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 marketing 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 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.”  


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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.

 

Mailchimp

 

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!

 

Hootsuite

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.  


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.


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

 


I looked into the face of the internet and this is what I saw

It won’t surprise you to hear that, in my role as a technology writer, I often find myself writing about the internet. In fact, writing about marketing cloud computing software and solutions is almost impossible without at least referring to it. Recently, however, I was surprised to realise that – past surface level knowledge – the internet still remained something of a mystery to me.

Surrounded by the internet

The situation became particularly acute because recently I was lucky enough to be taken on a tour around a data centre – which I can assure you was far more interesting than it sounds.

Data centres have been a fundamental part of the IT world since the early days of the internet – accommodating the hardware that’s required to connect companies to networks, customers and each other. More recently they’ve powered cloud transformation, which has been a predominant trend in recent years. Cloud transformation involves customers migrating information from their own servers into those stored in large data centres owned by the likes of Microsoft and Amazon.

So, there I was in one such data centre, surrounded by ‘the internet’, which in reality turned out to be a series of servers and cables connecting them. My colleague, with a typical marketer’s skill of summing up a complex concept with a pithy statement, described the situation thus: “Well, it’s a series of tubes, isn’t it?” The upshot is, yes, the internet is a series of tubes, largely old copper telephone wires that still remain from the 19th century. As it turns out, it was the Victorians that built the internet after all – they just didn’t know it.

It all comes back to the customer

So, what exactly does this have to do with the cloud? The thing that struck me in that moment was how different the reality of the internet is to the language we use to communicate about it. And that’s not specific to marketing; terms like ‘upload’, ‘download’, and ‘cloud’ all propagate the idea that the internet exists above us, as a sort of intangible data bubble. All of these terms paint a picture, not of the technology that powers the internet, but of what it allows the consumer to do. It’s almost as if the internet has its own marketing department.

The thing that interested me most is that this is the very thing us marketers try to do when talking about the products and services we’re selling. There’s no point talking about servers and wires when your customer is interested in what this allows them to achieve. I call this the ‘show don’t tell approach’; if you’re talking about how great you are without explaining what that means for the user – you’re missing a trick.

Features vs. benefits: What does this mean for the customer?

The above applies even more when you’re marketing cloud computing solutions than anywhere else. Good marketing moves the focus away from what technology is towards what it does, or more specifically what it allows you to do. That applies whether we’re talking about an ‘as-a-service’ mindset or discussing ‘solutions’ and ‘digital transformations’. Overused as these terms have now become, they all started with a focus on explaining what technology can help businesses achieve, and moving away from describing wires, servers and hardware.

‘Putting the customer first’ is all well and good in the abstract – but how do we turn that into good marketing? It all begins with imagining the customer as a real person, with complex wants and needs, rather than talking to a ‘generic business leader’.

This starts with creating personas, giving your target customer a name, job title, and talking about their everyday tasks, priorities and pain points. The objective here is to find tangible applications of the product in action. Or to put it in the words of one client of ours: “My customers aren’t interested in ‘taking your business to the next level’ – they want to know how to get people to do their time sheets.”

Marketing cloud computing services

As marketers, that’s what we strive to do each day – understand more about who our customers are and what they want, so we can better fulfil their needs. That remains the same whether we’re writing blogs, eBooks or creating paid media adverts. At Fifty Five and Five, this mindset is what powers the marketing that we create for our technology clients: a firm desire to create a bridge from business to business through good marketing.


Life or death: how to choose the right marketing agency for your business

Did you know there are over 4 billion internet users today? If digital marketing can help you engage with even the tiniest fraction of this global audience, it will play an integral role in your company’s growth.

So, why would you ever leave something with so much potential to chance? Knowing how to choose the right marketing agency for your business is not exactly life or death, but it can have some serious ramifications for the growth of your business. And, isn’t that the same thing?

Digital marketing? I thought that was free

Digital marketing is free. What you need more than anything is time. Time to write blogs, time to post them in the right place for the right people to see. Time to monitor your results. And not just blog posts. The same goes for any content, social media, etc. You need to know what to write. And how to optimise it. And when to post so it’ll be seen by the most people. And you need to do this regularly, month after month.

Digital marketing is free. But for it to work you need time and consistency. And that’s where a good agency can help.

Choosing a marketing agency

There are plenty of ways of deciding which agency you want to work with:

  • Formal request for proposal (RFP)
  • Getting agencies to pitch for your business
  • Seeing sample/small projects up front
  • Conducting informal meetings and using an ad hoc approach
  • Getting a recommendation
  • Basing your decision on cost

Finding an agency is easy. The hard part is finding an agency that is right for your business. You should keep the following in mind when you’re trying to decide.

Trust

Digital marketing is continuously changing, so it’s natural that strategies will change over time. Do you trust your agency to keep up, while keeping you informed?

Along the way, your relationship will be tested and it’s essential that you know you can overcome difficult moments through open communication. Can you trust them when things go wrong? Will unexpected invoices hit your inbox? When deadlines are fast approaching and something’s not right, can you count on honesty, even if what they say is the last thing you want to hear?

Value

When you choose to move forward with an agency, it’s usually because of the abundance of new marketing tactics and tools that pop up every day. You need an expert partner to stay on top of the latest trend; one who knows how to make the best use of different platforms.

Transparency

Transparency plays back into trust. For example, the question of pricing must be clarified up front. It’s no secret that some companies will tell you what you want to hear just to win the contract, so be wary of this. Starting a relationship with a lie speaks to the likelihood of further deceptions down the line. You’d be working on shaky foundations.

You be the judge when choosing an agency

Size doesn’t matter

You might not want to be the biggest client, or the smallest, which is fair, but the days of judging companies on the number of desks in their office are gone. Bigger teams don’t guarantee work will be done faster or to a higher quality.

Look at the company’s expertise, calibre and culture. Does the team communicate well, work in tandem and demonstrate an understanding and dedication to your mission? Often, the people pitching to you won’t be the ones doing the work, so check who you’ll be working with. In large agencies, your projects could be handed down to less experienced or junior members. Would you want that?

You need more than a case study

Before you hire new employees, you conduct interviews and check references. But does the same happen with your marketing agency? Past work is a strong indicator of capabilities but only to a degree. Ask to speak with some of their clients who can tell you in their own words what the agency is like to work with on a practical, day to day level.

Price isn’t everything…

…but expectation is. Ask for a clear explanation of the work you can expect, the deliverables the agency will provide and what you will pay for them. Transparency and trust play a big role here, as the costs can fluctuate based on the products or services you use for your campaign. Armed with the true estimate, you can prepare accordingly.

Pay attention to the agency’s own marketing efforts

How do they market themselves? ‘Practice what you preach’ is pertinent to marketing, so look at their content and question whether it’s engaging, educational and well-edited. How effective are their ads? Does their website load quickly on all platforms? Does their social media voice their brand clearly and do they interact with comments reliably?

Of course, how agencies promote their own business will differ to how they market yours. But when choosing an agency, you want evidence they can do for themselves what they have promised to do for you.

How to choose the right marketing agency

Aimlessly running any marketing campaign without a strategy or delivering content (regardless of how impressive it is) without SEO is a recipe for failure. You’re an expert at what you do. The right marketing agency is expert at taking what you’re great at and bringing it to the right people. Repeatedly.