a relevant audience in each platform

Each platform is different and they’re continually changing. It’s recommended to stay up to date with the latest news, so you can be a useful, credible authority for your audience. They have questions, and you want to be the one with the answers. For instance, if they’re following you for digital marketing news and insights, they may ask: “should we use hashtags in Twitter ad copy?” Or “should we build an audience on LinkedIn based on skills or job titles?” Keeping up with new announcements means you can provide the information they’re looking for.

4. ¡Viva el video!

Video is one of the most engaging types of content available to marketers, and we love to work with the format because of the amazing results it can deliver. The better optimised the video is, the better results you can get. For example, our latest video campaign on LinkedIn reached a view rate of 34.25% – which is higher than the benchmark provided by LinkedIn.

So how can we make the most of video content to create very successful campaigns? Here are our tips for the fundamentals:

  • Briefer is often better. Usually a short length of around 30 seconds is best.
  • Focusing on the content is the key. Be dynamic and get straight to the point.
  • Music matters. Don’t annoy your audience with a distracting background track.

5. It’s time for portfolio bidding

This is really clever and useful stuff, and a topic I’m fascinated with – it could be one of the most exciting PPC trends 2020 has brought. I could write an entire blog on the subject, and perhaps one day I will. But for now, let’s take a look at what portfolio bidding is and what it offers.

The PPC bidding portfolio is a library where you can store different bidding strategies used across campaigns and ad groups, as well as keywords, to help you reach your goals.

Here’s why I think the bidding portfolio is very cool:

  • It helps you to ensure all your campaigns are fully optimized at all times, giving you the best chance that they will succeed.
  • It saves lots of time in managing each campaign’s budget and it also gives you more control over what you spend.
  • Its new seasonality feature lets you tweak bids for specific periods of time. This means you can align them better with other activity.

I think you’ll be hearing the words ‘bidding portfolio’ more and more in digital marketing conversations as time goes by, so my advice is to get acquainted with it sooner rather than later. My prediction: it’ll get to the point where you wonder how you managed without it – like all the best developments.

What will be the next PPC trends 2020 brings?

I hope this article has been useful and that you’re finding these changes in the PPC landscape as interesting as I am. The year’s not over yet, and there’s still time for new trends to emerge before we usher in 2021. It’s a fast-moving world – let’s see what’s up next.


Illustration meeting giant cookie on whiteboard

No more third-party cookies. What’s next?

The digital world has been rocked by the news that Google plans to completely phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome, its web browser.

Why has Google made this decision? When do they want to have finished phasing out third-party cookies? What does that mean for internet users, businesses, and digital marketing?

In this blog, we’ll explore how the changes will affect everyone, as well as the steps businesses can start taking in order to make the transition.

But first things first. Some of you may be wondering, “What is a third-party cookie, anyway?” Let’s cover that quickly.

What are third party cookies?

Cookies record your individual preferences for the websites you visit. They’re used to identify individual users and give them a personalised browsing experience – the website ‘remembers’ who you are, so what you see is tailored to you.

  • First-party cookies are created and stored by the website you’re visiting at the time – a first party. They’re used by them when you visit to collect analytics data, remember preferences such as your language settings, and generally ensure that your user experience is smooth and personalised.
  • Third-party cookies are created by sites other than the ones you’re visiting – third parties. They’re commonly used to track users across multiple sites, and for retargeting and serving ads to them. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been “followed around the internet” by an ad or product which appears time and time again wherever you go, it’s likely you’re seeing third-party cookies in action.

Internet privacy issues

Being tracked around the web using third-party cookies and served targeted ads is an experience many find pretty spooky, and one that some find downright creepy. These sentiments are part of a wider backlash that’s taken place recently, critical of businesses seen to be compromising internet users’ privacy for commercial purposes. Tech ethics in general is a huge talking point right now, from data protection discussions around legislation like the GDPR to responsible deployment of AI.

Google is one of many companies making efforts to be on ‘the right side’ of Internet privacy. Back in August 2019, they announced their plan to develop a set of open standards to enhance privacy on the web: the Privacy Sandbox. The ultimate goal is for someday all a person’s browsing data to be stored in this ‘sandbox’, on the user’s device, instead of in cookies. And this data will also be anonymised for privacy compliance.

Phasing out third-party cookies is the next step toward that goal. The likes of Firefox and Safari have already phased them out, but Google is taking a more drawn-out approach, over a period of two years, to ensure that online advertisers can make the transition successfully. As of March 2020, the Google Chrome browser accounted for around 63% of the global market share for internet browsers. That’s why, although others have already blocked third-party cookies, this is the definitive event that truly sounds their death knell.

But what does all this mean for you, in the here and now?

Major consequences for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

These developments are sure to impact the world of paid media advertising very significantly. That’s because PPC ads rely heavily on using third-party cookies, and data gathered using them, to find, identify and target marketing prospects all over the web.

However, all is not lost. Even without third-party cookies, there are still ways to achieve highly targeted and effective marketing.

What are the alternatives?

  • Targeted ads in social media. You can launch targeted ad or promoted posts in social media. You can target audiences in terms of their industries, demographics, and similarities with your own followers.
  • Contact list retargeting. Retarget prospects on your contact lists on platforms including LinkedIn. Your contact list is cross-referenced with their member list, so you can serve ads to leads you’ve already identified.
  • Make the most of first-party cookies. You can still use first-party cookies on your site to obtain valuable user data. This can be used to refine your personas, create campaigns and improve your marketing.
  • Ramp up email and content marketing. Use existing and new data gathered via first party cookies, social media insights and more to make content marketing and email marketing really hit the mark.

A web without third-party cookies

Although the death of third-party cookies may pose some initial problems as businesses and markers phase them out and adopt other forms of marketing, in the long run it’s a necessary step toward fostering greater trust.

It’s also an opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition. The more other businesses and consumers trust that your data protection practices are above board, the more comfortable they’ll feel sharing their own data and giving you their custom. As with most tech ethics issues, the winners in the world after third-party cookies will be those who turn data protection into a point of pride, not a thorn in their side.

Want to discuss how you can make the most of your marketing without third-party cookies? Get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.


Onboarding: Lockdown style

Hi, I’m Roxy - Fifty Five and Five’s newest employee. Except, there’s a bit of a twist – I haven’t met any of my co-workers yet. Let me share my experience of onboarding during lockdown.

At the time of writing, I’m in my fifth week as a full-time employee at Fifty Five and Five. That means my first day occurred after the rest of the company had already packed up their monitors and laptops and set up at home.

If, like me, you were looking for a job around February, you probably experienced a fairly familiar recruitment journey, perhaps including a telephone interview, followed by a face to face meeting and so on. But as the recruitment procedure progressed, it became quickly clear that this wouldn’t be any normal recruitment process. From then on, the whole experience happened virtually.

Luckily, the experience was a success, and I managed to find myself a new role during the lockdown period. So, I thought I’d share my experience.

Virtual job interviews: A learning curve

Virtual interviews have been around for a number of years and shouldn’t really be that different from a face to face interview. In fact, I discovered that the more I treated it like a face to face interview, the better I’d be able to manage the situation. That meant preparing and doing my research in exactly the same way as normal, and thinking about the environment around me:

Where should I do the interview?

Am I comfortable in that environment?

What should I wear?

These are fairly simple questions that any one of would ask in this situation. But my main goal was really to make the experience as close to the real thing as possible – nerves included. So, I went about this process as I normally would, choosing the appropriate clothes and planning my questions and answers in advance. On top of that, I thought it wise to make sure I had a stable internet connection and a plan B in case anything went wrong on the spot.

It’s all about saying yes

On a normal day, the onboarding process starts as soon as you say yes to a job offer. Of course, I was delighted to get mine – but lockdown had certainly made the situation a touch more difficult than I expected when I first applied. I was a bit worried about starting a new job remotely, about having to get to know people remotely, making a good first impression and learning the ropes entirely from behind a screen in my own home.

So, how do you make such an important decision, involving people you haven’t met and will continue to not meet for some time? It was a tricky question, but in the end I realised that my new employers had probably had the same thought when they considered whether to take a chance and offer me a job. In the end, all it takes in these situations is for somebody to say “yes, we can make this work” and approach it with a positive attitude. So, after a little thought, I decided that I’d do just that – and, so far at least, have had no regrets.

Onboarding in lockdown 101

Once I’d accepted the job offer, it was time to prepare for my first day in the virtual office. I went through this process as if it were a regular first day. This included makeup, shirt and smart trousers – and even the right shoes. A lot of it wasn’t so much about impressing people via Microsoft Teams as it was about feeling like I was in the right headspace for starting a new job. I urge any of you starting a new job to do something symbolic to mark the start of a new role, whether that’s sipping coffee in your new mug, putting on a tie or even just re-arranging your desk. Sometimes the feeling of ‘new’ can really help.

From then I started my first Teams call and was officially an employee. Here’s a few things I learned in my first week as a Fifty Five and Five employee.

1. Introduce your e-self

As with all first days, we started with my colleagues introducing themselves and talking about their roles. I found it tempting to try and get every detail down – but it’s also important to take the opportunity to introduce yourself. In my case, I’d had three introductory calls before everyone knew who I was and where I come from. I then took a couple of minutes to also speak about my previous experience and what I wanted to bring to the team.

2. I hope you like Microsoft Teams

Meeting everyone in lockdown felt different, but I remained optimistic and positive. I wanted to learn as much as possible about my colleagues, so when we’re back in the office we can shake off the awkwardness of seeing each other for the first time in the flesh. Perhaps I’ll do a follow up post on how that goes down…

To my surprise, Microsoft Teams became a trustworthy friend in this experience. From the great quality of the calls, and being able to leave reactions to messages, Teams is really the glue that’s keeping the team connected right now.

But as well as that, from the comfort of my own home, I got a glimpse into who my colleagues were as people; sneak peaks into their hobbies, personalities and families. That made getting to know everyone a strangely unique experience - not being allowed to meet them in person, but also seeing more of their personal lives than you normally would during months of sharing an office. It bought us closer, which was an experience I wouldn’t have had outside lockdown.

3. Onboarding: Step by step

As a person who’s had a few onboarding processes, I must admit that my recent experience has so far been the best yet.

Allow me to explain.

Before the lockdown began, you’d start a new job with someone from HR walking you through the office, introducing you to colleagues, only to forget their names as soon as you reach your designated desk. Then you’d be added to countless meetings and by the end of the day, you’d be riding the tube with a double shot espresso at 7 pm hoping you’d get enough energy to make it to your bed. It’s a draining process.

My experience in lockdown was far better. My team lead organised an agenda stretched out over my first week and I got facetime with absolutely everyone in the company. I even got my own buddy (Hi Paulina!) - a colleague outside of my team that could talk to me about the company, culture and answer any silly question I had, of which there were plenty.

One thing I was really grateful for was that all the information I needed to start my job was stored in the cloud and was easily accessible from my kitchen. Apps like Notion, Dropbox and Asana were invaluable in helping me find processes, documents and keeping me organised.

Onboarding: Physical vs. virtual

Nothing beats meeting your colleagues in person and working your way into the team. But I’ve certainly learned that virtual onboarding has its benefits.

First of all, and perhaps most importantly, you get to turn your webcam off if you’re having a bad hair day. But as well as that, the lack of a commute is helpful, allowing me two more hours each day than I’m used to (I live in London after all). That meant I had a little bit more time to let information sink in and work out the ropes at my own pace. This gave me the breathing room I needed to develop a better sense of the internal processes and understand the bigger picture of how my work impacted everyone else’s. That meant that a process which would normally take a few months took a just a few weeks.

So, if you’re reading this and wondering whether it’s the right time to hire a new employee, or start a new job – take a little bit of advice from me. Almost anything is possible as long as you say yes. If you think the role and the company are the right fit, then go for it. It’s a new feeling for everybody involved but with a little positivity (and a lot of patience) absolutely anybody can do it.


Meet the team: Laura, digital marketing executive

We recently caught up with Laura Lopez, a key member of our Demand Gen team. She told us a bit about her working life at Fifty Five and Five and what she loves most about her job as a digital marketing executive.

Hi Laura. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Laura Lopez, digital marketing executive at Fifty Five and Five. In my role,  I cover most fields in digital marketing. This includes PPC, social media, SEO, and the strategy behind these fields as well.

Where are you from?

Zaragoza, Spain.

What did you study at university?

Journalism. I loved it at first and still love writing but I realised later on that journalism wasn’t right for me.

Where did you work before Fifty Five and Five?

Directly before Fifty Five and Five, I worked for a technology company in the Microsoft partner network. At first, when I started, I was so taken aback by all the Microsoft acronyms, I didn’t understand a thing. I spent the whole time trying to work out what all the Microsoft tools were doing. But now, I’m an expert. That experience really set me up well for this job. Sometimes I feel like a nerd. A Microsoft nerd.

If you had to pick a favourite area of digital marketing, what would it be?

Pay per click campaigns.

That was a quick answer.

I like working on Pay Per Click campaigns the most. PPC is more straightforward in terms of getting tangible results, fast. When you drive a lead gen campaign, you actually see people responding to your ads. Seeing people react to all your hard work is very satisfying.

Describe a typical working day… in the office.

In the office? The one that we don’t have access to at the moment?

If you can remember life before lockdown?

Ha. Ok. So, the day starts with me catching up on my tasks and projects. If there are paid media campaigns running, the first thing I would do is check on that. To make sure everything is in place in terms of budget, in terms of links, making sure everything works correctly.

Then I start catching up with SEO, to make sure we are on top of any updates or any algorithm changes that have happened. And the same for social media – for instance, if there are any notifications or mentions we need to be aware of for our clients.

Then we have our ‘stand-up’ meeting and I start in on my list of tasks for the day ahead.

It sounds like a busy schedule.

Yep, but it is enjoyable, rewarding work and we have a great team here at Fifty Five and Five that supports us.

What’s the stand-up meeting?

This is our daily meeting in the morning, where we meet with the entire company and quickly go through our priorities for the day. It's a nice way to catch up with everyone, but also to make sure we are on track and on the same page with all of the various projects going on.

What’s your favourite part of the day?

I think what I like most is analysing data and finding out the reason behind the performance of ads and campaigns. For example, when there’s a campaign going on, I enjoy checking in to see how it has progressed. Analysing how many leads we’ve got over the day and understanding why that has happened. This might sound a little bit weird, but I even enjoy having a quick check over the weekend. Even when I don’t have to. Just to see how it’s going.

So, this is 24 hours, seven days a week PPC?

Well, actually, when I am tired of Netflix, I go to LinkedIn and check it. Just to see if there’s anything exciting going on… ok, I am joking. Whoever is reading this is going to think, woah, chill out.

But, seriously, what I enjoy the most is research. Normally we come up against many challenges, because a lot of the work we do is quite technical and best practice is always evolving. I find SEO quite challenging in this respect. And so, what I enjoy most is when I research something and suddenly the light comes on and I find the answer to a problem. That is the happiest moment of the day, of the week.

I said that I love PPC because it delivers results fast. But I also love SEO because you never stop learning. And when you figure out an answer which helps you overcome a challenge, it feels great!

What skills do you think are needed to be good in your role?

Perseverance. Because some projects can be quite time – and energy – consuming.

It is important to have a positive attitude. It’s hard work. But it’s rewarding work. You know, I was only half-joking about looking at LinkedIn on the weekends. You might laugh but PPC is quite exciting sometimes.

Another important skill is wanting to learn. Being very open to the latest news, announcements and developments in every field. You should be… I don’t how to say it, but it’s important to be an expert in what you do, but at the same time you need to be open to what is going on in other areas of marketing, or technology, so that you can respond to challenges with a broad view and with a contextualised understanding. Because digital marketing is always a mix of different fields. Being open-minded and willing to learn is crucial.

What do you like about Fifty Five and Five?

The people… obviously. I love all the people at Fifty Five and Five. It’s a great team. If you need something, someone is always willing to help you.

There’s also always room for you to investigate your way through things. There’s no “it can’t be done” attitude. I like the freedom to be able to work on my own projects in my own way, but also, at the same time, knowing that I have the full support of the team.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out in your role?

I would say: always ask questions. There are many new things coming up every day. And it’s difficult to keep up, so we have to help each other.

Also, because things keep changing, it’s always good when someone comes in with a pair of fresh eyes. So, it’s really useful, when you are new, to speak up - because it can be helpful for the whole team. And everyone brings different experiences and skills to the job.

If you had to start again… in life… what would you do instead of marketing?

I don’t know. I started out in journalism. But I realised I didn’t like it. Maybe photography? I have always enjoyed that.

What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekend?

Before the lockdown my favourite thing was going out and exploring South London. I’m looking forward to doing that again soon.

Thanks Laura!


Illustration woman with magic broom

What we can learn about AI's ethical issues from Disney’s Fantasia

As technologies like machine learning proliferate across every aspect of our lives, they’ll also appear more and more across the business technology landscape. So, now is as good a time as any to explore an important question for AI research that all kinds of organisations will need to be aware of. Why is it important that AI is ethical? And, specifically, what are the ethical dilemmas associated with AI? To answer that, I’ll draw on a source you may not expect, which happens to be one of the most iconic animated films of all time. But first things first. Before we get down to the details of these ethical issues, let’s start by exploring what the ‘ethics of AI’ really means.

The Terminator lied to you

It’s vital that future applications of AI do good for humanity. In popular culture, we’ve often looked at AI as something that’s either intrinsically good or evil in terms of its intent. Often, it’s a sinister digital being that seeks mankind’s downfall: Skynetthe MatrixMegatronHAL 9000, etc.

This idea of AI having good or bad intentions is a red herring – at least right now, with the level the technology is at. We’re still a long way off machines with sentience or sentiments. AI is still very much a tool, with no intent of its own except what we programme for it. Terms like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are better applied to AI in terms of the end results of its actions. AI may be programmed with the intent to serve us well, but the road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

There’s a story I often bring up when talking about the dangers of AI: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It originally appeared in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 18th century poem, but you might have seen it in Disney’s extravaganza of animation and classical music: Fantasia.

The sorcerer’s apprentice, played by Mickey Mouse in the film, is tired of cleaning the sorcerer’s home, so he enchants a broom to do the work for him. This is AI fulfilling the basic mission statement of all technology. Right back to stone tools and the wheel: we create a machine to do the work to save us time and energy.

So far, so good. However, the enchanted broom is so good at its job that the place is soon flooded with water. Poor Mickey didn’t programme it to stop cleaning or set the right parameters for what ‘clean’ means. All the broom knows is that it was told to clean. The situation quickly spirals out of control.

This is the danger that AI really poses for us, right now. Not an evil robot wanting to take over the world, but a tool that’s good at doing a task we’ve given it, and the instructions we’ve given it are flawed. Or, in the case of AI that learns how to make decisions and do a job by itself, that it has learned the wrong lessons. AI is a great student: we just have to ensure we’re a good teacher.

It's a matter of trust

Trust is very, very important when it comes to AI. Popular culture has already led to some distrust – the portrayals of the evil robots in the movies. But, in reality, we don’t connect these images with the many everyday instances of AI making our lives easier all the time. Alexa. Google. Snapchat filters. Amazon and Netflix recommendations. We already trust AI to do so much for us.

As time goes by, we’ll be trusting AI with even more important matters. Whether your self-driving car decides to speed up or slow down, or whether it decides it’s seen a plastic bag in the road or a pedestrian. Or an AI checking medical records for signs of disease. You want to be able to trust that it’s making the right decisions, which could potentially be matters of life and death.

Explain yourself, AI!

This need to trust AI is where a concept called ‘explainability’ comes into play. If your mortgage decision has been turned down by an AI, you’re going to want to know why – or at least know that somebody, a human somebody, can understand why. That the AI’s thinking can be explained in terms we understand and we can say “OK, fair enough”.

The problem is, the smarter AI gets, the more it’s able to look at data and draw its own conclusions. That’s kind of the whole point: we don’t want to have to be constantly supervising and teaching AI, but to be able to let it learn to do its job from the data it gets. But the smarter AI becomes, seeing patterns we’d never see in huge, complex datasets, the harder it is for us to understand its thinking. It’s making connections we never would, because it’s got access to more information than we can handle, and it can see patterns that we can’t see in both the big picture and the tiny details.

What’s in the (black) box?

This lack of explainability is referred to as the “black box of AI”: AI decision-making as a closed box that we cannot see into, and therefore we cannot trust. A machine intelligence that is different to our own, which we cannot count on to look after our best interests and act for good. This is how the villain of popular culture manifests itself in modern AI, but not as an evil robot. It’s a machine trying to a good job for us, a dog keen to fetch the sticks we throw, but such an advanced learner that its decision-making is beyond our understanding and may mean it’s not making the right choices for us.

Explainability poses huge ethical issues in AI research, and it’s a safeguard that AI developers are working to build into their software. As AI becomes more and more widespread throughout our lives, there is going to be a call from the public for these safeguards to be used in the digital tools they come into contact with.

The next hot-button ethical issue?

When an AI developer puts ethical AI at the core of its research, they’re committed to an aspect of AI that may become increasingly demanded. It’s an issue that already affects us all right now, but its importance is set to skyrocket in the coming weeks, months and years. With the advent of data protection regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we’ve already seen data protection and cybersecurity become hot-button tech issues of our times, and it’s likely that AI ethics will become another.

Responsible tech companies, and those trusted by the public, will be the ones who learn the lesson of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Instead of blindly getting carried away with AI’s potential to work for us more and more efficiently, we must also make sure it's working for us in ways we can trust.

If your business needs to communicate corporate social responsibility messages about AI ethics, data protection or sustainability in tech, Fifty Five and Five can help. We understand the issues and the technology and have the experience and expertise to tell your stories and make your selling-points shine.


Lead generation secrets you need to know

It all starts with lead generation. And, according to marketing automation provider Nurture, 60% of marketers say that lead gen is one of their top three priorities, of which 26% claim it’s the highest. However, this cornerstone of B2B marketing can be the trickiest to master. At times, lead generation is more of an art than a science, making it hard for businesses to define concrete and actionable lead generation strategies. It’s a craft that needs to be honed if you want to practice it successfully. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some lesser-known, but highly effective, tips to boost your lead generation skills. Read on for Fifty Five and Five’s lead generation secrets you need to know.  

1. Understand lead magnets 

It’s not easy to stand out in the crowded, competitive B2B marketplace. It’s loud, crammed to the rafters, and you can easily get elbowed out of the way by other brands vying for attention. In these circumstances, first impressions really countthe first impression may be the only chance you get to create a long and fruitful relationship. 

Here’s where lead magnets come in. They’re the incentive you dangle in front of prospects in order to attract them to your business. Sounds a little cynical? Not at all. What you’re offering is something valuable: the solution to a business problem they face. It might come in the form of a piece of content, free consultation, or something else that helps them. And, if it’s good enough, it will earn you their business.  

2. Master the micro survey 

We’re living in a fast-paced, time-poor, low-attention world. More so than ever before. You can’t expect your audience to willingly answer 15-question feedback form. They’ll balk at being asked to take ‘just 10 minutes to answer our quick survey’. If that happens, you’ve just lost their attention – and their valuable input. The next of our lead generation secrets addresses this.  

Mastering the micro survey allows you to gain this vital feedback without subjecting your prospects or existing customers to lengthy, time-consuming questionnaires. If you can ask the right questions, with enough brevity, to deliver the data you need, then you’ll be able to create more effective campaigns, enhance your lead generation strategies and convert more of those leads into customers. The bottom line is that micro surveys will allow you to get insights faster and more often.  

3. Learn to mix it up a little 

As with all things in life, lead generation campaigns don’t last forever - no matter which combination of classic lead generation strategies you use. You may earn and convert dozens of leads over a short period, but eventually this will peter out. Every campaign has a shelf life. 

 Variety is the spice of life, and mixing it up, testing new approaches and staying flexible leaves you room to constantly transform. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to abandon the things that work, however. If one of your tactics is converting leads at a higher rate, maybe there are some tweaks you could make to keep it fresh or tap into a different audience. Try to always be evolving to meet the current needs and challenges of the market.  

4. Consider influencer marketing 

The consumer world has already enthusiastically adopted this trend, and 2020 looks to see the growth of B2B influencer marketing. Buyers trust other buyers more than they trust businesses or brands – that’s why the retail sector has seen an explosion of reviews on sites like Amazon. If you can harness this kind of credibility, it can do wonders for your business.   

Influencer and word of mouth marketing might even be more important for B2B than B2C. After all, B2C decisions are often thought to be more carefully considered and with greater consequences than consumer purchases. When you spend company money, you need to be able to properly justify any purchases you make. The realisation of this is causing more and more businesses to implement this strategy to boost their lead generation success.  

5. Don’t underestimate the landing page 

Imagine you bought a car online that promised a spectacular drive, guaranteed to blow your socks off. You get to the showroom and it looks like it’s gone ten rounds at the demolition derby. Even if it’s just cosmetic damage, you still wouldn’t want to get inside  no matter how well it drove. 

The same goes for a badly written, badly designed or dated landing page. A prospect will arrive full of good expectations, attracted by all the good work you’ve done with your lead generation strategies. This will all be immediately undone if they arrive on your unprofessional landing page expecting a Rolls Royce product but get a 1978 Fiat with no doors. Unless you make your landing page as effective as possible, can kiss that lead goodbye. 

Discovering and developing your own lead generation secrets 

We hope this blog has helped you develop your strategies for lead generation success by providing some useful areas to focus on. As time goes by, you – or your marketing agency – will discover and refine the tactics that work best for your business, brand or products.  

With time and experience, you may even develop your own set of tried-and-tested lead generation secrets. If you’ve got any top lead gen tips that you think are missing from our list, or you’d like a hand getting to grips with any of the existing, we’d love to hear from you. 


Top 5 tips for cybersecurity during COVID-19

In March 2020, the British Government, like many others worldwide, made the transition into a period of ‘lockdown’ designed to mitigate the impact of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Following the lead of other nations, people in Britain were told to minimise non-essential travel, stay at home, and work from there if possible. As Fifty Five and Five completed our own transition to all-remote working, we witnessed businesses and employees all over London making their own arrangements. Our head office is located in the heart of the UK’s capital, and on that busy evening we saw countless city workers on their way home with the familiar laptop bags but also monitors, keyboards, and many folders of documents. Practically overnight, the home office became the office. In their scramble to set up a coronavirus lockdown home office, workers are keen to make sure they can reach all the vital business data they need. However, are they neglecting security in this rush for access? With that in mind, take a look at our top 5 tips for cybersecurity during COVID-19.

1. Stick to password best practices and do testing

The longer and more complex your password is, the harder it is to guess or crack. When you create a new password or change an existing one, password managers such as LastPass (our favourite) or Google Password Manager will generate a lengthy random password containing a combination of different letters (capitalised and lowercase) as well as numbers and special characters.

What’s more, these password managers will even audit the security of all your passwords for you. They’ll investigate and notify you of any low-complexity bad apples in the barrel and whether you’ve duplicated the same password across multiple accounts. Just make sure that you have a strong password for the password manager itself – it’s the key to your entire kingdom, after all.

2. Set up two-factor authentication

Also known as 2FA, two-factor authentication means having an extra step of security. So, as well as entering their password, a user will have to authenticate their identity in another way – for instance entering a code they’ve received or clicking on a link in their emails. It’s a powerful, fundamental tool in enabling secure remote working.

You and your users have probably already encountered 2FA during password recovery or when signing up for a service. It’s common to receive a PIN number via text message to enter for second-step authentication, as it’s less likely an intruder will have knowledge of your password and access to your mobile device. Implement two-step authentication wherever you can and encourage your personnel to set it up and use it, too.

3. Guard against shadow IT

‘What is shadow IT?’, you may be asking. Simply put, it’s software or hardware that’s being used within your organisation for business but hasn’t been authorised by system administrators. They may not even know about it. It’s just lurking in the shadows, posing a risk from security flaws, malware and simply being outside your scope of control.

Administrators can help to ensure that authorised software is installed or accessible for your users, and that running or installing unauthorised software is blocked. Restrictions can be applied even if it exists in the cloud, where much of today’s software-as-a-service lives. If you allow employees to use their personal laptops or other devices for work, consider making this conditional on whether they agree to use company-sanctioned solutions. At the end of the day, secure remote working comes first.

4. Ensure devices are protected with antivirus

This may seem obvious – who doesn’t use antivirus in 2020? – but it’s still important to remember to use your antivirus solution effectively. For instance, all personnel should be using the same solution, whether that’s Kaspersky, AVG or trusty old Windows Defender. Just like any other kind of process, when security processes are standardised, they’re easier to manage – an old universal truth of system administration. As explained earlier, this is no time for shadow IT.

Make sure your antivirus software and its virus definitions database are kept up to date. If you can, ensure that they can only be switched off by an administrator. And if, for whatever reason, your staff need to switch off the antivirus software temporarily, or set an exception, they should consult IT staff. Protocols and security standards like these should be kept high at all times, not just for cybersecurity during COVID-19.

5. Keep apps and operating systems up to date

As well as keeping your antivirus solution up to date, it’s important to keep all your other software updated, too. Out-of-date software can hide a multitude of unpatched security holes and bugs. That goes for your operating system as well as the applications that run on it.

If your IT staff aren’t already doing so, they should consider auditing how up to date your software is, to get an idea of what and where the weak spots are. Depending on your systems, they may even be able to roll out updates remotely across all your business devices. Just like there’s no such thing as being ‘too secure’, there’s no such thing as ‘too up to date’.

Confident of your cybersecurity during COVID-19?

We hope our tips for secure remote working in the coronavirus crisis have been useful. When you’re confident that you’ve done everything you can to secure your systems and protect your data, that’s one less thing to worry about. Perhaps that’s one of the most important benefits of staying secure right now.

Want to make security a selling-point?

If you’re confident your security makes your business look good to prospective customers, Fifty Five and Five can help you tell that story.

Get in touch now

 


The Fifty Five and Five guide to remote working

Not too long ago, we published a blog about how we go about overcoming the challenges of remote working as a company. As a cloud native business, and having had several remote employees, we considered ourselves something of an authority on the subject. But today, the circumstances when that blog was written feel like another world entirely. Little did we know exactly how important those skills would turn out to be.

As I write this blog, we now reach the end of the fourth week in which the whole company, and much of the world, has been confined to bedrooms, lounges and makeshift offices. And it doesn’t look likely to change any time soon. We’ve discovered that running an entire company remotely for a sustained period is a slightly different kettle of fish. Here are some of the key things we’ve noticed and how we’re dealing with them.

Processes and structures

In our previous blog, we spoke about some of the ways we ensure smooth remote working in our company. Much of it centres around technology. We’re cloud native; we’ve been on Office 365 as long as we’ve existed, and Microsoft Teams is integral to how we work. All our files are saved into the cloud automatically, available from anywhere, and having remote employees really got us into the habit of sharing and recording information as standard.

In terms of the practical mechanics of working remotely, our processes are virtually unchanged. Meetings run smoothly since we’ve all had years of practice communicating with global clients and employees via Teams. We simply picked up our monitors and laptops one Monday afternoon, and logged on via Teams for our daily morning catch up the next day.

Perhaps the best visual description of this in action is this graph that shows how the volume of private messaging via Teams changes over time across the company. The eagle-eyed among you will see that the change in the last two weeks has been virtually non-existent. For most of us, the only technological difficulty has been battling with our partners, relatives and housemates for internet bandwidth.

remote working

The challenge of remote working

But a company isn’t just about processes, documents and meetings. One of the trickiest things to replace are those small visual cues you get from being in the office together. When you’re all in the same room, it’s easy to see if someone is on their lunch break, has signed off for the day, is in a meeting, or is simply trying to get some focused work done in one of the quieter corners of the office. These are a lot harder to replicate remotely, because they’re too subtle to have technology and processes built around them.

Personally, I’m finding that using statuses and ‘do not disturb’ buttons on Teams are helping me go for a lunch break or daily run without worrying about missing an urgent message. At times like this, communication is key.

Staying in the rhythm

The disruption to the company in terms of meetings, structures and processes has been probably more minimal than any of us would have anticipated. With a positive attitude, and taking that extra step to update and communicate, remote working is surprisingly sustainable for us. But on an individual level, and I’m sure many people around the world are discovering this, the shift is pretty big. We’re all accustomed to our working days being governed by certain structures and routines: getting up at a certain time, getting dressed and commuting. Without thus structure, it’s easy to fall into bad habits.

To stay productive and sane during this period, it’s important to work that extra bit harder to maintain your rhythm. That means getting up at a regular time, getting dressed, putting your makeup on and generally maintaining your morning routine even if there’s no direct need to. For us, having our daily morning catch up is really great for this, because it gives us that structure each day; a deadline by which we should be up, fed, showered and camera ready.

A space of one’s own

One of the great benefits of having an office is it creates a workspace; a place where we can go to feel productive, surrounded by the people and things you associate with doing work. Maintaining that rhythm in a place where you’re used to lying about, drinking wine and binge-watching Netflix is more of a challenge. But it’s really important to go to that extra effort to recreate that work environment that’s separate from the rest of your living space.

For me, that means working from the kitchen rather than the lounge and working with the same two-screen setup I’m used to in the office. It also helps that I sit at the same desk where most of my university studying was done–heroically still standing after some four house moves. If you’re looking for some inspiration here, the message is search around your flat for a place you can build positive, productive associations.

Hint: It’s probably not your bed or your sofa.

Keeping the culture alive

Of course, there’s more to a company than simply the work we produce but the way we do it. Our culture at Fifty Five and Five has always been very strong. But it’s difficult to quantify our culture in terms of meetings, technologies and processes – which means there’s a real risk of us losing that magic sauce that makes us so unique. The Fifty Five and Five culture is as much about 11 am coffee chats, long running jokes and the atmosphere you get in a company meeting as it is about blogs and social media.

So, working remotely, we’ve taken a few extra steps to make sure we catch up as a company in these trying times. We’ve implemented a weekly social hour via Microsoft Teams and a Friday quiz, so we can drop in, have a laugh and exchange stories of how our respective partners and relatives are driving us stir crazy. The moral of the story, if there is one, is that the whole company working remotely is hardly an ideal situation. But we’re doing a pretty good job of making the best of it. Perhaps better even than some of us might have anticipated. We’ll even be welcoming a new employee from the hospitality of Microsoft Teams in just a few short weeks and have another who enjoyed precisely one day in the office before we went remote.

That being said, we’re all looking forward to going back to moaning about our commutes over morning coffee as soon as we possibly can.

The Fifty Five and Five offices might be closed, but the company is as open as it ever has been. And if you want to talk about your marketing, we’d be delighted to hear from you. Get in touch with our team today to find out more.