Digital Thought Leaders Discussion: Martin Oxley & Danny Meadows-Klue

Digital Thought Leaders

February 2008

When it comes to helping businesses accelerate, the web is one of the most powerful of tools. In this discussion, Martin Oxley, CEO of the British Polish Chamber of Commerce, talks with Danny Meadows-Klue about how firms can harness online marketing without breaking their budgets. What puzzles him is why so many international businesses fail to get it right…

Read the discussion and post your questions to Digital’s moderator.

Martin OxleyMartin Oxley, Chief Executive Officer
British Polish Chamber of Commerce

Martin Oxley has lived and worked in Central Europe for the last 15 years. He is currently CEO of the award winning British Polish Chamber of Commerce. Prior to that he held General Manager roles in four of Central Europe’s leading healthcare companies – GSK, BMS, Pliva and Polpharma. The success of these companies can be attributed to marketing innovation. He is a champion of pioneering marketing communications and optimizing communication efficiency. He is a recognized speaker on Poland and takes a very keen interest in digital marketing.

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Comments (10)

Danny Meadows-Klue:

Getting the most from email is something hardly any firm actually explores. Take your average trade show: thousands of people captive for a day, dozens of business cards exchanged by each person - a frenzy of communication so loud that it's deafening. Then a week later there's a follow up from the sales team, and then, in most cases, silence.

And that's the oddity of event marketing. Part of the problem is simply the cost of field sales teams, the lack of coordination for leads management inside most firms, and the rather painful reality that there's just not much that most businesses seem ready to say to customers. So with high communication costs and little to say, the conversation dries up, leads go stale, and that frenzy of business card exchanges blurs into distant memory. Sure, a couple of key firms and people will always stand out, but most of the communications potential goes untapped. Why?

The difference email makes starts with the potential to maintain a weak tie between the potential buyer and seller. That tie might be in the form of a few relationship building messages after the event and business card exchange, or a monthly newsletter that explains what the firm does and what's new. It could be something simple and generic that goes to everyone from the show, or a message that starts to be segmented based on their interests. At a property show customers could be segmented by the buildings they were interested in, the level of budget to spend, whether they were professional investors or amateurs, and what the country of both buyer and seller is. Just a few variables like this create a relevancy in the message the customer receives and leads instantly to higher conversions for sales.

The marginal cost of each extra email is (almost) zero, and this is where the economics of communications in the digital networked society are fundamentally different from what we know in classic marketing. For a marketer with classic direct marketing, this approach to segmentation and relevancy will all be second nature, but if you're new to online marketing, then try these simple steps from Digital's team:

A simple exercise:
- Create a segmentation grid by dividing new prospects into a couple of groups based on the products they could be interested in, and another variable such as their likelihood to convert to sale.
- Create a simple email message that follows up from the event and has space for customization.
- Build out variations; one for each target group.
- Line up a response email so your sales team have the next two or three steps planned out.
- Track response rates and learn about how customers respond.

Along the way you might need some professional email copywriting support because tiny variations in the key fields you control in an email (subject line, sent from, time of day etc) can have a massive impact on the quality of the response and the likelihood of the mails getting opened.

Martin Oxley:

This week I've been at MIPIM which is the world's property show. 29 000 delegates, 85 countries and 17 exhibition halls. Companies spend a year building up for a 4 day show. Here is an event where surely online marketing can come into its own - imagine the power of email, an online property showroom with TV clips of all you need to know about the investment destination. Link that to an online appointment setting system. Surely digital marketing would really add value in a fast moving international, multi-client real estate sector.

In a few weeks time I will have the pleasure of participating in the UK's largest food and drink exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. Here buyer meets seller, in our case for the first time. We're bringing 15 companies to a Polish national exhibition stand. Imagine how much more powerful our proposition would be if we had developed a web site to inform people about our great, tasty food! We could have linked it to some photoshots of the products and maybe created an online trading platform at least a matchmaking meeting system. How to do all that; ah in English as well? - go digital and see how much more you sell more quickly.

Danny Meadows-Klue:

Would you make spelling mistakes in your sales brochures?
Sometimes if feels like companies just don’t take the web seriously. While a marketing manager might spend hours selecting the right photograph for a brochure, or agonizing over the choice of language in a headline, the web is often left unchecked, with no real attention paid to what goes up on the site, and in some cases not even controls in place for who can write for it. For a firm in the export market, where the website is their window to the world, this is commercial suicide. It’s not only that the brand image of the firm is tarnished, but if the site is not written around the sales process with language designed to help customers buy, then the whole investment could prove pointless.

What most businesses forget is that websites are hungry for editorial copy. As soon as you create a website you become a publisher, and this particular publication will need a lot more words than your print brochure. It will need language for the navigational structure, the explanation of how products and services work, the explanations of how to use the site. In fact, you might find there are thousands of words that need to be written and often nobody qualified for the task. Translation agencies can be useful, but when you’re translating the sales process of the firm and the engine of how to manage customer relationships, that means investing senior management time in what goes on the web and why.

And reflect on this: if you’re looking for your website to enjoy a good ranking in the search engines, then the language on the site must reflect the questions customers type into Google, NetSprint, Yahoo or Onet. That might include using different language from the beautiful brochures you give to clients, and it might include listening very carefully to how real customers describe your brand and services. Fortunately, as well as being a powerful publishing tool, websites are fantastically powerful for giving you just that ability: feedback forms, emails and forums are just perfect for listening to the real language of your customers. Free market research, and the blueprint for the language on your site.

Martin Oxley:

Over the last couple of days I’ve come across a couple of interesting opportunities related to Polish companies looking to sell their products to the UK. I went on to a couple of web sites, some interesting technology but the layout, style and English was so bad I was actually put off the companies. The message is quite simple – talk to the experts about what you are trying to communicate; what is the best way to do it and then design the mix. Last but by no means least: the export site needs to be in the Queen’s English. Ok, with a few mistakes while speaking but never written – talk to the experts.

The other one was a region in Poland which was trying to promote itself to attract foreign direct investment. That’s a very interesting challenge. To do this well the website has to be really professional. There is massive competition to attract global investment. A very targeted strategy needs to be defined – there are around 500 key decision makers in the global investment market around the world. Sectors have to be defined and detailed communications need to be made. Online is a great tool but you really need to know how to use it.

Danny Meadows-Klue:

The enthusiasm for digital marketing really needs to come from the top. It’s only when there’s senior sponsorship that the projects have the right weight, support and budgets to create something transformative for the firm. When it’s from the grass roots upwards you can only take digital so far. But with many senior management teams there’s a real lack of understanding about how this aspect of marketing can work. It’s not just the crazy jargon that scares directors away, it’s also the lack of personal experience on the web and using the tools. So that’s something you have to crack straight away in training. In fact, even before people come to a Digital training Academy, we’ll encourage them to go online and try a few things, like blogging maybe, that they have not done before.

Martin Oxley:

Thanks Danny. What you are saying here is that digital marketing is a great way of making the marketing difference; doing that which is going to set a company apart from the rest; a real opportunity for competitively superior communication which is highly targeted, offers real value and is flexible. Digital marketing also has the power to link conventional media in a very progressive way to enable it to have a higher impact and at the same time be very cost efficient. To broadcast to the masses or narrow down to top managers in a specific sector. To create a marketing matrix of direct mail, online promotion and TV? Highly efficient targeted communication – fast – with global reach.

With that however surely comes a big training need. With digital online you get one chance to get it right. I would see that training needs to be at all levels in an organization – top management down. It needs to be structured to optimize the marketing component but also to harness the full value and stay abreast of the latest online technologies. We have to get to a digital communication continuum which starts with a detailed market analysis, leads to the definition of communication objectives, mix and target definition then last but most important of all a structured campaign plan. All that has to be harnessed in a digital value framework which has the power to move much quicker than conventional marketing frameworks. High quality training is the key to unlocking this?

Danny Meadows-Klue:

It’s strange, but when it comes to marketing on the web, many firms assume that this is some form of ‘black magic’ and that everything they have done in the past suddenly doesn’t have any value. Not so. Good web marketing rests on a strong understanding of the customer, clarity of the proposition, relevancy and targeting of the communication, and a clear sales process. Sure, in a new media channel there’s loads of new tools to try out and even more jargon to wrestle with, but good web marketing is simply good marketing. Companies need to have the confidence to get back to basics.

In practice that’s not how most websites are built. Many firms leap straight into building pages and templates without thinking through any of this. They commit the great sin of copying and pasting all of their print brochures onto the web and assume that this is the end of the story. Some even then leave the web off to one side as if it were another printed brochure instead of the heart of managing relationships with their key prospective customers.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like this. Even if the technical enthusiasts are leaping to get cracking with building the site, marketing teams can take control, map out the business process and then storyboard the customer experience. More time on strategy not only means less time on build, but more importantly means you won’t have to rebuild the site again in six months when it becomes clear that it’s just doing nothing of value for the firm.

Martin Oxley:

Take your point but I am not at all sure people really know how to get the best out of the web. In the early days it was too slow. Now we are sorting out that problem but you take a random look at a number of web sites and I have the feeling that they are not thought through in terms of who they are trying to talk to; there is little activity in terms of acquiring visitors and if people do click on the site there is no obvious route through the site. It’s almost as though they had an idea for a site, put up a home page, bought an online sales package and then had an idea to bolt on a TV section and off we go. Should the web site not be thought through in terms of strategy, communication objectives and target audience before we put pen to paper?

Danny Meadows-Klue:

Absolutely. Marketers need to line up their challenges, biting them off in order. In Poland today, for a mass market brand, that means getting the basic coverage in classic media, but then looking for ways to build the communication to customers who have an active interest in the brand. Not everyone is yet online, so the ‘ideal’ balance of internet marketing will vary between sectors – the trick is to research your audience and find out exactly how much they’re using the web. One of the common mistakes is to assume that a ‘light’ internet user isn’t a strong prospect for your business. Yet the very time that ‘light’ users go online might be at the moment they’re researching the background for deals on a new car, mobile phone or job.

The lessons for marketing teams? Get your website in order first: the right content, easily discoverable, and clearly fitting into the business process of how your customers buy. Once that job’s done it’s time to reach out wider to marketers.

Martin Oxley:

Poland has seen a revolution in its media activity over the last 10 years top down from above the line to point of sale and merchandising. A lot of that activity has been focused on brand awareness building and mass promotion. You only need to look at the television for a couple of hours on any day of the week and your head will be at best left spinning or even totally confused with ads vying for memory time – impossible. As the market becomes more and more competitive do you not think there is a better, more targeted and more customer focused way of promotion using direct, online media?

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