Where there is threat, there is opportunity

If you have studied business or marketing you will be familiar with the SWOT assessment. A review of a business or business function that outlines the associated Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  It is a useful if subjective tool and process to go through when performing situational analysis.

And if you have produced many SWOT analysis’ in the past you will understand stand that there is often a direct link between the different elements based on your view point.  A strength can also be a weakness or a threat when viewed from a different angle.  And many times you will end up making an entry in two boxes for each point covered.

If your strength is your standing in a particularly industry, a threat could be political or economical factors affecting it, and a weakness could be diversity of client base.

Where there is strength, there can be weakness. Where there is threat there can be opportunity.

And it is that last point that is particularly pertinent right now. Many individuals and industries are facing huge threats as a result of the global pandemic and its impact on business. And in these times it is tempting, as well as completely understandable, to focus all your efforts on the threats you are facing.

But as with any SWOT analysis, where threat exists so can opportunity. Many times interlinked:

Threat Opportunity
We can’t travel to the office Develop a more flexible way of working
Our main clients are in a downturn Use the time to apply your skills to a new industry
Income is down Audit current outgoings and cut those unnecessary costs
Our old marketing ways aren’t viable right now What can we test now that will help us in the future

These are very broad, generic examples but if you focus on finding the opportunity in the current landscape then you will no doubt find some relevant to you.

And it is the businesses and individuals that focus on the opportunities and position themselves to make the most of them that survive the current situation and prosper in the new world we emerge in to.

So rather than spending all of your energy on the threats facing your industry, spend some time focusing on the opportunities. You will no only find it more rewarding, you will also put your business in a better place for the future.

COVID19 Marketing Strategy Part 2

Last week’s blog post tried to put some structure around the question ‘how should I be marketing/advertising during the Coronavirus outbreak. Ignoring individual business issues such as supply chains, stock, and overheads and just using demand change as an indicator for how to approach things.

The first Matrix focussed on demand pre-COVID19 and current demand now, in the midst of it. But there is obviously a piece missing from this, what will demand post lockdown?  As much as the timing of when we enter a post-COVID19 world and what that world looks like on the other side is open to much debate, each industry should be starting to develop a feeling for what their market looks like in the future and what it means for demand.

So, if we use the same metric of demand as a planning tool but shift the timescale forward as to what is demand now, and what do we think it will be in the future we can build a similar matrix.  This then comes into play once we start to get a feel for how long a business or industry feel they will be feeling the effects of the Pandemic, and at what point they can start planning for the future.

Here is how I would approach it.  Intrigued to know what you think.

Marketing and Advertising through COVID-19

As Coronavirus continues to take hold across the globe, marketing and advertising seem like the absolute least of the worlds worries. But to the marketing and business world decisions are having to be made about how they trade through this crisis and come out of the other side intact.

The first and obvious reaction is to panic. Pull everything. Anything which isn’t currently committed and immovable gets stopped. And even if it is planned, booked, even paid for questions are asked about the penalty for cancelling it. Every company is looking are their cost base with forensic attention to detail.

In the agency world every phone call and email from clients over the last month was met with dread as clients rushed to cancel campaigns or planned activity.

I’ve seen marketers challenge this approach. ‘Businesses should be marketing through this crisis!’ And whilst this might be true of some, it takes no account for broader considerations. Supply chains, stock availability, customer cancellations or payment defaults, logistics, management of services during a lockdown, not to mention cashflow.

So, what should businesses be doing?

Broader considerations aside, and assuming a business has the facility to market through the current coronavirus epidemic, how should they go about it? 

One factor to base decisions on which is applicable for all industries is demand. Demand will have been affected in some way across the board. The extent to which though will vary, and the demand after this is through will also be different for all.

Rather than look at industries or business circumstances, I have tried to group business based on this impact on demand. How was it before the COVID-19 crisis, and how is it now?  By doing this we can try and put some information around how they can approach marketing and advertising in a period until the world stabilises. At this point the approach shifts again, to what demand looks like in the future.

The diagram below shows how I would approach it. I have ignored the quadrant where demand pre-COVID19 was low and during it is low because this is probably a much bigger issue to address. And then grouped quadrants where the overall approach would be similar.

This is obviously a simplistic way at looking at the challenges facing marketers during this time, but at least by taking a top-level approach you then have something to apply on a channel by channel basis.

How are you approaching marketing and advertising during this uncertain time?

Digital Advertising Acronyms: What do they mean?

Advertising in general loves a good acronym. A member of the public walking into a conversation about advertising performance could be forgiven for believing we have our own secret language to keep them from understanding what is being discussed.

And nowhere is that magnified than within digital channels. Programmatic trading and its related technology has produced a world where whole sentences can be constructed using only acronyms and the odd verb.

Well fear not! The below list will help you navigate this overly complex language and boost your digital vocabulary.

CPC – the cornerstone of marketing performance since the early days of search marketing. CPC is the abbreviation of cost per click and cost paid (often an average across a number of clicks) for each click on your digital advertising. This can either be the exact cost for a single clicks, or the average cost per click calculated simply as total cost divided by number of clicks for a given set of data.

CPM – mostly used in relation to display advertising CPM is the cost paid for every thousand impressions (ad views) on a piece of activity. The M in CPM stands for Mille (from the Latin for thousand) and this metric was the original trading price for display advertising.  As more and more display advertising has become auction based it is now a fluctuating average of the price paid for a group of impressions rather than the fixed price it originally was.

CTR – Another staple of the digital advertising world. Click through rate (CTR) is the number of clicks generated divided by the number of times your ad was seen (impressions) represented as a percentage. Whilst no related to the price paid for the advertising it is often used as a measure of the relevance or effectiveness off a campaign.

ROI – Arguably one of the metrics that has led to the growth of digital ad spend over the last decade. Of course return on investment (ROI) is not a digital specific metric, but it due to the measurability of digital channels its use has helped budgets flow as it has provided advertisers with the assurances their money was being well spent. ROI is generally represented as a percentage or a numerical figure based on the equation £ generated divided by £ spent.

ROAS – a variation on ROI, ROAS represents return on ad spend and is another way of describing the return generated from an amount of investment.

CPAO – one for the account based services, CPAO is an abbreviation of cost per account opened. This is used by businesses such as banks, but also more traditional companies such as catalogue companies and even some subscription services as their primary measure of success.

AOV – Intrinsically linked to return based metrics Average Order Value (AOV) is self-explanatory. The total revenue generated divided by the number of orders placed to show the average value of each. This is often used by retailers with large product catalogues of varying price.

MPU – MPU’s are the square ad units you often see when scrolling through a news article. Their name comes from this frequently used position and is an abbreviation of mid-page unit.  I have seen it described as a multi-purpose unit in the past due to the versatility of this ad format, however the traditional meaning is mid-page unit.

DSP – The advertiser’s access to ad exchanges, the DSP is a demand side platform. The tool which an advertiser uses to access inventory available on the ad exchanges, or to trade with media partners in a programmatic manner. Leading DSP providers are Google (Doubleclick Bid Manager), AppNexus, MediaMath, Turn, Rocket Fuel and The Trade Desk.

SSP – The counterpart to the DSP is the SSP, the Supply Side Platform. The technology sits on the website publishers side and allows them to make inventory (ad impressions) available to the ad exchanges and manage the advertising that runs across their sites.  Many of the DSP technology providers have an SSP solution too given the complimentary nature of the technologies.

DMP – set to become key to advertisers digital campaigns over the coming 18 months a DMP is a data management platform. A place where all of your data relating to advertising campaigns can be held, segmented, reported upon, and activated against. It can be used to take in 1st and 3rd party data which can then power targeted advertising campaigns.

DBM – Googles DSP is Doubleclick Bid Manager, or DBM. Part of the Doubleclick Stack it (like all other DSPs) provides advertisers with access to display inventory bought programmatically.

DCM – Doubleclick Campaign Manager or DCM is the Google owned tool for housing and reporting up campaign level performance data for any advertising tracked through the Doubleclick system. If properly utilised it can contain all information relating to digital campaigns which are run both within Google’s infrastructure but also outside of it.

VCPM – A variation of CPM which has arisen in light of more awareness of viewability matrix is VCPM, or viewable CPM. So rather than reporting the average cost for every thousand impressions, only ads which were viewable are counted in the calculation. This figure would therefore be higher than the CPM but is often more useful to advertisers in in assessing the true cost of their advertising.

ECPM – Another variation of CPM you may see used is ECPM, or effective CPM. This calculation is used to show the cost per mille on a campaign

VAST – a video specific adserving tag, VAST stands for Video Ad Serving Template and allows for the effective serving of video ads within a video player. VAST is the universal video adserving specification developed by the IAB.

VPAID – VPAID is another form of video tag and is an abbreviation of Video Player Ad-Serving Interface Definition. The main thing VPAID offers over VAST is interactivity and the reporting of it. It allows for the tracking and reporting of clicks within an video, duration of video played, and other interaction measures above and beyond whether a video ad was displayed.

MRAID – Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions, or MRAID relates to mobile rich media, specifically ads that will run in App. MRAID is a standard which allows mobile rich media ads to serve in difference mobile apps allowing them to adapt to size and also consider different device level information.

VTR – the video equivalent of CTR, VTR is view through rate and represents the number of people who viewed the majority, or all of you video as a percentage of the amount of people who it was displayed to.

SDK – whilst it is specific to mobile apps, SDK is not as mobile an abbreviation as some people think. It stands for software development kit and is a programming package allowing the development of mobile apps. In advertising terms it is used in conversation around tracking as it is the software which allows for the tracking of in app activity or for the usage of apps.  It also powers a low of the location based mobile data which advertisers use for geographic targeting.

This is an initial brain dump for now and far from a conclusive list. I will aim to add to this list in time and build this out into more of a translation library to aid in your digital conversations.

7 Steps to Successful Digital Recruitment

In the past 8 years I’ve interviewed, and subsequently recruited, quite a few people into digital roles.  Along the way I’m not afraid to say I’ve made a few mistakes.  Thankfully however there have been more successes than failures and as time has gone by my hit rate continues to improve.  Below are a few lessons I have learnt about recruitment in the digital age:

1. Don’t believe everything you read on a CV

I’m sure it happens in every sector but in the digital industry which is less established and structured there is even more scope for people to exaggerate roles, responsibilities and expertise. We also operate in a world of acronyms, buzz words and crazes which makes it easy for somebody to sound like an expert on paper.  Ensuring you interrogate each element of a candidates CV and you will very quickly start to see if any cracks appear.

2. Do your own research

Its common practice now to check out potential candidates social profiles prior to interview.  When viewing their profiles on sites like Linkedin though you need to bear in mind that they are self-edited and as such aren’t always 100% accurate.  Always check the LinkedIn profile against the CV to spot any discrepancies.  I tend to ignore Linkedin recommendations as invariably they are reciprocal and therefore inaccurate.  If you want, however, you can check this out by viewing the profile of the recommendation provider and see if there is a reciprocal recommendation.

Check if they have a twitter profile or blog and what sort of content they are sharing.  This can be a useful insight into their passion for the digital sector.  Those adding thought and insight, regardless of their level, tend to come with more passion and desire which can transcend a level of experience.

3. Use your contacts

We still operate in a relatively small market.  The most useful source of true information on a potential candidate are the contacts you make in your own career.  I always reach out to old contacts or ex-colleagues who may have worked with a candidate to get opinions about them both from an expertise and personal perspective.  This way you can not only understand more about the candidate and how they might fit with a role, but also learn from the mistakes others have made!

4. Test practical knowledge

Much like the point about interrogating a candidates CV, it is also important to interrogate their practical knowledge of digital channels.  Incorporating case studies and practical tests into the recruitment process helps to weed out those who can talk about a subject, but don’t have the technical capabilities to put it into practice.

5. Look beyond expertise

You may happen to come across an intelligent, knowledgeable candidate with great technical capabilities but if they are lacking in more basic skills such as communication, interpersonal skills or tact then you should probably just let them go.  Fitting in with a team structure and communicating with colleagues and clients is often more important.  Knowledge gaps can be filled more easily than personality based traits.

6. Trust your instincts

On a couple of occasions I’ve had a niggling feeling something wasn’t quite right with an appointment but convinced myself everything would work out OK.  Their CV and experience was right, the came across fine, things would work out. Invariably in these instances things didn’t work out and I should have trusted my instincts.  If you have a gut feeling something isn’t right, either work out what it is and address it head on, or don’t make the appointment.

7. Don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake

Even if you follow all of these steps and cover off all of the bases, you can still make mistakes. The important thing to do in these situations is admit it, and take steps to remedy the situation.  Even the best recruiting managers make mistakes with their appointments; the important thing is understanding where you went wrong and learn for the future.  If the appointment isn’t right either find a role for them within the organisation which is more suitable, or take the necessary steps and find a replacement, it’s better for everybody in the long run.